Sunnyside Gardens was built from 1924 to 1928, and Phipps Garden Apartments in 1931-32 and 1935. The builders were inspired by the English Garden City movement of Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin. Architects Clarence S. Stein, Henry Wright, and Frederick L. Ackerman worked with landscape architect Marjorie Sewell Cautley. Their philosophical colleague, the urban critic Lewis Mumford, became one of the first residents. The real estate developers were philanthropic idealists, too, and included Alexander M. Bing, William Sloane Coffin, Felix Adler, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Reserving unusually large areas for open space and minimizing construction costs, the designers created homes affordable to working people by combining rows of one- to three-family private houses with co-op and rental apartment buildings, arranging these around common gardens and parks, and placing stores and garages on the periphery of the neighborhood.
The Sunnyside Gardens National Register Plaque Program honors notable past residents. To date, plaques mark the homes of Judy Holliday, Lewis Mumford, Elizabeth Polk, Lilia Skala, and Henry Wright. Historic neighbors from many fields crowd our waiting list for future plaques. To read more about each honoree, see the PDF Downloads in the right column of this page.
The Sunnyside Gardens Oral History Program records interviews with selected residents, past and present. Oral histories are preserved and accessible at our archival partners, Cornell University Rare and Manuscript Collections and the Archives @ Queens Library.
The Sunnyside Gardens Digital Archive gathers photos and artifacts like those on this site, by making digital copies from personal and institutional collections. This project will post historic materials such as Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Vanishing ‘Vine & Fig Tree’”, Lewis Mumford’s “Ask Us Another!”, and Marjorie Sewell Cautley’s 16mm films of Phipps Garden Apartments and Sunnyside Gardens.
Please share your historic photos and documents. E-mail us at History@SunnysideGardens.us.
PDF Downloads to print, read and enjoy
Eddie Lawrence on Judy Holliday
Actor-comedian Eddie Lawrence (1919-2014, grinning above on his 1955 LP album) performed on Broadway with Judy Holliday in the original cast of Bells Are Ringing (1956), and he was our guest speaker at the National Register Plaque ceremony honoring her. The first few seconds of this recording are faint, but here are his opening remarks:
“Well, when I was in Bells Are Ringing, I was called up for jury duty. It was a murder case. A woman killed her lover and, she said, in self defense. And I got on line to go into the jury room, and the bailiff came over and he said, ‘The judge wants to see you in his chambers.’…”