Steinway Mansion Under Contract To Private Buyer
Historic Mansion Was Built By Early NYC Technologist & Later Bought By Renaissance Man
Last Chance For Queens Officials To Act On Their Speeches About Historic Preservation, Nurturing Culture & Tourism
March 12, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Real Estate In Queens / News & Opinion. Queens Buzz. Well, the saga is almost over. NYC and Queens government officials are about to let slip into private hands, the greatest historical relic of the 1800's in Queens. And what could have been - and could still be - one of the greatest historic sites / historic tourist attractions of Queens. The Steinway Mansion is under contract to be purchased by a private buyer.
It's not that Queens and NYC government officials haven't had a chance to save it. The historic mansion, which was landmarked for its historic signficance decades ago [landmarking prevents changes to outside of the structure], came on the market in August of 2010. The asking prices has been between $2 and $4 million, which given that far smaller homes with no significance are already selling for over $1 million in the Astoria neighborhood, it seemed like a reasonable asking price.
Click here to read the rest of our report about the Steinway Mansion Under Contract. The story includes photos and links to other stories we've done over the years about the Steinway Mansion and it's inhabitants and their endeavors. The story also includes the business case for taking the Steinway Mansion public and transforming it into a museum / cultural destination for all of Queens, NYC & the world.
Brief History Of The Steinway Mansion - Click Photos
NYC government officials in the prior administrations could easily find tens and hundreds of millions of dollars for development projects, but they couldn't seem to find a penny to preserve a jewel of our historic past. This historic site has, or rather had, the potential to transform the area into a burgeoning tourist destination. It was an historic site that could easily have become a magnet and historic centerpiece for Queens. Click on the photo or this link to learn more about the Steinway Mansion historic significance.
Pianos of the 1800's Were The Home Entertainment Complex
The Steinway Mansion's story in a nutshell is as follows. An Englishman, Benjamin Pike, a seller of scientific instruments - which today would be called technology - built the mansion in the mid 1800's sparing no expense which is one of the reasons why it is still standing today. He died a few years after it was completed and the house was far too big and lonely to care for, so his wife sold it.
A German family, the Steinways [of Steinway & Sons Piano Factory] bought the mansion less than ten years after it was erected. The Steinway family lived in it for the next 50 years. The Steinways were competitive piano makers, which in the 1800's were the equivalent of sound systems in the middle of the last century, televisions in the last half of the 20th century and computers of today.
In the 19th century pianos were the center of the home entertainment complex. Pianos were a big business and Astoria was one of the manufacturing hotspots. In addition to Steinway, there were several other piano manufacturers located in Queens. Just recently, one of the old buildings along the East River - once owned by a Steinway piano manufacturing competitor - was converted into luxury condominiums.
Steinway's Role In Shaping NYC's Evolution As A Cultural Center - Rivaling European Capitols
The Steinways were instrumental in making NYC a cultural capital of the world, by paying famous European musicians to visit NYC and perform at Steinway Hall. William Steinway was also an early real estate developer, having purchased many, many acres of Astoria and Long Island City. Steinway was the first to attempt to dig a tunnel underneath the East River to ease the flow of people between Manhattan and Queens. And the Halberians - the Armenian family that currently owns the mansion - did a yeoman's job of preserving the structure and the historic legacy.
Graceland In Memphis - A Vastly Profitable Historic Mansion
Graceland in Memphis is a good example of making an historic mansion a huge tourist attraction and moneymaker. Following Elvis Presley's death in 1977, Priscilla Presley hired a businessman who transformed Graceland into the tourist destination it has now become. Click here for Graceland Mansion on Wikipedia.
Ask Queens Government Officials To Make Their Vision Happen
If Queens government officials really want to do something to bring tourists into Queens, then this is an opportunity for them to make an investment in the community, promote historic preservation, nurture cultural development and ultimately grow tourism - for what would be relatively little money.
If Queens government officials do nothing to preserve the Steinway Mansion, they will be failing to capitalize on one of the borough's greatest names / legacies / historical sites of the 19th century. Their collective failure to act will also necessitate an audience hearing adjustment going forward, in order to filter out the faintly hollow ring we'll hear, as we listen to their speeches about transforming historical preservation into tourism.
Pike & Steinway - Technological Entrepreneurs
The first two owners of this mansion were early modern users of technology - Benjamin Pike, builder of the mansion, was an enterprising direct marketer of technology. And William Steinway's pianos were the technological leaders.
Steinway made a visionary effort to tunnel underneath East River in the late 1800's. The #7 subway line tunnels between Queens & Manhattan are still called the Steinway Tunnels in memory of his first heroic effort. The MTA will be doing quite a bit of work in the Steinway Tunnels this year, which given their age, is not surprising. Queens Government officials talk about nurturing technology in the borough, so it might be worthwhile to lay claim to some of Queens early American technological roots.
