2010-07-28 / Book Review

‘ Flushing’ Is Latest Addition To ‘Then & Now’ Series


Jason D. Antos
ISBN: 9780738572574
96 Pages
Arcadia Publishing
Comparing the present to the past is a significant key to understanding history.

Arcadia Publishing’s Then &

Now series makes such local comparisons available. Books in this series offer a special view of American life by placing historical images side by side with contemporary photographs.

Flushing, Jason D. Antos’ latest work published by Arcadia, a notable addition to this list, transcends time, providing readers with a unique opportunity to view a particular municipality as it once was and now is. It is best described in the Foreword by Nicholas Hirschorn, as the compilation of “a wide-ranging array of streetscapes [that] document how the area has transformed so remarkably with time”.

Antos’ Introduction begins by noting the perils that those who would become the custodians of their town’s records occasionally face and moves on to the ecumenism officially conferred by the Dutch governor of the colony of Flushing, William Keift. That ecumenism was later threatened by Keift’s successor, Peter Stuyvesant, and led to the spirit showed by early settlers who gave their names to the document known as the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657. The Quaker Meeting House and the John Bowne House are two of the “Then” structures that date from the Remonstrance era and still stand in present-day Flushing and Antos gives the episodes and their physical manifestations their full due in Chapter 1, Flushing In Olden Times.

Four chapters follow Flushing In Olden Times: Flushing and Its Environs, The Railroad Comes to Town, Flushing Meadows and Flushing in the Modern Age. In each, an old photograph and a current one of the same, or nearly the same, streetscape are paired on single pages while Antos’ narrative does double duty as caption as well as text. Many of the vintage photographs are having their first airing outside private archives; many of the contemporary shots were taken by the author. In all cases, Antos has tried to replicate the older photo with a modern picture taken from the same angle and notes where out of necessity the modern photo could not be taken from the same angle as the original. Throughout the book, the contrast between old and new is striking. Even where monuments to time gone by such as the Bowne House and the Quaker Meeting House still stand, their urban surroundings provide sharp contrast to structures erected when Flushing consisted far more of farmland than any vestige of urban living.

Flushing is a remarkable compilation of the study in contrasts that comes about when a modern-day landscape is compared to one of the same region of a century earlier. Antos is quoted by his publishers as saying he hopes “future generations …will want to learn about the history of Flushing and discover their roots”. He has provided a fascinating glimpse into the past and accorded readers a look at the present and possibly the future of one of the most complex civic entities on the North American continent. Flushing is an invaluable addition to the library of anyone who seeks to learn about the history and development of what was once a rural landscape dotted with farms and small villages that is now one of the most industrialized, vital, burgeoning communities in the tri-state area and possibly the United States. It also allows readers to move backward and forward in time without resorting to the sometimes overly elaborate machinations of science fiction. Flushing is a necessary addition to the library of every serious student of history and for other readers an entertaining diversion and painless, pleasant and wellremembered history lesson.

Antos is also a staff reporter-photographer for the Queens Gazette.

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