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The Greater Astoria Historical Society is the Right Place for the Millstones!

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Profile of the Greater Astoria Historical Society / 718-278-0700 /

Temporary Exhibit Space for the Dutch Kills Millstones

The Dutch Kills Millstones, during the renovation at Queens Plaza, belong at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. The society’s Mission Statement declares the organization’s purpose:

To discover, procure, and preserve whatever may relate to the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of the … the State of New York, in general, and to the Greater Astoria area in particular, and to establish and maintain collections in art and archaeology; and

To display, present, and exhibit historical data and structures as well as artifacts of personal property for public exhibition and to conduct tours, etc. for public information and educational purposes to people of all ages, but primarily for esthetic or informative values and purposes.

The organization, a 501(c)(3) under a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, is chartered as a museum under the New York State Board of Regents, and is registered as a New York State Charity. It is a member of the Queens Tourism Board and the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. This year, 2010, we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary.

The society renewed a four year lease in a space occupied since 1993. It leases 6,000 sq feet on the fourth floor of the Quinn Building, a prewar reinforced concrete loft at 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City – about six blocks from the millstones’ location. The building has a security alarm and camera system. A security firm that subleases space from us has offered installation of cameras for the exhibit. We have a loading dock, an elevator and are wheelchair accessible. Galleries where the millstones would be on display are open from 8 AM to 8 PM weekdays and 8 AM to 6 PM on weekends; twice those of the public library.

Within four blocks of the facility are two transit lines (Broadway station for the N and Q trains and Steinway Street station for the R and M trains) and a number of major bus lines (including Q104 Ravenswood–Sunnyside, Q66 Long Island City–Flushing, Q18 Astoria–Maspeth and Q102 Astoria–Roosevelt Island.) The proposed library location is far from the subway and has only three bus lines by its front door.

The society’s facility at the Quinn Building includes office space, a library for the collections (housed in appropriate climatic environment), a lecture hall, and several exhibit galleries with both permanent and rotating exhibits. The crown jewel of the exhibit was the Blackwell House door (ca 1700), a nine foot colonial Dutch door from a house in Ravenswood that was deaccessed by the Brooklyn Museum and transported to our facility by the society from a warehouse near the Gowanus Canal. The facility has plenty of foot traffic: we are the premier meeting space for the community with a busy schedule hosting civic and community groups, community board committee meetings and Queens Council on the Arts panels et al. The exhibit would be in a public gallery sharing space with (an already installed) photo exhibit of the 17th Century Lent-Riker-Smith House, a local New York City Landmark that is commonly believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited house in New York City. The two exhibits would complement each other.

The society has regular historical features in four borough-wide newspapers and magazines and is soon publishing a fifth book on local history. For more than a decade, it has conducted weekly factory tours at Steinway & Sons, which have been praised in publications from Reader’s Digest to Forbes Magazine as one of the top such tours in the country.

We also must add that the Greater Astoria Historical Society is referenced by your consultant, Historical Perspectives, as underpinning “the historic facts and information” on the Dutch Kills Millstones in their report to the Economic Development Corporation on the Queens Plaza Streetscape Project.

Our board of directors includes professional educators and museum experts with graduate degrees in the museum sciences and education. We have signed a number of contracts with the city as, for example, the Department of Cultural Affairs for grants and the Department of Education for programs on training local history topics to secondary school teachers. We have a close relationship with the New York City Archives. The historical society has strong support from both the local community and from around the country (for example, the Payntar family, caretakers of the millstones for several generations, support our efforts).


Written by licmillstones

August 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm