Major Restoration Of Bowne House Set To Start
City Parks Department officials joined Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Historic House Trust of NYC Executive Director Franklin Vagnone, City Comptroller John Liu and Bowne House Historical Society Board Member Rosemary Vietor to break ground on a major restoration at the historic Bowne House in Flushing.
Marshall said, “The Bowne House helped to shape our history and now it is time for us to take care of its future for a new generation. I am proud to join with my present and former colleagues in government, the Parks Department, the Historic House Trust, the community and all those who recognized the heritage and legacy of the Bowne House and acted accordingly.”
“Bowne House is a New York City treasure and through this restoration it is sure to be preserved for generations to come,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “Bowne House is a symbol of tolerance and diversity and thanks to the many Queens elected officials who saw the importance of this historic landmark, the house can continue in its role as a literal and figurative foundation of the Flushing community.”
“Historic House Trust has been eager to begin the restoration of the Bowne House, which has been a pillar of the social, cultural, and political history of Queens, and New York City,” said Vagnone. “The house is both historically and architectural[ly] significant and this restoration will ensure it is preserved for the thousands of visitors and school children who will visit the house each year.”
“Flushing is known as the birthplace of religious freedom because of the signing of the Flushing Remonstrance and actions of John Bowne who, in defiance of Governor Peter Stuyvesant, allowed Quakers to worship in his home,” said Liu. “The Bowne House, a historic city treasure, has been closed to the public for far too long. This 17th century home is a pride of Flushing and should be celebrated by visitors from all over New York City. I look forward to the day when it is restored to its former glory, and New Yorkers can learn firsthand about this landmark, a great symbol of religious tolerance.”
This $3.2 million project is managed by the city Parks Department’s capital team and the Historic House Trust and was made possible through generous allocations from Marshall, the City Council, former state Assemblymembers Barry Grodenchik and Ellen Young and a grant from the New York state Bond Act.
The project includes restoration of exterior features including new roofing, gutters and leader pipes for proper drainage, wood wall shingle and weatherboard cladding, restoration of the historic wood window sash, doors and associated trim and shutters, and new concrete footings to support new steel columns. The first floor framing will be strengthened with additional wood joist and steel inserted into and around the existing frame.
The Bowne House is a fine example of mid-17th century Anglo-Dutch architecture with an exceptional collection of furnishings, but its true magic is its story. The house was built by Bowne, a prominent Quaker and advocate of religious freedom, who emigrated from England to Boston in 1649 and eventually settled in Flushing. The contributions of this family to New York City’s heritage began with the courageous actions of Bowne (1627-1695), who used the house as the first indoor meeting place for the Society of Friends, at a time when religious diversity was forbidden by law.
The Bowne family prospered in America and became businessmen, educators, politicians, and horticulturists. Robert Bowne (1744-1818) founded Bowne & Co., a financial printing company that is still in existence today, and championed free education for all New Yorkers. Walter Bowne (1770-1846), founder of the Union Engine Company, served as mayor of New York City from 1829-1833. Samuel Parsons Jr. (1844 – 1923) was the head landscape architect for New York City and served as superintendent of city parks. During his career he partnered with Calvert Vaux to create Christopher Street Park, Abingdon Square, and the iconic Washington Memorial Arch in Washington Square Park.
In 2009, the Bowne House Historical Society donated the house to the city Parks Department and it became the 23rd member of the Historic House Trust. The three organizations are now partnering on a phased restoration of the house, construction of a visitor’s center, archeological investigation of the site, and redevelopment of the surrounding park to represent the rich horticultural history of Flushing.