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Author Topic: Astoria History  (Read 11612 times)

Offline evil_toaster

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Astoria History
« on: February 01, 2006, 11:54:12 AM »
I'm sure there are many people like me that didn't grow up in Astoria and would like to know more about it.  Or you've lived here your whole life, and would like to share stories. 
If you have an interesting story about Astoria's history, or a link to a website, post it here.       

Annwyn

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2006, 04:03:53 PM »
My grandmother has lived here for abt 60 + years. I should get a list of questions to ask her.
If you have any in mind, let me know and I can ask her.  Last week I was actually filming her talking about her life.


astorian68

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2006, 04:32:59 PM »
I like your idea!

Electrophotography(Xerox), the process of instant copying was invented by Chester Carlson in 1938, in the second-floor kitchen of his apartment at 32-05 37th St. in Astoria. World's first photocopy read:"10-22-38 Astoria".

Offline sorabji

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2006, 05:56:11 PM »
I'll offer this story to get things started.

REMEMBER THE SLOCUM

Whenever I walk along Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park I imagine hundreds of bodies, most of them children, washing up on the shore as a steamboat floating in Hell Gate is engulfed in flames, killing over 1,000 people.

It's not a depraved fantasy, it's Astoria history. It happened the morning of June 15, 1904, and once you know the story it's hard to look at Hell Gate the same way.

It happened 8 years before the Titanic, and until 9/11 the Slocum disaster represented the single largest loss of life in the city's history. Children who jumped overboard sank like stones -- the rotten life preservers absorbed water and drew them downward. The entire community of Little Germany essentially disintegrated in the wake of this.

Books have been written and memorials built but somehow the Slocum disaster had never endured in the collective memory. It really was just a ghastly accident when you add it all up. I think the Titanic endures because of the cultural mystiques it embodied. Still, you'd think some lessons would have been learned from the Slocum: more adequate inspection of lifeboats and preservers being the most obvious parallel to the Titanic.

There are numerous web sites at least one book about the incident.

http://www.general-slocum.com/index.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Slocum

The pictures on this page, showing the bodies that washed up on brother Island, are unbelievable:

http://www.general-slocum.com/0photogallerych3.htm

There is also a very well done plaque on Shore Boulevard, near where the ship sank. It was put up on the 100th anniversary of the event.



Offline wasabisam

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2006, 01:46:48 PM »
That is really interesting sorabji - thanks for sharing this story. Never heard about it until now!
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Offline TRX

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Astoria and the Yankees Re: Astoria History
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2006, 08:57:03 PM »
(I did not know Astoria before 1990,  but wanted to add something on this wonderful topic)

http://www.astorialic.org/starjournal/1960s/1962january.shtm

"Whitey Ford inks a $50,000 contract. The beaming southpaw along with teammate Yogi Berra smile broadly as Yankee General Manager Roy Haney looks on. Ford is the highest paid Yankee pitcher since Ollie Reynolds received a whopping $48,000 in 1952. The $52,000 Berra payday, a $2,000 raise is dwarfed by the $15,000 increase chalked up by the hurler. Ford, who came off a 27 victory season, said ‘its just about the figure I had in mind.’

The Board of Estimate gave the Mayor a raise to $50,000 and increased the five borough presidents’ salary to $35,000."
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duluoz_cats

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2006, 09:09:03 PM »
I grew up in Corona, a few towns from here, and though I had friends who lived in Astoria and often spent time here, I only ever knew the Steinway section. I just moved into the Ditmars area, which I really fell in love with. In any event, I've been doing some research to get myself acquainted with my new neighborhood and the Astoria Historical society (which I see TRX links to with the Whitey Ford story) has a whole lot of wonderful information and tales of the town:

http://www.astorialic.org/index.shtml
« Last Edit: February 05, 2006, 09:12:54 PM by duluoz_cats »

Offline sorabji

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2006, 02:55:30 AM »
I'll add that the Greater Astoria Historical Society is no doubt the best all-around site for history and stuff about this area.

If you are not weirded out by dead people and if you have the time I'd make a trip to see some of the local cemeteries. Some of them are pretty modest and not much to look at, but they become much more interesting when you know the story behind the grounds.

The larger ones contain some of the most amazing land you'll find in New York. There is a certain stretch of Old Calvary Cemetery (a part of sections 9 & 7 to be somewhat exact) which I can only describe as a most exotic open air museum as you'll ever find. Many of the mausoleums are vandalized and otherwise violated, others are pristine. I stuck my head into one last week that stunk from I don't want to know what. Some of the markers are a good 30-35 feet high, and I don't know of another space like it around here. It's a bizarre mash of elegance and entropy.

Old Calvary contains lots of people who were famous in one way or another (Aunt Jemima is buried there), but for some reason famous people don't interest me much. The only dead celebrity I've ever sought out is Scott Joplin, whose grave marker is on Plot 5 of St. Michael's Cemetery. St. Michael's is interesting in its own ways, not least for the blunt presence of a rooster farm near the fenced off area in the center. Mighty handsome roosters, but what is up with a bunch of roosters clucking around among the dead? St. Michael's is probably the closest large cemetery, within walking distance of most of Astoria.

If you drive much around Astoria you've probably seen the Graveyard of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church on 21st Street and 26th Avenue. It's colloquially known as the Irish Potato Famine Cemetery because it is filled with the bodies of Irish who fled the potato famine. As pristine as those grounds look now the lot was overgrown and nasty for decades, so much so that even people who lived nearby had no idea there was a cemetery in there. I find the grounds inspiring in their way, though. All the stones face east, toward Ireland, and buried in there are the great-great-great...(not sure how many greats) grandparents of William J. Casey. Casey, of course, became director of the CIA during the Reagan administration. Forget the politics, I find it inspiring that this little Irish community, exiled from its homeland in search of a better life, came to be connected with the highest thresholds of power in this country.

And that's why these little burial grounds are so important. They help connect dots you didn't know existed among the past, present, future, and whatever's next in the time-space continuum.
 
Another interesting one is the Moore-Jackson Cemetery, which I think is on 54th Street (technically Jackson Heights). Established in 1733 it is simply amazing that a colonial era cemetery, sitting there among modern apartment buildings and houses, has not been trampled and taken up by real estate developers. Not as impressive as Manhattan's Trinity Church Graveyard and numerous others, but still pretty cool.

Anyway, I could go on all night, and no one's reading this and I bore the hell out of my friends with this crap, but it's all good. I love it. night.



Offline evil_toaster

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2006, 09:39:34 AM »
I find everything you are talking about very interesting Sorabji, not boring at all.  Everything posted so far is great, and lots of great resources I didn't even know existed. 

Offline Christine

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2006, 09:31:14 PM »
I agree, for the minute or so it took to read that post, I forgot I was stuck inside my crummy room on a Sat. night! Very interesting.
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Offline TRX

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Re: Astoria
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2006, 09:01:46 PM »
Yep, Christopher Walken was from Astoria. His parents used to own a
bakery on Broadway off 30th Street. My sister dated him in high school.

There are/were others, too:

Tony Bennett is froStreet; Benedetto Brothers. You couldn't get an
appoinment there around prom time unless you were a regular client.

Ethel Merman was born and raised in Astoria. She was then Ethel
Zimmerman. She graduated with honors from the old Long Island City
High School.

George Chakiris was the first famous Greek from Astoria.

Joan Crawford owned a house on 37th Street to live in while she worked
on films at the studios in Astoria.

As a teenager, I used to hang out with a group of same-aged friends at
the studios on 35th Street to collect autographs. we thought it was a *big*
deal then.

Just a little trivia about the place we now all call home!

Lorrie

(Might we have an honorary MC for a trivia game night? That could be very nice.)
 8-)
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2006, 09:33:10 PM »
Sorabji, thank you for the stories.  I am enjoying them very much.

Please tell us more.


duluoz_cats

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2006, 12:28:25 PM »
Yes, the stories are wonderful and I happen to be a fan of old cemeteries, too.

Offline sorabji

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2006, 07:30:20 PM »
Old Calvary was beautiful today. All that snow...

My snarky comment was supposed to be funny, but I guess it looks self-defeating. I hit the "Preview" button and saw this wall of text, then remembered a conversation from earlier that day about the "Internet Attention Span" and how it seems my e-mails to a certain individual are ignored when they're longer than one sentence.

I am no walking encyclopedia of area history, I just happen to know a few stories that resonate with me. And I don't want to hog the topic.

I tend to wander around Astoria, mostly aimlessly, for hours and hours at a stretch. I've walked from here to Flushing Meadows, and I walk from here to Rockefeller Center and back pretty regularly. I'm taking the cemetery rambles to Middle Village and Staten Island, though, as I think I've exhausted the Astoria area cemeteries for the time being.

By the way, does anybody know if it's true that much of Glengarry Glen Ross was filmed around Astoria? And if so, where? One of the el train scenes looks a lot like Newtown Ave but it's hard to tell. I know they did post-production and some filming at Kaufmann-Astoria...


Telesphoros

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Re: Astoria History
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2006, 09:37:10 PM »
Old Calvary was beautiful today. All that snow...

My snarky comment was supposed to be funny, but I guess it looks self-defeating. I hit the "Preview" button and saw this wall of text, then remembered a conversation from earlier that day about the "Internet Attention Span" and how it seems my e-mails to a certain individual are ignored when they're longer than one sentence.

I am no walking encyclopedia of area history, I just happen to know a few stories that resonate with me. And I don't want to hog the topic.

I tend to wander around Astoria, mostly aimlessly, for hours and hours at a stretch. I've walked from here to Flushing Meadows, and I walk from here to Rockefeller Center and back pretty regularly. I'm taking the cemetery rambles to Middle Village and Staten Island, though, as I think I've exhausted the Astoria area cemeteries for the time being.

By the way, does anybody know if it's true that much of Glengarry Glen Ross was filmed around Astoria? And if so, where? One of the el train scenes looks a lot like Newtown Ave but it's hard to tell. I know they did post-production and some filming at Kaufmann-Astoria...
Oooh. How about a cemetary crawl/picnic when the weather is nicer?

Astorians

Re: Astoria History
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2006, 09:37:10 PM »

 

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