TOP: In the early 1870s, William Steinway, the piano manufacturer, began production in East Astoria, creating a manufacturing village out of farmlands.
MIDDLE: The Old Town Hall in Jamaica served as the county seat of Queens until the consolidation of New York in 1898.
BOTTOM: The Long Island Railroad brought virtually all of Queens within suburban commuting distance.
The 19th Century Consolidation
The American Revolution
By a vote of 1407-1144, the Town of Flushing, vetoed the proposal of the consolidation of Queens into the Greater City of New York
The era of the American Revolution, 1776-1783, disrupted the lives of
villager and farmer in Queens, often dividing neighbors against one
Except in Newtown, the majority of the residents of Queens strongly
the British. In fact, Queens County refused to send any delegates to
first or second Continental Congress.
The defeat of George Washington and his forces at the Battle of Long
(fought in Brooklyn) on August 27, 1776 led to a seven-year occupation
British troops. The British ravaged the countryside, destroyed the
for firewood, stole livestock, controlled all movement over roads, and
seized all public buildings including the Old Quaker Meeting House
used as a prison, a hospital and a storehouse.
Even after the American victory at Yorktown in 1781, British troops
their withdrawal from Queens County until they could secure the
of British Loyalists to Canada who feared retribution for having
collaborated with the enemy. The last British troops marched down
Avenue on November 25, 1783. On the night of December 8, 1783, a
celebration was staged at what are now Parsons Boulevard and Jamaica
Thirteen candles were lit in every window to celebrate the birth of the
The 19th Century
Beginning in 1800, turnpike fever hit Queens County. The turnpikes were
important to the history of Queens because speedy overland travel
possible for the first time. The idea was to privatize the public roads
lease them for fixed periods to private companies that would then be
authorized to collect tolls and in return maintain good road services.
March 1801, the Flushing and Newtown Turnpike was incorporated; in
Jamaica and Rockaway and, in 1809, the Jamaica and Rockaway Turnpike.
Queens was rural and offered an abundance of flat, open surfaces ideal
horse racing. In 1821, the Legislature authorized the Union Course, a
just south of Jamaica Avenue and between 78th and 85th Street in
In 1825, the Eclipse racetrack was built south of Rockaway Boulevard
East of Woodhaven Boulevard. These two tracks operated for over fifty
and their existence stimulated travel, a hotel industry and a
along Jamaica Avenue.
The urbanizing forces that would eventually overwhelm rural Queens
developing in the 1830s, as suburban villages were founded by
and realty companies for development. Charles and Peter Roach acquired
Island City in 1934, Woodhaven started as a real-estate promotion in
and Astoria was created by Stephen Halsey in 1939, along with several
In 1847, the state government in Albany passed a piece of Legislation
entitled the "The Rural Cemetery Act." The law authorized corporations
buy land, open cemeteries and sell plots for money to private
In addition in 1848, burial grounds were banned from lower Manhattan
health reasons. Within five years cemeteries corporations began to buy up farms in Queens
county and lay out large cemeteries in Queens such as Calvary (1846,)
Evergreens (1848) and Cypress Hills (1852.)
Urbanizing forces became especially conspicuous in the 1850s. In Western
Queens, land speculators bought up farms for conversion to village lots.
Maspeth, Corona, Long Island City (Hunters Point area,) and Winfield all
started between 1852 and 1854. Manufacturers, seeking rural settings
reach of New York City, scattered factories more widely at
Woodhaven, and College Point. Meanwhile, the Rockaway beaches had begun
attract affluent summer excursionists.
The great waves of Irish and German immigration that swept into nearly
the East Coast cities during the mid-nineteenth century reached Queens
well. The Irish settled in Astoria and, to a lesser degree, in Jamaica
Flushing. Many Germans entered Queens by way of Brooklyn via
and Myrtle Avenues. Middle Village, which had been English in the
became almost wholly German by 1860.
The Civil War only briefly interrupted this process of growth. In the
quarter century that followed, 1865-1890, the initial urbanization of
western Queens was largely completed: Glendale in 1868-1869, Richmond
in 1869, and Queens Village in 1871. In the early 1870s, William
the piano manufacturer, began production in East Astoria, creating a
manufacturing village out of farmlands that had survived until then on
either side of what is now upper Steinway Avenue.
Ridgewood boomed as a residential community after the Brooklyn City
built its car barns there in 1881. The continuing flow of population
Brooklyn via Richmond Hill and Woodhaven led to the creation of Ozone
in 1882 and Morris Park in 1884. The coming of the Myrtle Avenue
train in 1888 furthered this process, especially enhancing Ridgewood's
appeal as a residential haven.
The 1890's were an era of consolidation -- not only social and
but political as well. The idea of a Greater New York, the merging of
Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and western Long Island (Queens and
Brooklyn), had been growing.
In 1890, the State set up a commission to
the idea and in 1894 the people were asked to express their opinion in
non-binding ballot. The historic vote occurred on November 6, 1894.
Manhattan favored the idea. In Queens, Long Island City and the Towns
Jamaica and Newtown voted in favor, Brooklyn vetoed the proposal as did
Town of Flushing, by a vote of 1407-1144. In March 1896, the
passed the Consolidation bill, and Governor Morton signed it on May 11.
the old town governments in Queens went out of business on December 31, 1897 and
January 1, 1898 the Great City became a legal fact.