Four roads converge at Astoria Square on the eastern edge of old Astoria Village, first established by fur merchant Stephen Ailing Halsey in 1839, who laid out streets and built the first structures in the area surrounding Hallett’s Cove in northwest Queens.
Astoria was named for a man who apparently never set foot in it. A bitter battle for naming the village was finally named by supporters and friends of John Jacob Astor (1763-1848). Astor, entrepreneur and real estate tycoon who had made his money in the fur trade, had become the wealthiest man in America by 1840 with a net worth of over $40 million. The beasts that contributed their furs were hunted and trapped in the northwest part of North America, in Astor’s day still owned by the British; later, a town named Astoria sprang up in the state of Oregon.
21st Street (originally Van Alst Avenue; the name is remembered by a G train subway station a few miles south of here); Astoria Boulevard, once known as Flushing Avenue because it stretched east to Flushing Creek and the town of the same name beyond it; 27th Avenue; and Newtown Road, perhaps the original road established in the area by Native Americans in the pre-colonial era, which led form the East River through the swamps to what we now call Woodside are the four roads that meet here.
In 1889 L. Gally established a furniture store and built this handsome four-story brick building in the western “V” formed by 27th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard. The furniture store lasted just a few decades, but this distinctive building with its cupola, now overshadowed by a high rise on the opposite side of Astoria Boulevard, has “nonetheless persisted.” It has been nicely restored within the past decade. It’s called Astoria’s Flatiron Building, but the actual Flatiron Building should be called Manhattan’s L. Gally Building — it preceded it by 12 years.
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