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Photo courtesy of Greater Astoria Historical Society
Photo courtesy of Greater Astoria Historical Society
Historians are asking for help to preserve a building in Astoria that was home to a famous pianist.

A building in Astoria that was once home to renowned pianist Ferdinand Quentin Dulcken is slated for demolition, but local historians are fighting to have it preserved.

The Dulcken house, located at 31-07 31st Ave., was built in 1876. According to permits filed with the Department of Buildings, owner Georgo Hrisikopoulos wants to turn it into a six-story, 10-unit apartment with an eating and drinking establishment on the first floor.

Richard Melnick, a member of the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS), attended a Community Board 1 meeting in April and urged the advisory to help them save the building. The GAHS submitted an application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to have the building landmarked, but were told that the building was not eligible for preservation because of alterations to the exterior.

“New York City retains its greatest legacy of the creative capital of the world. It owes this in no small measure to the Steinways and to Professor Dulcken,” he said. “Ferdinand Dulcken was a protégé of Felix Mendelssohn, a very famous composer in his time. The Greater Astoria Historical Society would be willing to chair an effort but we need everyone’s help. We can’t do it alone.”

According to an application that the GAHS sent to the LPC, Dulcken’s mother Louise was a child prodigy who spoke German, English, French and Italian. She was the first female pianist to perform with the London Philharmonic and Queen Victoria asked her for keyboard lessons.

Dulcken was born in 1837 and was one of six children of Theobald and Louise Dulcken. He moved to New York in 1876 and worked at Steinway Hall in Manhattan, a retail and performance space opened by Steinway & Sons, where he taught piano lessons to famous musicians.

Dulcken, who was a professor at Warsaw University for five years, also worked with the Steinway family in Astoria to manage artists and establish a concert arts program, Melnick said.

In 1884, he married Mary Totten and they moved into the French Second Empire Mansion, where mementos such as a framed note from author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were allegedly common to find. He died in 1901 and the home was sold in 1931.

Though the group has not received any official support from local elected officials or the Community Board, they have long argued that historic buildings in Long Island City and Astoria are not getting the attention they deserve.

The Steinway Mansion, a building that Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg used as a summer home and where established his piano building company Steinway & Sons just a few blocks away, is now surrounded by commercial buildings.

In Long Island City, the group fought for the preservation of the Elks Lodge, which was built in 1908 and acted as “one of the most powerful political institutions in Queens for the next half century,” according to GAHS.

The LPC ruled that the property at 21-42 44th Dr. did not merit landmark status because of its “comparative lack of historic and architectural significance relative to other landmarked clubhouses.”

Melnick said the group hopes the building can be turned into a tourist destination, performance space and learning center. GAHS will formally announce the establishment of a committee to help preserve the house, like they did with The Friends of Steinway Mansion.

If anyone is interested in joining the committee or has any questions about the house or efforts to save it, you can contact the GAHS at astorialic@gmail.com or call 718-278-0700.

Photo by Angela Matua/QNS

Photo by Angela Matua/QNS

 

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