Benjamin Pike Jr., a Manhattan optician, put up the granite house in 1858, apparently as a summer or weekend residence — it would have been a long trip by ferry and carriage to his business at Broadway and Reade Street selling globes, telescopes and similar equipment. There is something untutored about it: perhaps he designed it himself, as he did his office.
Mr. Pike had a relatively short time to enjoy the water views. He died in the house in 1864, and by the early 1870s William Steinway, the piano manufacturer, had bought it.
The exterior has evidently been hard to keep up: the portico over the main entrance is gone, and the sun porch at the rear may soon follow. But for the most part, it looks in pretty good shape. Granite forgives neglect very gracefully.
As for the inside, it is spectacular: 26 rooms, with a 100-foot sweep from the front door through the main hall straight back to the end of the parlor. The eight bedrooms ring a balcony in a light-well over the central hall. The trim has the big, muscular profile of the mid-19th century, with heavy sliding doors, intricate plaster decorations, high ceilings and glass etched with pictures of Mr. Pike’s instruments. It is one of the great residential interiors in New York.
A Hilltop Idyll, With Grace Notes of the Past
The house is now listed as "in contract" on Prudential Douglas Elliman's website. Hey, maybe the Parks Department bought it to add to the Historic House Trust! (Oops, almost forgot that this is in western Queens. Never mind.)