Tag Archives: Greater Astoria Historical Society

Star of Queens: Marie T. Carella, president, Greater Astoria Historical Society


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Community Service: Marie T. Carella has been president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society since January of this year.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is a nonprofit cultural and community-oriented organization dedicated to preserving the past and promoting Long Island City’s and Astoria’s future.

Background: Carella has been a lifelong Astoria resident. Besides volunteering at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, she also volunteers at Immaculate Conception School on Ditmars Boulevard, where she is president of the Alumni Association.

“Having a public relations background, combined with good organizations skills, I enjoy working with the public, organizing and attending events and meeting new people,” she said.

Favorite Memory: Carella says her fondest memory would be the “It’s a Small World” boat ride at the Pepsi Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.

“As a young girl, the memory of those animated figures representing different countries was amazing,” Carella said.

Inspiration: “My outlook on life is always positive with a good balance thrown in,” Carella said. “I feel that life has its ups and downs and for everything bad that happens, there is always a good reason for it. I believe in following the ‘do what it takes to get the job done’ rule for success.”

Biggest Challenge: According to Carella, the biggest challenge faced at the Greater Astoria Historical Society is being underfunded and recruiting additional volunteers.

“There are so many great ideas at work at the Greater Astoria Historical Society and often times the lack of funding stands in the way of doing a program or not,” she said. “We also find that having more volunteers can bring additional exposure to the society and the programs.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Cloudy early, then off and on rain showers for the afternoon. High 51. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Monday night: Rain likely. Low 47. Winds SE at 15 to 25 mph. Rainfall around a half an inch.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Lecture and Exhibit – The 1964-65 World’s Fair

Rosalie Kenny discusses the fair, which is best remembered as a showcase of mid-20th-century American culture and technology, including the launch of the Ford Mustang. Event also kicks off exhibit of at least 30 rare photographs from 1939 and 1964 fairs which runs through June 30 at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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Private buyer set for Steinway Mansion


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Gary Vollo

The mansion that sits on top of a hill at 18-33 41st St. in Astoria might soon be bought.

The Steinway Mansion, which was built in the 1850s, has reportedly been on the market for about two years and recently a private buyer is said to be in contract to purchase the landmarked home.

“We are aware that the Steinway Mansion is under contract to be sold,” said the Board of Directors of the Greater Astoria Historical Society in a statement. “We do not have any information to share at this time.”

The Astoria home was built by Benjamin Pike and was later sold to the Steinway family as a summer home around 1870, with the Steinway & Sons piano factory built decades later only a few blocks away. In the 1920s, the home was sold to the Halberian family and has stayed in the family ever since. It was later selected as a New York City Landmark in 1967.

Last year, the coalition The Friends of Steinway Mansion was formed to raise the millions of dollars needed to purchase the house, restore it and convert it into a public facility. The 27 rooms in the mansion could become a museum space or a teaching and learning center for small concerts and workshops.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Partly cloudy. High of 72. Winds from the East at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the SSE in the afternoon. Monday night: Overcast in the evening, then mostly cloudy. Low of 68. Winds from the South at 5 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: LICity Forum

North Beach, where LaGuardia Airport is now located, was a major vacation spot from 1886 to 1917. Come learn the history or relive the excitement of the area. Starts 7 p.m. at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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Coalition formed to save Steinway Mansion


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gary Vollo

A new group is aiming to preserve the iconic Steinway Mansion for future generations to enjoy the historic local landmark.

The Friends of Steinway Mansion is a newly formed coalition with members including Steinway & Sons, the Queens Economic Development Corporation, local officials and historians.

“It is the stuff of New York legend. Within its walls was ‘the cradle of creativity,’ under its beams lived ‘a household of genius.’ It is cut from the cloth that defines our city,” said Bob Singleton, coalition founder and executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. “It is a place that celebrates something any New Yorker instinctively understands – it is a monument to the unique spirit of New York and its people.”

