The first charter for a permanent settlement on Long Island was
granted to Englishman Reverend Francis Doughty. The Rev. Doughty patent included
the lands at the headwaters of the Newtown (Mespaetches) Creek and was named
Maspeth (Mispat). The patent covered lands that stretched to the current Jamaica
border, Flushing Creek, and Long Island City. The Doughty settlement did not last
as it was burned out during an Indian uprising in 1643. After a short stormy term
as minister in Flushing, Doughty eventually moved to Maryland and Virginia.
March 31, 1785
The state legislature selected a site for a new Queens County courthouse at the geographical center of Queens (on Jericho Turnpike east of Nassau Boulevard). The building was dedicated in 1789. “The entry of the court-house is lined on court days with the stalls of dram sellers and filled with drunken people,” a lawyer wrote shortly after it opened. Prisoners would routinely sneak away from hallways or kick their way out of cells. Efforts to replace the courthouse after the Civil War created a split in Queens County when the Board of Supervisors voted to move it to Long Island City. The split became permanent when the western townships (Jamaica, Newtown, Flushing, and Long Island City) voted to become part of New York City in 1898. The eastern townships, Oyster Bay, Hempstead, and North Hempstead voted to create Nassau County. Ironically, separate fires destroyed both the old and new courthouses in 1905.
March 20, 1812
The Hempstead Turnpike Company is incorporated. Three tollgates
are set up along the route running from 168th Street in Jamaica to Main Street
in Hempstead. The Turnpike is attractive to Jamaica authorities as it releases
them from road maintenance, lowers taxes, and generates a steady revenue stream
from long term leases. Decades later, public complaints over poor maintenance
forces the company to abandon its charter.
March 1, 1837
The Jamaica to Hicksville leg of the Long Island Rail Road opened
for business. This branch, part of LIRR's main line, today serves the Queens
stations of Hollis and Queens Village, and the Bellerose station (just across the
Nassau County line). The LIRR is unique in the annals of major rail transportation
for most of its traffic was always passenger service. Perhaps no rail line in the
nation can boast more innovative firsts. For example, the mainstay of modern
freight, 'piggyback' service (in which trailers are loaded onto flatcars),
originated when Long Island potato farmers loaded their wagons directly onto cars
and shipped them fully loaded into New York.
March 25, 1867
The first serious fire in Astoria occurred. A stable, jewelry store and the second and third stories of the Odd Fellows Hall, abutting the stable, were destroyed. The firemen of the village fought the fire valiantly, even though one of their fire engines was out of service. Damage was in the thousands of dollars. Wooden buildings, inadequate fire mains and equipment, and poor safety regulations in industry resulted in a series of spectacular fires over the next decades.
March 1, 1874
The horse car line along Borden Avenue from Hunters Point to
Calvary Cemetery opened. It was a trolley-like car pulled by horses along a set of
rails or tracks. The Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery, in use since 1848, became a
major burial ground for families from Manhattan after the city forbid interments
south of 155th Street on the rapidly growing island. The expanding cemetery
eventually absorbed most the hamlet of Blissville.
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.
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.
March 30, 1909
The Queensborough Bridge opened to vehicular traffic. It was
designed by architect Henry Hornbostel and built by engineer Gustav Lindenthal. This
cantilever bridge spanning the East River utilized Blackwell's Island below as the
site of two of the bridge's four towers. The official grand opening celebration was
a few months later in June, and trolley service began in September. Over the years,
the bridge has experienced horse traffic, all types of cars and trucks, trolleys on
the upper and lower decks, elevated railroad trains, a transport elevator from
mid-span to the island below, and bicycle and foot traffic.
March 16, 1910
The Ancient Order of Hibernians marches throughout Long Island
City before joining the St Patrick Parade in Manhattan. Music is provided by
the St. Raphael Fife and Drum Corps. Escorted by mounted police, the precession
starts in Blissville and proceeds through Greenpoint Avenue to Ely and Jackson
Avenues. Borough President Lawrence Gresser and staff review the parade from
the steps of the Borough Hall in Long Island City.
