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Located in the north central part of Queens County, 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 Junction Boulevard, rolling open meadow on the eastern part, 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, this area of Queens was considered part of Newtown, Long Island.
Several families settled on the 400 acre area from 1684 through 1910, when it was sold to a development company. The estate was then cut up into building lots. 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. 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 of the most notable sites in early Corona was the National Race Course, commonly called the Fashion Course, which opened June 26, 1854, for racing and horse breeding. Located between 97th and 105th Streets and 34th to 37th Avenues the last races were run during the spring of 1869. The track operated until it was auctioned off on June 15, 1874 to make room for 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 that in his eyes, Corona was “the crown of Queens County.” An affidavit for a post office was granted by Washington 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 lines 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 were still wooded and wild, especially to the north and east, with small game, geese and goats.
Beginning in 1885, Corona’s population showed greater signs of an expanding social life with the proliferation of about twenty-five saloons, card-playing and baseball clubs, political associations, fraternal orders, and ethnic clubs. The ethnic population consisted of English, Irish, German, Italian, and Scandinavian immigrants.
Another social activity was “trolley parties”. An extension of the public trolley, 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, sight seeing, and card parties on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays between Corona-Flushing-North Beach and City Hall, Brooklyn.
Corona quickly grew as larger parcels of estate land and farms were sold off to developers and divided into building lots during the 1880s and 1890s. 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 1900s with an estimated population spurt to approximately 40,000 from 2,500 in 1898. Whereas the streets were originally named after trees in the mid 1850s, 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. This was 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 most famous business in Corona was the Tiffany Glass Factory, located at 97th Place and 43rd Avenue from 1893 through 1928.
The single most important event that occurred in Corona may well have been the installation of the elevated train along Roosevelt Avenue, which began in September 1913 and opened on April 21, 1917. The largest land project during that time 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 World’s Fairs of 1939 and 1964.
The Langston Hughes Branch opened in April 1969 in the site of the 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.
Source: The Story of Corona from Farmland to City Suburb 1650-1935, Queens Community Series, Vincent F. Seyfried, 1986.
Join the Library Action Committee:
COMMUNITY input makes Langston Hughes unique among public libraries. The Library Action Committee's Volunteer Board of Directors functions in an advisory capacity and conducts ongoing fundraising activities. This ongoing interaction means that all Corona-East Elmhurst residents have a voice in their library. Since its opening, the Committee and staff have ensured that the collections, programs and services reflect the needs and wishes of the community.
Executive Director: Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako)
Anyone over 16 years of age, living in the community and interested in helping to keep Langston Hughes a vital educational and cultural force in Corona-East E1mhurst, is cordially invited to participate. There are no membership dues. Applications are available at the Library. All inquiries should be addressed to the Chairperson, Board of Directors, Library Action Committee.
Poet, Essayist, Novelist, Playwright, Journalist and Lyricist
(February 1, 1902 - May 22, 1967)
Born in Joplin, Missouri, James Langston Hughes was born into an abolitionist family. Mary Langston, his maternal grandmother’s first husband was with John Brown when he attacked Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and was killed there. Her second husband, Hughes' grandfather, recruited soldiers for the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiment for the Civil War. His great uncle, James Mercer Langston, was the first Black American to hold public office and was later a professor of law at Howard University.
One of Hughes' finest essays appeared in The Nation in 1926, entitled "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." It spoke of Black writers and poets, "who would surrender racial pride in the name of a false integration," where a talented Black writer would prefer to be considered a poet, not a Black poet, which to Hughes meant he subconsciously wanted to write like a white poet. Hughes argued, "no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself". He wrote in this essay, "We younger Negro artists now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they aren't, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too... If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, as strong as we know how and we stand on the top of the mountain, free within ourselves."
In 1923, Hughes traveled abroad on a freighter to the Senegal, Nigeria, the Cameroons, Belgian Congo, Angola, and Guinea in Africa, and later to Italy and France, Russia and Spain. One of his favorite pastimes whether abroad or in Washington, D.C. or Harlem, New York was sitting in the clubs listening to blues, jazz and writing poetry. Through these experiences a new rhythm emerged in his writing, and a series of poems such as "The Weary Blues" were penned. He returned to Harlem in 1924, the period known as the Harlem Renaissance. During this period, his work was frequently published and his writing flourished. In 1925 he moved to Washington, D.C., still spending more time in blues and jazz clubs. He said, "I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on Seventh Street...(these songs) had the pulse beat of the people who keep on going." At this same time, Hughes accepted a job with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, editor of the Journal of Negro Life and History and founder of Black History Week in 1926. He returned to his beloved Harlem later that year.
Langston Hughes received a scholarship to Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. degree in 1929. In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Litt.D by his alma mater; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935 and a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1940. Based on a conversation with a man he knew in a Harlem bar, he created a character known as My Simple Minded Friend in a series of essays in the form of a dialogue. In 1950, he named this lovable character Jess B. Simple, and authored a series of books on him.
Langston Hughes was a prolific writer. In the forty-odd years between his first book in 1926 and his death in 1967, he devoted his life to writing and lecturing. He wrote sixteen books of poems, three novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of "editorial" and "documentary" fiction, twenty plays, children's poetry, musicals and operas, two autobiographies, a dozen radio and television scripts and dozens of magazine articles. The long and distinguished list of Hughes' works includes: Not Without Laughter (1930) and his two autobiographies, The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder As I Wander . His collections of poetry include: The Weary Blues (1926); The Negro Mother and other Dramatic Recitations (1931); The Dream Keeper (1932); Shakespeare In Harlem (1942); Fields of Wonder (1947); One Way Ticket (1947); The First Book of Jazz (1955); Tambourines To Glory (1958); and Selected Poems (1959); The Best of Simple (1961). He edited several anthologies in an attempt to popularize black authors and their works. Some of these are: An African Treasury (1960); Poems from Black Africa (1963); New Negro Poets: USA (1964) and The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers (1967).
