Jamaica, Queens : NYC Tourist Guide

Jamaica, Queens, in NYC, New York, USA


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Jamaica, Queens, New York City

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Jamaica
Jamaica is a neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. It was settled as a town by the English under Dutch rule in 1656 in New Netherland. It is one of the major predominantly African American neighborhoods in the borough of Queens. It has a substantial concentration of West Indian immigrants, Indians, Arabs, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans as well as many long-established African American families. The neighborhood of Jamaica is completely unrelated to the Caribbean nation of Jamaica (although Jamaican immigrants do live in the area) ; the name similarity is a coincidence. The English, who took it over in 1664, named the area "Jameco," for the Jameco (or Yamecah) Native Americans, who resided on the northern shores of Jamaica Bay, and whose name means "beaver" in Algonquian languages.

Jamaica is the location of most courthouses and other administrative buildings for the County of Queens including Queens Borough Hall and Queens Criminal Court, both of which are located in the neighborhood of Kew Gardens. Jamaica Center, the area around Jamaica Avenue and 165th Street, is a major commercial center, as well as the home of the Central Library of the Queens Borough Public Library.

Some locals group adjoining neighborhoods into an unofficial Greater Jamaica, including St. Albans, Hollis,Queens Village,Howard Beach and Ozone Park. The New York Racing Association, based at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, lists its official address as Jamaica. (Central Jamaica once housed NYRA's Jamaica Racetrack, now the massive Rochdale Village housing development.)

History

Jamaica Avenue was an ancient trail for tribes from as far away as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, coming to trade skins and furs for wampum. It was in 1655 that the first settlers paid the Native Americans with two guns, a coat, and some powder and lead, for the land lying between the old trail and "Beaver Pond," later, Baisley Pond. Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant dubbed the area "Rustdorp" in granting the 1656 patent. The English, who took it over in 1664, and renamed it "Jameco," for the Jameco (or Yamecah) Native Americans.

Jamaica became part of the county of Yorkshire, and, in 1683, when the province was divided into counties, it became part of Queens County, one of the original counties of New York.

Colonial Jamaica had a band of 56 Minutemen that played an active part in the Battle of Long Island, the outcome of which led to the occupation of the New York City area by British troops during most of the American Revolutionary War. In Jamaica, "George Washington slept here" is indeed true - in 1790, in William Warner's tavern. Rufus King, a signer of the United States Constitution, relocated here in 1805. He added to a modest 18th-century farmhouse, creating the manor which stands on the site today. King Manor has recently been restored to its former glory, and now houses King Manor Museum.

By 1776, Jamaica had become a trading post for farmers and their produce. For more than a century, their horse-drawn carts plodded along Jamaica Avenue, then called King's Highway. The public school system started in 1813, funded for $125 and a year later, Jamaica Village was incorporated. By 1834, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad company had completed a line to Jamaica.

In 1850, Jamaica Avenue , became a plank road, complete with toll gate. In 1866, tracks were laid for a horsecar line, and 20 years later it was electrified, the first in the state. On January 1, 1898, Queens became part of the City of New York, and Jamaica became the county seat.

The Jamaica station of the Long Island Rail Road was completed in 1913, and the BMT Jamaica Line arrived in 1918. The 1920s and 1930s saw the building of the Valencia Theatre (now restored by the Tabernacle of Prayer), the "futuristic" Kurtz furniture Store and the Roxanne Building.





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