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Photo exhibit looks back at old Queens

The Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows and the Queens Historical Society have teamed up to offer a free one-day exhibit of photographs next week that depict a Queens from long ago, including images of the No. 7 train construction in Flushing to the Van Siclen Farm in Jamaica Estates.

“We’re a very Queens-oriented office, and the building has a history in Queens, so we thought it would be nice if the building itself were decorated with photos relating to Queens,” said Jack Blumner, co-owner of the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows, at 61-43 186th St.

About 40 historic images of the borough from the late-19th century through the 20th century will be on display at the center Nov. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The photos illustrate how dramatically Queens has changed in the last century. There is an image of construction on the No. 7 line, which began in 1885 but was not up-and-running until around 1915. An image dated 1895 shows the Van Siclen farm, which covered the area on which St. John’s University is situated.

There are images of Jim Corbett, the Bayside resident and world heavyweight boxing champion from 1892-97, out for a buggy ride with his wife in 1903, and another photograph shows the United Nations General Assembly — once headquartered in Flushing Meadows Corona Park — voting the state of Israel into existence in 1948.

Another image gives younger residents a glimpse of what used to be where the present day Hooters is in Fresh Meadows: the Horn & Hardart Food Co.

“The Hooters photo is so symbolic of the change in not just Queens but in the world,” Blumner said. “The world’s gone from Horn & Hardart to Hooters.”

Blumner said it is exciting to offer residents a chance to look back at a borough they may have once known or others who can only guess what it was like to drive down Grand Central in the 1940s, visit the World’s Fair in 1964 or attend a parade in 1902 for the election of Joseph Cassidy for borough president.

The photos will be located throughout the building, and Blumner said people are welcome to “come and wander the hallways.”

The co-owner said he also hopes the event will generate interest in the executive center, which officially opened last month.

Jack Blumner and his brother Steven, the other co-owner, once operated First Choice Real Estate where the center is now, but sold it to NRT Inc. in 2004. After NRT closed First Choice in the summer of 2009, leaving the building vacant, Blumner said they decided to open the executive center.

The center at Fresh Meadows has about 40 office suites and currently houses a variety of professionals, including attorneys and an insurance company. In addition to the offices, there is a communal kitchen and a large reception room for meetings.

“There are over 2 million residents of Queens, and I believe there are many companies in Manhattan, Long Island and others from outside the borough who have a need for a field office in Queens,” Blumner said.

For more information about the photography exhibit, contact Executive Office Center Associate Director Mary Abrams at 718-475-2121.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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