Western Queens Was Home To Family Of Christmas Fame

The Moore You Know

The five boroughs of New York City were established on January 1, 1898. Prior to what was called the “Great Consolidation” of five counties to make one huge metropolis, Astoria was part of Newtown township in the days when Queens was its own county. Newtown has been inhabited since the days of Dutch colonial rule. In its four-hundred-year history, it has witnessed many events and become home to many historically famous families.

Photo Courtesy of the Queens Historical Society: the Lawrence family Christmas Tree

One such family was the Moore family of New England. The Moores were one of the most prominent families of Newtown, with family members living in both Astoria and neighboring Elmhurst just a couple miles south. Captain Moore built a house along Broadway near 45th Avenue in 1661, and the property remained in the family for centuries. During the Revolutionary War, British General William Howe made the house his Long Island headquarters.

One of Captain Moore’s great-great-grandsons was Clement Clarke Moore, who is best known as the author of the classic children’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which he composed for his wife and children in 1822. Later, a family friend published the poem anonymously in the upstate newspaper, the Troy Sentinel, in 1823. After being reprinted in newspapers, magazines, and illustrated editions, the poem became an instant classic popularly known as “Twas the Night before Christmas.”

During this period of time, it was believed that Clement Clarke Moore used the family homestead as a periodic country retreat. Although he did write the famous Christmas poem here, one can hope that the settings of the 19th Century Newtown inspired his renowned prose. “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

During the Victorian age, Christmas in Astoria resembled a scene that could very well have come out of Clement Clarke Moore’s immortal poem. December 25th in Queens was ushered in at midnight as the tones from cornets and other musical instruments coming from the vicinity of the Steinway Reformed Church filled the night air over the village of Astoria. Many carols were played, houses in the church’s vicinity lit up, as people rushed to their windows to hear the music, which was provided by members and friends of the church. In the children’s ward of St. John’s Hospital (where today’s Citi Corp Tower stands), Santa distributed gifts to the youngsters in the afternoon. In the evening, a special supper and entertainment were presented to the hospital sisters, doctors, and nurses. We wish all our readers a very happy holiday season, and in the words of Clement Clarke Moore, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”