2016-01-06 / Star Journal

Blizzard Buries Astoria, Calvary Cemetery In Early 1905

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal.

Welcome to January, 1905!

Far off in St. Petersburg, Russia, in an event known as “Bloody Sunday,” Czar Nicholas II’s Imperial Guard killed some 500 demonstrators marching toward the Winter Palace to present a petition. Meanwhile, down in Daytona Beach, Florida, A.G. MacDonald became the first person to exceed 100 mph in an automobile. Closer to home in New York City, the Hubbell, Schubert and Smith musical, Fontana, opened on the 14th at the Lyric Theatre.

Early in the month, the region was walloped by an icy winter blizzard. In Astoria, the storm rendered all the main business thoroughfares impassable, with large drifts blanketing Broadway and other avenues in the neighborhood. Down near the railyards on Borden Avenue, at its blustery height the storm blew off the heavy wooden cover on top of one of the 275-foot power station smokestacks and carried it some 700 feet through the air. The wintry gusts put a complete stop to burials at the sprawling Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, as gusts of snow completely filled freshly dug graves. With the snow falling on a Tuesday and Wednesdays normally being one of the busiest days at Calvary, the once-bustling necropolis was nearly empty save for the howling winds piling drifts of snow onto her lonely residents.


In 1904, 21,557 people came to rest in Calvary. Ferry companies crossing the East River provided special accommodations for mourners, and some nearby hotels were to a large extent filled by those paying final respects to a loved one. In 1904, 21,557 people came to rest in Calvary. Ferry companies crossing the East River provided special accommodations for mourners, and some nearby hotels were to a large extent filled by those paying final respects to a loved one. Perhaps those who came to rest in the Borough of Queens early in the 20th century were not so lonely. Actually, according to the Long Island Weekly Star that month, it seemed that cemeteries were bursting at the seams with daily new arrivals and a constant stream of funeral corteges. In 1904, 21,557 people came to rest in Calvary. Ferry companies crossing the East River provided special accommodations for mourners, and some nearby hotels were to a large extent filled by those paying final respects to a loved one. For large processions making their way from Manhattan or Brooklyn, the family often provided dinner at an establishment near the cemetery for the hundreds of family members and friends who turned out to bid farewell.

Sometimes people who come through our borough are remembered by many. Some put their names on a place that impacts the lives of Queens residents. Dr. Thomas Rainey, a resident of the Ravenswood section, was one of those great New Yorkers. After he spent many years and a great deal of his fortune advocating a Blackwell Island Bridge spanning the East River to link Manhattan and Queens, in January, 1905, Mayor McLellan vetoed a resolution from the Board of Aldermen to name the area slated to be the Queens anchor for the project as Rainey Park, claiming he does not give precedence to naming landmarks for living New Yorkers over those deceased.

The city named the property Rainey Park shortly after the doctor’s passing in 1910.

Charles and Zoe Pechette, Astoria residents originally from French Quebec, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary that January. They recalled traversing 90 miles of frozen, snow-covered Canadian countryside in a sledge over two days and nights for their 1855 wedding in Montreal. When interviewed by a Weekly Star reporter, Mr. Pechette wondered how many prospective brides and grooms in the 20th century would travel such a long distance to spend the rest of their lives together. Charles Pechette entered eternal rest in December 1907 at the age of 77, predeceased by his son, Charles, Jr., who passed away one month earlier. Zoe Pechette went to join her husband and son in 1924, aged 84. They are interred in Calvary Cemetery.

That’s the way it was in January 1905!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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