Our Mission Statement
The John Bowne House (ca. 1661) is the oldest house in Queens and is among the oldest in New York City. It was built by John Bowne, who emigrated from England to Boston in 1649 and settled in Flushing, Queens, when New York was under Dutch Rule. His family prospered in America: the nine generations born and raised in the house produced businessmen, horticulturists, educators and politicians.
Over the course of 300 years, the family left its mark on American culture, participating in events of both regional and national significance -starting with John Bowne’s courageous defense of religious freedom in 1662, an act which established the principles later codified in the Bill of Rights.
The Bowne House has been a museum since 1947. Chartered by the New York State Board of Regents, the Bowne House Historical Society’s mission includes the preservation of the house, its contents and grounds for its historical and educational interest, for its significance to the history of New York, and for its importance in establishing the fundamental principles of freedom of conscience and religious liberty in this country. The House is also significant for the documented involvement of its residents with the Underground Railroad.
The Bowne House Historical Society was founded in 1946 for the sole purpose of purchasing the house and opening it to the public as a museum. The Society purchased the house from the last family occupants, the Parsons sisters, and has operated it as a museum since 1947. The Museum’s exceptional collection illustrates the social history of the Bowne and Parsons’ families from the 17th through the 20th centuries.
Most of the approximately 5,000 objects in the Museum collection are original to the house and belonged to the family. Included are fine examples of English and American furniture, decorative arts, textiles, costumes, household artifacts, rare books and manuscripts, paintings and toys. Correspondence in the collection demonstrates the influence of political, social and economic events of the day on the house’s residents, including their civic activities. The collection is a renowned resource for scholars of American history and decorative arts.