Woodhaven is a middle-class neighborhood located in the New York City borough of Queens. Woodhaven is bordered on the north by a public park, Forest Park, and Park Lane South. Woodhaven also borders Richmond Hill to the east, and Ozone Park to the south at Atlantic Avenue. Its western border is the borough of Brooklyn.
Woodhaven, once known as Woodville, has one of the greatest tree populations in the borough, and thus it has retained its suburban look. Schools, transportation, and park recreation are convenient.
The ethnically diverse neighborhood  is part of Queens Community Board 9. Woodhaven’s Zip Code is 11421.
Commerce is centered on Jamaica Avenue which effectively bisects Woodhaven. On this avenue, are a large number of stores, most being small and locally owned. One of the oldest and best known was Lewis of Woodhaven, which had two locations and closed its doors in 2004.
The Wisconsin Glacier retreated from Long Island some 20,000 years ago, leaving behind the hills to the north of Woodhaven that now are part of Forest Park, the third largest park in Queens. Southern Woodhaven is mostly flat (the lowest elevation is just under 30 feet (9.1 m) ), while northern Woodhaven gradually rises to about 105 feet (32 m) as it approaches Forest Park.
European settlement in Woodhaven began in the mid-18th century as a small town that revolved around farming, with the Ditmar, Lott, Wyckoff, Suydam and Snediker families. British troops successfully flanked General George Washington’s Continental Army by a silent night-march from Gravesend, Brooklyn through the lightly defended “Jamaica Pass” actually located in Brooklyn, to win the Battle of Long Island, Queens — the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War, and the first battle after the Declaration of Independence.
Later, Woodhaven became the site of two racetracks: the Union Course (1821) and the Centerville (1825). Union Course was a nationally famous racetrack situated in the area now bounded by 78th Street, 82nd Street, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. The Union Course was the site of the first skinned — or dirt — racing surface, a curious novelty at the time. These courses were originally without grandstands. The custom of conducting a single, four-mile (6 km) race consisting of as many heats as were necessary to determine a winner, gave way to programs consisting of several races. Match races between horses from the South against those from the North drew crowds as high as 70,000. Several hotels (including the Snedeker Hotel and the Forschback Inn) were built in the area to accommodate the racing crowds.
A Connecticut Yankee, John R. Pitkin, developed the eastern area as a workers’ village and named it Woodville (1835). In 1853, he launched a newspaper. That same year, the residents petitioned for a local post office. To avoid confusion with a Woodville located upstate, the residents agreed to change the name to Woodhaven. The original boundaries extended as far south as Liberty Avenue.
In 1836, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) cars were pulled by horses along Atlantic Avenue. The cars traveled with other traffic at street level and stopped at all major intersections — much as a bus does — except that people would often hop on and hop off while the car was moving. The 1848 LIRR schedule shows an intersection called Union Course (serving that racetrack) and another called Woodville (farther east). With electrification, the LIRR constructed permanent tracks. The Union Course station was opened April 28, 1905. In 1911, the platform was widened to four tracks, and Atlantic Avenue was mostly closed to other traffic. The four tracks split the community and become the border between Woodhaven and Ozone Park. Service on Atlantic Avenue’s surface tracks and seven stations between Jamaica and Brooklyn ended on November 1, 1939 and was subsequently replaced in 1942 by underground tracks and a single underground station between Jamaica and Brooklyn. With the removal of surface rail tracks, Atlantic Avenue was again a continuous roadway. The single station in this long tunnel was the Woodhaven station (at 100th Street) on the LIRR’s Atlantic Avenue Branch, providing rail service to Jamaica station and Brooklyn (Atlantic Terminal) until it too was closed in 1977. The Woodhaven station was also a popular stop for beachgoers and commuters who would transfer to the above ground LIRR Woodhaven Junction station for trains to Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway. The Woodhaven Junction station was taken out of service when this section of the Rockaway Beach Branch was abandoned in 1962.
Elevated transit service to Williamsburg and Lower Manhattan began in 1917 with the operation of the BMT Jamaica Line above Jamaica Avenue.
