Greater Astoria Historical Society

Greater Astoria Historical Society Greater Astoria Historical Society is dedicated to preserving our past and using it to promote our future through walking tours, lectures, educational programming, community events, research, & more.
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Join us! The Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS) is a non-profit cultural and historical organization located in Astoria, Queens, New York, dedicated to preserving the past and promoting the future of the neighborhoods that are part of historic Long Island City, including; the Village of Astoria, Blissville, Bowery Bay, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, Ravenswood, Steinway Village and Sunnyside.

Operating as usual

“...what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments.” Umberto Eco  #fathersday #fathers #dad #dog #lo...
06/20/2021

“...what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments.” Umberto Eco #fathersday #fathers #dad #dog #love #kindness #astorialic #aatoriahistory

“...what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments.” Umberto Eco #fathersday #fathers #dad #dog #love #kindness #astorialic #aatoriahistory

Astoria’s Big Bang: the 1885 Hell Gate Planned Detonation followed the Little Bang of 1876.FLOOD ROCK SHATTERED INTO COU...
06/14/2021

Astoria’s Big Bang: the 1885 Hell Gate Planned Detonation followed the Little Bang of 1876.

FLOOD ROCK SHATTERED INTO COUNTLESS FRAGMENTS. A GIRL'S HAND UNLOCKING THE MIGHTY FORCE. THE GRAND SPECTACLE WHICH A CITY TURNED OUT TO SEE—A SOLID WALL OF WATER HANGING TREMBLING IN MID-AIR—A SHOCK WHICH WAS FELT FOR MILES IN EVERY DIRECTION—THE SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION OF NINE YEARS OF WORK.

-NY Times headline

In 1851, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led by General John Newton began to clear obstacles from Hell Gate, a strait in New York City's East River, with explosives.

The operation would last 70 years. On September 24, 1876, the Corps used 50,000 pounds of explosives to blast the rocks, which was followed by further blasting.

The process was started by excavating under Hallets Reef from Astoria. Cornish miners assisted by steam drills dug galleries under the reef, which were then interconnected. They later drilled holes for explosives. A patent was issued for the detonating device.

After the explosion the rock debris was dredged and dropped in a deep part of the river, this was not repeated at the later Flood rock explosion.

The day before the much larger 1885 explosion Commissioner Thomas S. Brennan said the proper precautions will be taken on Blackwell’s island, and that should the effect of the explosion be greater than anticipated and jar or damage any of the institutions the inmates would not suffer or be alarmed.

The lunatics will be taken from the asylum, as well as the inmates of the other institutions, except the prisoners in the penitentiary. Here as a measure of common precaution the cell doors will be left open.

All homes on the Astoria waterfront within 1,000 feet of Flood Rock were evacuated and promises were made that those streets would be cordoned off and the possessions of the evacuees well protected.

An estimated 10,000 persons on the Astoria shore at 10 AM, in sight of Flood Rock, would certainly be within bounds. Many put the number much higher. It grew there after, for the next hour, as fast as well as possible by horse car, by vehicles, and by walking.

General Abbot held the keyboard in both hands and kept the key away from contact with his body or his clothes, while Mary Newton, the 11-year-old daughter of General John Newton, the explosion supervisor, watched every motion with the upmost eagerness, her eyes dancing with impatience. She had experience, having pressed the key at the age of two for the smaller, 1876 explosion.

Finally, at about 10:55 in the morning, General Abbot nodded to the child, who stepped up to the instrument and, after the merest moment of hesitation, touched the key. There was a single instance of breathless silence.

Then there came a sudden jar of the solid rock underneath the feet of the little group of spectators, and, with a choked crash and muffled roar, the great volume of seething and foaming water spraying into the air.

All eyes turned toward Flood Rock until the first commotion had ceased, and then the officers rushed up to congratulate General Newton, and at once turned to shower compliments upon the little girl, who seemed a very well poised little girl indeed.

She only smiled brightly in response to the pleasantries, and turned to her father, who kissed her tenderly, remarking as a great tidal wave rolled in upon the beach, “There, just see what you’ve done!”

General Newton’s neck bore a scratch from the snapping of a wire attached to one of the cameras. The wire struck him, making a slight cut. “I am the only person injured,” he said, laughing, as the boat bore him away.

