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Sunnysider Preserves Neighborhood History Through Photo Collection

Queens Blvd. in 1917 (Photo Courtesy of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce/”Good Old Days” Collection)

Oct. 19, 2012 By Bill Parry

Luke Adams, who has lived in Sunnyside for 40 years, has spent decades putting together a comprehensive photo collection that showcases the history of the neighborhood.

Adams is a longtime member of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and maintains “The Good Old Days” section of the chamber website ( He has gathered hundreds of photos that go back to the mid 1800s.

Adams began collecting photos when he was the president of the chamber in 1981. He reached out to residents who held historic photos and let them knew about his collection. Many people donated them to him.

“I always wanted the new people to appreciate Sunnyside and its history,” Adams said, who ran a travel agency on 43rd Street for many years. Once he obtained photos he would conduct research to put them in their historical context.

“I would research the photos at the Sutphin Blvd. library,” he said, and would create informative captions.

Adams stores boxes of his photos in an office at La Guardia Community College. “We hope one day to have a museum where they can all be displayed,” said Adams.

However, they are available for viewing online. In the late 90’s, Adams moved the archive to the Chamber website that has been maintained with the help of Sunnyside residents June Madina and Pat Dorfman.

Adams said his favorite photo is of the Sunnyside Hotel circa 1869, donated by local historian, Jeffrey Kroessler.

However, there is one photo that has eluded Adams all these years.  He wants a photo of Mayor Jimmy Walker—when he opened Sunnyside Gardens Park on May 18, 1926.

“If I found that I’d be a happy man. That’s my Holy Grail.”


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Rick Duro

OM, don’t worry, I have LOTS of photos for you.

Over the years I have documented many great, and not so great, things in Lodati Park.

Great: SUDS Xmas, SUDS Blizzard, St Pat’s Day parade, SUDS planting flowers in that small ‘garden’ area in the top section of the park, etc.

Not So Great: your beloved Soccer players/fans urinating, selling
booze/ drugs, fighting, destroying the park-stealing cobblestones. If you’d like to swap, just let me know:)

I have been documenting the work that has taken place thus far, you can see it on our webpage. Join our mailing list OM!


Michael Cassara

Sorry, that link doesn’t go directly to the photo in question – click on that link and then fast forward to about 10 photos in – it’s the photo of Modica Brothers Grocery.

Michael Cassara

I agree about the resizing – I so wish they could be higher-res and larger.

One question: I did some exploring on the site and found this photo (

The caption of that photo implies that Ira Gershwin lived on 46th Street in Sunnyside – does anyone have the address or proof of that? 1930 census has him (and George) living on Riverside Drive, and by 1940 he was in California.

I just glanced through Philip Furia’s biography of Ira, as well – and have not found any mention of him ever living anywhere but Manhattan.


Girl Power

I’m wondering if the Daily News archives have a picture of Mayor Walker opening up Sunnyside Park. I wonder if his papers are collected anywhere.

Oppressed Masses

Hopefully Mr. Adams has pictures of Lodati Park as it existed prior to the renovations which have begun. It will be good to remember the park prior to when it will be over run with dogs.


Has anyone done research on local history before European settlement? There must have been some native American tribes in the area.


Could they resize them any smaller? We won’t steal them we promise. Obviously (looking at the photoshop running above he has the full size scans)


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