Whitestone, Queens has been home to a Soviet spy and famous American authors, it boasts a spaceship-shaped church, and has been the site of multiple shipwrecks. You might not have realized that all of this history is hidden within the quiet, residential neighborhood that sits east of College Point and west of Bayside. Inaccessible by subway, within Whitestone, you’ll find the smaller neighborhoods of Beechhurst and Malba, both of which were popular destinations for celebrities. The name, Whitestone – which the neighborhood shares with its eponymous bridge – was derived from the limestone that lay on the shore of the East River during the time of Dutch settlement. The area was mostly occupied by the estate of politician and merchant Francis Lewis, and by the mid-1800s, many mansions were constructed in the area. Development picked up around the early 1900s, and today, most restaurants and businesses are located along 150th Street and 14th Road. From its famous residents to its fascinating sights, uncover the top 10 secrets of Whitestone.
1. Many shipwrecks, including the Holland III, occurred near Whitestone Point
Whitestone Point has been the site of quite a few shipwrecks over the years, including the wreck of the Holland III. The Holland IIII was a prototype submarine manufactured by John Holland, whose Holland 1 was the first Royal Navy submarine. He also developed the first submarine that was formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy. It was modeled off his Fenian Ram, a much larger submarine that would be used against the British by the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish republican association in the U.S. The Brotherhood, though, stole the prototype and the Fenian Ram from the Morris Canal Basin after a money dispute. The group intended to use the ship to fight for Irish independence. After traversing the East River, the ship started to sink near Whitestone Point, sinking 110 feet. It has never been recovered, though recently the National Underwater and Marine Agency tried its hand at it.
The year 1908 was a particularly disastrous year for shipwrecks near Whitestone. Two occurred on the same day, May 22: the H.T. Hedges, a schooner, sunk off Whitestone Point, though all five people on board survived. The other ship was an unknown schooner that collided with an anchored barge off Whitestone and was later beached. Later that year on November 3, the Henry L. Walt caught fire off Whitestone Point. The ship was later beached at College Point, and all four people on board were saved.