Astoria Residents Tour Steinway Mansion
Astoria residents and enthusiasts of local history were treated to a free house tour of the historic Steinway Mansion on October 7, hosted by City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and the homeowner, Michael Halberian.
The tour comes just two weeks after Vallone proposed that the city purchase the mansion for the purpose of historical preservation and research. Halberian, who has lived in what was once the home of the well known piano manufacturer for all of his 82 years, put the mansion up for sale in late August.
“I feel that a house as rare as this should be in the hands of the city where it could be used for educational purposes,” Halberian said. “It would be nice if all the local historical societies could share the space.” His father purchased the 25-room mansion from the family of William Steinway for $18,000 in 1926.
In an attempt to build support for Halberian’s vision, Vallone contacted Mayor Michael Bloomberg in September, asking for his help to buy the mansion, which is selling for $2.5 million. A two acre lot next door to the property is selling for an additional $2.5 million. The mansion, 18-33 41st St., originally stood on 440 acres 25 feet above street level with a commanding view of the East River and Bowery Bay.
“I have asked the mayor to come here personally to take a tour of the house,” Vallone said. “If we gain support from the city, then we can build a foundation to make this amazing home into a museum or a major neighborhood resource.”As visitors gathered on the front lawn, Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS), spoke about the history of the home and the significance of William Steinway to Astoria.
Guests viewed every room of the 12,285-square-foot mansion which features original ornate moldings and coffered ceilings, six original wood-burning fireplaces, original plank hardwood floors, four full bathrooms, a half-bathroom and
five bedrooms. Basement accommodations include a recreation area complete with English pub, billiard room, sauna and Jacuzzi.
The centerpiece of the home, built in 1858 by Benjamin T. Pike Jr., an optician who died in the house in 1864, is the library that Halberian has filled with antique books that cover the history of New York and Queens.
“It is truly an amazing space and a rare property to come onto the market,” Kim Parshley of Halvatzis Realty Inc. said. “It has so much value to the community.”
Parshley is co-brokering the home with Carolyn Zweben, a senior vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman.
According to Halberian, who plans to move into smaller quarters once the property is sold, the home has become difficult to maintain.
“At my age it’s hard to stay on top of the upkeep and the property taxes are outrageous,” he said. “I am too long in the tooth for this kind of thing.”
Vallone said he is looking into allocating discretionary funds for the purchase; however, he acknowledged the difficulty of securing such capital during a recession. Organizations which have showed support for preservation of the Steinway mansion and its use as a city facility include the city Department of Parks and Recreation, the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Trust for Public Land, the Historic House Trust of New York City, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, New Yorkers for Parks and the GAHS.
“We are so fortunate to have Mr. Halberian on board,” Vallone said. “He is the driving force behind this whole project and really cares about the destiny of this mansion.”
The relationship between the Halberian family and the Vallones is one that has lasted many years.
“Did you know I used to play pinochle with your grandfather?” Halberian asked Vallone. The Vallone family also patronized Jack Halberian’s tailor shop decades ago.
For more information, visit :
www.halvatzisrealty.com or call Parshley at 917-620- 5344 or call Zweben at 212- 769-6537.