Historic Flushing House Tour
Flushing Town Hall, built in 1862, was one of six historical houses on the annual historical house tour of Flushing. For 50 years it was the political, cultural and social center of the village of Flushing. After 1898 it was a courthouse, bank, library and a police station. A prime example of early Italianate Revival style, the building, landmarked in 1972, is now the home of the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts (www.flushingtownhall.org). Flushing Town Hall, located at 137-35 Northern Blvd., provides jazz concerts, choir performances and history talks.
The last two stops on the tour were to the most historically significant locations in Flushing and the city. The Friends Meeting House, (www.nyym.org/flushing/), 137-16 Northern Blvd., remains as a testament to religious freedom and tolerance. Erected in 1694, it is New York City’s oldest structure in continuous use for religious purposes. During the American Revolution it was used as a hospital for British soldiers. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1967. Visitors were treated to a musical performance given by the Flushing H.S. Choir. Friends Meeting House member Linda Shirley led guests on a tour of the building which included the sanctuary and attic.
The tour concluded at the home of John Bowne. The landmarked homestead, (www.bownehouse.org), currently under renovations, opened its doors allowing visitors a rare treat to see one of the oldest standing houses in New York City. Dating from 1661, it is located at 37-01 Bowne St., is also the oldest surviving home in Queens. New Netherlands Governor Peter Stuyvesant arrested Bowne in 1662 for championing the cause of religious freedom by allowing members of the Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, to meet in his home. The Quakers of Flushing helped create the Flushing Remonstrance, which declared that citizens of New Netherlands deserved the right to practice religion freely. This document came a century before the U.S. Constitution.
Bowne was exiled to Holland, although he was an English subject and spoke no Dutch. The directors of the Dutch West India Company, which operated the colony, sided with Bowne and directed Stuyvesant to allow colonists to worship as they chose. The home, constructed in the English Colonial saltbox style, was landmarked in 1977. A special talk on Christmas in America was given describing different holiday customs dating back to colonial times.