The Beginnings of Holliswood
During the American Revolutionary War, the area on Dunton Street , the present site of the Holliswood Gardens Apartments, was used as a vantage point by the British General Howe. Because of its elevated height, he was able to monitor the movements of the American revolutionary forces even to Jamaica Bay. The information he secured also resulted in the capture of the American General Nathaniel Woodhull on August 28, 1776. Woodhull was captured in Hollis.
Frederick W. Dunton constructed his residence on the very site that had been used by Gen. Howe. He named his residence Hollis Hall. Apparently, he chose the name Hollis because his birth site was Hollis, New Hampshire. During his career he served as Supervisor to the Town of Jamaica and was elected to the Board of Supervisors of Queens County in 1868 and subsequently reelected in 1896. Hollis Hall was then used as a restaurant after his death in 1931 known as Brown’s Chop House. During the era of prohibition, some believe that it was used as a speakeasy. In 1949, the elevated area where it had been was removed and the current Holliswood Garden Apartments were built.
With the aid of some financial backers as he was also the founder of the Bank of Jamaica, he purchased several farms between Hillside and Jamaica Avenue and the plots were developed into a residential community. This area became known as Hollis Park Gardens.
With respect to the area north of Hillside and his purchase of land, his interest in astrology caused him to name the streets by names, including the letter “O”. His astrological interest is said to also explain why most streets in Holliswood are curved. His interest in all of the land purchased both above and below Hillside Avenue was apparently sparked by the bucolic setting of these hills and land that he observed from riding the Long Island Railroad.
The Grandfather Civic Predecessor
By way of the historical setting, at one time there was a predecessor organization to the current Civic Association that was known as the Hollis Civic Association. It was organized in 1902. Some of its officers in the early 50s included Jan Mendelson, Lawrence T. Gresser, Julius Valentino, Michael Renzulli and Bernard Rose. Its boundaries extended to Jamaica Avenue from Hillside Avenue which included the Hollis Park Gardens sections between Hillside and Jamaica Avenues.
It was then succeeded by an organization known as the Holliswood/Hollis Civic Association. The current Holliswood Civic Association was organized in 1973.