March 13, 1913
William Casey was born in Elmhurst. His grandfather was L.I.C.
firefighter George Casey, organizer the Long Island City Exempt Fireman's
Association and its first president. William, a successful business leader, held a
number of important posts including head of the Export-Import Bank, Security and
Exchange Commission and President Ronald Regan's campaign manager. He was appointed
to Chief of the Central Intelligence Agency by President Reagan in 1981. Controversy
over the alleged illegal sale of arms to Iran to fund Nicaraguan insurgents marred
his tenure. This "Iran-Contra" scandal tarnished Casey's reputation. He died in May
1987 never having a chance to clear his name and testify before Congress.
The Loose-Wiles bakery in Long Island City became a tourist attraction. The company had advertised an open invitation to visit the building. Thousands came, including auto parties from neighboring states. Visitors could inspect the giant ovens, which were bigger than most homes and watch wonderful machines pack and seal 352 kinds of biscuits, among other treats. Ladies could enjoy tea and a biscuit fresh from the ovens. At full capacity, the bakery consumed ten carloads (or 2,000 barrels) of flour a day and employed 3,500. The electric sign on the roof was the largest in the world, being 586 feet long, 40 feet high and containing more than 5,000 electric lamps. The heating and lighting within the building consumed electricity equivalent to a city of 60,000.
March 3, 1925
The ferry from Hunters Point, Queens, to Manhattan's 34th Street,
was shut down by the LIRR. Since the opening of the Queensborough Bridge (1909), the
LIRR's Penn tubes (1910), and the East River subway (1915), ferry service was deemed
unprofitable. Although Long Island City owed its very existence as a transportation
hub between the LIRR and the ferry, the boats, considered at the time obsolete and
slow, were unceremoniously discarded.
March 8, 1934
The end is at hand for Riebling's Greater New York Park and
Casino in Glendale. The amusement venue, in the path of the planned Interborough
Parkway, is razed. The park's destruction, along with a number of other similar
establishments along the Brooklyn Queens border, closed a colorful chapter that spanned
the better part of a century of the area's beer gardens and picnic parks.
The papers were abuzz with news on the following month's
scheduled opening of the Worlds Fair. Grover A. Whalen, president of the Worlds Fair
Corporation, predicted it would not only bring Queens $100 million, but that visitors
would spend over a billion dollars in New York City. Residents near the fairgrounds
were encouraged to rent rooms in their homes for tourists. Advance sales of tickets
were brisk. For $7.50, one could get a booklet of 27 admission tickets. Season books,
at $15.00, were considered a bargain.
March 12, 1943
Governor Thomas Dewey ordered an investigation of what he called “disgraceful conditions” at Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens Village. Those conditions had led to an outbreak of amoebic dysentery, which had killed nine patients. In late February, one patient had beaten another patient to death. At the same time, Queens District Attorney, Charles F. Sullivan, brought these matters before a grand jury. It would be the third time in 8 years that a grand jury had looked into the affairs of Creedmoor. A 1935 investigation revealed that there were 15 violent deaths in 12 months. A 1939 report stated that patients were brutally beaten. Initial findings of the probe disclosed that attendants at Creedmoor were making only $54 a month and that, out of the normal attendant staff of 500, there were 157 vacancies.
Mobster Louis (Lepke) Buchalter is buried in Mt. Hebron Cemetery
in Flushing. The last chapter of the life of a man who soared from a small-time
mobster into public enemy in only 12 years ended. All the dramatics that mark
the funerals of big time gangsters are absent. There are no coaches of flowers,
$5,000 gold coffin, or long list of underworld mourners.
