Newtown Historical: Corona, Queens

Winter 2011-2012 has not been one for the frigid blasts and howling tempests that usually accompany the months of December and January as the weather has mostly been in the 40s.  As luck would have it, when the Newtown Historical Society announced a march  through Corona and tabbed Your Webmaster as the tour guide, the temperature hovered around 20 degrees most of the day. Yet, a hardy group of tourgoers (though a somewhat lower number than signed up!) met at Roosevelt Avenue and National Street for a brisk two-hour trip through the neighborhood just west of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, noted by everyday New Yorker, if they think of it at all, as the home of Louis Armstrong for the last 30 years of his life. And, while the NHS visited his home, now a museum in the northern part of town last winter, we decided to stalk through the South this time.

Just a few representative samples of what we visited….

The Union Evangelical Church at National and 102nd Streets was built in 1870 and was the first church in Corona. The land for the church was donated by Charles Leverich, a wealthy area landowner, who also became instrumental in the church’s success.

Sharp-eyed ForgottenFans will note some of these photos were taken during the summer. I did my scouting mission for this tour in the dead dog heat of July.

According to NYC’s Landmark Preservation Commission“This small two-story house (c. 1871) is one of the last intact 19th century frame houses in Queens. Designed in a vernacular Italianate style, the house is notable for its decorative porch, gable and fence.” The house is on 47th Avenue between 102nd and 104th Streets and was home to poet, essayist and political writer, Edward E. Sanford (1805-1876). He was the son of U.S. Senator Nathan Sanford (1777 – 1838), who owned most of the land in the Waldheim section of Flushing, which is described on FNY’s Flushing Remnants page. Sanford Avenue in Flushing is named after the family.

Congregation Tifereth Israel of Corona, also known as the Home Street Synagogue, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. It was founded in 1911 on what is today 54th Avenue near 108th Street. Tifereth means “Glory of God.” As luck would have it, the building was completely scaffolded the day of the tour, and from the looks of things, it was in need of renovation.

Before she was known as Estée Lauder, Josephine Esther Mentzer attended this synagogue while growing up above her father’s hardware store on nearby Hillside Avenue (Van Doren Street, today). In a stable behind the house, her uncle, a chemist, mixed experimental face creams which Estée sold in Manhattan beauty salons. Over time, Estée managed to develop her one-woman cosmetics enterprise into a multi-billion dollar empire.

In 1893, Louis Comfort Tiffany and his business partner, Arthur Nash, founded the Stourbridge Glass Company in Corona next to the railroad tracks. In 1902, the name of the enterprise was changed to Tiffany Furnaces. His patented “favrile” (handmade) glass was created and manufactured here in this factory, 43rd Avenue and 97th Place. Tiffany’s works reached the height of their popularity in the years leading up to WWI and the pieces are now much sought after works of art. Business slowly declined after the war, as tastes had changed with the passage of time. In 1928, Tiffany withdrew from the company, leaving Nash’s son to run the business alone under a different name. The Great Depression brought about the end of the company. However, the factory and furnace buildings on 97th Place remain standing and are actively used today. The Queens Museum, located in nearby Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, has a permanent Tiffany collection on display, as does the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.

Constructed by Satterlee and Boyd from 1912-1914 this firehouse, Hook & Ladder 138/Engine 289 on 43rd Avenue east of 97th Place was among the first in the city that could accommodate motorized  vehicles. Inspired by French Renaissance architecture. Note the slanted mansard roof with stone dormers.

The Roman Catholic parish of St. Leo, 49th Avenue and 104th, was established in October 1903 as a mission to Italian-American residents of Corona, an area of Queens that was formerly part of the Township of Flushing. The first pastor was the Rev. John L. O’Toole, who established a flourishing Sunday-school for area children. The present building dates to 1934. The parish school, constructed in 1924 and festooned with interesting terra cotta ornamentation, is around the corner.

A 108th Street/52nd Avenue mainstay, Peter Benfaremo’s Lemon Ice King of Corona started dispensing lemon-flavored Italian ice in 1944. Today, the establishment serves either 25 or 29 varieties (depending on which of their signs you believe). Famous for their ices containing chunks of real fruit, their selection today also includes exotic flavors such as chocolate chip and peanut butter.

Did we have ice? You bet we did, and we liked it.

This modest decoration on an apartment building at 108th and Van Doren Streets is the only remaining representation in Queens of the twin symbols of the 1939 World’s Fair, a massive stylized pyramid and sphere.

Relics of the 1964-65 Fair are somewhat more numerous. Terrace on the Park is a banquet hall in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. The building was constructed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to serve as the heliport for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.It is located to the south of the New York Hall of Science. The bulk of the building is suspended in the air by four supports. It has an excellent view of New York City including the Manhattan skyline. The outside walls of the main floor are mostly accessible windows that allow guests a clear view in every direction.

That’s only a bit of what we saw. Want more? Come on the tours! The next Newtown Historical Society Tour will be announced a couple of weeks before it happens –check FNY and the NHS website linked above.


