Posts Tagged ‘Long Island City’

Traces of old phone exchanges of Queens

September 23, 2010

This frozen-in-time faded ad—complete with 1980s-style graffiti—remains on the side of a warehouse along 31st Street in Astoria.

The RA comes from Ravenswood, an enchantingly named hamlet that once existed along the East River and was home to many old-money mansions in the 19th century.

The neighborhood was absorbed into Long Island City toward the end of the 1800s, but the name lives on in the form of the nearby Ravenswood Houses and the Ravenswood Generation Station.

This Millionaire Realty sign, on Astoria Boulevard, doesn’t look very old. But it must date back to the 1960s at least, when telephone numbers still had the two-letter prefix.

Two of the nicest street names in New York City

July 11, 2009

Bliss Street has a sweet ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s the original, early 20th century moniker of what was later renamed 46th Street in Sunnyside, Queens.

BlissstreesignBliss Street is probably associated with Neziah Bliss, a ship builder and real estate bigwig back when this part of Queens was farmland dotted with little villages.

In the mid-1800s, he founded a blink-and-you’ll miss-it industrial neighborhood bordering Long Island City called Blissville. The name barely survives today.

In 1982, Sunnyside residents decided they wanted Bliss Street added back to the map. It’s also the name of the nearby 7 train stop, 46th Street–Bliss Street.

Pleasant Avenue is, yep, pretty pleasant. This six-block stretch east of First Avenue between 114th and 120th Street was once the center of Italian-American East Harlem.


It still has a rep for being a mob stronghold; Tony Salerno ran the Genovese crime family from here. And Italian restaurant Rao’s is tucked into a corner storefront at the south end of the street.

On warm weekends, a nearby playground is always flooded with little kids having a good time.

Congratulations to the class of 1916

May 18, 2009

Queens had only been part of New York City for 18 years when these seniors, from Long Island City’s William C. Bryant High School, earned their diplomas.


Most of the girls—with names like Agnes, Anna, and Frances—are wearing comfy middy blouses, the must-have fashion trend of the teens. The boys—several Williams and Georges—are stuck in suits.

The Queensboro Bridge: “mystery and beauty”

February 4, 2009

This postcard of the Queensboro Bridge—also known as the 59th Street Bridge or the Blackwell’s Island Bridge in its early years—reveals a structure surrounded by industry and grit. It opened in 1909, linking Manhattan’s East Side to the factories of Long Island City.


The Queensboro still doesn’t get the appreciation the Brooklyn or Williamsburg Bridges receive. But it has fans who extoll its virtues.

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “the city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time in its wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

And of course, there’s Simon and Garfunkel’s ode to feelin’ groovy: “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”

A little bit of Sunshine in Queens

September 30, 2008

Queens—where residents once labored in factories producing (among other things) staplers, pencils, and . . . crackers. In 1914, the Loose-Willis Biscuit Company built a huge “thousand window” factory in Long Island City, where they cranked out millions of packages of Sunshine crackers. This ad comes from the back of the 1934 Boys High School yearbook:

The bakery shut down in 1965, and Keebler has since taken over the Sunshine crackers brand. But the old factory is still there; it’s that giant 10-story structure with IDCNY (International Design Center of New York) emblazoned on the roof, now used as a furniture design showroom.

Where to buy a skeleton in 1916

August 25, 2008

If you needed bones or perhaps an entire skeleton, Gustave Noque was your man. This ad for his “osteological preparations” store on East 26th Street appeared in the back of Long Island City’s Bryant High School yearbook in 1916, amid more tepid advertisements for ice cream parlors and produce stands.

It’s a little jarring, especially in a nice little yearbook, but future medical students have to learn anatomy somehow.

The “Hunters Point Stenches”

June 23, 2008

It’s hard to argue that the Hunters Point Historic District isn’t one of the prettiest mini-neighborhoods in the city. The post–Civil War homes that flank 45th Avenue from 21st to 23rd Streets include different architectural styles and original details.

The nabe was once an upscale residential area amid industrial Long Island City, of which “Hunter’s Point,” as it was known then with an apostrophe, was and still is part of. 

What you’d never know while strolling through Hunters Point today is that in the late 19th century, the city was seized by the “Hunter’s Point Stenches,” horrible odors caused by “bone boiling,” “offal rendering,” manure boats, and oil refining—all part of the many not-so-pleasant industries that called this part of Queens home at the time. 

The smell wafted across the East River and stunk up Manhattan so much, the “State Board of Health on Effluvium Nuisances” had to pursue the matter, reports archived New York Times articles.

There’s no stench now; in fact, the trees and flower boxes make the block smell kind of sweet. Houses in the historic district are going for close to a cool two million, as this ad reveals. 

Long Island City’s class of 1916

June 3, 2008

Just a random page from The Owl, the yearbook for Queens’ William Cullen Bryant High School, 1916 edition. June is graduation month, and it’s neat to look back at some high school seniors who were students in an era when earning that diploma was no small achievement.

It’s hard not to like these kids, especially with the girls dressed in stylish middy blouses and the guy wearing a bow tie. I like the way they refer to one another as “chap” and “a pleasant companion.” And the school had its own gun club! Well, Long Island City was relatively rural at the time.

Bryant High School still exists, but no address is listed in the yearbook, so I don’t know if the same building has housed the school all this time. Here’s a photo of that school today.

“P. J. Carroll: Horses to Hire”

May 13, 2008

You never really think that the boring local ads in your high school yearbook will one day act as a fascinating time capsule—taking readers back to the businesses that existed in your neighborhood and the services you and your family needed to live your lives.

This is the back page of the William Cullen Bryant High School yearbook, class of 1916, in Long Island City.