History Hidden in Plain Sight

Part II of II: 30 West Jamaica – a rich past, and a blessed future


In August 1953, another fraternal organization, the Free and Accepted Masons (Freemasons), opened a local chapter — Valley Stream Lodge No. 143. They did not buy a building in Valley Stream at that time; instead, they rented Mechanics Hall from the Junior Order of United American Mechanics (JOUAM). The Freemasons can trace their origins to the local stonemasons of the Middle Ages.

In May 1963, the Fifth Precinct relocated to 1655 Dutch Broadway in Elmont, and Sherdel Paper Co. moved into the newly vacated first floor. “The business was started by my dad, Kenneth ’Chickie’ Sherdel, in his parent’s house at 19 Fifth Street,” explained Jeanne Walker, Kenneth’s daughter. “My Uncle Fred joined the business shortly after.” The Sherdel brothers sold fine paper and envelopes to printers, schools, and churches. In 1990, Sherdel Paper Co. moved to Franklin Avenue. The business was sold a couple of years later.

Dwindling membership made it difficult for the JOUAM to maintain ownership of 30 West Jamaica. In November 1967, they sold their building to the Freemasons. The JOUAM continued to hold meetings at their previously-owned building, this time as a tenant. On July 1, 1977, the JOUAM Valley Stream Council No. 41 officially merged with the JOUAM Franklin Council 16 and left Valley Stream. In 2005, the Freemasons sold the building and moved to Rockville Centre. From 2005 until 2010, various other short-term businesses have occupied the space.

In 2010, the building was purchased by the Holy Ghost Headquarters Prayer Band Mission (Holy Ghost), a Pentecostal house of worship. Holy Ghost was founded in 1973 and moved from its original location in Far Rockaway. The Prayer Room, Sunday School, and Bible Study are located on the first floor; the upstairs room is reserved for Pastor Louise Jackson’s choir practice, worship, and special events. This marks the first time in the structure’s 91-year history that the entire building is occupied by one entity.

The ornately-designed flagpole at 30 West Jamaica is intact, a relic from the 1920s. The elegantly arched doorway has also miraculously survived through countless renovations, although hidden now by an awning. Two vintage lamps that adorned either side of that door have since been removed and replaced — but a discerning eye can still trace their shape. Most of the first-floor windows on the east and west sides of the building have been plastered over.

What sets 30 West Jamaica apart from other noteworthy buildings in the Village is the significant number of years that each establishment spent at that location: JOUAM, 51; Fifth Precinct, 34; Freemasons, 52; Sherdel Paper Co., 27; and Holy Ghost, 7. One hundred seventy-one years of combined occupancy! The windows in the upstairs room are slits now, remnants of their former size. But, as the Holy Ghost congregants gather to pray, to sing, to dance, and to praise the Lord, the sun still shines in.

Location: 30 West Jamaica Avenue (between Rockaway and South Corona avenues)