Neighborhood at Risk: Astoria
In the shadow of the Triborough Bridge is hidden one of the oldest
sections of Queens, Astoria Village where charming mid-19th-century
homes and rowhouses still stand. For years the area centered on
12th and 14th Streets between Astoria Park and Astoria Boulevard
has suffered from teardowns and incompatible development, but opportunities
for preservation and landmarking do remain.
William Hallet received a patent from Governor Peter Stuyvesant
in 1654 for 1500 acres on a peninsula jutting out into the East
River’s Hell Gate. Nearly two centuries later Stephen Halsey
moved to Hallet’s Point in 1835 with a plan to create a new
village, naming it Astoria for John Jacob Astor in hopes that the
wealthy fur merchant would invest. Although Mr. Astor did not take
much notice of his namesake, a well-to-do suburb served by a steam
ferry grew there.
Free-standing ante-bellum and Civil-War era homes
can still be found in the neighborhood, reminders of the old Astoria
Village. One home of particular note is the c.1845 Dr. Wyat House
on 27th Avenue and 12th Street. The handsome brick home, designed
in the Italianate style with bracketed cornice, eyebrow attic windows,
stone window lintels and a columned porch, has been well cared for
and preserved. Many of the other homes are wood, befitting the lumber
barons who built and lived in them. Their ornate porches and large
yards lend a different sense of place to this quickly developing
Other historic housing forms can be found in neighborhood too.
Handsome, brick apartment buildings anchor the corners of the intersection
of Lebanon Terrace (a.k.a. 14th Place) and 26th Avenue. Next door
stand pairs of neo-Grec rowhouses with common two-story porches
and Italianates with single story porches. Earlier simple brick
rowhouses with stone lintels are also on Lebanon Terrace.
Old Astoria also has two historic churches. The First Reformed
Church of Astoria on 12th Street, a Victorian Gothic in brick and
terra cotta, was built in 1888 after the original 1839 chapel was
lost in the fire. The churchyard is possibly the burial site of
the village’s founder, Stephen Halsey. St. George’s
Church is a neo-Gothic stone church at the corner of Astoria Boulevard
and 14th Street, completed in 1903 to replace the wooden 1825 church
that burned in 1894.
Astoria Village has suffered greatly from building
speculators with large sums of cash in hand. Numerous important
houses have been demolished, only to be replaced with large, boxy
multi-family dwellings. The need to save what remains is crucial
- as a memory of the Village and a reminder of the importance of
preserving districts before its too late. While a district may no
longer be possible, candidates for individual landmarking still
exist in Astoria Village and should be protected by designation.
Return to Neighborhoods