New Coalition Looks to Turn Astoria's Steinway Mansion into Museum

By Jeanmarie Evelly on February 28, 2013 3:04pm 

ASTORIA — The sprawling Steinway Mansion, once home to the world's most famous piano-making family, has had a "For Sale" sign perched on its stately lawn for the past several years.

Now a newly-formed coalition of Queens stakeholders have banded together to seek a buyer for the landmarked Astoria property, in the hopes that it could be used as a public museum or cultural center.

"The Steinway Mansion is indeed a place of significance, and should be saved for the benefit of future generations," said Bob Singleton, head of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which announced the formation of the Friends of Steinway Mansion earlier this week.

The 27-room mansion, an Italianate-style villa situated atop a hill at 18-33 41st St., not far from the Steinway & Sons piano factory, was built in the 1850s. It was home to the Steinway family from the end of the 19th-century until 1925, and declared a New York City landmark in 1967.

Local groups have been calling for a public use of the building for years, Singleton said, but this is the first time an official effort has been launched. So far, the coalition's members include Assemblywomen Margaret Markey, Astoria Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, the Long Island City-based Artisans Guild of America as well as the Steinway and Sons company itself.

"There's something very magical about the name Steinway," Singleton said, saying the family's patriarch who started the company, German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway, represents the best of the American dream.

"New York is a city of immigrants, and here the Steinways came in from Germany and they made these fabulous pianos."

The Steinway Mansion was bought by the Halberian family in 1925, and was put up for sale several years ago. Singleton said the family has been receptive in the past to the idea of the property being used as a cultural and historical site. According to the New York Daily News, the asking price for the house was dropped to $2.995 million last year.

Singleton said the coalition is working to garner public support for their vision, and is hoping a strong candidate will come forward soon to purchase the home for the purpose of a community use.

"That place should thrive," he said. "[It] should be open, and it's story should be told to future generations."

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