Two Frenchmen named Charles Lalance and Florian Grosjean launched the village as a manufacturing community in 1863, by opening a tin factory and improving the process of tin stamping. As late as 1900, the surrounding area, however, was still primarily farmland, and from Atlantic Avenue one could see as far south as Jamaica Bay, site of present-day John F. Kennedy International Airport. Since 1894, Woodhaven’s local newspaper has been the Leader-Observer.
The distinctive St. Anthony’s Mansion (which later became St. Anthony’s Hospital) stood on a seven acre tract of land on Woodhaven Boulevard between 89th and 91st Avenues. The hospital significantly helped the scientific community in the creation of breakthroughs in Pulmonary and Heart treatments. The hospital was demolished in the late 1990s. A historical marker has been placed on the site, which is now a residential area known as Woodhaven Park Estates.
Dexter Park baseball field, which once occupied 10 acres (40,000 m2) in Woodhaven just east of Franklin K. Lane High School is where baseball history was made in 1930 with the installation of the first engineered lighting system for night games.
Notable current and former residents of Woodhaven include:
- Adrien Brody (born 1973), Oscar winning actor, grew up in Woodhaven.
- William F. Brunner (1887–1965), United States Representative from New York.
- Jason Cipolla Former basketball player for the Syracuse University
- George Gershwin (1898–1937), composer of many famous show-tunes, was born at 242 Snedeker Avenue (now 78th Street).
- Brian Hyland (born 1943), famous for his recording of the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.
- Danny Kaye (1913–1987), actor, singer and comedian who grew up on Bradford Street.
- Lynn Pressman Raymond (c. 1912–2009), toy and game innovator who was president of the Pressman Toy Corporation
- Betty Smith (1896–1972), author. A historical marker is outside the house on Forest Parkway (across the street from the Woodhaven Library) in which she wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in 1943. In this best-selling novel, the widow Nolan marries a policeman with a civil service job and moves to Cypress Hills where it is quiet and there are trees.
- Barry Sullivan (1912–1994), film and TV star.
- Fred Trump (1905–1999), real estate developer.
- Mae West (1893–1980), lived in Woodhaven, and made her debut performance there. A historical marker is outside the venue.
- “Map of Queens neighborhoods”. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Unknown parameter
|oldurl=ignored (help), “NYC Community Boards” (pdf).
- “Extended Information on Forest Park”.
- Queens Community Boards, New York City. Accessed September 3, 2007.
- “Jamaica Ave. farewell Lewis store owners say wrenching goodbye”. Daily News (New York). January 4, 2004.
- “NYC Park information on Forest Park”.
- “NYC Parks FAQ”.
- “Union Course Racetrack”. Currier & Ives lithographs – bottom detail shows early Union Course railroad station. Factory is Union Chemical Color Works.
- “Great race between Peytona & Fashion, for $20,000!!!”. On the New York Union Course, May 13, 1845. Lithograph by J. Baillie, 1845
- “Snedeker Hotel”.
- Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing, accessed March 8, 2007
- Abandoned Stations: Woodhaven, accessed September 4, 2008
- Forgotten NY Subways and Trains: Rockaway Branch, accessed September 4, 2008
- Jacobs, Douglas (2000-01-01). “Dexter Park”. The Baseball Research Journal.
- a b Shaman, Diana (1998-09-20). “If You’re Thinking of Living In /Woodhaven, Queens; Diversity in a Cohesive Community”. NY Times.
- “Census Bureau 2000 Data”.^ Woodhaven Real Estate & Homes for Sale, accessed March 22, 2009.
- “NYC school district map”.
- “Brody’s friend’s parents proud”, CNN.com, March 25, 2003. Accessed May 17, 2007. “Brody, who grew up in Woodhaven, and Zarobinski, a native of Rego Park, attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts together, where Brody studied acting and Zarobinski studied drawing.
- William F. Brunner, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed December 10, 2007
- a b c d Staff. Woodhaven: Community and Library History, Queens Library. Accessed August 2, 2009.
- Grimes, William. “Lynn Pressman Raymond, Toy Executive, Dies at 97”, The New York Times, August 1, 2009. Accessed August 2, 2009.
- “1855: Union Course Tavern, Oldest Bar in Queens, Opens”, Newsday. Accessed May 17, 2007. “There is a painting of Mae West, who lived in Woodhaven and performed at the tavern, on the door.”