Hunters Point Historic District: The Homes of Root and Rust

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    A few things to get out of the way at the start of this post are that a) the intersection of 23rd Street and 45th Avenue in the Hunters Point section used to be part of the Van Alst family’s farming empire, b) the Van Alst land was purchased by Eliaphas Nott on behalf of Union College in 1861, and that c) it was purchased and developed by two fellows named Root and Rust in 1870. The predominance of buildings in the historic district are actually from the 1890s, and even in the 19th century this area was considered special – it was “White Collar Row” and home to LIC’s bankers and elected officialdom.

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    More after the jump…

    The uniform cornice line found on the north side of the street is somehow soothing to the eye, and most of these three-story brick structures (with basements) were built by the aforementioned Spencer Root and John Rust in the 1870s. Interestingly enough, the lot sizes which the buildings sit on vary, and some of them were built noticeably narrower than others.

    From hdc.org:

    This district features a row of forty-seven townhouses built between 1871 and 1890 in the Italianate, French Second Empire and Neo-Grec styles. Original stoops, lintels, pediments, and other details can still be found on many of the homes. Designated May 15, 1968.

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    On the south side of 45th Avenue are my two favorite designs. I am particularly fond of the red and black structures whose street addresses span 21-31 to 21-39 45th Avenue.

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    There is such a neat and clean esthetic to these Italianate buildings. Fine detailing and woodwork like this just call out to me, showing the abundance of taste and substance which once went into the design of residential parcels. These buildings went up during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, when there were still cowboys riding around, by the way.

    From Google:

    In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the area was home to established families and prosperous citizens; at one point the block was known as “white collar row.” During the 1880s, “Battle Axe” Gleason, the last mayor of Long Island City before the consolidation of New York, resided on 12th Street (now 45th Avenue).

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    Closer to the corner of 21st Street, the incredibly beautiful detailing of the the five homes found between 21-09 – 21-16 45th Avenue, with their cast iron accoutrement, detailed lintels, and elegant stoops, make for a real show stopper. This is also Rust and Root, and date back to 1871-2.

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    If you’ve got some time to kill, because… y’know, the 7 train is out again and you’re stuck in Hunters Point, why not stroll over to 45th Avenue between 23rd and 21st Streets and check out the Hunters Point Historic District? It really is worth a look, and is like stepping back into an earlier age, before enormous sapphire boxes of glass were roughly hewn and thrown up against the sky.

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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