Neighborhood at Risk: Astoria Village

Dr. Wayt House 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 area.14 near 20

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.

Unfortunate new construction on 12th Street

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