The coalition will have to raise millions of dollars for the purchase of the house, which has been on sale for about two years at a reported asking price of $2.9 million. Funds are also needed for maintenance, restoration, and conversion into a public facility.

The 27 rooms in the mansion could become a museum space or a teaching and learning center for small concerts and workshops, according to Singleton.

The mansion that sits on top of a hill at 18-33 41st Street in Astoria was built in the 1850s by Benjamin Pike and was later sold to the Steinway family as a summer home around 1870, with the Steinway & Sons piano factory built decades later only a few blocks away. In the 1920s, the home was sold to the Halberian family and has stayed in the family ever since. It was later selected as a New York City Landmark in 1967.

“We fully support the efforts to preserve the Steinway Mansion and its historical relevance,” said Anthony Gilroy, director of marketing and communications for Steinway & Sons. “The Mansion is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the area. It predates our factory by about two decades – and we’ve been in this spot since the early 1870s.”

In a 2006 documentary on the iconic home featuring the late Henry Steinway and Mike Halberian, who died in 2010, Halberian offers a hope that “that generations yet unborn have an opportunity to experience the house and its surrounding property’s extraordinary magic,” said Singleton.

“Steinway Mansion is one of Queens most treasured landmarks. For the past 155 years it has stood as a tangible window into the fascinating past of New York City and its influential residents,” said Assemblymember Aravella Simotas.

Promising Halberian that his dream would come true, the coalition members are making sure the mansion is preserved with the help of the public, as the Friends of Steinway Mansion will formally kick off its campaign in early May.
“The public can help. Email us or better, drum up public support on Facebook at our Friends of Steinway Mansion page,” said Singleton. “Let your imagination free. Give us your suggestions and ideas.”

Photo courtesy of Greater Astoria Historical Society, Henry Z. Steinway Collection

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Monday: Partly cloudy. High of 39 with a windchill as low as 19. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 15 to 20 mph. Monday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 32F with a windchill as low as 23. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 15 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Northern Boulevard in the Footsteps of Gatsby at the Greater Astoria Historical Society

Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann is wrapping up the latest remake of The Great Gatsby starting Leonardo DiCaprio. Set in NYC during the 1920s Jazz Age, this is the first serious drama attempting to render a major city in 3-D. The evening’s lecture starts with a brief history of Northern Boulevard and pictures from the time that the fictional Gatsby would have seen as he took his legendary drive through the borough. The program’s second half shows the film’s interpretation of locations based on the actual images sent to the production team. (The Greater Astoria Historical Society is credited as historical adviser to the movie production.) Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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A family’s tragedy . . .


| info@astorialic.org

This month we welcome guest columnist Paul Putz

Sea captain and wounded Civil War veteran Thaddeus Leighton of Steuben, Maine, moved to New York City sometime around 1882 to operate a tug boat. He took up residence with his wife and four daughters at 418 Vernon Avenue in Queens (today near the Queensboro Bridge pier). His daughters were Josephine, Eleanor, Mable and Gertrude. His wife was Julie Burk of Ireland.

The move from a sleepy fishing village to New York’s teeming streets was the adventure of a lifetime for the elder Leighton girls. Young and adventurous, they would soon launch into adulthood. They too, had dreams, the pursuit of which would bring this little family unspeakable tragedy and hurl the daughters of Thaddeus Leighton into the glare of notoriety.

Josephine was the eldest and they called her “Josie.” She was born in Maine in 1882. The daughters were sufficiently educated, at least in the academic sense, to allow for acceptance on a social level for which it would be said they should be grateful. Perhaps it helped that she was beautiful, a description repeated in the many accounts of her life, that she caught the attention of Payton Noble. His father, Solomon, of Plymouth Puritan stock, was a former New York Assemblyman and Tammany stalwart and who lived in a grand Ravenswood mansion. Payton’s brother, Daniel was the surrogate judge in Queens County.

