If you live in the Ditmars section of Astoria, you’re probably familiar with the work of Berch Augustine—whether you know it or not. Many of the local businesses have hired him at some time or other to paint their windows or walls. He’s quite prolific, and lately I’ve been snapping shots of his painting as I’ve run across it. This mural, done for 36th Street Animal Clinic just off Ditmars, had a warm glow to it just before sunset, which complimented the colors of the lettering. You can read more about Mr. Augustine on Nancy Ruhling’s “Astoria Characters” blog.
Ashrita Furman is a local celebrity. While he is not managing a health food store in Jamaica, he attempts to break world records. According to this documentary, he has broken 350 world records. I’m sure he has broken more since the making of this. You can check out the entire 24 minute documentary about him here. When you’re in the neighborhood, you can stop by and say hello. Also, tons of footage of Queens, that’s not just stock footage you’d see on episodes of King of Queens.
Today I learned that the “ASW” building, the large, incongruous factory-type building on 23rd Avenue near Steinway, is the former Astoria Silk Works factory. From a quick Google search, this excerpt from The Encyclopedia of New York City:
"Factory in Astoria, Queens, established in 1820. Part of the West Point foundry owned by Gouverneur Kemble, it was one of two factory sites; the other was in Cold Springs, Long Island. Astoria Silk Works was owned by investors that included Jacob Ruppert and William Steinway. The mill was located on Steinway Avenue (now Street) near Potter Avenue (now 23rd Avenue). It was composed of brick buildings, marked by ‘ASW,’ that still stand today. A fire in 1914 closed the factory permanently."
Today it’s home to various businesses, including a dance studio, a photographer, a tattoo shop, Astoria Sound Works (which makes good use of the old initials), and more.