Mary Sendek’s House Over Time

A pictoral of twenty plus photos of the house that stood against the tide.

Mary Sendek bought a house in 1925 in Elmhurst. When the house was first built in the 1870’s the street it stood on was called Hoffman Boulevard. When the Queensboro Bridge was built in the early 1900’s the name was changed to Queens Boulevard, and the role of the street started to change.   

At the time in 1925 it was still somewhat peaceful. Sure it would grow, but that would take a while. Maybe when she moved there all Mrs. Sendek was looking for was a place to call home, a place she could spend the rest of her life and never have to move again. Maybe that’s all any of us are looking for. 

I have written about Mary Sendek before, matching up several photos of her house as it changed over time . But in the years since I last wrote about her I have come across many more pictures of her house, I worked on presenting them all in this piece. All in all it’s a 100 year photographic trip across time with the backdrop of the constant of her house.

1906
This view is west from about 56th Avenue on what was then Hoffman Blvd, the Sendek house is mid way down on the right.

 

sendek1907This is looking the other way as the above shot. East from Broadway down Hoffman, the house on the left. 

 

Hoffman Boulevard and Thomson Avenues in northwest Queens were combined to create Queens Boulevard. A small part of Thomson Avenue actually still exists in Long Island City. 

 

Trolley routes lined much of western Queens until the late 1930’s when they were replaced by buses. A trolley blocks the view of the house in this photo.

 

 

The church at the far left of the photo was the old Presbyterian built in 1796. In 1895 a new church was bult across the street which still stands today. The old church was being used as a nursery school and for other secondary roles when a fire destroyed it in 1928.

Modest residences still line the street in the 1920’s. 

 

In the mid 1920’s the west side of the road was cleared for subway construction and widening. The houses had to be moved back or be demolished. The Sendek house was on the east side and so was unaffected by the change directly. This photo offers a good clear shot of the house.

 

may71926East along Queens Boulevard from Grand Aveue. This is a good shot to get a detail of the street from the church down to the Sendek house.

 

A period of upheaval, equipment is in the street for subway line work, utility poles standing out of place, and during it all the old Presbyterian church was destroyed by a fire. It was still standing but would have to be taken down.

 

oct181928
One more sad view of the old church. It was torn down in May 1929. 

 

1932house
Subway is now below the newly widened street. Queens Boulevard looks very different from itself even ten years before, yet it is still mostly residences across both sides of the street, including the Sendek house.

 


If you look behind the Sendek house in the above photo you can see some of the space that will one day become part of Macy’s. 

 

I spliced two 1935 photos to make a little wider view of what the east side of Queens Boulevard looked like at the time.

 

 

The house in 1940. The Sendeks have only lived here for 15 years at the time.  (NYC Tax document collection) 

One of the  Sendeks neighbors to the west appears to actually be standing in the doorframe of the house when this tax records photo was taken. A new street, 55th Avenue is in the city plans to be created right where this house stands.  If the Sendek’s house was even a few feet to the west of where it stood it might have had to go with it. 

1940secondBlackman Plumbing Supply was the eastern neighbor of the Sendek family house for decades. The location is now that of the Citibank branch next to round Macy’s. 

blackmanblackman - CopyBlackman’s Plumbing in Flushing has a sign listing the 87-07 Queens Boulevard location. So they mean that house right next to Mary Sendek’s 87-01 address. This location is still  in Flushing, the company still has a website and online catalog. 

 

1951aerialAerial of Queens Boulevard before 55th Avenue is built from Justice Avenue to Queens Blvd. 85-67 Queens Blvd house still standing.

 

1954aerial

Aerial in 1954 showing 55th Avenue completed, the 85-67 house next to Sendek house is no more. The aerial also makes it clear that there were only about 10 houses Macy’s needed to buy land from to clear the block, if only Sendek had agreed. 

 

1961probmarysendekAThe block has been cleared out for construction by Macy’s with one exception, the now holdout Sendek house.  

 

1964houseThe air space of the Sendek backyard meant a small notch had to be cut into the round shape of Macy’s huge circle. 

With both Sendek and Macy’s resolved to their fates, construction is completing on Macy’s.  What Sendek may have felt about Macy’s impact on her life is hard to say. 

 

1965A

The Macy’s store in Elmhurst officially opened on October 11, 1965 and it was no small event in Queens. The community hoped to be getting a store the equal of everything that Macy’s in Manhattan had become.

 

1965house2

The notch Macy’s had to cut in its round circle was just part of the story. Macy’s had hoped the entire corner would be an attraction to shoppers, instead they decided to downplay the corner, and try to cut it out of many promotional materials. 

 

1966JAN

In 1966 a round Citibank is opening where Blackman once stood. Mary Sendeks house on the corner remains. Her house is almost one hundred years older than the Citibank or the Macy’s. 

