The neighborhood of Astoria is not only considered one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, but also one of the most diverse on the planet. The area has been a popular residential community for immigrant workers from all different backgrounds since the mid-19th century. It was predominantly a middle class neighborhood up until the 1990s, when investors began to see potential in the community for small-business owners and commuters looking for a short ride to Manhattan. In an effort to look at some of the most historical features of the neighborhood and how it came to be so rich in culture, here are the top 10 secrets of Astoria, Queens!
1. Astoria was named after the former richest man in America
In the earliest period of Dutch settlement in New York, a man named William Hallett lived with his wife Elizabeth on some land along the East River. In 1664, the plot was purchased from two Native American chiefs around the time when the British had taken control of the city. It was a quiet and peaceful location some ways away from the rest of the population down in the Battery and remained that way for almost a century. However, beginning in the 19th century, wealthier New Yorkers began to build homes on what was now called Hallett’s Cove in the northwest portion of Queens.
As the community grew larger, residents were looking to rename the location. With hopes of receiving some sort of investment, they decided to name the neighborhood Astoria after John Jacob Astor, the richest man in America. Despite his $40 million net worth, he only gave about $500 to the residents. Astor’s home was located just across the river from Astoria in Yorkville, but even with such proximity to the neighborhood named in his honor, he never visited. The name stuck even after the underwhelming investment with the support of some family and friends.