Astoria's History

Old Shore Drive in 1895
Old Shore Drive in 1895
Anchoring three famous bridges—the Queensboro, the Triborough, and the Hell Gate—this colorful corner of New York City has been a rural village, a retreat for the well-to-do, a company town for Steinway Pianos, and the movie industry's East Coast production center.  Some Astoria historic  sites are Kaufman-Astoria Studios (1920), 34-12 36th Street, 718-392-5600. Built as Paramount Pictures' East Coast production facility and later home to the U.S. Army Pictorial Studios, the City-owned complex shared by Kaufman-Astoria and AMMI is on the National Register of Historic Places. Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, the Marx Brothers, and W.C. Fields (to name a few) made movies here. The main sound stage is regularly booked for feature film shoots. Bohemian Hall and Park (1910), 29-19 24th Avenue, 718-274-4925. Once there were more than 800 beer gardens in New York City. Now only Bohemian Hall remains, preserving the traditions of the Czech and Slovak communities. Lent Homestead/Riker Burial Ground, 19th Road near 19th Avenue. This dwelling of stone, timber, and shingles may have portions as early as the 1650s, making it the oldest standing house in Queens. The adjacent cemetery, nearly 300 years old, is perhaps the largest undisturbed colonial family burial plot in the borough.   Steinway Mansion (c. 1865), 18-33 41st Street. A New York City landmark, the eye-catching former home of William Steinway is privately-owned. The Steinway piano factory (718-721-2600) may be visited by appointment.

Today, Astoria is a community where traditions from around the world are cherished and celebrated. Join the celebration! Astoria is easy to get to and get around. 36th Avenue, Broadway, 30th Avenue, Astoria Boulevard, and Ditmars Boulevard (all stops on the elevated N & Q line) runs roughly east-west. Steinway Street, "The World's Longest Department Store" (a stop on the R, V and G lines), runs generally north-south. Along with Astoria Park and Athens Square Park, these "Main Streets" are often settings for festivals, fairs, parades, and performances (for details call 718-728-7820).

Astoria's restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and food shops are as close together as pastries in a box or olives in a barrel along 36th Avenue, Broadway, 30th Avenue, the western part of Astoria Boulevard (which leads to the Grand Central Parkway), and Ditmars Boulevard. Others are found on Steinway Street and tucked away on tree-lined side streets.

Large Greek-American and Italian-American populations have made Astoria a showcase of these cuisines, but many others are represented. A partial list would include: Adriatic, Afghani, Bangladeshi, Brazilian, Chinese, Colombian, Croatian, Cuban, Czech-Slovak, Ecuadorian, Egyptian, Filipino, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, Mexican, Moroccan, Pakistani, and Thai, American and Continental restaurants, taverns, diners, and ethnic fast food outlets add to this culinary kaleidoscope. Don't wait to try them!   Visit Dine Astoria.

Cafe-going is a special Astoria pleasure. Sip a refreshing beverage, eat a sweet or a snack, and read, chat, or simply observe fellow cafe-goers and passersby's (who will be doing likewise, in many languages). Astoria's cafes keep quite late hours and some offer live entertainment. Look for posted announcements as you explore. There are many opportunities to take home a little Astoria. Bakeries, groceries, and specialty food shops are chock-full of authentic delicacies, many hard to find elsewhere (including more than thirty types of olives!). Your eyes, nose, and taste buds will thank you.