President’s Letter 2009

On June 24 at 6:00 p.m., the members of the Bowne House Historical Society will hold their 2009 Annual Meeting. This year, we will meet again at the historic Voelker Orth Museum at 149-19 38th Avenue in Flushing. I would like to thank the museum for once again lending this lovely venue for our meeting.

First, I would like to acknowledge that this has been a difficult year for many of us. New York has been particularly hard hit and many organizations like ours are financially stressed. On the positive side, I would like to thank our loyal members and friends for their generosity and for their support of our museum. We continue to make progress and I am pleased to say that our endowment, which is conservatively invested, has weathered the storm in good condition.

Our public funding from New York City and New York State is committed to the restoration, and we are seeking additional government aid where we find an appropriate fit between the grant guidelines and our needs.

Your trustees recognized early that the economic climate was changing and that challenging times are ahead; we have taken measures to manage our expenses carefully and to seek additional sources of support.

We have continued to provide programs of value to the community, and to serve the public in accordance with our mission. Our volunteers and our interns have stepped in to help when needed, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them.

On the positive side, I am pleased to say that our restoration project is progressing and that New York City Parks has developed plans to restore the adjacent Margaret I Carman Green park area. The plans are historically sensitive and when complete this little enclave will be a splendid recreational and educational area which will be a magnet for the community while greatly enhancing both Bowne House and adjacent Kingsland Manor.
The plan will honor Flushing’s history, including the Weeping Beech and the nearby Fox Stone, as well as its horticultural history, as the home of the Parsons and Prince Nurseries.

This past year we hosted two panel discussions at locations in Manhattan and Queens, moderated by Donald R. Friary, chairman of our Museum Advisory Committee. The subject was “Discovering John Bowne: Architecture, Archaeology and Flushing’s Beginnings”. In July we held a Volunteer Appreciation Day to honor our volunteers, past and present. New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Young took part in the celebration and presented Bowne House with a check for $125,000, signifying her commitment to the museum restoration. In October, world renowned timber framer Rudy Christian gave a demonstration of the ancient woodworking technique in our garden to an enthusiastic audience. A number of local student groups took part in this educational program, which was funded with a grant from Assemblywoman Young.

We also resumed publication of our newsletter. We hope to make the newsletter a regular event, covering the restoration, historical issues of interest, and news of activities of members and descendants as well as those whose projects are in the spirit of the Flushing tradition of public service. If you have any suggestions for articles, we would be pleased to hear from you.

In December, our aging cedar shake roof showed signs of problems, and we had a water and squirrel proof membrane covering installed over the whole roof. This is a temporary measure pending replacement of the entire roof area, a major undertaking since the roof has many levels and a number of dormers and angles. We had hoped that this roof replacement would wait, but it appears now that it may be moved up in priority on the construction schedule in order to protect the integrity of the house. It seems that our local wildlife love the museum, and find it an appealing place to visit.

In the course of organizing our collections, we have located a large database of genealogies from early Flushing families. These were assembled by Eileen Tennant, who was involved with Bowne House for many years. We are in discussions with a national society regarding a possible collaborative arrangement in order to maximize the potential of these materials and to make them available online for research and analysis for a wider audience.

Looking ahead, we plan to be actively engaged in restoration of the museum and planned construction of the new Education Center at Bowne House, with our partner in these projects, Historic House Trust of New York. Many new discoveries are sure to come out of this process, and we will keep our members abreast of these developments. Please check our website for updates.

We have many individuals to thank this year; we would again like to thank Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilman John Liu for their support of the museum. At the state level, we are grateful to State Senators Frank Padavan, who has provided funding for our Education enter, and Toby Ann Stavisky, whose grant helped support our document collections, as well as Assemblywoman Ellen Young. The Kress Foundation provided a grant for interns to help organize and digitize our collections. We would also like acknowledge the continuing support of Bowne & Co.

We are also grateful to our resident manager, Anne Perl de Pal, who continues to keep the house functioning and has, with the help of student interns, brought out the best in our grounds and gardens. We have many admiring neighbors and our daffodils, tulips, roses and lilies are enjoyed by visitors and passersby. Anne has also worked with our Kress interns organizing our database and has mentored our many student interns.

I would also like to thank our pro-bono legal team at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, LLP, whose advice and guidance have been invaluable.

If you are interested in becoming a member, you may download the form on the website. If you are interested in Life Membership, we are now offering a hand painted and personalized framed certificate. This was a custom several years ago, and we have revived the certificate for those who wish to receive one.

If you wish to make an additional donation or wish to donate to our Challenge Grant for the Endowment, we would be particularly grateful. If you have installments remaining on your pledge for the Restoration, this would be a good time to make an installment payment since we are now incurring sizable expenses for the restoration.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rosemary S. Vietor