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9 Responses to Newtown Historical: Corona, Queens

  1. Kevin says:

    Kevin – Interesting read on the Corona tour. I gew up there and my brothers and myself knew the Benferemo family. We got free ices in the summer. We also attended St. Leo’s church & school where I was an alter boy till 4th grade. That big ramp in the front to the right of the hurch entrance (for handicapped I guess) must have been added after 1972 when we moved out to Long Island.

    Kevin O’Malley

  2. Ana says:

    Hey Kevin, Thanks for this report and pix. We grew up down the block from St. Leo’s and around the corner from that Italianate house. At the time, directly across the street from that house was another, less ornate and minus the porch, whose backyard faced ours. The owner, an elderly immigrant from Italy, had turned that yard into a small farm in which he grew all sorts of old world fruits and vegetables, which he generously shared with us. That house was sold and torn down years after we left in the late 70’s, built over with ugly, ticky tacky apartment buildings.

    In winter back then, Lemon Ice King of Corona sold delicious candy apples. My friends and I would go ice skating at the rink in Flushing Meadows, then walk over to Corona Ave., have pizza at the small place down the block from Lemon Ice King, and top that off with a candy apple. In summer, we’d ride our bikes to the park, then stop for ices. As for other food memories, of course there was Bellacicco bread. Don’t remember where the bakery was, somewhere off Junction Blvd and 43rd Ave, I think. We used to go there late at night to pick up hot, right out of the oven bread, delicious. Good memories.

    • Claire says:

      I grew up on 97th Street, Corona. My brother and I used to run up to Bellacicco’s Italian store on the corner of Junction Blvd. and 43rd Ave to buy big luscious olives with money we made selling Cool-Aid under the Long Island Railroad Bridge on Junction Blvd. We’d go back and sit in the shade under the bridge and slowly devour them. Yummm!

      My father, Bill Wilmerton, was a policeman at the 110th Pct on 43rd Ave and was over the PAL. He would coach many ball teams out at the old World Fair Grounds. I have many memories of Corona and was glad to find this site. Thanks!

      I also remember buying ten cent Mello-Rolls… ice cream in shape of a roll… put in a squarish shaped cone… at the candy store on the corner of 43rd Ave and Junction Blvd. Special treat!! And Halvah for five cents. Anyone remember Halvah?


    • dave says:

      from the mid 50’s to the late 60’s I lived smack next door to Bellacicco’s Bakery. that bread coming out of the ovens I will never forget.

  3. Nestor Danyluk says:

    One correction. Corona (and most areas west of the Flushing River) were part of the Old Town of Newtown — not Flushing.

  4. joe humphry says:

    My father was born in Carona in 1917..his mother’s family,Morbourgne,were residents of carona from the late 1800’s.
    My great gransdfathe,Eugene Morbourgne worked for the NY Times as night manager while he lived with his wife in Carona.
    My great Uncle ,Joseph Morbourgne, grew up in Carona and becam the General of the US Signal Corps.The Corps is now based in Atlanta where he is buried and his name ia on the HDQ there.
    My ftahrs parents both died in 1924 and he ,at the age 7,was put into St.John’s Home for 10 years.The homme moved to Rockaway much later.
    Can you send me some sources that reort on Caona from the laste 1800’s through 1935?

  5. Brian says:

    Back in the Sixties, not far from the Lemon Ice King, was a little door you knocked on, and a man would sell you a rectangular slice of half-cooked Sicilian-style pizza dough for a quarter. You were supposed to then take it home, put on your own sauce and toppings, and finish baking in your home oven.

    When you bought it, it kind of looked like Elmer’s Glue. My friend loved to eat them as-is!

  6. COMET says:

    Thank you!!! I am on this planet because of that old TIFFANY Factory! My Great Grand Father Pierre Saffert was a glass chemist and worked for Tiffany for quite some time–he worked on many of the formulas for the different colored and textured and patterned glass. One of the things the workers were allowed to do was to use the “End Of Day” glass or glass that was not the perfect shade etc to make their own items–I am lucky enough to have several of these pieces.

    Several members of a different family–the Halleys–also worked there; thru this connection my French born Saffert Great Grandfather met and married my British descended Great Grandmother in 1910. My Grandmother was born there and I have many photos of her there as a child and young woman. She even won a “First Prize Baby” contest there!

    AS a side note–before they got to Corona (and they are ALL buried there!) the Halleys lived where the UN is now; there was a German Lutheran Church in the neighborhood that my Great Great Grandfather did work for as a painter. The family became very close with the Pastor; in fact all of their kids and grand kids were christened and married in the Church altho thy were neither German nor Lutheran. This congregation was friendly with the St. Marks church and was invited to go on the fatal picnic on the General Slocum; the morning of the picnic my Great Aunt Emily woke up and said–We are NOT going; something bad is going to happen. OF course something terrible DID happen. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Corona. I supplied some info on this from my research into it to the author of the book “Ship Ablaze!”.

    I was lucky enough to locate the family graves a few years ago; I did find it interesting that on EVERY paper and document my GG Grandparents ever signed they made a notation that they were XYZ Halley of Birmingham England—even tho they had been here since the 1880’s. When I visited their graves I saw another stone directly cross from them with the curious inscription–The ABC Family of–Birmingham England. Guess it musta been a “thing”.

    We also visited the Lemon Ice King–because–well–who wouldn’t?

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