The development of adjacent Forest Park, a park on the southern end of Forest Hills, began in 1895. Starting in 1896, the landscaping firm of Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot was contracted to provide a plan for the park.(p428)
In 1906, Brooklyn attorney Cord Meyer bought abutting land made up of six farms (those of Ascan Bakus, Casper Joost-Springsteen, Horatio N. Squire, Abram V. S. Lott, Sarah V. Bolmer, and James Van Siclen) and then renamed the aggregated 600 acres Forest Hills. In 1909, Margaret Sage, who founded the Russell Sage Foundation, bought 142 acres (0.57 km2) of land from the Cord Meyer Development Company. The stated plan was to build good low-income housing and improve living conditions of the working poor, but the resulting huge property values made this claim totally impractical. Grosvenor Atterbury, a renowned architect, was given the commission to design Forest Hills Gardens. The neighborhood was planned on the model of the garden communities of England. As a result, there are many Tudor-style homes in Forest Hills, some more sprawling ones located in Forest Hills Gardens while most are located in the Cord-Meyer section (loosely bounded by 68th Avenue on the north; 72nd Road on the south; 108th Street on the west; and Grand Central Parkway on the east). The construction of this area used a prefabricated building technique; each house was built from approximately 170 standardized precast concrete panels, fabricated off-site and positioned by crane. In 1913, the West Side Tennis Club moved from Manhattan to Forest Hills Gardens. The U.S. Open and its predecessor national championships were held there until 1978, making Forest Hills synonymous with tennis for generations.
The southern part of Forest Hills contains a particularly diverse mixture of upscale housing, ranging from single-family houses, attached townhouses, and both low-rise and high-rise apartment buildings. South of the Long Island Rail Road, the Forest Hills Gardens area is a private community that features some of the most expensive residential properties in Queens County. It was subject to restrictive covenants until the 1970s, which contained no explicit economic, social or racial restrictions even if "working-class people" were said to be excluded by Eric P. Nash in a 2002 New York Times article, in his review of A Modern Arcadia. Forest Hills Gardens was named "Best Community" in 2007 by Cottage Living Magazine. The adjacent Van Court community also contains a number of detached single-family homes. There are also attached townhouses near the Westside Tennis Center and detached frame houses near Metropolitan Avenue. Finally, there are a number of apartment buildings scattered throughout the community. The most notable high-rise apartment buildings are The Continental on 108th St, Kennedy House, the Pinnacle, and the Windsor.
The north side of Forest Hills is home to the Cord Meyer community, which contains detached single-family homes. Teardowns and their replacement with larger single family residences has had a significant impact on the architectural integrity of the area. However, the Bukharian Jewish community, whose members have settled in the area in large numbers since the late 1990s, advocating the changes say the bigger homes are needed for their large extended families.
The main thoroughfare is Queens Boulevard, which is very wide. Metropolitan Avenue is known for its antique shops. Forest Hills is easily accessible by subway, rail, bus and car. The commercial heart of Forest Hills is a mile-long stretch of Austin Street between Yellowstone Boulevard and Ascan Avenue: the latter thoroughfare was named in 1909 by developer Frederick Backus for his own father, Ascan Backus, II.
Forest Hills was once the home of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The event was held at the West Side Tennis Club before it moved to the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park, about 4 miles (6.4 km) away. When the Open was played at the tennis stadium, the tournament was commonly referred to merely as Forest Hills, just as All-England Lawn Tennis Association Championships are referred to, simply, as Wimbledon. In the 2001 motion picture, The Royal Tenenbaums, Luke Wilson's character plays a tennis match at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. A pivotal scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 film Strangers on a Train, in which the main character (played by Farley Granger) is a professional tennis player, features a lengthy championship game at the Club, with distinctive shots of the surrounding community. The Tennis Stadium, which hosted numerous music concerts including The Beatles after the U.S. Open departed for Flushing Meadows, resumed hosting music concerts during the summer of 2013 when the British rock band Mumford & Sons played there to an overflowing crowd. Stadium officials have said they will now host as many as six music or cultural events at the Stadium each season.
Junior high students in Forest Hills attend either J.H.S. 157 Stephen A. Halsey (commonly referred to as Halsey) in Rego Park or J.H.S. 190 Russell Sage (known as Sage) in Forest Hills as well as the newest school from grade 6 to 12, M.S. 167 (otherwise known as Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS)), "a school for a sustainable city". This school does partnership with New York City Outward Bound. New York City high school students at the turn of the 21st century began applying to the high schools of their choice, as there is no longer a zoning policy for Forest Hills High School or Queens Metropolitan High School. Students from all over New York City may apply to high schools in other parts of the city. In addition to Forest Hills High School, a large percentage of students from both J.H.S. 157 and J.H.S. 190 gain admission to other high schools in New York City. Many J.H.S. 157 students also attend the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School.
The neighborhood is disproportionately home to the upper-middle class, of whom the wealthiest often live in the Forest Hills Gardens section.
Historically, Forest Hills has had many German and American Jewish residents. This is not as true today, as most of the Jewish residents are Bukharians from Uzbekistan, a former USSR nation. Additionally, the neighborhood is now 24% Asian, 12% Latino, and 4% black. Originally, the area was called Whitepot.
