If you live in Middle Village you probably still remember when there was the Silver Crest Dairy on Eliot Avenue and 80th Street, which transitioned into Walgreens Drug Store in 2007.
In 1971 when the Schwartz family bought the property just north of Walgreens on Caldwell Avenue, that property became the site where we now have the Silver Barn Farms retail store. This article will attempt to meld together the two stories, the Silver Crest Dairies and the Silver Barn Farms retail outlet currently standing on Caldwell Avenue in Middle Village.
Back in the day before the Schwartz family bought the Caldwell Avenue property that site was one of the many local ponds for swimming in 1940, then it was a baseball field and eventually, at the point that it was bought by the Schwartz family, it was an A&P Supermarket.
First though, let’s follow the journey of Silver Crest Dairy and go back 110 years to the beginning, 1902. That’s the year Charles Schwartz and a brother started a dairy business where they used a horse and wagon to deliver their milk. Charles, an immigrant from Austria who came to the U.S. in 1890, launched the dairy business after traveling to the Westside of Manhattan to buy 7 cows. He walked them back to Middle Village crossing the newly constructed Williamsburg Bridge. Charles bought 40 acres of land in Middle Village that extended from 80th Street and Eliot Avenue to Juniper Park and down to Woodhaven Boulevard. The family lived on 290 Johnson Avenue, which later became Caldwell Avenue.
In 1902 there was no refrigeration and ice was the key component to keep the milk cool. The milk had to be put in 40-quart cans and that’s how it was delivered to the stores. They used ice, which they picked up daily at the ice dock and the milk was cooled by putting the containers into water that had ice added to it. The customers would have to bring the container to the store if they wanted to buy milk and the milk was then put into the container by the storekeeper. He would drop a large dipper into the 40-quart can and ladle a quart of milk for the customer.
Dairy Farm Expands
Charles built his dairy from 7 cows in 1902 to 150 cows in the 1920s and 30s. He rented out part of his property to vegetable farmers and they co-existed with the dairy farms for decades. In fact directly across the street from the Schwartz Dairy was the (Jake) Beyer Dairy Farm that extended west from present day 80th Street and Caldwell Avenue. Another farm, the Kraut Dairy Farm was located near P.S. 49 south of present day Juniper Valley Park and extended to St. John’s Cemetery. When Percy Kraut sold his land to developers in the housing boom of the late 1930s he partnered with Max and Arthur Schwartz to form Elmhurst Dairy in Jamaica, Queens in 1940.
The city’s demand for housing and the need to build better transportation and a route to the planned 1939 World’s Fair forced Charles to sell most of his 40 acres in 1936. The cows were sold and the dairy barns were demolished all in the name of progress. Eliot Avenue and 80th Street were constructed and houses replaced the farms.
Herb and Sidney form Silver Crest
Charles Schwartz had six sons and they all worked in his dairy business. The two who stayed in Middle Village were David and Benjamin Schwartz. The brothers’ sons, cousins, Herb and Sidney, formed a partnership as owners of the property where the Silver Crest Dairy was located on Eliot Avenue and 80th Street. They wanted the name Golden Crest but that name was already owned by the Borden Company. So they chose “Silver Crest' and formed a milk pasteurization, bottling and distribution company, getting their milk from Upstate New York farms. Many longtime residents of our community remember the sounds of the bottling plant and the milk machines on Eliot Avenue & 80th Street. Herb and Sidney formed Silver Barn Farms and they opened a little store on 80th street on the south side of Caldwell Avenue. They bought the old A&P property in 1971 and opened the present day Silver Barn.
In 2004 they sold the
bottling/distribution plant to Walgreens. Their current ownership consists of the Silver Barn Farms retail outlet property on Caldwell Avenue and the building which is currently home to State Farm Insurance on 81st Street and Eliot Avenue. Herb and Sidney Schwartz along with their business partner, Steve Leffler are the owners of that property.
When interviewed in the past, Herb Schwartz talked often about his life on Caldwell Avenue when it was called Johnson Avenue and he recalled Eliot Avenue being known as World’s Fair Avenue. The year was 1939, coinciding with the World’s Fair. He would also tell about how the family owned property all the way to Juniper Valley Park and when sewers were on the agenda for the area, the property was sold.
Herb Schwartz would recall that before 1937 the farms in the area started to break up. A family with the name Bellot used to own a truck farm and they grew vegetables. There were two other dairies also, the Felds and the Buyers. Peat moss came from the old Arnold Rothstein estate and Juniper Valley Park at one time had a racetrack.
Herb Schwartz attended JHS 73 and had his Bar Mitzvah at the Maspeth Jewish Center. At the young age of 22 Herb served with distinction in the armed forces in WWII facing tough fighting in the Philippines as a machine gun operator.
JPCA Vice President John Killcommons, when interviewed, stated that growing up on 80th Street in Middle Village he clearly remembers Benjamin Schwartz and his son, Sydney, living in the corner house on 80th Street and 62nd Avenue and John also recalls having Sydney as a neighbor. That’s a little of the history of the Schwartz family and their presence in the Middle Village community over the years.
At this time, 2012, Herb Schwarz is 89 years old. His cousin, Sidney is 83 years old and the other player in the current ownership of the Silver Barn Farms property, business associate, Steve Leffler, is 75 years old.
That’s a little of the history of the two properties and the fact that the Silver Barn Farms site was not purchased until 1971. Now fast forward to about 2004 when the dairy business on Eliot Avenue was sold and the big box drug store, Walgreens, bought the property and opened their store on the site in December 2007.
That development was not without its own controversy. Walgreens wanted to build a larger store with no loading dock, which was contrary to zoning regulations. The JPCA, ever vigilant with what gets built in our neighborhood, was adamant that Walgreens build according to zoning and not be a 24-hour store and after much dialogue between Walgreens and the JPCA, Walgreens saw the light. They themselves concluded what we constantly told them. Middle Village and the surrounding area is not a 24-hour retail community. At that point everything changed. The neighborhood finally had a pleasant, clean visual when Walgreens was built. They are good neighbors and the decrepit and abandoned former dairy site was history.
Currently, 2012, the rest of the Silver Crest story relates to Silver Barn Farms retail store, and the owner of that business, Abe Gabor and his brother, Jacob. Their story continues in another article, which details their arrival on the Silver Barn scene when they bought the business, Silver Barn Farms, in 1990.
I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, which tells the Silver Crest Dairy story from “back in the day” and that site’s transition into Walgreens Drug Store. We still have the Silver Barn Farms store in our neighborhood and that business is continuing to write its own story. We look forward to many years into the future with the Silver Barn Farms retail business owned by Abe Gabor and his brother, Jacob and where, with sharp, vigilant oversight by the brothers, we can continue to have a cutting edge shopping experience while we save some of our hard earned dollars in the process.