President’s Letter 2014

April 30, 2014Dear Members and Friends of Bowne House:
On June 10th at 6:00 PM the members of the Bowne House Historical Society will hold their 2014 Annual Meeting. This year, while our preservation project is underway, we will meet at the Voelker Orth Museum and Gardens, 149-19 38th Avenue, Flushing, 11354. We are very grateful to the museum for hosting our meeting and hope you will join us for this event.

We have had a busy year: preservation work began last April 1 and is still underway. After preliminary archaeological work and removal of asbestos, Phase I, structural stabilization and exterior restoration was initiated. This phase includes repairs to the timber frame and foundations of the house as well as replacement of siding and roofing, repairs to the chimneys and additional structural work in the kitchen and laundry areas.

Jan Hird Pokorny Associates are our architects for this project; construction is under the supervision of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Capital Division. The restoration plans are guided by the Historic Structures Report prepared for the Bowne House Historical Society in 2006. The HSR is a detailed document describing the history of the house and its construction, the social history of its occupants and of the Flushing area, stages of construction of the house and repairs and refurbishments made during the periods of occupancy by the nine generations of family who lived there. Additionally, the Society initiated studies of the dendrochronolgy of the wood, to help determine dates of construction, and a study of the methods of construction utilized in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Capital funding for the preservation and for construction of a proposed new Visitor and Education Center will utilize public funding allocated for that purpose; these funds are being held in Parks budget and administered by them. The Society continues to be responsible for architects and consultants fees, utilizing private funding raised for the restoration and interpretation of the museum.

In addition to its ongoing involvement in the restoration process, The Society has had an active year. While our onsite programs have been curtailed due to the ongoing construction work, we have done our best to accommodate visiting groups by appointment when work is not taking place.

John Bowne High School students helped prepare for the restoration by relocating materials and taking photos to document the house and garden before work began.
Our annual picnic took place in July.
We hosted six interns during the summer; they focused on computer consolidation and record organizing, horticultural history, and American material culture and history utilizing our extensive database and tapping into primary sources for research. An inspection of one of the major pieces in our collection yielded clues to its origins and usage over time.
Through September, volunteers from Beautify Historic Flushing worked in the Bowne gardens and in other areas which had comprised the Bowne farm; over 600 hours of community service were performed.
In October, we participated in Open House NY, an annual three day event; we received over 100 visitors even though we were only able to open for one afternoon because of construction limitations.
Late fall, we once again planted daffodil bulbs in public areas of downtown Flushing.
In December, we once again participated in the Flushing Historic House Holiday Tour;
this year, we were able to give our visitors a behind the scenes peek at some recent findings, such as the historic mud-brick material used as insulation, and artifacts which had been discovered during archaeological explorations.
On May 12, we will host a lecture and exhibit at the Flushing Library. The topic of the lecture is East West Cultural Exchanges and Encounters. Our speaker is Dr. Janna Weiss. Dr. Weiss has lectured and taught about herbal medicines, ethnobotany and comparative medicine. Additional details on this program may be found on our website.
Plans are also underway to have an educational program relating to horticulture this summer. This will be the fourth year we have offered these programs. Our horticulture programs have benefited from the donation of a new garden shed and garden equipment, provided by an allocation by Councilman Peter Koo, who has also supported our May 12 program. We have continued our outreach efforts, expanding our work in the surrounding area of downtown Flushing and in our adjacent Weeping Beech Park. Over 600 hours of public community service was performed by our volunteers, under the able supervision of Anne Perl de Pal, our resident manager and volunteer coordinator.
Once again, early next month, we will host Yale University students and graduates from the Yale Day of Service. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of students from Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Townsend Harris, and Flushing High School. These volunteers have worked in our office, done research, helped in our gardens, and performed community service under our guidance.
While work is underway, we have been preparing for the reopening of the museum by updating our interpretation plan and preparing a new furnishing plan. These plans are being prepared by Donald Friary, chair of our Museum Advisory Committee. Don has had extensive experience in interpretive planning, having been director of Historic Deerfield for almost 30 years; in that capacity, he oversaw a number of period house interpretations.
We have also taken advantage of the opportunity to have both our dendrochronology study and our timber framing analysis updated. Removal of siding has made previously inaccessible areas visible; early this year, Bill Callahan (denro) and Rudy Christian (timber framing) visited Bowne House for additional inspections. These reports will add to our database of knowledge about the house and will assist in our interpretation.
We have many people to thank this year. Public funding for our restoration and for the new Visitor Center has been provided by several elected officials, but we would particularly like to mention our former Queens Borough President, Helen M. Marshall, who has retired after twelve years in office. Borough President Marshall has been a champion of education and a major benefactor of Bowne House; without her support an encouragement the restoration of the house would have been virtually impossible. She will be greatly missed.

We would also like to thank Councilman Peter Koo, who, in addition to supporting our ongoing horticulture programs and workshops, has provided generous capital allocations for the restoration of the kitchen and laundry areas of the house.

Member of Congress, USHR, Grace Meng has proposed legislation recognizing the Flushing Remonstrance and John Bowne, proposing HR3222. The bill would authorize a study of the Remonstrance and Bowne and investigate the possibility of a establishing a historic district noting their contributions to the principle of freedom of religion in America. We support her efforts to recognize Flushing’s role in American history.

Finally, we are grateful to those individuals and foundations who gave so generously; among them are the Acorn Foundation, Colonial Lords of Manors in America, Flushing Cemetery Foundation, the Gerson Family Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Octagon Foundation, Parsons Family Foundation, Pomeroy Foundation, Queensboro Hill Community Church, Thorne Foundation, Valley Charitable Trust as well the Historic House Trust and many individual donors. We are deeply appreciative of your support for Bowne House and its mission.

If you are a current or Life Member, please review the enclosed forms and sign and return the ballot. If you would like to make a donation to our operations and educational funds, or to our restoration or endowment funds, we would be very pleased. All donations are fully deductible for tax purposes.

Thank you again for your support of Bowne House, and we hope to see you at the Annual Meeting.


Morris Hylton III
View the End of the Year Letter