8. Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini, and Walt Whitman lived in Whitestone

The Towers at Beechhurst
Former home of Charlie Chaplin

More than perhaps most Queens neighborhoods, Whitestone has a significant amount of celebrities who have lived in the area. Charlie Chaplin was among the silent film stars who worked at the nearby Astoria Studios and his wife Paulette Goddard, was coincidentally raised in Whitestone. Rudolph Valentino, who starred in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, also had a home in Whitestone. Harry Houdini lived on Powells Cove Boulevard with a home near the water, which was demolished in 1995. Other notable residents included Whittaker Chambers, a writer, and Soviet spy; Harvey Samuel Firestone, who founded Firestone Tire and Rubber Company; actor and director Buster Keaton; and William Shea, a lawyer and founder of the Continental League whose name was given to Shea Stadium.

Beechhurst apartments

Another famous resident of Whitestone was Walt Whitman, who lived here in the early 1840s. In a letter, he wrote that Whitestone had pleasant scenery but not the most pleasant people. He wrote:

“I am quite happy here; and when I say this, may I flatter myself that some chord within you will throb ‘I am glad to hear that?’—Yes, as far perhaps as it falls to mortal lot, I enjoy happiness here. —Of course; I build now and then my castles in the air.—I plan out my little schemes for the future; and cogitate fancies; and occasionally there float forth like wreaths of smoke, and about as substantial, my day dreams.—But, take it all in all, I have reason to bless the breeze that wafted me to Whitestone.—We are close on the sound.—It is a beautiful thing to see the vessels, sometimes a hundred or more, all in sight at once, and moving so gracefully on the water.—Opposite to us there is a magnificent fortification under weigh.—We hear the busy clink of the hammers at morn and night, across the water; and sometimes take a sail over to inspect the works, for you know it belongs to [the] U.S.”