Forest Hills is bordered by two of the more sizable parks in Queens managed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation: the 1,255 acres (5.08 km2) Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, which is the site of two World's Fairs (in 1939 and 1964) and the iconic Unisphere; as well as the 544 acres (2.20 km2) Forest Park. Within Forest Hills, some of the more popular parks and playgrounds include the Yellowstone Municipal Park – Katzman Playground (located on Yellowstone Boulevard, between 68th Avenue and 68th Road); the Annadale Playground (located on Yellowstone Boulevard, between 64th Road and 65th Avenue); the Willow Lake Playground (located off the Grand Central Parkway, between 71st and 72nd Avenues); the Ehrenreich-Austin Playground (located on Austin Street, between 76th Avenue and 76th Drive); and the Russell Sage Playground (located on 68th Avenue, between Booth and Austin Streets).
^Clines, Francis X. "In Training for a Run on the Political Stage", The New York Times, 19 February 1997. Accessed October 31, 2007. "She commutes here on alternate weeks for five nights of shows, traveling from Forest Hills, Queens, where she lives with her husband, John A. Zaccaro."
^Silverberg, Alex. "Comic Thanks His Queens Upbringing", copy of article from The Queens Tribune, July 6, 2007. Accessed October 18, 2007. "Hofstetter has been all around Queens. He spent his younger years in Briarwood before moving on to Forest Hills, and finally settling down in Rego Park for the duration of his teen years."
^Li, Kenneth. "MAKING A FASHIONABLE EXIT DONNA KARAN RESIGNS AS CEO", Daily News, July 29, 1997. Accessed June 17, 2009. "The move follows months of turmoil for the Forest Hills, Queens-born designer, who has become one of the world's best-known brands by creating sophisticated yet comfortable clothing that women cherish as both casual and evening wear."
^Whitman, Alden (June 2, 1968). "Helen Keller, 87, Dies: Triumph Out of Tragedy". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2012. In the twenties, Miss Keller, Miss Sullivan and her husband and Miss Thomson (who had joined the household in 1914) moved from Wrentham, Mass., to Forest Hills, Queens, in New York. Miss Keller used this home as a base for her extensive fund-raising tours for the American Foundation for the Blind, of which she was counselor until her death.
^Ho, Janie. "Alan King, Comic, Actor Dies at 76", CBS News, May 9, 2004; accessed June 18, 2009. "King, who until then had been using worn out one-liners, found his new material at home. His wife had persuaded the New Yorker to forsake Manhattan for suburban Forest Hills, Queens, believing it would provide a better environment for their children."
^Schneider, Paul Miles. Biography, The official Andrea King website. Accessed June 18, 2009. "A few years later, after settling in New York, Belle consented to marry Douglas McKee, the Vice President of the Title Guarantee & Trust Company, and the threesome moved into a large house in Forest Hills, Long Island."
^Flint, Peter B. "Michael Landon, 54, Little Joe On 'Bonanza' for 14 Years, Dies", The New York Times, July 2, 1991; accessed June 18, 2009. "Mr. Landon, whose name was originally Eugene Maurice Orowitz, was born on Oct. 31, 1936, in Forest Hills, Queens, to Eli Maurice Orowitz, a movie theater manager, and the former Peggy O'Neill, an actress."
^Pareles, Jon. "Dee Dee Ramone, Pioneer Punk Rocker, Dies at 50", The New York Times, June 7, 2002; accessed June 17, 2009. "Tony Colvin moved her children to New York in the late 1960s. They settled in Forest Hills, Queens, where Douglas met the future members of the Ramones, described in Lobotomy as 'the obvious creeps of the neighborhood.'"
^Silverman, Stephen M. "Punk Rock Legend Johnny Ramone Dies at 55", People, September 16, 2004; accessed June 2, 2009. "Johnny Ramone, 55, was born John Cummings and grew up in Forest Hills, N.Y., soaking up rock in the '60s but then moving to an edgier sound."
^Strickland, Carol. "Can Sitcom Make It With L.I. Setting?", The New York Times, December 1, 1996; accessed November 12, 2007. "For Everybody Loves Raymond, the route to Hollywood Hills began in Forest Hills, where Ray Romano, a standup comedian and the star of the show, grew up."
^Jeff Wayne, Sony Music. Accessed June 18, 2009. "Jeff Wayne was born in Forest Hills, New York and discovered early in his life two passions that have remained with him — music and tennis."
^Fischler, Marcelle S. "Nascent Hall of Fame to Welcome First Honorees", The New York Times, October 15, 2006; accessed November 26, 2007. "Dee Snider of Stony Brook, the shock-rocker from the 1980s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, known for his defiant metal anthem We're Not Gonna Take It, and Leslie West of the band Mountain, who grew up in East Meadow, Lawrence and Forest Hills, are also being inducted..."
^Ferber, Lawrence. "Oh, Henry Oh, Henry", Gay and Lesbian Times, no. 934, 17 November 2005. Accessed June 18, 2009. "During his youth in Forest Hills, N.Y., Willson was close to his father, a man who both enabled his showbiz obsession and hindered his personal development."