I first stumbled on the Steinway Mansion while taking a Sunday stroll through my neighborhood, Astoria. Ben and I wandered into Astoria’s industrial section, among factories, broken glass, and deserted streets. We walked on past a foundry and up a hill, into an almost forested spot.
Then we saw an unkempt, gated yard filled with several old cars of the same model in varying states of decay. We heard a dog barking and peered through the gate. There loomed an immense and beautiful old structure: The Steinway Mansion.
We did some research after this initial encounter. It turns out The Steinway Mansion was built in 1858. The Steinways occupied it for many years and then in the 30’s, presumably when they lost some of their fortune, they sold it to Jack Halberian. He raised his family in the house and his son inherited it after him. We read that tours can be arranged with the owner.
I imagined the owner to be a hermit, someone who hoarded dogs and cars. Someone who wanted solitude in his old, beautiful estate. Someone who buried bodies in his basement.
We came back with some friends, John and Katherine. This time, a man came out of the house. He was an older man and, oddly enough, he looked normal. He greeted us and introduced himself as Michael Halberian, and when we inquired about the mansion, he began to give us some history. How he had grown up there and moved back after his father died. After talking to us through the closed gate for a while, he invited us into the yard.
We walked through the yard to the mansion’s magnificent front. It was beautiful! 28 rooms he said. An Indian statue stands in the yard. He told us that the yard used to front the water until the land had been filled in for industrial uses. After we chatted and played with the dogs a bit, he invited us in for a tour!
We happily followed him inside, gasping at the lavish interior. The whole place was filled with antiques, art, sculptures, a telescope that he said came from JP Morgan. The high entryway showed a magnificent chandelier which could be lowered with a switch. He had a library filled with books on NY, more lovely antiques, and book shelves carved with beautiful angels. The gentlemen’s and ladies’ drawing rooms were equally amazing, with intricate carving on the fireplaces (which occupy every room). He told us how the men would smoke cigars while the women gossiped and then the doors would open to join the two rooms .
He then invited us into his finished basement. The basement included a huge jacuzzi with Greek carved statues alongside it. Adjacent was a beautiful bar room and another room filled with booths, resembling an Italian restaurant. There were also two rooms with billiards tables and books lining the walls. Lastly, was a room with comfortable-looking sofas and a giant movie screen. Contrary to my original image, it appeared that Michael was quite the host, entertaining guests, maybe having wild parties in the past, and now happy to show some nice young folks around.
In the end, we thanked him for his kindness. He informed us that he had recently sold the mansion to a woman who planned to restore it to perfect condition. Hopefully, she will be as gracious a host. I was glad to find out that the mansion constitutes a historic landmark and cannot be destroyed.