Telegraphic signs conveyed information of the explosion at the instant of its occurrence to the observers at Bayshore, Patchogue, Piersall’s, and West Point.

The spectators on the various steamboats look wonderingly on the scene of desolation and thought there was just as much rock as it was before the explosion. Some of them had evidently expected that the rock would disappear. Soon as steamboats glided away, leaving the rowboat crews at their labors. Then the crowds on shore began to dwindle. The great event was over. There was nothing more to see.

New York Times excerpt, October 11, 1885

The blast has been described as “the largest planned explosion before testing began for the atomic bomb”, although the detonation at the Battle of Messines in 1917 was larger. Some of the rubble from the detonation was used in 1890 to fill the gap between Great Mill Rock and Little Mill Rock, merging the two islands into a single island, Mill Rock.

- Wikipedia

Charles Graham, The Last of Flood Rock—Scene of the Hell Gate Explosion, Viewed from 87th Street, NY, 1885, Wood engraving on paper. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.4277.

Double-deck railway coach patented by Manhattanite in 1890The illustration shows a car not exceeding in height the usual...
06/05/2021

Double-deck railway coach patented by Manhattanite in 1890

The illustration shows a car not exceeding in height the usual drawing room coaches, or at the most only slightly so, so that the bridges and tunnels of the regular railway lines can present no obstacle to it passage, but the construction is such as to provide two floors or tiers of seats, thereby largely increasing the carrying capacity of the car.

This is effected mainly by the manner in which the space at present occupied by the car ventilator is made available, the sides of the car roof being carried up to the full height of the usual ventilator section while the latter is inverted, its side shutters opening into the body of the car, as shown in the cross sectional view.

Further vertical space is also afforded by depressing the floor of the car body between the end trucks, as shown in the longitudinal view, in which the side is broken away.

Such depression of the floor however, is not deemed indispensable, for it will be seen that the central aisle of the car is of full height, permitting ready access to the side seats of the main floor therefrom, while the side galleries above, each accommodating only a single row of chairs, do not extend to the full width of the seats on either side of the aisle below.

The car is of the ordinary construction at the ends, except that it has a comfortable smoking and lookout room in the upper part, which adds greatly to the convenience of passengers.

The ventilator was arranged to permit the ready flowing off of water during rain without obstruction to the thorough ventilation of the car at all times.

The car forms the subject of a patent which has been granted to Mr. Orlando Harriman, of 43 Wall Street, New York City.

Scientific American excerpt and illustrations, June 7, 1890

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Photos: LIRR Double decker construction interior 1/1943 Archive: Steamtown National Historic Site

LIRR's double-deck MUs featured �a unique up-down seating configuration.�#200 Class T62 aisle view 7/06/1932
Archive: Bill Mangahas

“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Unknown.  #mother #love# #mothersday #mom #family #gift #asto...
05/09/2021

“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Unknown. #mother #love# #mothersday #mom #family #gift #astorialic

“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Unknown. #mother #love# #mothersday #mom #family #gift #astorialic

05/06/2021
Jane's Walk: The Time Traveler's Trip: Postcards from Old Astoria

This free guided video tour produced by The Greater Astoria Historical Society will follow guest host Vintage Queens’ Jade Oliver as she gives a tour of some of the most notable historical areas of Astoria to “sitesee” over the decades, in period-appropriate clothing specific to each site. Enhancing the tour will be images from the GAHS archives, including a postcard from each location, as she “jumps” back and forth between history and today!

05/06/2021

Due to country wide outages at Adobe Creative Cloud, there is a delay in this evening's broadcast, and our video will begin at 7 pm!

Oh the joys of technology! We will see you soon!

Well, this was a lot of fun! Bob Singleton-NewYork
05/06/2021

Well, this was a lot of fun! Bob Singleton-NewYork

WATCH Queens Conversations: Neighborhood Notes-Astoria Thursday, May 6th @ 3 PM on QPTV.org, Facebook, Spectrum 34/1995, RCN 82, and Verizon Fios 34

This is the second edition of the podcast by Heather Quinlan on the 86 Mets.https://soundcloud.com/heather-quinlan/86d-a...
04/11/2021
86'd: A Podcast About the '86 Mets Film that Didn't Get Made - Episode Two: Did We Talk About P***y?

