BOWNE HOUSE RESTORATION

The Bowne House Restoration Fact Sheet 2011

Mission

The Bowne House Historical Society operates the Bowne House in Flushing, Queens. The Society’s mission includes the preservation of the house, its collections and grounds for its historical and educational interest, for its significance to the history of New York City and its role in the establishment of the fundamental principles of freedom of conscience and religious liberty.

Community Programs and Audience Served

Flushing has always been known for its diversity; it remains a melting pot of many groups. The museum attracts visitors from all over the world. Volunteers have conducted educational tours for over 60 years; the museum and its message have been important to generations of schoolchildren, scholars, and other visitors. Bowne House is part of the “Flushing Freedom Mile”, which is composed of a number of local sites of historical significance.

 

History and significance to New York City

Bowne House was built in 1661 by John Bowne, whose courageous stand in defense of religious freedom, resulting in his arrest and imprisonment by Governor Peter Stuyvesant, helped establish the principles later codified in the Bill of Rights. The Bowne House and its history are quite possibly unique in America. There are few house museums which date from the 17th century. The house itself is the best preserved example of Anglo-Dutch architecture in the country and it continues to occupy its original site. Bowne House is a City Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A microcosm of social, cultural and political history, Bowne House is the oldest house in Queens and one of the oldest in the City. It was occupied by nine generations of the same family, whose offspring included prominent businessmen, political figures, educators, abolitionists and horticulturalists.

Statement of Need

The  Bowne House Historical Society has raised funds from private sources to help secure the future of the museum. Additionally, in order to access public funds allocated for the restoration, the Society transferred ownership of the house to the Historic House Trust of New York, an umbrella organization working with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to preserve and promote historic sites throughout the city. The Society will retain the collections and will operate the museum and run its educational programming. Public funding has been allocated for the restoration and New York State funds have been promised. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilmember John Liu (now Comptroller Liu), New York State Senator Frank Padavan, and former assemblywoman Ellen Young contributed funds for the restoration. To date, the exterior of the house has been renovated and the interior of the house is awaiting restoration with some rooms open for viewing in the interim.  Public funds have also been raised to construct a new visitors center on the grounds. The visitors center will include ADA compliant restrooms, offices, and meeting and exhibit space. Architects have developed plans for both projects; the next steps include a public approval process, additional archaeological work and a bidding/construction schedule. We hope to have work underway this year.

Renewal of the Museum

Longer term, we plan to raise additional funds to restore our collections and our period landscaping, expand our educational mission, and the days and hours the museum is open to the general public for regular tours.