Located in the north central Queens County, west of Flushing, Corona was first settled in 1655, (long before the area had an official name), by Robert Coe from Hempstead, LI. In those early years, the area was sparsely settled farmland, thick forest land towards the Junction Boulevard end, rolling open meadow on the east and a vast swampland along Flushing Creek. This unnamed area lay between the villages of Newtown to the west and Flushing to the east. At that time, it this area of Queens was considered part of Newtown, Long Island.
The area had several families settle on the 400 acre area from 1684 through 1910 when it was sold to a development company and the estate was cut up into building lots and some erected houses. The area was first marketed as Corona Heights in 1883 when part of the property was also sold for development. The last most prominent land owner of early Corona was Charles Leverich, President of Bank of New York and a benefactor of Corona. His house and property were sold upon his death in 1928.
Following the construction of the Flushing Railroad, in 1853, new expansion into the area took place. One f the most notable sites in early Corona was the National Race Course, commonly called the Fashion Course, that opened June 26, 1854, for racing and horse breeding. The last races were run during the spring of 1869, was located between 97th and 105th Streets and 34th to 37th Avenues. The track operated until it was auctioned off on June 15, 1974 to make room development and the double-track expansion of the railroad.
The area finally received its official name in 1870 from Thomas Waite Howard, a real estate developer, who suggested in his eyes, Corona was “the crown of Queens County.” An affidavit for a post office was granted by Washington, with a population of 600 citizens, in June 1872. The first post office in this area was opened at 43rd Avenue and National Street. The expansion of the railroad and trolley access through Corona to Flushing in 1896 provided greater access to the area including the recreational areas on the North Beach (East Elmhurst) and north Corona. At that time, the outskirts of Corona was still wooded and wild, especially to the north and east, with small game, geese and goats.
Beginning in 1885, Corona’s population shows greater signs of an expanding social life with the proliferation of about twenty-five saloons, card-playing and baseball, athletic clubs, political associations, fraternal orders and ethnic clubs. For the youth, were baseball and tennis clubs, a bowling league and cycle club, music societies, several social and gun clubs. The ethnic population consisted of English, Irish, German, Italian and Scandinavian immigrants. An African American presence is not seen in Corona in the very early 20th Century.
A picture of the local business community included: an ice business, a tinsmith, 3 baker, 2 drug store, a milk business, 3 groceries, 4 meat markets, 3 blacksmiths, a carpenter, a barber, an undertaker, a tea store, one fancy goods, a decorating store and real estate, 6 saloons, up to 10 hotels.
Several local factories produced shirts, china and porcelain works, floor and wall tiles, ceramics, straw goods, hats and millinery, portable houses.
Another social activities was “trolley parties”, an extension of the public trolley for five cents, these elegant and luxurious parlor cars ran along Corona and Junction Avenues to the North Beach (East Elmhurst) and to Flushing, with butlers and waiters serving hot and cold refreshments for twenty-five cents. The cars were hired for private parties, joy riding, sigh seeing and card parties on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays between Corona-Flushing-North Beach and City Hall, Brooklyn.
With the advent of several citizen leagues in 1890, the newest addition to the city life of the community was to improve the quality of life in their community with “well-kept streets, good sidewalks, streetlights, and quiet orderly Sundays.” (47) The fundraising efforts in 1892 provided sufficient funds to “flag” a sidewalk and purchase and install gasoline street lights along National Avenue and 48th Avenue. By the end of the over 4,400 feet of sidewalk had been laid in the community. Muddy, streets and boulders and uneven grading were replaced with surfaced roads.
Corona quickly grew as larger parcels of estate land and farms was divided and sold off with the death of its owners and sold to developers and building lots during the 1880’s and 1890’s. During that period it is reported that over 6,090 lots were purchased. Great growth in land development and population took place in the early 1900’s with an estimated population spurt to approximately 40,000 from 2,500 in 1898. Where the streets were originally named after trees in the mid 1850’s, in 1911, the Queens Topographical Bureau changed all the street names in Elmhurst and Corona and assigned numbers from 1-55 to all the streets along Northern Boulevard, from Long Island City to Flushing Creek, all with no consultation or approval from anyone. This changed again in 1916 by the Board of Estimate, with the adaptation of the Philadelphia Numbering System, “which provided for a consecutive numbering of all streets in Queens County…”
The first branch of the Queens Public Library in Corona was in the shape of a traveling library, with a station containing about 800 books, at Junction Avenue in September 1910. Library hours were 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Due to popularity and the public demand, a storefront branch was opened on the south side of 43rd Avenue off of 102nd Street on May 27, 1911. As demand continued to grow, funding of $35,000 was proposed by Borough President Connolly, a Corona resident, for a new library building project. By this time, the Corona Library moved to the ground floor of a brick building on 43rd Avenue and 104th Street. The library remained in this building through WW I.
The single most important event that occurred in Corona may well be the installation of the elevated train along Roosevelt, that began in September 1913 and opened on April 21, 1917.
The most famous business in Corona was the Tiffany Glass Factory, at 97th Place at 43rd Avenue in 1893 through 1928.
The largest land project during that time in the Corona area was the filling in of the Corona Meadows, from 111th Street to Flushing Creek, and Flushing Bay to the Long Island Expressway. The area eventually became known as the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and was the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.
The Langston Hughes Community Library opened in April 1969 in the site of a former Woolworth Department Store at 102-09 Northern Boulevard between 102nd and 103rd Streets. It remained there until November 1999, when it moved to its current location, 100-01 Northern Boulevard, at the corner of 100th Street, the former site of a lumber company.
* taken from The Story of Corona From Farmland to City Supurb 1650-1935, Queens Community Series, Vincent F. Seyfried, 1986.