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Western Queens elected officials are calling on the city to purchase the historic Steinway Mansion, which has been put up for sale, and preserve it as a museum, park or community facility.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) toured the mansion, which is at 41st Street and 18th Avenue in Astoria, last week. He wants the city to secure the site as a means of preserving the neighborhood’s history.
“It would be a great loss to the city to let this property slip away,” the councilman said. “Rarely do we get opportunities like this to open up historical treasures to the community.”
The home was built in the heart of Astoria’s industrial district in 1858 by Benjamin T. Pike, an optician, as a weekend home. The 25-room property is perched on a hill overlooking Bowery Bay and is made of granite.
After Pike’s death, piano maker Henry Steinway purchased the home and its surrounding property, which comprised 440 acres, for his family. The Steinways lived there for more than 50 years and used the extra land to construct their piano factory complex, the world-renowned Steinway & Sons, as well as housing for workers.
In the 1920s, the home was bought by Jack Halberian, a tailor, for $18,000. He later left the property to his son Michael Halberian, the current owner.
Michael Halberian is now in his mid-80s and hoping to sell the home and move into a smaller space, Vallone said. He has put the mansion up for sale.
But the owner would like its new owner to retain the property’s historical legacy. During most of his life in the mansion, he has treated it like a museum, collecting historical artifacts, books and priceless home fixtures.
He has also worked to preserve the house and routinely opens its doors to community groups and history buffs who are interested in the wealth of information he has accumulated within its walls, Vallone said.
State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said he wants the city to find a “usage that maintains its landmark status.”
“Our neighborhood is growing and in the face of all the development that is going on, it would be great to preserve it,” he said.
Vallone recently wrote to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city Parks Department, the Trust for Public Land and the Historical House Trust of New York City to plead with them to purchase the home, which was landmarked in 1967.
The mansion features ornate moldings, columns, six original fireplaces, five bedrooms and a full English pub, complete with a bar and booths.
The councilman said he would like to see the property used as a community facility, museum or park.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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