Josie and Payton started a charming little affair, she a 19 year old beauty and he, a decade older, was rising clerk in the magistrate’s court. They cuddled up in an apartment at 152 12th Street (today 44th Avenue) in Long Island City where, according to Josie’s testimony, they never fought – and according to the neighbors – they raged and threatened one another at full volume.

On the evening of November 12, 1904, they went out to visit friends, returning to their apartment before midnight. Not long after they arrived, Josephine shocked the people living on the floor below by appearing in their doorway crying hysterically and repeating her husband’s name.

In her hand was a small pistol.

Upstairs they found Payton Noble dead from gunshot wounds.

The police found sufficient circumstantial evidence to charge Josie with second degree murder and she languished without bail in the Queens constabulary for over a month. Through the effective pleas of her younger sister, Eleanor, a wealthy merchant vouched for her release on bond. That Eleanor was able to accomplish this at her age was remarkable and the papers made much of the sister’s fortitude and capability while nonetheless anguished.

Meanwhile, a capable attorney was engaged, assisted by a bright young solicitor of English and Turkish extraction named Nassib Abdullah Shibley. The comings and goings of this little group were eagerly recorded by the press. At the trial the following April, Josephine Noble explained that the shooting was accidental, the result of the couple’s playful toying with a gun that proved to be loaded.

After a brief consultation, the jury awarded Josie her freedom but not after the entire city was aware of the incident and its players. No one thought there would be more.

Two years later Josie’s sister Eleanor and the attorney Nassib Shibley were married and in less than the allotted time, a son was born to this union. They took up rooms at 508 West 123d Street where on the night of November 3, 1908, their bodies were found in bed.

In a ghoulish repeat of history, the papers ran stories about another Leighton girl’s marital problems, this time with double tragedy as a climax. Shibley had poisoned his wife and slit his wrists in a fit of jealousy, citing in a suicide note that Eleanor’s love of nightlife ran counter to his wishes as a husband (Shibley did not mention, as friends did, a certain Gypsy violinist).

In a note, he asked his sister-in-law Josephine to care for the couple’s two year old son, Leo.

In the next installment, the continuing adventures of Josephine.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 70. Breezy. Winds from the West at 15 to 20 mph. Monday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then overcast. Low of 59. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT of the DAY: On the Waterfront

Come to the Greater Astoria Historical Society for the exhibit and lecture On the Waterfront, where you’ll learn about the history and future of Long Island City’s and Astoria’s waterfront. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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Exhibit chronicles final innings of Shea and Yankee stadiums


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

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At the end of the 2008 Major League Baseball season, Shea Stadium closed its doors for the last time.

From the grass the players ran on, to the seats the fans occupied, everything was either destroyed or sold as the Mets prepared to open the doors to a brand new home, much like their crosstown rivals, the Yankees.. Today the new ballparks, Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium, loom over the sites of their predecessors.

But a new photo exhibit by the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS) of the old stadiums’ demolition is giving fans a chance to revisit the fields that were havens for generations of fans.

“This exhibit is dedicated to two stadiums that were torn down in rapid succession,” said Bob Singleton, executive director of the GAHS. “Their demolition removed our physical connections to them, but their vivid memories will remain in the balance of our lives.”

The exhibit will run in the gallery of the GAHS in Long Island City until mid-September. Gallery hours are Monday and Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. The exhibition is the work of photographers Rich Scarpitta, Steve Spak and Rob Yasinsac.

“Far more than just bricks and rebar, they became a place of legend and myth, where the human experience was played out within their confines,” Singleton said. “To some they were hallowed ground. Watching giant machinery delicately pick apart the rubble was akin to witnessing a Jurassic ballet.”

Although the demolition was significant for fans, Singleton said it also held special meaning for the photographers and construction workers at the sites.

“Those who were a part of that experience were fully cognizant that they were witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Singleton said. “For the demo men, photographers, and the curious public alike, these extraordinary places etched something unforgettable into their souls one last time.”

The exhibit also seeks to represent the cycle of life and death, which the stadium’s construction taught current fans.

“In the wings awaits a new generation and memories yet to be made,” Singleton said.