4. The Original Forest Hills Stadium Still Stands
Image from Rego-Forest Preservation courtesy of Michael Perlman
The West Side Tennis Club predates the U.S. Open, as well as the construction of Forest Hills itself. It was established in 1892, first operating courts on Central Park West, and was instrumental in the establishment of the sport of tennis in the United States. The 14,000-seat stadium in Forest Hills, the first concrete tennis stadium in the country, was completed in 1923. The architect was Kenneth M. Murchison, who also worked on Baltimore Penn Station and the Hoboken Terminal. The U.S. Open was played here first on clay, and then on hard courts starting in 1975. The stadium has hosted tennis icons like Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, and Bill Tilden, as well as musicians like Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles in the 1960s. There was also a shooting and bomb threat during a particularly scandalous 1977 season.
In 2011, the stadium was denied landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which called it a “crumbling ruin,” and the structure was almost demolished to make way for condos. The preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the stadium into a concert music venue, an initiative pushed for many years by the Rego-Forest Preservation Council (a grassroots campaign started by local resident Michael Perlman and other local supporters) helped preserve the historic archways, eagles, terra-cotta shields, and wood and iron grandstands. A stately Tudor-style clubhouse, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury and John Almay Tompkins, was built in 1913.