Astoria Homestead Company

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With William Steinway as its principal shareholder and incorporated in New York State in January 1889, the Astoria Homestead Company, initially capitalized at $250,000, had as its stated purpose "the purchase of vacant and improved real estate, the erection, sale, renting and leasing of buildings and building sites for the purpose of residence, manufacturing, stores, etc. etc." (3. 1889-02-02 meeting)

Much of the land purchased by the company was located near the Steinway factory (which was established in Astoria beginning in 1873) and in or near the company town called Steinway Village in Long Island City in Queens. William Steinway had long combined investment in real estate and other things with charitable works using the assets of Steinway & Sons. Establishment of the Astoria Homestead Company allowed a separate corporation to attend to these land matters (Steinway still used assets of Steinway & Sons to finance this company).(2) William believed that this vacant and neglected land would soon be more accessible to New York City [note: Queens, Brooklyn, North Bronx, and Staten Island did not join Manhattan in Greater New York City until 1898.] via new bridges or tunnels, and therefore he felt that such land was a good investment opportunity.(1) William also hoped that this land could be used to provide better living conditions for the working people of New York than tenements in the city (and therefore provide better workers for his company). The vacant land purchased was developed with streets and dwellings that were then sold or rented, as well as with schools, firehouses, and recreational facilities. A number of factories were also built on land of the Astoria Homestead Company, providing employment for numbers of people. In addition, William Steinway allowed unused land to be given to deserving poor as plots on which to grow food.(1) Occasionally the Astoria Homestead Company purchased land in other parts of the city, such as the Grote homestead and mansion in Belmont Village and a few properties in NYC and Yonkers.

When established in 1889, the Astoria Homestead Company had authorized capital of $250,000, of which half was paid in at the start with the remainder being paid in 1890. The company opened bank accounts with Queens County Bank in Long Island City and with Union Square Bank in New York City. (3, 02-02-1889 meeting) In 1893 the capital of the company was increased to $500,000. (3, 07-11-1893 meeting) By 1896, the capital stock had risen to $1 million.

William Steinway was the principal shareholder of the company, with very small amounts held by four or five others. For example, in January 1891 (authorized capital of $250,000 with each share valued at $100) William Steinway owned 2,486 shares, George A Steinway owned 10 shares, Louis Von Bernuth owned 1 share, Harry D. Low owned 1 share, David Horn owned 1 share, and Adolph Burkard owned 1 share. David Horn and Adolph Burkard were residents of Long Island City, Queens. The others were residents of New York City.

 Each year in January the shareholders held an annual meeting to elect a Board of Directors for that year consisting of 5 persons who were drawn from the list of shareholders. The Board of Directors then met, usually shortly thereafter on the same day, to elect officers of the company. William took the role of trustee (or member of the executive committee) for himself with the other members of the Board being elected as officers of the company. In most years Louis Von Bernuth was President, and Harry D. Low was Treasurer (and sometimes Secretary as well). Adolph Burkard was generally Vice President. David Horn was usually a trustee with William. (3) In May 1896 a special meeting of the stockholders of the Astoria Homestead Company was called for the purpose of consolidating two of William Steinway’s land companies into a new company, called the new Astoria Homestead Company. The agreement was approved by both boards of directors and certified in Queens County. The directors of the old Astoria Homestead Company were: William Steinway, Louis Von Bernuth, Harry D Low, David Horn, and Russell Schaller. The directors of the Ravenswood Improvement Company were: William Steinway, Louis Von Bernuth, Harry D. Low, David Horn and F. Reidemeister. The directors of the new Astoria Homestead Company were: William Steinway, Louis Von Bernuth, Harry D. Low, David Horn, and Russell Schaller. The capital stock of the new Astoria Homestead Company was $1,000,000. The term of existence of the new corporation was set at 50 years. (3, 05-09-1896 meeting)

Map of Steinway & Sons holdings in Astoria (at that time part of Long Island City), circa 1874

Map of Steinway & Sons holdings in Astoria (at that time part of Long Island City), circa 1874

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1. "Astoria Homestead Co.," The New York Times, July 12, 1896, p. 25.

2. Lieberman, Richard K. Steinway & Sons. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, pp. 78-86, 104-105.

3. "Steinway Village—Minute Book of the Astoria Homestead Company." Folder. LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, Fiorello H. LaGuadia Community College/CUNY, Long Island City, Queens.