An intricate network of tunnels under the East River,
the site of thousands of charges and explosives, were detonated to blow up the
dangerous reefs at Hell Gate. The tunnels' entrances, protected by a coffer
dam, were bored well under the reefs and rocks. Many area residents came out
to see the explosion. A larger effort in 1885 essentially removed the last of
the rock and reef obstacles to shipping in Hell Gate.
April 13, 1882
Newtown Register complained that Corona was overrun with geese
and goats. The former was "a bold species that do not hesitate to attack ladies who
wear red shawls, and the latter thinks that the doorsteps and sidewalks were made of
their special benefit." The paper warned owners to do something about the public
nuisance, or "give the pound master an opportunity to turn an honest penny."
Long Island City, plagued with numerous lawsuits on assessments, defaults
on city bonds. The Mayor is charged with embezzlement.
February 28, 1883
The first Chinese immigrant moved into Newtown, an event
considered noteworthy enough for the time to be reported in the press. Today,
Newtown Village is known as Elmhurst. Its census tract is home to undoubtedly the
most diverse population in the world. It is conceivable that a every nation on
earth has a citizen walking its streets.
August 10, 1884
An earthquake, measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, one of the largest ever recorded in the city, struck the eastern United States. It was felt in Queens and as far away as Maine and Virginia. Unlike most earthquakes in this area, this one did have enough force to “throw down chimneys.” Although a truly strong earthquake has never struck the immediate area in recorded history, both Boston and Charleston, South Carolina, experienced severe temblors in colonial times that were felt as far away as New York.
In an effort the lessen the danger to shipping, the nine acre Flood
Rock is blasted out of Hell Gate by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It was the
largest man-made explosion in history prior to the atomic bomb.
The contract for construction of the pavilion and bathing houses for the North Beach amusement park was awarded to Henry Schaeffer of New York. It called for completion of 104 bathhouses by June 19 at a cost of $6,000. The pavilion was to be one hundred feet long by seventy-five feet wide. On the grounds was to be a magnificent fountain sending a stream one hundred and fifty feet high. Until the completion of the pavilion, the old Douglas mansion was to be fitted temporarily so refreshments could be sold there. It was the intention of Mr. Henry A. Cassebeer, President; William H. Williams, Vice-president; William Steinway, Treasurer; and George Steinway, Secretary of the Bowery Bay Land and Improvement Company that this park be “second to none, as a place of resort of respectable people seeking recreation.” On a Sunday, over 500 people strolled on the magnificent beach.
June 19, 1886
North Beach Park opens. Part owned by William Steinway, this
venture represented the ultimate expression of the German beer garden. On the location
of today's LaGuardia Airport, entertainment of every description from bathing to
bowling, from picnics to political rallies were offered daily during the summer season.
In its heyday, thousands thronged to its resorts. Although ended by Prohibition and
anti-German sentiment, the formula of a cold beer, good friends, and a hot summer night
was never forgotten. The old concept of beer gardens is now the latest word in
entertainment. Turn of the century survivors as Astoria's Bohemian Hall and Park are
again packed every evening.
Mayor Patrick "Battle-Axe" Gleason is elected Mayor of Long
Island City on November 3. The colorful and controversial public figure refuses
to give up his seat on the Long Island City Board of Alderman until forced to
do so by the courts.
March 12, 1888
The most notorious blizzard in our nation's history dumps
21 inches of snow in 16 hours on the metro area. Ferryboats suspended service
when the East River freezes over. Stage and rail service are powerless against
ten foot drifts. Telegraph lines snap isolating communities. Food and supplies
take days to reach storm victims. The blizzard's severe conditions remain unequaled
in 150 years of weather records.
May 30, 1889
Samuel Lord, one of the founders of Lord & Taylor, died. He and his cousin George Washington Taylor, immigrants to New York, located their first small dry goods store on Catherine Street. The store moved uptown to a place on Ladies' Mile, which catered to the wealthier clientele of the "carriage trade.” The enterprise became a major fashion retailer. Today, the store is part of May Department Stores. He lived at the corner of Whitney and Broadway in Elmhurst. Nearby Claremont Terrace was a row of four houses built by Samuel Lord for his daughters. The one that remains (ca. 1854) was built closest to the train tracks.
January 2, 1890
The Steinway Free Circulating Library opens. Later merging
into the Long Island City Library, then the Queensborough Library, it is now
the largest circulating library in the country. Throughout the changes, for
over one hundred years, benefactor William Steinway's portrait watches browsers
from a position of honor on a wall at the library's Steinway Branch.
December 28, 1892
An explosion in the Steinway Tubes kills five and injures
dozens. Several factories were wrecked, the concussion throws people to the
sidewalks, and flying glass from hundreds of shattered windows and falling plaster
showered down on Hunters Point. The disaster is caused by overheating 87 pounds
of thawing dynamite. Years pass before the project is completed. Today it's
the Queens entrance to the No. 7 line tunnel under the East River.
Hundreds of employees at the Astoria Silk Works go on strike. The
brick buildings, identified with the letters 'ASW,' stand today off Steinway Street.
The company was owned by a group of investors including beer magnate Jacob Ruppert
and William Steinway of piano fame. From the dawn of Astoria's industry in the
mid-1800s, weaving has always been important to the community. Before the Civil War,
a carpet weaving plant was set up in the fledgling Old Astoria Village. In February,
2004, when Scalamandre Silk announced it was moving, the nearly 150 year tradition
in Astoria finally died.
The Aqueduct Racetrack, operated by the Queens County Jockey Club,
opens for thoroughbred horse racing.
The Brooklyn Parks Department purchases the first parcel for what is
today known as Forest Park. The park grows with acquisitions through 1898.
October 4, 1895
Highway Commissioners, with their own hands, chopped down the posts of the Hollis toll house at 186th Street and formally threw Jamaica Avenue open to public travel. The road was a plank turnpike, which its operator, the Hempstead Plank Road Company, had allowed to become dilapidated. On October 15, a Queens Grand Jury indicted the president and directors of the company for maintaining a public nuisance. Paving of the road did not begin until the summer of 1897.
January 1, 1898
The City of New York charter went into effect. The law was
passed in May 1897 to incorporate the city and consolidate over 40 entities into
one municipality -- Greater New York. The Borough of Queens encompassed Long Island
City, and the towns of Flushing, Newtown, Jamaica, along with the Rockaway peninsula
which (were part of the town of Hempstead). The Queens County of old (1683-1898)
also included the eastern towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead, and Oyster Bay which
elected not to join greater New York becoming Nassau County in 1899.