This is the second edition of the podcast by Heather Quinlan on the 86 Mets.

https://soundcloud.com/heather-quinlan/86d-a-podcast-about-the-86-mets-film-that-didnt-get-made-episode-two-did-we-talk-about-py

Lenny Dykstra talks about being Nails, how the '86 Mets didn't party like the '90s Phillies, and how he had better drugs than Tony Gwynn. Dykstra ended up being one of the most open and approachable M

Happy Birthday to the Father of Astoria This week we celebrate the birthday of a New York merchant who changed a communi...
04/06/2021

Happy Birthday to the Father of Astoria

This week we celebrate the birthday of a New York merchant who changed a community, Stephen Alling Halsey.

Stephen Alling Halsey was born in New York on April 7, 1798, the son of a carpenter and lumber dealer. The Halseys had come originally from England and then moved via Massachusetts and Southampton, L.I. and New Jersey to New York City. Stephen became involved in the fur business in New York with his older brother John and in the 1830's the two were in business together under the name of John C. Halsey & Co. at 185 Water Street. In 1834 Stephen Halsey purchased a residence in Flushing and in commuting back and forth to New York by steamboat daily, he could not help noticing the green Astoria peninsula at Hell Gate and how rural and attractive it looked despite its close proximity to the city. Within a year's time he gave up his Flushing residence and removed to Hell Gate.

How much of a village was already present in Astoria when Halsey settled there in 1835? We have no reliable information, for the census of 1830 and 1840 lists persons by townships only (Newtown) and gives no specific addresses. We do know that the ferry landing was a busy enough spot to account for a few houses and taverns; there were several farms and enough of a local population to encourage the founding of St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church in 1828.

Halsey, on settling at Astoria, conceived the idea of founding a new village complete with dwellings, stores, factories, schools churches, etc. Being by now a man of means, Halsey was able to indulge his whim and this soon turned into a consuming passion and lifelong commitment. He was fortunate in securing the help and cooperation of his elder brother, John C. Halsey who negotiated his first purchase, the Perrot Farm, on 4th Street and the Blackwell Farm up to 8th Street, embracing nearly all the land lying between Pot Cove and Hallett's Cove. Between 1835 and 1840 Halsey energetically developed his land into the nucleus of a village, laying out streets and erecting houses and stores. He applied for and secured permission from the Legislature to build new wharves at the ferry slip and bought out the rights to Hell Gate ferry itself in order to modernize and improve it.

The rise of Astoria as a population center induced Captain Peck of Flushing to stop his fast little steamer, the "Washington Irving" at Astoria several times a day on its run between Flushing and New York.
From: “300 Years of Long Island City History” by Vincent Seyfried

Happy Birthday to the Father of Astoria

This week we celebrate the birthday of a New York merchant who changed a community, Stephen Alling Halsey.

Stephen Alling Halsey was born in New York on April 7, 1798, the son of a carpenter and lumber dealer. The Halseys had come originally from England and then moved via Massachusetts and Southampton, L.I. and New Jersey to New York City. Stephen became involved in the fur business in New York with his older brother John and in the 1830's the two were in business together under the name of John C. Halsey & Co. at 185 Water Street. In 1834 Stephen Halsey purchased a residence in Flushing and in commuting back and forth to New York by steamboat daily, he could not help noticing the green Astoria peninsula at Hell Gate and how rural and attractive it looked despite its close proximity to the city. Within a year's time he gave up his Flushing residence and removed to Hell Gate.

How much of a village was already present in Astoria when Halsey settled there in 1835? We have no reliable information, for the census of 1830 and 1840 lists persons by townships only (Newtown) and gives no specific addresses. We do know that the ferry landing was a busy enough spot to account for a few houses and taverns; there were several farms and enough of a local population to encourage the founding of St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church in 1828.

