Greater Astoria Historial Society 35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor | L.I.C., NY 11106 718.278.0700 | www.astorialic.org Gallery Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 2-5 PM Saturdays 12-5 PM Exhibits ~ Lectures ~ Documentaries ~ Books Walking Tours ~ Historical Research Unique & Creative Content For more information visit us on the web at www.astorialic.org This image adapted from an invitation to the Long Island City Athletics 33rd Annual Masque Ball, 1909. 32 january 2015 i LIC COURIER i www.queenscourier.com ■LEGENDS Long Island City is comprised of many communities, Astoria, Sunnyside, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, Steinway, Old Astoria Village, and Hunters Point. Like any normal family, each community has its own way to come to grips with its shared legacy, from acceptance to hostility to benign indifference. This installment discusses the family behind the heart of our fair city, the Hunters of Hunters Point. The political and administrative heart of Long Island City has always been the “downtown” area of Hunters Point, the junction of Vernon and Jackson Avenues and the surrounding territory. It is difficult for us to realize that as recently as 1850 the downtown area was a small island, and bisected by Vernon Avenue, hardly more than four blocks wide and a little less than that in length. On November 30, 1900, the Long Island Star-Journal ran an interview with “an old-timer from the neighborhood,” 64-year-old Jacob B. Hunter at his home on Hunter Street. “Young man,” said Mr. Hunter, “I want to tell you about Hunter’s Point. As I first knew it, the place was the prettiest spot in all New York State. Perhaps you don’t believe that and I don’t blame you very much, considering present appearances, but it is true just the same. There weren’t any smokestacks to belch out smoke along this part of the river. “I can remember when Newtown Creek was a pretty and clear stream, and not marred by factories and filled with grease and oil. And do you know I used to catch out of that creek all the fish and soft shell crabs the whole family could eat? It wouldn’t take me more than half-an-hour to get a big catch. “My father and I used to row across Newtown Creek and walk along the river bank to Williamsburg where we would take the Grand Street ferry and go over to Barnum’s Museum. It was down on the corner of Fulton Street and Broadway then, and a right interesting place it was for us boys too. There were all sorts of curiosities and animals. They had a sort of vaudeville entertainment, too. It beats your swell theaters, let me tell you!” LEGENDS OF LIC BY GREATER ASTORIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY LEGENDS OF LIC Hunter explained that in the 1850s the view of the city from Hunters Point was not very good. “Herald Square was a waste of rocky land and what is now Central Park was about the dirtiest place I ever saw.” He elaborated, “It was a sort of cow and pig pasture combined.” The age-old character of Hunters Point as a low island above tidewater came to an end with the death of Jacob’s grandparents. The widow provided in her will that her three sons, Jacob, John, and Richard should sell off Hunters Point within three years after her death. On June 17, 1835, the estate was sold for $100,000. Jacob’s family moved to a farm on 29th Street. By 1900, at the time of Jacob’s interview, the ancestral home was long gone; the sand from its hill used to fill in the marshy riverbank. On April 15, 1916, 16 years after his interview, Jacob Bennett Hunter passed away. He was the last local member of the family. It is said that Hunter Street was named in his honor.
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