Flushing Historic House Tour - Historic Sites Queens History NYC

Dec 12, 2017 at 12:54 pm by mikewood

flushing history flushing historic house tour queens colonial history flushing historic sites nyc

Flushing History: Walking Through American Colonial History in Queens

America’s Colonial History Comes Alive in the 30th Historic House Tour in Flushing Queens

queens history queens historic sites queens history flushing holiday historic house tour queens nycDecember 12, 2017 / Flushing Neighborhood / Flushing History in American Colonial Queens / Queens Buzz NYC.

This past Sunday, six historic sites in Flushing and one in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, coordinated to host the 30th annual Holiday Historic House Tour. For four hours visitors were invited into Queens colonial, as well as 19th century [1800’s] pasts, in the neighborhood of Flushing. The 20th century Louis Armstrong House in Corona, also participates in this event.

The map at right shows the Queens historic sites participating in the Holiday Historic House Tour in Flushing this past weekend.

It had snowed the day before, but it was only a few inches and by Sunday most of it had pretty much gone away. It was sunny with temperatures in the low 40’s, so not a bad day for walking around Flushing. The group of historic sites has it set up so you can either buy the one ticket to see all seven sites, in advance, online [$15] – or purchase the ticket on the day of the event from any one of the historic sites wherever you start your self-guided historic tour [$20].

The first two stops are by far and away the two most significant sites, as together they represent one of the most important cornerstones of the Bill of Rights in the American Constitution – religious freedom. So let us delve into America’s colonial past in Queens, starting with the Bowne House and the Friends Meeting House.

Click here to continue reading our report about our American colonial past in Flushing, as seen on the Queens History - Flushing Historic House Tour.

Flushing History: Walking Through American Colonial History in Queens

America’s Colonial History Comes Alive in the 30th Historic House Tour in Flushing Queens

December 12, 2017 / Flushing Neighborhood / Flushing History in American Colonial Queens / Queens Buzz NYC. Continued.


Colonial Dutch & English America in NYC

Flushing Queens is the Home of American Religious Freedom

It’s worth remembering that New York was, after the American Indians, founded as a Dutch colony, before it became a part of the British Colonial Empire. Flushing was first settled as Vlissengen [the Dutch Vlishing became Flushing] in a 1645 charter by the Dutch West India Company. It’s worth reminding the reader that New York was once called New Netherlands. We’re told that the first families to settle in Flushing were primarily English.

The charter of the Vlishing colony asserted religious tolerance. Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Amsterdam, was religiously intolerant and held to the belief that only the Dutch Reformed religion should be allowed. He subsequently banned the public worship by Quakers saying that he wasn’t violating their right to freedom of conscience, only their right to worship outside of family meetings.

  • Click here to view a section on this site dedicated to Queens History throughout the borough.

I. Historic Flushing Remonstrance (not included in tour)

A Request for Freedoms by the People for the People

The Flushing Remonstrance is Kept in Albany & NOT INCLUDED on the Tour

In 1657 the Vlishing town elders signed a document asserting religious tolerance in the community and it requested an exemption to the banning of the public practice of the Quaker religion by the Dutch settlers in Vlishing at the time. Many of the town elders were neither Dutch nor Quakers, but who supported their fellowmen’s right to practice their own religion.


II. The Bowne House & John Bowne’s Courageous Struggle

In 1661 Englishman John Bowne built his house where it currently resides. His wife converted to become a Quaker, although Bowne himself had not. Nonetheless, he allowed the Quakers to meet in his home and by 1662 he was banished to the Netherlands for disobeying Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s edict. In Holland he pled the case for religious tolerance with the leadership of the Dutch West Indies Company, and won. He returned victorious to Vlishing in 1664. And in 1664 the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English.

Over the past decade, the Bowne House was restored. It is located on Bowne Street about a block south of Northern Blvd and only a stone’s throw from the Kingsland Homestead. In addition to the house, there’s a yard, which is maintained in a manner keeping with the house. Unfortunately I have yet to see the inside of the house, so I can’t comment based on first hand experience, but I hear it’s a very real, colonial-like, bare-bones dwelling.


III. Friends Meeting House 1694 - Flushing Religious History

In 1672 John Fox, Founder of the Quaker movement, visited Flushing and spoke to the townspeople. The primary message of the Quakers is “that the Spirit of God, dwelling in man, is the supreme authority.”

The Friends Meeting House was erected in 1694 on land donated by John Bowne. The Friends Meeting House is believed to be the longest continuously used structure for religious purposes in New York and meetings continue to be held there even today.

Like the Bowne House, this old structure emanates the vibe of a rugged colonial past. With all of the essentials for discussion and prayer, but not a whole lot of comfort. I reckon our ancestors weren’t homebodies, but rather hearty outdoorsmen and women. The Friends Meeting House is located on Northern Blvd and Linden Place, kitty corner from Flushing Town Hall and a block east of Main Street.