Accessible Location - Steinway Mansion Map
Over the years some folks have said that the Steinway Mansion is too far out of the way to become a viable venue. That's only true if you believe that being located less than two miles from one of the nation's busiest airports [LaGuardia], less than one mile from one of the city's busiest freeways [Grand Central Parkway] and a ten block walk from a ten minute subway ride from Manhattan - is out of the way.
Click here to view a map showing the Steinway Mansion and Steinway Piano Factory locations proxmity to LGA, the MTA and the Grand Central Parkway.
Please Take A Minute To Make The Call - 718.286.3000
Government officials won't do anything if they think you don't care enough to make a phone call. Also call or email the same message to any other media outlets you use or local websites visit. They can help keep this issue in the public eye.
THAT'S MICHAEL HALBERIAN TO YOUR RIGHT
Make this call while imagining yourself sitting at a table outside the mansion savoring a glass of wine or sipping a cup of tea with your friends - after a chamber concert or having browsed through the great photos and artifacts of Astoria / LIC / Queens early modern history. Imagine you're conversing about the great mysteries of the universe or what happened while you were out on the town the previous night. You're living in Queens, and the borough's new symbol is this great historic mansion that's associated with this world renowned cultural icon - Steinway & Sons Piano.
The Numbers Add Up - Good Business & Good For Business
Is it wrong to assume that some fraction of 53 million American and / or international tourists that visit NYC each year might find hanging out at the Steinway Mansion an enjoyable thing to do? Wouldn't people come some distance to visit the mansion to listen to some great classical music, or to browse through a historic home - one right out of a Jules Verne novel? Can't you see people having drinks on the grounds or in the museum cafe before they head offto shop along what would become historic Steinway Street or eat at one of the great restaurants in the Astoria / Ditmars / LIC area?
The Steinway Mansion Could Serve As A Feeder Site To Other Queens Historic Sites & A Boon To Queens Tourism Revenue
Certainly some portion of the 53 million tourists that visit NYC each year would think that visiting the Steinway Mansion is a good way to spend some time during their stay. The Steinway Mansion could become a museum where they could learn about Queens role in American history.
Visitors could learn about how the gantries in LIC were used to move railway cars onto ferries, so that food from the Long Island farms could be brought into the city. Or about how Flushing lays claim to the first bold defiant acts in favor of religious freedom and tolerance with the Vlishing Remonstrance.
Visitors could learn how Rufus King was a bold spokesman against slavery in the 1700's. And about how the English and Dutch skirmished over the land around Newton Creek where the Ridgewood Historical Society stands today. Is this not a way to generate additional interest and tourism in theborough? This would increase visitation numbers and time and thus spending on travel, food, lodging and retail would increase too. The Steinway name is world known. And everyone loves mansions. It's not hard to imagine that the Steinway Mansion could become the feeder historic site for the rest of the borough.
Do you think that tourists would balk at a $10 or $20 admission fee? If the Steinway Mansion got just 1% of the visitors that would be 530,000 people. At $10 for admission, the Steinway Mansionwould minimally generate $5,300,000 in revenue per year and would need only a portion of that to cover expenses. There would also be additional revenue opportunities via sales of T-shirts and souvenirs, as well profits to be made from a cafe overlooking the grounds.
Marketing A Name The World Knows & That Symbolizes The Highest Quality
The Steinway Name is still - to this day - recognized the world over as a symbol of the highest quality. This simplifies the advertising, as the name is already well known and hasboth high class and high appeal.
The Steinway Mansion could easily be advertised by posting a billboard along the Grand Central Parkway informing fliers of this great tourist attraction, and also in the Air Train or in the Jamaica subway station through whichmany savvy Europeans traverse on their way into NYC. These are very low cost ways to get the word out and reposition the borough as the Queens Borough President has talked about.
Make The Call Now - 718.286.3000
It would also be appreciated if you ask your friends to contact the Queens Borough President's Office to support preservation of the Steinway Mansion. Call or email the same message to any other media outlets you use or visit. They can help keep this issue in the public eye.
Please note that for further information we've dedicated an entire section to the mansion underneath the History section on the navigation bar at the top of this page.
And then have yourself a good day and thanks for trying to do something to preserve an important legacy of Queens & NYC. See you at the mansion.
Consider Helping The Friends Of The Steinway Mansion
Also, it's worth mentioning that a group called the Friends of the Steinway Mansion was formed by the Greater Astoria Historical Society to make an attempt to acquire the mansion and convert it into a museum. And they're still actively trying to do something, so if you're interested, that's another way to get involved.
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