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Artifacts from the Steinway Mansion are going once, going twice, but are not yet gone.
On Saturday, Capo Auction, at 36-01 Queens Blvd. in Long Island City, sold $440,000 in items that once belonged to members of three families who owned the historic granite house on 41st Street and 18th Avenue in Astoria. The children of Michael Halberian, the last resident of the house, decided to put up the items for sale after their father’s death in December from chronic pulmonary disease at the age of 83.
“I hope these items will go to people who’ll treasure them as much as my father did,” said Michele Kazarian, Halberian’s daughter and the executrix for his estate, at a preview for the auction last Thursday.
The Steinway Mansion, which was built in 1856 by optician Benjamin Pike as a weekend home, had also been owned by piano mogul Henry Steinway and Halberian’s father, Jack. At the time of Michael Halberian’s death, the house contained items collected from all three families, plus other items Michael Halberian added to his personal collection.
“There’s a tremendous amount of fervor around the Steinway property,” said Michael Capo, owner of the auction house.
About 325 to 375 items from the mansion, ranging from huge telescopes and a suit of armor to paintings, a stuffed toy gorilla and glassware, were listed as part of the sale, Capo said. Following the sale of a number of items for $440,000, the second part of the auction will take place April 23 at 11 a.m.
“I think this is fabulous,” said Claire Roundal, a Manhattan woman in her 50s who came to the auction’s preview. “It’s a mix of treasures. Bargains with really important features.”
One of the biggest sales Saturday was a 15-foot bronze native American statue sculpted by Hermon MacNeil. Martin Lane, a Manhattan resident, won the item for $38,000, which he called a great bargain.
“Unless you come and see a thing like this in person, you can’t see how regal and proud that statue is,” Lane said.
He said he plans to put the statue, which once stood on the 400 acres surrounding the mansion, on his front lawn at his home in upstate Croton-on-Hudson.
Other big sellers were binoculars previously belonging to Ernst Leitz Wetzlar, which were valued from between $700 to $1,000 and sold for $18,000, and a brass nautical telescope purportedly from J.P. Morgan’s yacht The Corsair, which was valued from between $7,000 and $10,000 and went for $27,000.
A previously unseen box of voodoo items found in the attic that caused a stir before the auction fetched $500, Capo said.
Kazarian described the auction as a good but tough experience.
“It’s hard to describe how much [my father] loved that house,” she said. “And he wanted to share it with people. He wanted other people to love it, too.”
Still, Kazarian said it would have been impossible to leave the items in the house, as the Greater Astoria Historical Society hoped she would.
“It’s bad economic times,” she said. “I can’t afford it.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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