Published posthumously were: Five Plays By Langston Hughes (1968); The Panther and The Lash: Poems of Our Times (1969) and Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Writings of Social Protest (1973); The Sweet Flypaper of Life with Roy DeCarava (1984).
Books that have been written about Langston Hughes include: Langston Hughes a biography by Milton Meltzer (1968); Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks: A Reference Guide (1979) by R. Baxter Miller; Langston Hughes, American Poet by Alice Walker (1974); Langston Hughes in the Hispanic World and Haiti by Edward J. Mullen (1977); The World of Langston Hughes Music: A Bibliography of Musical Settings of Langston Hughes' Works with Recordings and Other Listings by Kenneth Neilson (1982); Langston Hughes' Block (1978); Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem by Faith Berry (1983); Langston Hughes and the Blues by Steven C. Tracy (1988); Langston Hughes: Black Genius, A Critical Evaluation edited by Therman B. O'Daniel (1971); The Life of Langston Hughes: Vol. I 1902-1941; I,Too,Sing America and Vol. II 1941-1967 I Dream A World by Arnold Rampersad (1986, 1988).
Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967. His residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission. His block of East 127th Street was renamed "Langston Hughes Place".
In 1969, the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center (Queens Borough Public Library) opened. The first public institution named after the Poet Laureate, it houses the largest circulating Black Heritage reading collection in New York City. Included in this collection are volumes of his published works, theses and dissertations of critical and literary analyses of the works of Hughes and other Black literary authors. The Adele Cohen Music Collection features the Langston Hughes Music Collection, featuring the musical settings of Hughes. In 1990, the library's block of Northern Boulevard was renamed, "Langston Hughes Walk" by the New York City Council.
By: Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako)
Edited: August 2004
About the Library
The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center of the Queens Borough Public Library , conceived and designed by the residents of the Corona-East Elmhurst community, opened for public service on April 26, 1969 as a federally funded special project of the Queens Library. It was staffed and operated by the Library Action Committee of Corona-East Elmhurst, Inc. until it became an official branch of the Queens Library in October 1987. Today, the Board of Directors, L.A.C., serves in an advisory capacity, promoting the programs and services of the Library Center and conducts fundraising campaigns.
History of the Center
The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center was opened . It was the realization of long-range planning by a committee of Corona-East Elmhurst residents which then presented a formal proposal to the Queens Borough Public Library. Working together, the committee and the Library obtained the necessary funds, and the present site was secured and the building readied for opening.
The Center is located on Northern Boulevard in the heart of the predominantly low- and middle-income community of Corona-East Elmhurst. It initially provided black heritage reading materials and informational services to local residents. It was originally operated with federal funds granted to the Library under the Library Services and Construction Act, Title I. The money, channeled through the State Library in Albany, was allocated specifically for a demonstration library project, offering a specialized reading collection related to the "black experience" of the African-American community. Today, Langston Hughes houses the largest circulating Black Heritage collection in New York City, and is the home of Queens County's Black Heritage Reference Center, serving readers and scholars alike.
Since 1979 :
The Reference Center has received grants from the New York State Education Department to maintain the circulating and reference collections. It has also received support for its annual literature, film, music and art exhibition programs from the New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and other agencies and corporations.
For eighteen years, the Center operated under the supervision of the Board of Directors, Library Action Committee of Corona-East Elmhurst, Inc.
1973 and 1981 :
When disabling federal budget cuts threatened to close the Center, the City appropriated funds to ensure its survival.
In a formal letter of agreement between the Library and the Library Action Committee of Corona- East Elmhurst, Langston Hughes became the 60th branch of QBPL, operating entirely on city funds. Today, the Committee's primary responsibilities are fundraising and promoting the Center's activities and events. The Black Heritage collection, however, is supported by an annually renewed special grant from the State Legislature.
Langston Hughes (old address)
102-09 Northern Boulevard
Corona, NY 11368
New Address for Langston Hughes Branch
100-01 Northern Boulevard
Corona, NY 11368
The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center
Designed by: Joint venture, Davis, Brody, Bond and Associates and Garrison McNeil and Associates, New York City. Size: 24,000 sq. ft. Corner plot. Cost: $6,675,000 design, construction and furnishing. Ground Breaking: May 1997 Construction Began: October 1997 Grand Opening: November 9, 1999
Two story building with a lower level and outdoor courtyard.
Black Heritage Research Room
Homework Assistance Program Room
Climate controlled vault for archival and preservation materials and storage of the Langston Hughes Art Collection.
175 seat performance ready auditorium.
Langston Hughes Gallery and reception area adjacent to auditorium.
32 public computer terminals with online public access catalogue (OPAC) and Internet access. 16 terminals include Microsoft Word.
A/V projection booth.
8 public restrooms
Two wooden sculptures by Ousmane Gueye commissioned through Percent for Art Program of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one of two American men and one of three American women will have some type of cancer at some point during their lifetime. Queens Library HealthLink seeks to increase access to cancer screening and cancer treatment among medically underserved communities in Queens. Queens Library HealthLink is a partnership between Queens Library, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Queens Cancer Center of Queens Hospital and the American Cancer Society.