For far too long the shelter magazines - Architectural Digest, Dwell, Better Homes and Gardens, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Country Life, and Martha Stewart Living - have ignored the "Great Homes" of Astoria, New York. Western Queens has been left untouched by the ravishing purple prose of the "lifestyle" industry.
I propose to remedy this oversight by offering a photographic tour of the rich legacy of exquisite Astorian residences that evoke the grandeur of bygone days when the rolling potato fields on the shores of the East River first made way for real estate development. The exclusive locations of each of these much coveted Great Homes Greater Astoria are indicated using the charming numerical street names of romantic Queens County.
A cozy outer borough retreat on Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets:
Vertical living on 46th St. between 31st Ave. and Newtown Rd.:
The clever use of invasive species creates magical garden privacy in summer:
A proud survivor on Newtown Road between 31st and 32nd Streets:
Just like "The Little House"...
But no one's coming back to rescue this house and return it to the countryside:
Another left behind (literally) little house- 45th St. btwn 32nd Ave. & B'way:
An avant-garde "Deconstructionist" dwelling at 26th Avenue and 31st Street:
Convenient to mass transportation and ample parking:
"X" marks the spot on 32nd St. between 36th and 37th Avenues:
Separated at birth - fraternal twins on 41st St. btwn 20th Road and 21st Avenue:
A "modernist" cube on 28th Avenue at 44th Street:
An enterprising entrepreneur's clever integration of the work/live dichotomy:
Simple elegance on 31st Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets:
The "Tara" of Hell Gate on 27th Avenue between 9th and 12th Streets:
Understated sophistication on 32nd St. between 36th and 37th Aves:
A mason's masterpiece on 31st Avenue and 32nd Street:
A private collector's temporary outdoor art installation:
A former factory converted to lofts at 31st Ave. & Vernon Blvd.:
There is an actual authentic "Great" home in Greater Astoria - the former Steinway Mansion built in 1858 and hiding in plain site north of Ditmars Avenue. It sits on a small hill that once overlooked Bowery Bay and the beginning of Long Island Sound. When it was built, the area was a rural, retreat for New Yorkers. Remarkably, much of the original detail is still intact. Today the granite mansion is surrounded by warehouses and small factories.
The diminished estate is cut off from the water by the industrial expanse of a fragrant sewage treatment plant and the low hum of a huge power plant. If you could reach the shoreline, you would have a panoramic view of the adjacent barbed wire confines of Rikers Island - New York City's prison housing over 14,000 inmates. The 26 room mansion is on the market and could be yours for a mere $3.495 million - listed for sale by Sotheby's.
The front gate on 41st St. between 19th Ave. and Barrian Blvd:
On the negative side, the neighborhood isn't exactly residential:
On the plus side, the Steinway factory is nearby if you need a concert grand:
The final item on our grand tour of the Great Homes of Greater Astoria concerns the brief appearance of a modernist gem. For a few weeks in the late spring of 2007, Jean Prouvé's "Maison Tropical" graced the shores of Western Queens right below the Queensboro Bridge as a temporary installation by Sotheby's prior to auction. It was purchased for $4.97 million by the hotelier, André Balaz, who later loaned it the Tate Modern in London for an exhibit:
It only had one room, no closets, and no heat or running water, but I'd live there if it were still in the tropics:
Or even under the 59th Street Bridge would be swell - at least in summer:
So, in the face of neglect by the shelter magazines and the "design community" on the west side of the East River, Astoria hangs on to its few remaining treasures (and hosts the occasional visitor) at least until the next real estate cycle sweeps them away as teardowns. As Queens' own prodigal sons, Simon and Garfunkel's, sang in their 59th St. Bridge Song:
"Slow down, you movin' too fast You gotta make the morning last Just kickin' down the cobblestones Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy...
Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...Feelin' Groovy." Indeed!