History as seen in postcards

Through their work, the Greater Astoria Historical Society is educating the community about the Astoria/Long Island City area and those who came before.
“Our goal is to educate the public as to what was here (and) the sacrifices people made,” Society President Richard Melnick said.
The society got its start in the late 1970s and was officially established in 1985. Among the events they have are a monthly lecture series, education series, walking tours and bicycle tours. Schools go to their facility for lectures on local history.
Currently, the photography exhibit “Hunters Point Through the Eyes of Her Son” by Frank Carrado is on display in their Long Island City location.
Beginning in 2004 with “Images of America: Long Island City,” the Greater Astoria Historical Society has been publishing books to further inform people about the area’s history. They also came out with a book on the East River and, last December, released “Postcard History Series,” which contains 220 images.
“There are things that are still in plain sight right there for all to see that made it on to postcards,” Melnick said. “The heyday of the postcard was roughly 1905 to 1915. Any building that was anything … was photographed and made into a postcard. The postcards were the e-mails of their day.”
The book was created using images from the society and postcards from the collections of Stephen Leone and Bob Stonehill. Matt LaRose of the society handled scanning the images and getting them ready for print.
Melnick did research for the book to see what structures were still there and included such information with the images. He recommends that people walk around the area with the book to see what they can find.
Melnick said that his hope for the postcard series book is that readers will gain “an appreciation for what was and resolve to preserve what still is that has significance to the community.”
The Greater Astoria Historical Society will celebrate the release of its fourth book, which focuses on the Queensborough Bridge, at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 7. For this book, the society has teamed up with the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.
Melnick said that the society, which has 300 members with a core group of about 50, has already begun making plans for a fifth book. It will be on the Steinway piano factory and family. Melnick said they hope to release the book in 2009.
Recently, the society obtained a door from the 1700s to a Queens home that had been seized by the British. The door will eventually become part of an exhibition.
The society’s space is also used for local groups to have meetings, such as Green Shores NYC, Transportation Alternatives Western Queens and the Long Island City Alliance. Melnick said that there is office space available for non-profit organizations to rent as well.
The Great Astoria Historical Society is located in the Quinn Gallery at 35-20 Broadway, fourth floor, in Long Island City. To find out more about the society, its books, upcoming events or becoming a member, call 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

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