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After an apocalyptic fire in 1886, the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works needed a new headquarters. One that befit its role as the preeminent manufacturer of architectural ceramics.

Built in 1892 as an office for the company that supplied terra-cotta for Carnegie Hall and the Ansonia Hotel, among others. The company went out of business in the 1930s, and the building became vacant. It was eventually bought in 1965 by Citibank. Its ruins can be found at 42-10 – 42-16 Vernon Avenue, across the street from the sumptuous hedonism of the newly opened Ravel Hotel, and next door to the venerable and recently feted span of the centuried Queensboro Bridge.

Two and one half stories, the structure is actually the front office of an industrial complex that was once surrounded by a 12 foot high wall of brick, which enclosed an open storage yard, a 5 story factory, and the kilnworks one would expect to find at such a large endeavor.

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The story of modern Queens began when the Queensboro Bridge (aka the Ed Koch Queensboro bridge, but nobody in Queens actually calls it that) opened for business in 1909. Before the great span opened, Queens was a patchwork of agricultural towns and villages that had more to do with Brooklyn and each other than with “the City”- as Manhattan was and is known. Queensboro sparked off an industrial revolution during the early 20th century, an age when Long Island City was referred to as the “workshop of America.”

According to the NYC DOT, the bridge carries better than 180,000 motorists and 800 bikers and pedestrians daily, using ten lanes for vehicles and one for foot and bike traffic. It’s 100 feet wide, 130 feet over the water, and at its longest point some 1,182 feet long. At one time it carried streetcar (trolley) tracks as well.

A great spot to contemplate the Queensboro Bridge is from the Penthouse808 rooftop lounge atop the Ravel Hotel at 8-08 Queens Plaza South.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

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Image Source: Greater Astoria Historical Society

Chartered in 1985, the Greater Astoria Historical Society strives to preserve and recall the past as a way to improve the future of Queens. The nonprofit frequently organizes field trips, walking tours, slide presentations, exhibitions and guest lectures throughout the borough (despite its one-neighborhood name).

Looking to fulfill its mission and raise money, GAHS will host a Book Extravaganza at its Broadway headquarters, featuring a mind-boggling selection of fiction and non-fiction covering history, cooking, children’s tales, fantasy, self-help, sci-fi and much more. The group will also sell its signature Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City t-shirts.

Quinn Building, 35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor, Long Island City
Saturday, December 8, 2012
10am – 4pm | FREE to attend

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Last week we gave you a little teaser with some retro images of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. This week, Anne Shisler-Hughes brings us up to speed on the history of both the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World’s Fairs, two important events in NYC history -Ed.

If you head out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to catch a Mets game or see world-class tennis during the US Open, you may run across the structural remnants of two major events in the 20th century history of New York City and Queens: New York’s two World’s Fairs, held in 1939-40 and 1964-65.

Those events, which hosted more than 75 million visitors, may not have left behind structures as beloved as Paris’s Eiffel Tower (1889 Fair) or Seattle’s Space Needle (1962 Fair), but today we do have evidence – expressed through aspirational designs – of a place in time when bringing people together to present the laudable achievements and boldly imagined future of human progress through cooperation, technology and exploration was an extraordinary and important occasion.

The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair