2007_06_foresthillsgard.jpgThe charms of Forest Hills Gardens are no longer a secret: Cottage Living has named it the number one cottage community in the country. The country! Forest Hills Gardens is within Forest Hills, Queens, and it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of the famous landscape designer. The article's author, Justin Martin, lives in Forest Hills Gardens and writes:

Olmsted's gift was that he was equal parts landscape architect and social engineer. When planning Forest Hills Gardens, he chose to curve the streets—not to avoid any particular impediment but simply to promote a feeling of calm. This was an innovation at the time. The effect slows traffic, both auto and pedestrian, to a more leisurely pace.

Olmsted was also partial to small parks. The larger a park, he believed, the higher the risk that visitors would move about behind a veil of urban anonymity. (Interesting, since his father was the visionary behind Manhattan's Central Park.) So rather than one big space, Forest Hills Gardens boasts four smaller parks. They are used abundantly, in all seasons, by residents of all ages. In fact, you can't really move through the neighborhood without passing by or through one of them, and since park space means social space, my wife always reminds me to factor in 20 minutes for chitchat.

There is a devoted neighborhood association that residents must consult with if they want to make changes (Martin says, "When my next-door neighbor wanted to repaint the trim on his house, he had to figure out the precise green that wouldn't clash with the rest of our row.").

About.com has a slideshow of Forest Hills Gardens photographs - the picture above is of the ridiculously pretty view from the LIRR station. There are more pictures and discussion at Wired New York. And a sweet, detached, renovated classic Tudor with five bedrooms and original Olmsted details goes for $2.55 million.