Halsey, on settling at Astoria, conceived the idea of founding a new village complete with dwellings, stores, factories, schools churches, etc. Being by now a man of means, Halsey was able to indulge his whim and this soon turned into a consuming passion and lifelong commitment. He was fortunate in securing the help and cooperation of his elder brother, John C. Halsey who negotiated his first purchase, the Perrot Farm, on 4th Street and the Blackwell Farm up to 8th Street, embracing nearly all the land lying between Pot Cove and Hallett's Cove. Between 1835 and 1840 Halsey energetically developed his land into the nucleus of a village, laying out streets and erecting houses and stores. He applied for and secured permission from the Legislature to build new wharves at the ferry slip and bought out the rights to Hell Gate ferry itself in order to modernize and improve it.

The rise of Astoria as a population center induced Captain Peck of Flushing to stop his fast little steamer, the "Washington Irving" at Astoria several times a day on its run between Flushing and New York.
From: “300 Years of Long Island City History” by Vincent Seyfried

Address

44-02 23rd Street, Studio 219
Long Island City, NY
11101

Telephone

(718) 278-0700

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Preserving our past, promoting our future

Chartered in 1985, the Greater Astoria Historical Society is a non-profit organization supported by the Greater Astoria/Long Island City communities, dedicated to preserving our past and using it to promote our future. Our work to procure, preserve and present relates to the natural, civil, literary and ecclesiastical history of the United States and State of New York in general, and the Astoria/Long Island City, Queens, area in particular. From 1990-2018, the Society had an onsite museum of its permanent collection and rotating exhibits; since, programming for the public and to local organizations and schools has been held at various community venues, in addition to our many walking tours in all five boroughs of New York City. Due to the current global health crisis and for the foreseeable future, we are working to move programming to all-virtual.

