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Long Island Savings Bank commissioned muralist Vincent Aderente in 1939
to show the history of business and commerce in the Long Island City-Astoria
The story begins nearly 350 years ago into the time when Indian canoes
plied the waters of what is now the greatest city in the world. The earliest
medium of exchange was wampum. Jackson Mill, among the oldest land grants
in Queens, represents the beginning of property ownership and first commercial
enterprises in the area. The mural also depicts western Queens' oldest
church building, St. James Church, and its oldest house, the Lent Homestead.
Near the top of the mural, we go from yesterday to the world of tomorrow.
On the right are the old factories of Long Island City. Opposite, we find
contemporary loft buildings. The Queensborough Bridge passes over the
East River with modern shipping in stark contrast to the Indian canoes.
Against the skyline of Manhattan, an airplane wings into the future. As
we gaze at the mural, we wonder what changes the next three hundred fifty
years will bring.
"I am deeply interested in the improvement of art work in public
buildings," wrote Vincent Aderente. Born in Naples (1880), by the
age of 17, he won prizes at the Art Students League and was assisting
in the decoration of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Ballroom. He went on to
an incredibly successful career in mural painting working on St. Matthew's
Cathedral in Washington DC, the Denver Mint, the Detroit Public Library,
and in a number of public buildings across the country. In Queens he did
murals for the Flushing Post Office and the Queens Count Court House before
his 1941 death in Bayside.
The Long Island Savings Bank, incorporated in 1875, moved to Queens Plaza
in 1920. The thirty foot mural proudly graced their
banking floor for decades. In the 1990s, the bank merged into Astoria
Federal Savings & Loan. The building was sold with the painting still
Letter-Carrier Mike Mannetta of the US Postal Service, who admired the
mural while on his daily route, researched both the work and the artist.
One day in May, 2000, he was horrified to find the mural missing. Workers
came in over the weekend and removed it. He informed the Greater Astoria
Historical Society who alerted the media and arts community.
Coincidently in the Jackson Heights branch of Astoria Federal, a copy
of the lost mural was found in a storeroom by employees Benjamin Caiola,
and Phil Steinberg. They displayed it in the vault area.
The public, alerted by publicity surrounding the theft, notified the
Greater Astoria Historical Society of the Jackson Heights copy. Astoria
Federal graciously agreed to donate this copy to the Society for the benefit
of our community. Thomas M. Quinn & Sons offered to display it. Nothing
is known of the copy's history.