Astoria, Community, Free, Museums and Galleries, Neighborhood, Parks
Oct 29, 2019

This New Website Lets You See the Secret Histories of Astoria

Many of NYC’s museums and historical societies have teamed up with tech nonprofit Urban Archive to share the hidden histories of the city with New Yorkers. The nonprofit, whose mission (…)

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Credit to Urban Archive.

Many of NYC’s museums and historical societies have teamed up with tech nonprofit Urban Archive to share the hidden histories of the city with New Yorkers. The nonprofit, whose mission is to “inspire learning that’s rooted in what’s local,” originally launched an iOS app in 2016. Now, they came out with this web version of the interactive map, so anyone with internet access can see the city’s past with a click of a mouse.

All you have to do is type in a location, and various historical points of interest will pop up on the map that reveal archived photos and descriptions of what used to be there, hundreds of years earlier. They spent three years working with dozens of cultural institutions to share images (that date back to the 1830s) in one space, now easily available to the public.

They’ve mapped 100,000 historical images from the collections of more than 40 organizations so far (including the Queens and Brooklyn Libraries, the New York Historical Society, the New York Transit Museum, and more).

We decided to take a peek at what Astoria secrets were included – and we weren’t disappointed! Here are some of our favorites, but definitely check out the site for many more:

The Hell Gate Lighthouse

(Between 26th Ave and 2nd St, Astoria)

Constructed at the entrance to hazardous Hell Gate Passage between New York City’s East River and western Long Island Sound, this small pyramidal lighthouse was lit in 1888. The wooden structure replaced a metal one that had been erected four years earlier and was darkened after only two years.

That initial structure was 255-feet-tall and included an electric light that was described by the New York Times as “the most powerful light that has ever been put in a lighthouse.” It should be noted, this beam was not a beacon to distant ships, but a giant electrical floodlight. It was decommissioned because shippers complained it was too bright and more of a distraction than a help.

Hell Gate Lighthouse, 1931. Credit to Queens Library Digital Archives.

Today, the light is mounted on one of the outfield light stands of Whitey Ford Field, a city-operated baseball diamond.

St. George’s Episcopal Church

(14-02 27th Avenue, Astoria)

St. George’s Church dates to 1825, when a wood-frame edifice was erected on land donated by landowner Robert Blackwell. The church, which sat on a site near Astoria Boulevard, was destroyed in a fire in 1894. (Today the Astoria Branch of the Queens Library, a Carnegie library sits on the site of the original church.) The St. George churchyard which is the final resting place of many early settlers currently sits between the library and the contemporary apartment house that backs up onto the church.

Credit to Queens Library Digital Archives.

What Hallet’s Cove and Astoria Park Used to Look Like

A view of Astoria Park taken from the World War I memorial, from March 14, 1931.

Credit to Queens Library Digital Archives.

Aerial view of athletic field in Astoria, Queens, possibly owned by the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company. Image includes many people on field, many parked automobiles and trucks, small one-story building in foreground, two tents in right background, and Kosciuszko Bridge in far background.

Credit to Brooklyn Public Library.

Hallet’s Cove, pre- free kayaking!

A canoe and other debris in a lot on the shore of Halletts Cove, 1931. Credit to Queens Library Digital Archive.

Broadway, Before

Wow, this is what Broadway used to look like. This is from a survey document of the street when they were first constructing the IND Queens Boulevard Subway Line. Look at those cobblestone streets, and trolley tracks!

Credit to the New York Transit Museum.



That the”Hellgate Bridge” over Astoria Park and East railroad pedestrians or other vehicles.


Thank you, Colin, I’m not crazy I think it’s the Hellgate right. I’m born and bred in Astoria so I’m 99% sure it’s the Hellgate bridge over Astoria Park.


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