Queensline: First passenger train runs through Astoria in March 1917

In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.

The drumbeat to war rings ominously through the pages of March 1917.

On March 16, Bohemians, eager to show loyalty to United States, hold a meeting at Bohemian Hall, where they hail President Wilson as ‘a defender of the rights of small nations.’ All who attend the meeting take a Loyalty Pledge to the United States.

Loft Candies announces a new factory in Long Island City. Once completed, two hundred persons will turn 50 barrels of sugar and 50 barrels of cocoa into six tons of candy daily.

Degnon Terminal breaks ground for an additional million square feet of manufacturing space, the first major addition to the 2 million feet put up only three years before. The buildings boast that, as a safe, secure location, tenant insurance rates are lower. Their massive size, making for efficient electric distribution, is passed on as cheaper utility bills to businesses.

The Astoria Taxpayers and Business Association discusses the need for a new bridge over the East River, perhaps linking Fulton Street in Astoria with 86th Street in Manhattan. They note that trucks and autos have an extensive wait for the 92nd Street Ferry, or are forced to make the long detour to the Queensborough Bridge.

The first passenger train runs over the Hell Gate Bridge and through Astoria. It is the aristocratic Federal Express between Boston and Washington (with a Pittsburgh sleeper). Previously, the trip was made from Port Morris, in the Bronx, to Jersey City on the steamer “Maryland.” It was an hourlong, 14-mile trip through the crowded East River.

More than 2,000 signatures on a petition ask for extending the “el” from Ditmars Boulevard to Steinway Street. Attorney Peacock of the New York and Queens County Railway tells the Public Service Commission that traffic is half its normal volume on Steinway and Second Avenues (today 31st Street) after the Ditmars “el” opens. He proposes a trolley loop around Bridge Plaza.

The Queensborough Elks, who has recently completed a hall on Nott Avenue in 1908, are already looking to move to larger quarters more centrally located in the borough. Of the lodge’s 500 members, some 300 are from Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Jamaica.

The Star-Journal complains about the post office. Despite a special delivery stamp, a letter is mailed from Woodhaven on Thursday evening only to arrive in Long Island City Saturday morning. Its markings tell a vagabond story. First its delivered to Far Rockaway, its then sent to Pennsylvania Station, Manhattan, then back across the river to Brooklyn, finally arriving in Long Island City two days later.

The release of Mrs. Margaret Sanger, birth control propagandist, is delayed two hours from the Queens County jail while Warden McCann and two keepers attempt to get her fingerprints. She claims, to the 30 adherents who greet her at the door, that she successfully resists their forcible attempts.

“I told them it was time that the law made a distinction between political prisoners who went to jail because of their principles and cut throats and robbers.” After singing the Marsellaise, they go off in several automobiles for breakfast in Manhattan.

That’s the way it was in March 1917!

For further info, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or www.astorialic.org.

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