IV. Kingsland Homestead & Queens Historical Society

The Kingsland Homestead was built in 1785 and was the home of the King / Murray family until the 1930’s. The home has been moved twice [amazing] and is now the home of the Queens Historical Society. The Kingsland Homestead is located in Weeping Beech Park between Bowne Street and Parsons Blvd at 37th Avenue in Flushing. There’s a 1733 burial ground on site, and the house was the first place in Queens to be landmarked. The Queens Historical Society was founded in 1968 with the intent to preserve Queens history.


The Queens Historical Society & History Programs*

It’s worth mentioning here that Queens has several historical societies. In addition to the aforementioned, there’s the Greater Astoria Historical Society which focuses on Astoria and Long Island City lore. The Ridgewood Historical Society, which has centered its activities around the van Ende Onderdonck House. The Bayside Historical Society, which is located out by Fort Totten and focuses its efforts on northeastern Queens.

While I’m at it, it’s worth mentioning that the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is home to many artifacts as well as the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs and the forerunner to the United Nations. The King Manor Museum on Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica Queens is also an important historical site that hosts historic and cultural programs. And the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point was the site of the first hard rubber manufacturing plant in 1854. The Poppenhusen Institute is historic and still hosts a low level of programmatic events.


V. Historic Flushing Town Hall – Government & Cultural Center

Perhaps the best known site on the Flushing Historic House Tour is Flushing Town Hall. Flushing Town Hall was built in 1862 and has been one of the leading civic and cultural centers in the Flushing neighborhood since its inception. The building has served multiple purposes over the past century and a half, and it currently serves as one of the premier cultural centers not just in Flushing, but all of Queens. Two past presidents have visited Flushing Town Hall - Teddy Roosevelt & Ulysses S. Grant – and it was the site of a performance by PT Barnum & Tom Thumb.


VI. Louis Latimer House – African American History NYC

Louis Latimer [1848 – 1928] was an African American inventor and draftsman who worked for both Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, at a time when ethnic discrimination in America was nearly ubiquitous.

Louis Latimer’s Victorian house was built between 1887 and 1889 by the Sexton family and occupied by the Latimer family from 1903 to 1963. The house was moved to this location in 1988 from Holly Street in Flushing, about ten blocks south of Roosevelt Avenue off Main Street, to avoid demolition. Latimer’s granddaughter, Winifred Latimer Norman was credited with the save, as she sought to preserve the legacy of her grandfather’s achievements by dedicating the home as a museum.

Louis Latimer got an early start on drafting, just after serving on a ship in the U.S. military, during the American Civil War. Latimer co-invented an improvement for train toilet systems in 1874. Two years later he created many of the drafts used to patent Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. In 1881 he received a patent for the process of manufacturing carbon filaments used in light bulbs [made longer lasting]. And three years later Thomas Edison hired Latimer to do drafting for the Edison’s patent for filaments in light bulbs. And in 1911 Latimer became a patent consultant for legal firms.

The Latimer House is a part of an effort to preserve our national African American heritage.


VII. Voelker Orth Museum – Victorian Flushing History

The Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden dates back to 1891. The house was purchased in 1899 by Conrad Voelker, a German immigrant publisher. Conrad’s granddaughter, Elisabetha Orth, willed the home and her estate to create a museum to preserve some relics of a different time – Victorian Flushing.

Inside the home one can experience life at the turn of the 20th century. The home remains intact and is furnished in a large part by what was left by Elisabetha. The yard has been dedicated to celebrating the horticultural past of Flushing and has also become a bird sanctuary. The historic programs largely reflect Victorian America.


VIII. The Louis Armstrong House / Queens Jazz History

The Louis Armstrong House was built in 1910 and purchased by Lucille Armstrong in 1943. She willed the house as a museum to preserve her husband’s legacy as one of the great jazz musicians of all time.

In addition to trumpeter Louis Armstrong, numerous other jazz musicians lived in Queens. Jazz musicians, including vocalists Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, trumpeter Dizzie Gillespie, Count Basie on the keyboards, bassist Milt Hinton, pianist Fats Waller, saxophonists John Coltrane and Illionois Jacquet, and other jazz musicians of ethnic descent settled down in Queens for a while and some forever. They came to Queens because it was the melting pot, where many residents were ‘color blind’. Thus Queens earned the moniker as the “home of jazz” because Queens is where the jazz musicians made their homes.

Flushing Town Hall, noted above as an historic and current cultural center, had a map created entitled the Queens Jazz Trail, which can be purchased for a few dollars.

So ends our journey through Queens Colonial and 19th century past. The Holiday Historic House Tour is an afternoon well spent alone, or with friends and family. Happy Holidays.


Flushing / Corona Related Info

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