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 2016 i LIC COURIER i www.qns.com ■LEGENDS Photo by Vernel Black A STORY YET TO TELL Harold Van Buren Magonigle is noted architect, artist, and author. Documents from the New York Public Library show he was retained in 1914 to make “Alterations to club house for B.P.O. Elks Lodge #878, 226-28 44th Place, Long Island City, N.Y: Elevation of new bar, plans of cellar and first floor.” Van Buren Magonigle had an impressive resume having worked for both Calvert Vaux, the designer of Central Park, and the architects of the “Gilded Age,” McKim Mead & White. For more than a decade, he was the President of the New York Chapter, American Institute of Architects. He collaborated with sculptor Attilio Piccirilli, as architect and artist, on two familiar landmarks in New York City: the Monument to the USS Maine in Columbus Circle and the Fireman’s Memorial on Riverside Drive. And of course, the Elks Club in LIC. The rooms remained pretty much intact under ownership of the Knights of Columbus. The club’s Facebook has a young man’s memory of being taken around the building in the 1950s by his father, a member: “In the basement were two manual bowling alleys. On the main floor was the Father Denigan Memorial Room which was fitted out as a members reading room complete with sofas, easy chairs and a fire place overlooking 44th Drive. To the rear was the Council Tap Room with a large horseshoe bar. The meeting rooms were on the floor above. And on the top floor there were rooms for some members who needed a room.” A few weeks ago, someone dropped this message into the Greater Astoria In-basket: “When we visited the Elks Building earlier in the week, we noticed a sign in front saying that the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air & Transportation Workers, Local 137 had relocated and the building is now vacant. Demolition permits are issued.” The National Trust of Historic Preservation wrote much of the following message, and it gives solid advice that should be heeded by those busy reinventing Long Island City: an older building that is part of a community’s tangible past (and this may surprise cynics) can offer opportunities for a community’s future that no modern building can hope to achieve. Historic buildings give tourists and longtime residents an opportunity to experience the aesthetic and cultural history of an area. A city needs old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage. These buildings have an intrinsic value in being built by standards that no longer exist. Is it the warmth of the materials, the heart pine, marble, or old brick or the resonance of other people, other activities? Maybe they are just more interesting than new ones. It is older buildings, as author and activist Jane Jacobs once noted, that make successful communities. People like places in cities which are untidy, complex and full of surprises. Think of Greenwich Village or DUMBO – communities that learned to weave the old with the new. The preservation of historic buildings is a one-way street. There is no chance to renovate or to save a historic site once it’s gone. This reality brings to light the importance of locating and saving buildings of historic significance because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever. The Elks Hall has yet a story to tell. It gives the community a final opportunity to create a sense of place, as a tourist center, a meeting and performance space, or a cultural and educational center. It could be the Heart of LIC.
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