Learn about Astoria’s Irish History from 1638 and where to celebrate Patrick’s Day!

For this St. Patrick’s Day, we look at the little-known history of the Irish in Astoria. According to the research paper “Irish Settlers in Queens County, City of New York” by Michael J. O’Brien, the first recorded Irish person to arrive in Queens was Sarah Ryan in 1638. She came to America with her husband Sylvester Baldwin and their children from England. Her husband died during the voyage. In 1671, the Lynch family arrived from Ireland and settled in Jamaica, Queens. In 1695, Thomas Lynch of Jamaica married Margaret Riker of the Riker Island family.

Steinway Ave House 1
Photo from the Queens Historical Society.

Steinway Av Pub on Steinway Street and 30th Avenue circa 1887

With the majority of the population in Queens hailing from British, Dutch, or German cultures, the Irish population began to slowly increase throughout the years. The first Irish to appear in Astoria was around 1730. They were the McDonough family, John and his brothers James and Augustine, who came here from County Kildare, Ireland. Around this time, the Reverend Francis Doughty purchased more than 100 acres of land in what would become Long Island City facing the East River.

On January 23, 1764, a police officer named Timothy McCarthy of Newtown (the former name of Astoria and Long Island City) was killed while trying to make an arrest. That same year, the first Irish school teacher, James McCarroll, was hired. The school was located along the outskirts of Astoria and made an appearance in the July 18, 1774, issue of the newspaper the New York Mercury, which stated, “the grammar school at Newtown is still continued by a young gentleman who comes well recommended.” Other early Irish settlers in Queens include Darby Doyle, who fought in the Revolutionary War against the British in 1776, as well as Thomas Kelly and Peter Fitzsimmons, who owned a tavern at Hallet’s Cove in 1778. It was here that Fitzsimmons operated a ferry which brought early Astorians across the East River to Manhattan. It is noted in “The Annals of Newtown” by James Riker that he kept “bad company” and that Fitzsimmons’ tavern was “the resort of the soldiery and refugees,” of the war.

Gleason 2
Photo: Patrick Jerome Gleason, the last mayor of Long Island City / Queens Historical Society.

More than a century later, people of Long Island City were present for the antics of one of the most noted Irishmen in Astoria history, Patrick Jerome Gleason. After immigrating to Queens from Tipperary, Ireland in 1862, Gleason operated a saloon in Williamsburg and also in Flushing. In 1881, Gleason was elected alderman of Long Island City and then was elected as mayor of LIC. After his election, Gleason created a trolley line which brought people to Calvary Cemetery and also built an electric power station and had the first electric streetcar line in Long Island City. He also invested in a waterworks. Gleason’s term in office was shortened because the 1896 law consolidating the five boroughs of New York City into one municipality eliminated his position.

At the height of his fame, the town Gleasonville was established in Woodside. The town of Woodside itself was established by an Irish-born newspaper reporter named John Andrew Kelly. This area would later become known as Irishtown. Later that year his streetcar line, Long Island City and Newtown, went into bankruptcy and was bought at auction by William Steinway through his Steinway Railway Syndicate. When the Long Island Rail Road failed to notify Gleason about a fence installed to protect its property, Gleason personally chopped it down, earning the nickname “Battle-Axe.” He was the last mayor of Long Island City.

If you are looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style, check out these noted Astoria Irish pubs:

Irish Rover

Irish Rover GOOGLE
Irish Rover photo via GOOGLE

4.5 Stars Yelp / 37-18 28th Avenue / Monday through Sunday Noon – 4 am
www.irishrovernyc.com / 718-278-9372

This Astoria favorite is the place for good Guinness and amazing service. IPAs and Brooklyn Lager are popular beverages here. Stop by for trivia night every Thursday at 7:30 pm.

Cronin and Phelan’s

Cronin and Phelans GOOGLE
Cronin and Phelans photo via GOOGLE

4.5 Stars Yelp / 38-14 Broadway, 718-545-8999 / croninandphelans.com
Noted as Astoria’s longest-standing traditional Irish pub, Cronin and Phelan’s offer up great drinks and traditional Irish pub food, including Irish Shepherd’s Pie ($18.95); Irish Mixed Grill with pork chops, Irish sausage and bacon, black and white pudding, eggs any style, and fires ($21.95) and Jameson Chicken served with an Irish whiskey cream sauce ($19.95).

The Shillelagh Tavern

The Shillelagh Tavern GOOGLE
The Shillelagh Tavern photo via GOOGLE

47-22 30th Avenue / 4 Stars Yelp / www.shillelaghtavern.com / 718-728-9028

Monday to Wednesday 3 pm until midnight; Thursdays 3 pm until 2 am; Friday & Saturday Noon until 4 am and Sunday Noon until midnight.
The Shillelagh Tavern has been open since 1925 and has the titles of Astoria’s oldest-standing bar. Patrons of The Shillelagh Tavern can enjoy live music from the best local and traveling bands. The tavern also has all NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and Liverpool Soccer games.