Michael Halberian, the latest person to own the historic Steinway Mansion on 41st Street and 18th Avenue in Astoria, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease during last week’s snowstorm, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said. He was 83.
“He died in his home that he loved so much,” Vallone said.
Halberian was the second member of his family to own the Astoria landmark, a 25-room granite house which was built in 1856 by optician Benjamin T. Pike, who used it as a weekend home. The mansion was later owned by piano manufacturer Henry Steinway. Halberian was born and grew up in the home. He moved out when he was married — his wife predeceased him — but later returned to the mansion in 1977 after his father, Jack, died.
“It was my homestead,” Halberian said of the house in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers in October.
Halberian owned a restaurant and continued to live in the home after he retired. One of his passions was New York City history. While he owned the mansion, Halberian decorated it with artifacts from Pike and Steinway. Halberian also collected various artifacts of his own from other locations and had a huge library of books on the city’s history.
“He was an encyclopedia of Astoria history,” Vallone said.
Before his death, Halberian was planning to sell the mansion for $2.5 million or the mansion and land around it for $4.5 million. Area politicians and civic members hoped the property could be bought by the city and turned into a museum. Kim Parshley, the real estate agent for the property, did not return TimesLedger Newspapers’ calls.
Bob Singleton, executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, said Halberian is survived by his sister, Rosemary, and his two children, Michele Kazarian and John Halberian, as well as John’s wife Stephanie. He has five grandchildren: Christopher, Meg and Jack Halberian and Jackie and Katie Kazarian.
“Michael Halberian was one of those Astorians who was really larger than life,” Singleton said.
Vallone said he had heard from the family that Halberian died of chronic pulmonary disease during the snowstorm at his mansion. The family had a small, private wake at the house last Thursday.
The Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs, at 209-15 Horace Harding Expwy. in Bayside, said the family held a funeral service Friday at 2 p.m.
Vallone said he had been able to spend some time with Halberian before he died and talking to him made him feel like he had known Halberian his entire life.
“He was just an amazing guy,” Vallone said. “He and his family helped make Astoria what it is today.”
Singleton said Henry Steinway once said while he was glad for the name, the mansion should have been named for the Halberians, who had lived there longer.
“That I think is a great sign of respect to Michael and his family — it was a real tribute,” Singleton said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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