The “valley of ashes” in a 1920s Queens dump

The copious amount of ash produced by coal-burning furnaces throughout the city had to go somewhere, and one dumping ground was in Corona, Queens.

Called the Corona Ash Dump and nicknamed Mount Corona, it received daily ash deposits, rising like a mountain along the Flushing River.

The dump must have been an incredible sight. F. Scott Fitzgerald apparently thought so; he used it as a symbol of industrial society’s decay and the waste produced by the rich in The Great Gatsby:

“This is the valley of ashes, a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”

Fitzgerald may have been surprised to learn of the fate of his Valley of Ashes; in the late 1930s, it was cleared away so the city could build Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, site of the 1939 World’s Fair.

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11 Responses to “The “valley of ashes” in a 1920s Queens dump”

  1. Paul Says:

    Apparently Coal ash and its various forms are toxic if used as fertilizer for crops. What it does for non agricultural plants, trees and animals remains to be seen. But considering the possible toxins present in it perhaps Flushing Meadows Park thrives in spite of it.

  2. Thomas Jefferson Says:

    While the ash was cleared away, they still had to put it somewhere. I wonder where it went?

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    I think there was another ash dump near Sheepshead Bay. But yeah, when that one was shut down, what do you do with a mountain of ashes?

  4. Valley of Ashes the Corona Dump? | The Gatsby Gazette Says:

    […] STORIES The Valley of Ashes in a 1920s Queens Dump (Ephemeral New York) Eckleberg’s Lair: A Walk Through F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Valley of […]

  5. A WPA poster advertising a Queens roller rink « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the World’s Fair, the building became a recreation center for the newly created Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The north side of the building, now the Queens Museum, housed a roller rink and the south side […]

  6. QNYC Event Highlight: Northern Boulevard in the Great Gatsby's Footsteps | Queens NYC Says:

    […] with a brief history of Northern Boulevard, including images from Gatsby’s era. See the the Valley of Ashes, a garbage dump which is now part of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the Queensboro Bridge before […]

  7. A lethal bomb goes off at the 1940 World’s Fair | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] amid the fun spread out on 1,200 acres along a former ash heap in Queens, the fair has a grim […]

  8. Joe Beck Says:

    Stumbled across this in Wiikipedia recently. Look up Flushing Meadows Park. It explains how the ashes were used as the base for a series of parkways built in the 1930s and 1940s. I grew up not far away (albeit decades later) and never realized there actually were mountains of ash as depicted in Gatsby.

    • Zoé Says:

      Thanks for answering that; I was really wondering & was about to look it up then saw your recent comment!

  9. Emptying the ash barrels on a tenement block | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Similar to the sanitation workers of today who empty trash cans into hulking vehicles, the ash men came by to empty the barrel’s filthy contents into a horse-drawn cart. The ashes would then be transferred to a dump—like Queens’ infamous “Valley of Ashes” in Corona. […]

  10. Violet Says:

    It wasn’t cleared away. It is still under Citi Field and might be poisoning the well water for Jamaica, Queens.

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