HDC support for Crockett Johnson House

August 10, 2017

 

Dennis M. Walcott, President & CEO

Queens Borough Public Library

89-11 Merrick Boulevard

Jamaica, NY 11432

 

RE: Crockett Johnson House, 104-11 39th Avenue, Corona, NY

 

Dear Mr. Walcott,

 

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods. Our primary constituency is over 500 community-based groups throughout the five boroughs, whom we help to preserve and enhance the physical character of their neighborhoods. One of our signature programs is the 6 to Celebrate; each year we choose six neighborhoods to focus upon and help achieve their preservation priorities. It is the only program of its kind in New York as the applications are generated directly from communities and we, in turn, provide assistance, walking tours, printed publications, and grants to the groups. This year, HDC is pleased to be working with the Corona-East Elmhurst Historic Preservation Society (CEEHPS) as one of our 6 to Celebrate.

 

As CEEHPS wrote to you earlier this year, they are gravely concerned about the future of the Crockett Johnson House at 104-11 30th Avenue, which the Queens Public Library currently owns. HDC supports their concern, and urges the Library to consider the historic significance of the house. Under the nom de plume of Crockett Johnson, David Leisk was a famous illustrator and cartoonist, best known for the Harold and the Purple Crayon children’s book series. This site was his childhood home from the age of six in 1912 to sometime in the early 1920s. Mr. Leisk attended P.S. 16 and later Newtown High School, where he first published his cartoons in the school’s paper, the Newtown High School Lantern in 1921 while residing at this residence. While the building itself has been physically altered from the time of his residence, its association with this well-known popular artist grants it a significance which overshadows its appearance.

 

It is important to acknowledge and celebrate cultural heritage where it still exists, particularly in an area which has been sadly and unfairly neglected in terms of designated or even recognized landmarks. It would be both wise and beneficial to consider the cultural significance of this site in any future expansion plan for the Queens Library. Historic properties and sites of memory, properly respected, can add immeasurably to a site’s community importance. We hope the Queens Public Library, as a steward of memory and provider of public education takes this into account when planning its necessary expansion.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

Simeon Bankoff

Executive Director

 

CC:       Carol Drew-Peeples, President, Corona-East Elmhurst Historic Preservation Society

 

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