Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, A Place That Matters
May 12th, 2009, 10:01 am
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden at 29-19 24 Avenue in Astoria, Queens was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for serving up Czech culture by the pitcher. In 1906, the Sovak family, together with the Bohemian Citizens Benevolent Society (which had been founded in 1892), purchased three parcels of farmland along 24th Avenue in Astoria, Queens. Designed by Frank Chmelik, the modest, two-story Bohemian Hall was completed in 1911. From the very beginning, a collection of lots that adjoin the Hall were used as an outdoor gathering space. In the 1930s, this land was donated to the Society and it was officially put to use as a beer garden. During the first half of the century, the courtyard at Bohemian Hall was just one of many European-style picnic parks. Today a grove of twenty distinguished, old trees shelter the last beer garden in New York City. Outfitted with more than one hundred picnic tables, there is plenty of room to gather with friends and family for traditional Czech cuisine, and of course, beer. Each year on Memorial Day weekend, the Czech and Slovak festival is held in a large central space within the courtyard. When the Hall itself is not hosting Sokol performances (Czech gymnastics), it often houses special events for a variety of ethnic groups that make up the rich cultural character of Astoria. The Hall was in danger of being lost in the early 1990s, but in recent years the beer garden has become more popular than ever. Although it has yet to be recognized as a New York City landmark, the Bohemian Hall and Park were determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, through the efforts of Place Matters. To read the nomination for the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, log on to Place Matters. Please tell your friends about these places of history, memory, and culture and invite them to join the Place Matters e-mail list.