The Queensboro Arena, located at 29-49 Northern Blvd. near Queens Plaza, was demolished. The 4,000 seat outdoor venue had been home to many famous boxing matches, but by mid-century, a general decline of interest in boxing led to its demise. Built on the site of Schalenberg’s Park, a picnic ground, the old dance hall became a moving picture theatre, and in 1911, a fight area. Old timers would talk of watching fights on the Ditmars bound el as it slowly made its turn onto Northern Blvd. Kids climbing the elevated structure to watch fights for free were a constant problem. Famous boxers who practiced the ‘sweet science’ there read like a who’s who in boxing: Jack Sharkey, Primo Carnera, Maxie Rosenbloom, and of course, Paul Berlenbach, the ‘Astoria Assassin.’
March 9, 1950
Notorious bank robber Willie Sutton robs the Manufacturer's
Trust Co. Bank at 47-11 Queens Boulevard of $64,000. During his trial at the
Long Island City Courthouse he was asked why he robbed banks. Sutton allegedly
replies, "Because that's where the money is." In his 1976 autobiography,
he confesses never saying it and credits the line to an imaginative reporter.
Over 12,000 signatures are collected on Zoo-For-Queens petitions.
Newspaper editorials demand that Mayor Wagner gives Queens a zoo. The Parks
Department has been petitioning the city for a such a facility since 1946. Borough
President Lundy, after pointing out that Queens is the only borough without
a zoo, promises to fight for one at the Board of Estimate.
"Gotham Goes Wild For Glenn,' as "Astoria Girl First to Greet
Astronaut." Connie Valis, 14, rushes through the crowd of 2,000 at LaGuardia
Airport and presents a bouquet of carnations to Mrs. Glenn, who first exits from
the aircraft. Colonel Glenn, following his wife off the plane, is so impressed that
he stops waving to the people, grabs Connie's hand and warmly thanks her and her
teacher, Mrs. Anne M. O'Connor, assistant principal of Junior High School 10, Astoria.
Sonny Weblin buys the NY Titans football team for more than
$ one million. He changes the team name to 'Jets' to reflect 'the modern approach
of his team and the star-studded performances he hopes his team will produce.'
For the next two decades, the Jets will play at Shea Stadium, in Flushing. Football
enthusiasts claim that Jet's quarterback Joe Namath deserves credit for putting
the 'super' in Super Bowl III.
March 13, 1964
28 year old Kitty Genovese is brutally stabbed to death in
front of her apartment on Austin Street in Kew Gardens. At least 38 people hear
her scream for help or watch her being stabbed from their apartment windows.
For over 30 minutes, no one calls police. The case remains a parable of public
apathy. Her murderer, Winston Moseley is caught, and convicted. Nearly 40 years
later, he remains in prison.
March 15, 1966
St. Anthony's Hospital, a sanitarium for the tubercular poor,
closed it doors. Its last 260 patients were either discharged or transferred to
other facilities. In 1902, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor purchased the old
Isaac Vandeveer farm in Woodhaven. It took twelve years to raise money and
develop the 700 by 500 foot site. When it opened in 1914, more than 400 patients
occupied the facility making it the largest hospital in Queens. They pioneered
many new treatments for tuberculosis, the number one killer of tenement dwellers.
Despite efforts to save the architecturally distinguished building and its
spacious grounds, the 90-year-old hospital was recently torn down for development.
March 25, 1977
The Jamaica based Long Island Press folded. It began publishing the Long Island Farmer in 1821. In the 1920s, it became the Long Island Daily Press. The paper was the last Queens daily and its demise followed in the footsteps of the late Long Island Star, Flushing Journal and Newtown Register, all started in the nineteenth century, and often considered the golden age of newspaper journalism. A number of local and county wide weekly papers (as well as the Long Island based daily Newsday) serve the borough today. Many older residents still fondly remember ‘the Press.’
March 12, 1986
Borough President Donald Manes, plunged a knife into his heart
committing suicide. He was the kingpin, of what one newspaper at the time called,
"a bribery, corruption, and patronage network." Manes faced a racketeering probe
that not only threatened to pull down his administration, but send him to jail
(which turned out to be the fate for a number of his associates). Lurid details of
cash filled brown paper bags filled the press for weeks afterward.