When you think of Woodside, the first things that probably come to mind are food and diversity. Located in the western part of Queens and bordered to the south by Maspeth, the north by Astoria, the west by Sunnyside, and the east by Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, Woodside is among the most diverse areas in Queens. Both a residential and commercial neighborhood, it consists of bustling avenues filled with small businesses right alongside peaceful streets with big houses. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that these two worlds co-exist as one in Woodside.
Once part of Newtown in the 1800s, drastic residential development in the 1860s led Woodside to become the biggest Irish-American community in Queens, and it continues to maintain a prominent Irish population today. However, in recent decades, Asian American and Latino families have moved into the area so that today, Woodside is home to many diverse populations.
Thus, the average New Yorker probably knows Woodside as a cultural hub lined with diverse businesses and the ethnic enclave Little Manila. While all this is true and something that Woodside is proud of, there is much more to the neighborhood, especially when you consider the history behind some of its buildings. In fact, once you finish reading this guide, you’ll also know Woodside as a place with a former Loew’s theater, remnants of Child’s Restaurants and a trolley barn, and much more of the unexpected. Read on to rediscover Woodside with these 16-must-visit places.
St. Sebastian’s Church
It might come as a surprise to Woodside residents and church-goers that St. Sebastian’s Church was once a Loew’s Theatre! The Loew’s Woodside theater opened on September 27, 1926, and was designed by Herbert J. Krapp. The theater’s huge capacity—over 2,000 people—is still reflected in the vastness of the church’s interior today. The theater’s opening night featured a pre-release of Buster Keaton’s comedy film, the Battling Butler.
In the 1950s, the theater was sold to the to the St. Sebastian Roman Catholic parish, which outgrew its original chapel. Slowly but surely, the entrance and lobby of the theater were demolished, replaced with a Romanesque bell tower. However, the theater’s auditorium decor was kept intact, including the domed ceiling and 40 columns along the side walls.
Maintaining the theater’s interior beauty, today, St. Sebastian’s serves a diverse array of parishioners, providing Spanish masses and the occasional Tagalog and Korean mass.