cathay bank in elmhurst
A Cathay Bank, founded by Chinese-Americans, standing across the street from a Mexican flag attached to a street pole

Established in 1652 by Dutch settlers, Elmhurst is an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Queens that consists mostly of multi-family homes, co-ops, and apartment buildings. It sits south of Jackson Heights, west of Corona, north of Rego Park, and east of Sunnyside and Woodside. Originally, the area was called Middleburgh, but in 1662 it became known as New Towne (and then just Newtown) until 1898 when it became part of New York City. Development in the area occurred mostly throughout the 20th century when business owners and immigrant families moved in from different parts of the city.

The Cord Meyer Development Company contributed directly to the influx of new residents with the construction of “high-class” housing units over the original farmland. The new buildings, coupled with the Independent Railway System’s construction of the Queens Boulevard line, would be the foundation for Elmhurst’s economic development over the course of the next several decades. From where it got its name to some surprising landmarks, here are 10 secrets of Elmhurst.

1. Elmhurst got its name after the elm grove it was built on

forley street in elmhurst
Forley Street in the residential part of Elmhurst just South of Roosevelt Avenue

The land that became Elmhurst was first recognized as Middleburgh when the Dutch first settled there. The land they originally inhabited was in the area known today as Maspeth, but after a dispute with a group of Native Americans, the colonists had to move elsewhere. The land they found just east of Maspeth was filled with abundant natural resources, fertile land, and space with development potential.

Elm groves were scattered between the Maspeth and Newtown Creeks before settlement began, which is what inspired the name “Elmhurst.” Developer Cord Meyer came up with the new name as a promotional attempt in the 1890s to dissociate the neighborhood from the pollution and stench of Newtown Creek.