 

One thing to look at in respect to the original design is how different the entire landscaping and sidewalks that would have led people to the store. How much of an impact on the store did her house have? It’s hard to say. Within a few years the Queens Mall was built which would become a much more popular location. Macy’s itself would move there.

 

marysendekMary Sendek behind her house in 1965 in what is the only known photo of her. 

 

1969julyMayor Lindsay campaign, with first astronauts on the moon Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong. The Sendek house is just behind Armstrong’s arm. (LaGuardia Archive)

 

1969moon
One more of the first men on the Moon parade in 1969, in this shot the house is clearly visible on the right. (LaGuardia Archive)

 

Citibank photo and Macy’s behind it. The photo seems to be intentionally  leaving out the Sendek house literally trying to pretend its not there.

 

Sendek lived through the entire decade of the 1970’s in her house, both Citibank and Macy’s were her neighbors.

 

1970s
Queens Boulevard must have seemed very different to anyone who knew it back in the 1920’s. Another modern architecture savings bank was built and a White Castle on this stretch of Queens Boulevard.  

 

1981
Probably the last photo of the house, a year after Mary Sendek passed away.  The yard has been neglected for some time.  (NY Times photo).

 

siteride
Macy’s moved to the Queens Center Mall but its parent company attemped to make the round building work as a Stern’s store during the decade.

 

Today the space of the former Sendek house and backyard is a bank and office building. The Citibank remains next to it, and the former Macy’s is now called Queens Place Mall . The land Sendek held onto will probably never be incorporated into the rest of the block. It will forever be separate and the big building will always have the notch.

Footnote: Wikipedia states incorrectly that the circular design was in response to Sendeks refusal to sell which is not the case, Macy’s always intended to make the store round.




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16 Comments

  1. Robert A Ramish

     /  April 7, 2019

    Thank you so much for that thoughtful historical description. As a boy from Flushing I do remember that sad story. I am not sure if you are aware of this but, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery wrote a seventies made for TV skit inspired by this topic and it stared Elsa Lanchester. P.S. We have Robert Moses to thank for the destruction of Queens N.Y.

    Reply
  2. john g.

     /  April 7, 2019

    Why was the notch needed on the Macys builing?

    Reply
    • Great question John G., the notch was needed because the far corner of the Sendek property was inside Macy’s complete circle building design. The early construction photo of the house shows it best just how much more property in addition to the house the land was.

      Reply
      • John G.

         /  April 7, 2019

        I researched it further and found out the notch is because her property line was part of Macys constuction. Found out on ‘Forgotten New York” page.

  3. Susanne

     /  April 7, 2019

    I remember passing Ms. Sendek’s home a number of times. That house should have been designated a landmark. Everything today is all about money. It’s sad and I’m so happy that Ms.Sendek stood her ground until she passed.

    Reply
  4. Yup, the great “Forgotten New York” Page has discussed the house too. It’s a fascinating topic.

    Reply
  5. Fascinating tale though also so sad and depressing in nature You have to admire Mary for not caving to the corporate giant yet pity her for her privacy being stolen away. I imagine she was a strong woman.

    Reply
  6. Joe

     /  April 8, 2019

    I was born and lived in Elmhurst till we left in 84 at age 13 and i always wondered why that house was there. As a little kid i found it odd. Great article !

    Reply
  7. This was really informative. I moved to Ridgewood, Queens back in 2006. I remember someone who grew up in the area once mentioning to me that for a long time there had been a house on that corner of Queens Blvd and 55th Ave, but until now I never knew the story behind it. Looking at these old photos it’s amazing to realize that Queens Blvd, which you often have to risk life & limb to cross, was once a quiet, narrow residential street.

    Reply
    • Curtis

       /  April 10, 2019

      Remember the home too. Walked down there with Mom and Grandma throughout the 1970s, from Rego Park which is how I got most of my exercise as a little kid back then! I thought she liked living near all the shops, lol. Little did I know…

      Reply
  8. Kevin Abel

     /  April 12, 2019

    I new the story of this house for a long time. I didnt know Mary Sendeks name. I enjoyed this article a lot.

    Reply
  9. marlon

     /  June 12, 2019

    She had plenty of garden gnomes and tons of other decorative items in her yard. It was well kept.

    Reply
  10. Jim Jerome

     /  July 20, 2019

    Funny. My Uncle owned an Esso gas station 56th & Queens Blvd. I worked there in ‘66-‘67 & don’t remember the house

    Reply
  11. Adele

     /  July 27, 2019

    Really enjoyed this article. I grew up on 94th St & 53rd Ave., several blocks in back of this property. I never knew her name, but walked past her home every day going to and from school. Grew up in the 50’s when there were still small farms and a cemetery near her home.. She always had yellow flowers in her garden in the spring.

    Reply
  12. Tamer 1

     /  November 7, 2019

    I remember that house and the story behind it. I grew up on 50th Avenue and lived there from ’51 to ’60 when we moved to Little Neck. It’s interesting with the big box stores going away I wonder how much of that land might revert to residential use.

    Reply

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