Beyond the Gardens:Residential Architecture and Advertising in Forest Hills, Queens

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Revutin, Charity, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, PV-EVPP-Administration, University of Virginia

This thesis examines the role of the builder-developer in shaping the demographics and sociocultural identity of a neighborhood through the ways in which houses are marketed to the public using the contemporaneous developments of Stafford Lawns in Forest Hills and Laurelton Homes in Laurelton as examples. I begin with an overview of the general development of Forest Hills beyond the bounds of Forest Hills Gardens, followed by a detailed examination of the houses built by brothers Leon and A. B. Wolosoff as the Stafford Lawns development. I then compare the print media approach taken by the Wolosoffs to market their houses to potential buyers to that taken by Laurelton Homes, Inc., a precursor to the Gross-Morton Company, who built remarkably similar houses in Laurelton. By analyzing ads placed by both developers in the New York Times on Sunday, October 26, 1930, I attempt to decipher the developers’ intentions and to identify the type of potential buyer they wish to attract. To determine the impact of these advertising tactics in the near term, I use the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation map of Queens, which was based on assessments made in 1937 and subsequently published in 1938, and the 1940 U.S. Census. To examine the long-term impacts, I look at data from the 2020 U.S. Census and current real estate market value estimates available on the real estate website
Intertwined with the deceptively straightforward architectural aesthetics that appear to determine the attractiveness or desirability of a neighborhood are issues of systemic and structural racism. Residential segregation, housing discrimination, fluctuations in racial identity, and social mobility (and its impediments) are all factors that contribute to neighborhood desirability. This thesis establishes that location as a real estate quality is influenced by demography just as much as by geography and that perceived preferences regarding sociocultural resident identity have greater influence on monetary real estate values than the aesthetics and form of the buildings themselves.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Forest Hills, NY, Laurelton, NY, Laurelton Homes, Stafford Lawns, Wolosoff, Gross, Morton, Queens, NY
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