by Kevin Walsh

I should take more advantage of the cache of Queens photos I acquired during my research for the book I wrote with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Forgotten Queens. Many of these photos show interior scenes. I have already taken advantage of this relative wealth on a couple of occasions, notably in 2019. Today, though, I’ll take the concept a step further and show the evolution of the sites from the 1930s to today….

Some of the photos in my cache have convenient dates. This was an American Legion hall at 41-54 69th Street, which is on the west side of the street a little north of Woodside Avenue. The photographer is labeled “Somach.” I know little about Somach Photography; other photos from this era were taken by E.E. Rutter, and before him, Eugene Armbruster and Percy Loomis Sperr. I have been inspired by those three photographers more than any others. However, on today’s post, none of the photos are my own; I took modern scenes from Google Street View.

Nothing much is revealed here on April 14, 1938, except the checkered tablecloths, wood bar, tables and chairs. A pinball machine is in the back, and a mounted deer head is on the wall. (The Deerhead Diner was situated on Astoria Boulevard until 2000 or so.)

The photo is labeled “Connecting Highway Queens.” That’s an indicator that…

…the city had plans for the site. NYC’s traffic czar Robert Moses had tabbed the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to run north here to bring traffic to the Triboro Bridge, running along the New York Connecting Railroad and splitting in tow to get around St. Michael’s Cemetery. The American Legion Hall was razed a year or two after the photo was taken, and the site looks like this these days.

Meanwhile, over at 98-17 Astoria Boulevard (the address is on a blackboard on a table) we have what was quite likely a drugstore, as a sign saying “prescriptions” attests at the upper left. Bottled lotions dominate the glass counter on the left, while on the right we see a similar case, but part of it holds Kodak film. Ads for Vaseline and Kotex are at the center near the ceiling. There’s boxed candy and some wine bottles on the right. In the center is a weighing machine and at the table, a glass jar filled with straws. It’s quite likely that the drugstore also had a soda fountain (I think my collection of photos has one or two).

I had hoped to see what the drugstore looks like on the soutside from the Municipal Archives tax photos from 1940. However the drugstore was gone from 98-17 Astoria by then. The Plaza Market had replaced it by then.

By 2018, there’s no trace of either, as a beauty salon occupies the site. Like liquor stores or delis, some beauty parlors have no need of identifying themselves.

This is fun and I’ll come back to then and now from time to time.



WALTER KARLING September 21, 2021 - 1:04 pm

Last photo: the car on the right has a well-developed running board. The car on the left much less so but still there. Interesting that cars no longer have running boards. Any explanation?

WALTER KARLING September 21, 2021 - 1:07 pm

But you can buy them as add-ons? What gives?

John Ulrich September 22, 2021 - 1:34 am

Looks like the pharmacy is actually to the right of the fruitstore . See the RX clearly on the corner sign.
Maybe an address error was made?

William Mangahas September 22, 2021 - 5:50 pm

John Ulrich,

I see w “W” for Whalen ?

John Ulrich September 23, 2021 - 1:25 pm

The script W matches the Whelan chain. The drug store was definately there

Dr+Tony+Lepere September 26, 2021 - 10:02 pm

Also, the Vaseline ad is for Vaseline Hair Tonic!

matt payne October 5, 2021 - 8:10 pm

The American Legion hall looks similar to military veterans meeting places all over the world. A place to have a drink and tell war stories.


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