A Greater Astoria Historical Society Tour (Greater Astoria Historical Society)

Spend Saturday with world famous musicians and Sunday amid remnants of a philanthropist’s largesse.

The Corona-East Elmhurst Historic Preservation Society will lead the Jazz Icons Tour on Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. Then, the Greater Astoria Historical Society and Forgotten NY will facilitate the College Point/Poppenhusen Institute Walking Tour on Sept. 30 at noon.

Corona and East Elmhurst are sister neighborhoods just to the south of LaGuardia Airport. Mostly residential, they were among the first areas in the United States where African-Americans could legally buy property. As such, many prominent individuals – including baseball player Willie Mays and writer Langston Hughes — made their homes there. (Eric Holder, the Attorney General during the Obama Administration, is a native son.)

The tour will focus on the former abodes of entertainers. The most famous are Ella Fitzgerald (aka The Queens of Jazz), who lived on Ditmars Boulevard, and Harry Belafonte (aka The King of Calypso), who resided on 98th Street. Other dwellings on the schedule are those once inhabited by Bill Kenny, the lead singer of the 1930s vocal group the Ink Spots; Junior Mance, a jazz pianist and composer; Honi Coles, an actor and tap dancer; and Ray Bryant, a jazz pianist, composer, and arranger.

Participants will also head to 34th Avenue to see the Dorie Miller Cooperative Houses. Opened in 1953 and named after the first African-American awarded the Navy Cross, this complex was NYC’s first integrated co-op. NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath, the leader of Flushing Town Hall’s Queens Jazz Orchestra, still lives there.

Tickets are $45 and include lunch. Meet at Queens Library’s Langston Hughes Branch at 100-01 Northern Blvd.

Then on Sunday, a Forgotten NY guide will take a group through College Point, which lies to the northeast of LaGuardia Airport and owes some of its development to Conrad Poppenhusen, who is known as “The Father of Modern College Point.”

In 1854, the German immigrant built a rubber plant there. Many German immigrants worked at the factory, turning a farming village into a company town. Business boomed, making Poppenhusen a wealthy man. He responded with philanthropy, helping build churches, libraries, the causeway that’s now College Point Boulevard, and the Poppenhusen Institute, a multi-faceted community center that still exists today. (In 1870, it housed the first kindergarten in the United States.)

Participants will also check out artwork by sculptor Hermon A. MacNeil in a public park named after him, a few large mansions, and vistas of the East River.

Ticket cost $20. Meet at College Point Boulevard at 14th Road.


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