by Kevin Walsh

At the Powhatan Democratic Club, 41-05 Newtown Road, the sign looks much the same as it did in 1940. The political club is now officially known as the Powhatan and Pocahontas Democratic ClubChief Powhatan (approx. 1547-1618), whose actual name was Wahunsenacah (spellings vary since the Native American tribal leader of course did not spell his name in English) was a leader of the Powhatan faction of an alliance of Algonquin people living in what is now the Tidewater area of Virginia; Powhatan and his daughter, Pocahontas, were encountered by British settler Captain John Smith in 1607.

Established in 1900 or 1901 (the sign and the website give different dates) the Powhatan is one of the oldest extant political clubs in the country. The building itself goes back to 1907 or so, according to the Newtown Pentacle‘s Mitch Waxman, then writing for Brownstoner.

Like a number of NYC streets that run aslant the overall grid, Newtown Road is one of the older roads in the area. It’s an Indian trail that became the main road to early Astoria settler William Hallett’s farm in the mid-17th century, and to the treacherous Hell Gate, the East River crossing to Manhattan. Its eastern stretch ended in the heart of Newtown, now Elmhurst, and was called Hurlgate, or Hellgate, Ferry Road; and later named for the town through which it passed, becoming Woodside Avenue. The road twisted and turned, to avoid topography like hills and swamps. It was once the sole road between the East River and the heart of Newtown, still the heart of Elmhurst at Broadway and Queens Boulevard.

Much more on Hellgate Ferry Road

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chris December 14, 2022 - 10:00 pm

In my neck of the woods it was the Cherokee,and all connected in
some way to Big Chief Tammany,I’m sure.
I wonder if the Apache or Mohawk ever got their own franchises.

redstaterefugee December 16, 2022 - 10:11 am

Here’s your “Apache franchise”:


Anonymous December 15, 2022 - 9:05 am

Kevin, when you took the photo for this piece did you happen to see the building at the corner of Newton Rd and 41st , it is stunning, triangle shaped, nicely painted in pale blue and cream. Maybe this neighborhood would be good for a future tour.
Happy holidays

Anonymous December 15, 2022 - 9:16 am

I just noticed the building in the HELLGATE FERRY ROAD piece


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