Michael Halberian: 1927 - 2010
Steinway Mansion Owner Dies
Michael Halberian, owner of the Steinway Mansion in Astoria, died Monday evening around 7 pm. We have unofficial reports that he died of cardio obstruction pulmonary disorder. Michael turned 83 in November.
Michael is survived by two children, Michele Kazarian and John Halberian [wife Stephanie]; his sister, Rosemary; five grandchildren including Jackie and Katie Kazarian and Christopher, Meg and Jack Halberian; and neices and nephews.
Services will be held at 2 pm at the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside. The church is located on the corner of Horace Harding Expressway [LIE] and Oceania Boulevard.
Click the links below to learn more about the life of Michael Halberian and the historical Steinway Mansion for which he so loved and cared. Michael is shown standing in front of the Steinway Mansion in the photo above circa the 1930's. Click here to go to the Michael Halberian Obituary or click this link to go to the Steinway Mansion series section of this site.
Michael Halberian: 1927 - 2010
Steinway Mansion Owner Dies
The Steinway Mansion ... Right out of a Jules Verne Novel
The first time I met Michael Halberian was last August as he was preparing to sell the Steinway Mansion. At age 82, he was still immensely fond of the home he inhabited, but he had grown weary from looking after the 27 room mansion and the two acres of the surrounding grounds.
It was a humid warm day, but cool inside the mansion as it had high ceilings and many of the doors that opened out onto the grounds had been opened to let through the breezes coming from the nearby waterways. Michael led me into his study which felt like walking through a time warp into a turn-of-the-century English study of a Jules Verne novel. In the study I was surrounded by the latest gadgetry and icons from the 19th century including telescopes, a Revolutionary War cannon, an old chess set, a globe from the one of the large ocean-crossing passenger ships, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases encompassing three of the four walls.
The Steinway Mansion Owners _ a brief history
What I had expected to be a one hour interview, quickly turned into four. I would have stayed far longer had I not made other commitments, but I came back throughout the fall whenever the opportunity was made available to me. Michael was as interesting a person as the Steinway Mansion is an historic site. The man and his home shared a sort of symbiotic relationship, like the master curator to a very special museum.
Michael had been born in the Steinway Mansion in 1927 and he recalled literally shoveling tons of coal into the large furnace in the basement during the cold long winters [the furnace has since been replaced by something newer]. The fireplaces still work and I witnessed both he and his son putting coal on the fire to generate heat in the large parlor rooms.
Michael married in 1950 and lived with his bride in the mansion until 1958. Their two oldest children were born in the mansion, and the youngest one was born after they had moved into the Garden Bay Manor development in Jackson Heights.
Steinway Mansion Owners _ Jack & Michael Halberian for 83 Years
Michael was the consummate host. While his father had been a tailor, Michael decided to become a restaurateur. He first tried his hand at his father's business but decided it wasn't quite right for him. During that time he enlisted the services of Peter Vallone Sr. [to secure more time for a move], as Judge Charles Vallone and Jack Halberian [Michael's father] were both avid pinochle players as well as good friends.
Michael opened a restaurant, Knickers, in midtown Manhattan in 1969. While he was making arrangements to open the restaurant, he decided not to tell his father for fear his father would try to stop him. But once the restaurant opened; Michael's father quit the tailoring business to become the morning maitre D. His father relished his new position since, like his son, he was a very sociable man. Jack Halberian, a tailor by trade, is shown in an oil painting in the photo above.
Michael's father died in 1976. Within two years, both Michael and his son John decided to return to the mansion. Michael ran the Knickers restaurant until it was lost in a fire in 1985. Knickers was a popular, casual restaurant; reflecting the style of its owner, which was captured in a newspaper story shown in the photo to your left.
Michael Halberian Obituary _ Astoria Queens
Michael lived in the mansion until his death on December 27, 2010. During his lifetime he was a big collector of books and other items pertaining to New York city history, most of which could be seen dispersed throughout the Steinway Mansion. These artifacts continue to add to the mansion's charm and significance as a cultural and historical site.
Michael will be missed by family and friends. He was a fun and interesting man, who in many respects curated a museum dedicated to his passion: the history of Queens and New York City. Michael told me he would like to see the Steinway Mansion become the Steinway Mansion Museum.
Michael could only imagine what sort of tourist traffic [and attendant tourism spending] a museum dedicated to the Steinway legacy could bring to the local economy in Astoria, Queens and New York city. I believe this was the vision of Michael Halberian, which if realized, would make Michael Halberian the Steinway Mansion Museum's first curator and one par excellence.
Michael will be dearly missed. We hear that his heirs, as well as many members of the community, hope to make his vision a reality.
The funeral services for Michael Halberian were held on Friday, December 31st in Bayside. Michael's son John is planning to move back into the mansion until it is sold.
Many thanks to Michael's children Michele Kazarian and John Halberian, as well as Michael's sister Rosemary, for providing some of the information contained herein. The rest of the information was obtained directly from Michael Halberian during interviews I had with him since first meeting him last August.
Click here to go to the Steinway Mansion section of this site. There you will find other stories done on Michael Halberian and the Steinway Mansion; as well as about the Steinway Piano Factory tours, Steinway Hall in New York City and City Councilman Peter Vallone's efforts to try to preserve the Steinway Mansion as a cultural centerpiece for Astoria.
Click here to read the original Steinway Mansion story. Click here to visit a section where we dedicated a series of stories to the Steinway & Sons Piano Company founders, history, mansion, factory and Steinway Hall in Manhattan. Click here to read a report about the Steinway Piano Factory Tours in Astoria NYC.
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