Demolition work begins on historic Astoria house

TimesLedger Newspapers
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Demolition work began on a house once belonging to a family of classical music legends and contemporaries of the Steinway family after a drawn-out effort to save the unofficial landmark.

The Dulcken house, located at 31-07 31st Ave., dates back to around 1870 and belonged to the “first family of music,” according to Robert Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. But Gerald Caliendo Architects filed a request with the city Dept. of Buildings to the demolish home, which gained full approval in June and destruction began earlier this month.

Photos began circulating online depicting worker taking chain saws to the exposed attic in the rain.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected Singleton’s request in April 2017 to have the site protected due to alterations which have been made to the structure. But Singleton claims that argument should carry no traction since many of the landmarks under the purview of the LPC have been altered on some scale.

“This is not some obscure little dusty name, this is a name that resonates well within the world of music,” Singleton told the TimesLedger.

The French Second Empire style house has lost some of its frills with early photos showing that decorative fascia boards and window frames were replaced with plain wooden exterior siding.

The single spire was renovated from an octagon to a square shape while the second-floor bedrooms were expanded toward the front.

Johannes Dulcken (1706-1757) started the family’s legacy in Germany as an outstanding harpsichord craftsman, before moving on to other keyboard instruments still in world-class collections today.

Later generations of female Dulckens broke gender barriers by performing for the London Philharmonic in the early 19th century and into the 1850s. During this time, the aristocrats and royals of Europe lined up to have their children trained by Louise Dulcken, sister Therese and their nieces Sophie and Isabella for keyboard lessons.

Ferdinand Dulcken moved to the United States in 1876 and was a composer who helped build New York City into the music powerhouse it is today by representing talent and showcasing his own to the acclaim of his contemporaries, Singleton said.

Dulcken himself was a student of Jakob Mendolsohn and his compositions are still taught to pupils classical music to this day.

Singleton claimed that in May 2017 — after the LPC shot down his request — he was not trying to stop the developer from making a buck off the property, which was a rooming house at the time, since Singleton had intended to capitalize on the Dulcken family legacy by turning it into a tourist attraction.

He believes using this as an economic driver would have greater long-term benefit for the property owners and the community.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Posted 12:00 am, March 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

JJ Astor from Astoria says:
The house is now gone - completely demolished last week in 2 days and now just a hole in the ground. Another "modern" building with "luxury" apartments and ground-floor retail/restaurant is planned in its place. Nice story - just published too late.
March 20, 12:26 pm
Patrick Gleason from LIC says:
Shame you did not include information that the architect is the same person who did the Steinway Mansion warehouses, is on the local community board chair holding a powerful position, and is being honored at the Astoria Civic as "Man of the Year" - things they would have reported in Manhattan!
March 20, 2:16 pm
George the Atheist from Queens-at-large says:
At least you could have credited those pix "circulating on line" of the workers in the rain with the chain saw demolishing the house to Yours Truly.

And @Patrick Gleason (above): Why be coy with that architect's naming? It's Gerald Caliendo. The community should know just who is destroying Astoria's historical architectural legacy with his crappy designs.
March 21, 12:07 am
Patrick Gleason from LIC says:
Well, if we are naming names the first name here should be Costa, the local councilman who is also, like Gerry, responsible for the Steinway Mansion - in that he had other options but did not pick up the phone to discuss them.

I do hope that someone in those waterfront groups that Costa so assiduously cultivates who is both young and in the arts, and or is a parent wanting rich opportunities for their children (and would have benefited from saving this place), ask Costa to justify why his inaction benefited one person's interests over the community. Do it in public before others.
March 23, 8:59 am

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