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I hope someone can give me some guidance. I am researching my family history and recently have been told that my paternal grandparents met while working at a silk mill on a street called Van Alst in Astoria some time around 1908. The only information on this silk mill I have found online is that there was a silk mill named M C Migel & Co, on the corner of Van Alst & Woolsey Aves . Can anyone reading this help direct me to learn more about this silk mill? I have always wanted to know more about my grandparents' meeting and be able to write their life story. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!
This Brooklyn Eagle 1906 topographical view of Long Island shows why it is an ideal “Summer-land” resort destination. The most conspicuous topographical feature is a great moraine of glacial deposits one to two miles in width and 100 - 400 feet high that runs the length of the island. The influence of the great “terminal moraine” not only enhances the character of the area as a summer resort, but it is a dominant factor in determining its general development. The locations of railroads, public highways, permanent residential centers, farming communities and summer resorts are mainly guided by it. It’s glacial kettle lakes, hills, plains, bays, pine woods and great forests and seemingly interminable stretches of white sand beaches make the island especially adapted to summer resort purposes. It contains some of the most beautiful and picturesque villages and scenery that can be found anywhere in the country. Add to this its splendid supply of pure water, cooling breezes and excellent transportation and Long Island is well-nigh perfect for resort purposes. In 1906 there were three lines of the Long Island Railroad running east and west, beside a line connecting the central and the south shore or Montauk divisions between Bethpage Junction and Babylon; also a short line from the north shore line from Northport Junction to Northport Bay. In addition to these railroad lines, which spread themselves over the entire island, rendering accessible every village and country place, are several great, public highways running out from Brooklyn and extending to thc extreme easterly end of the island. These are the "old South road," a continuation of Fulton street, skirting the south shore and stringing together the beautiful villages from Woodhaven to Montauk Point; the "old country road,” running east from Jamaica bearing a few miles to the northward from tho bee-line longitudinal center, passing through Riverhead and joining the North Shore turnpike at Mattituck on the north side of the Great Peconic Bay and the North Shore or “Jericho " turnpike, winding in and out along the diversified north shore from Flushing to Orient Point, the extreme eastern end of the northern “fluke” of the island. (Click to magnify and click again to zoom)
Queens County Courthouse rendering of its reconstruction were published in the Brooklyn Eagle in 1906. The actual design of the courthouse seems to have changed before its completion in 1908. The building was erected in 1874 to a design by George Hathorne. The location was decided on as the Queens County Seat moved from Jamaica to Long Island City, due to access to nearby transportation. An article in Newsday, written by staff writer Geoffrey Mohan, writes of the relocation of the Queens County Courthouse from Garden City Park, Nassau County, to Long Island City. Mohan refers to this relocation as one of decades of controversy, and possible reasons contributing to Nassau County's secession from Queens. The courthouse was remodeled and enlarged by Peter M. Coco in 1904 after a fire destroyed a portion of it. In its remodeling the building was raised from two stories to four stories in order to accommodate the needs of the court. The courthouse is designed in what has been variously described as a Neo-English Renaissance, neoclassical, or Beaux Arts architectural style and is made of stone, ceramic tile, limestone, and metal. Two jails were formerly part of the complex, but were replaced by a parking garage in 1988. The parking structure was designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. - Wikipedia
Happy Thanksgiving to all who make this website fun! Photo: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 23, 1902
New LIRR Powerhouse in L.I.C. is ready to power the Rockaway Beach Division in 1905. Its lofty engine room and great coal storage bins in the second story have been pronounced by visiting engineers from all over the world to be the best plant of its kind in existence. Power to 5 substations is carried by cables carried on hurricane and sleet-proof steel latticed towers set in substantial concrete foundations 150 feet apart. Road telephones every 2,000 feet connect to L.I.C. headquarters. The Hammels, Rockaway substation contains the largest single storage battery in the country and can provide power to the third rail for several hours in the event of turbine failure. ALL ABOARD!
Belgian sculptor and aeronaut Paul Norquet took off in his 35-foot diameter gas balloon from 138th Street and Walnut Avenue, Bronx at 5:30 PM Tuesday, April 3, 1906. He wanted to fly to Philadelphia but a change in wind direction carried him over Astoria, Queens and Nassau instead. Afraid he would drift out to sea he was last seen by two boys just 150’ over Garden City. “I have been trying to land,” he yelled to the boys, “but my anchor snagged in a tree.” A sudden updraft carried him to 400’. His inflated balloon was found 24 hours later on Jones Beach with no trace of its pilot. The next day his lifeless body was found by a bayman on Cott Island. Drag marks in the sand by the balloon’s ropes indicated that he had approached Jones Beach from the ocean. A revised map of his flight suggested that he had lost his mind after two hours over the ocean staring death in the face. So, when the wind shifted to the north he safely landed on Jones Beach opposite Seaford. The lights of a nearby life saver station were blocked by dunes, so the fear-crazed Nocquet tried to swim towards the lights of Amityville, some 5 miles away, in the chilly, early spring water of South Oyster Bay instead of remaining with his balloon car. The Suffolk County coroner said that there was no occasion for an autopsy as it was “a clear case of a man, robbed of his reason by fear, perishing from exhaustion and exposure in a effort to make a journey that no sane person would have dreamed of undertaking.” The 29-year-old Manhattanite’s will, found in his pocket along with $35, ended with these words: “I have taken out my first papers for citizenship in the United States. My only desire is to become an American and I consider myself an American.”
Astoria and Long Island City connections to Manhattan via the coming Belmont Tunnel (today’s #7 Train), the Pennsylvania Railroad Tunnels (LIRR and feeder to the Hell Gate Bridge and the U.S. mainland) and the Blackwell’s Island Bridge (Queensboro Bridge) are used to sell real estate in Massapequa to ‘Tom Home Seeker’ in 1906 Brooklyn Eagle ad.
A shout out to our good friend Rob McKay of QueensNY on promoting our walking tour of LIC for MAS today. We had 30 people attend and midway through the tour we opened a discussion - pro and con - on the development of Queens waterfront. Both sides stated their points, but more importantly, both sides walked away with a better understanding of each other - and that's what these M.A.S. tours are all about!
A class of students at LaGuardia Community College Urban Sociology class enjoy another tour of the LIC by the Greater Astoria Historical Society
The Greater Astoria Historical Society takes great pride in its award winning educational program. Each year a class of students from the community participate in a program uncover our rich history. This year we are pleased to be working with Muhtady Shammo, Israq Huda, and Moinak Das on our most ambitious project yet - a series of complete historic maps of Long Island City from prehistory to present! Do stay tuned!
We are giving at tour of Old Astoria Village this weekend for the Municipal Art Society. If you are interested registration is here: https://www.mas.org/events/astoria-village/