MOST RECENT LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
President’s Letter 2011
November 20, 2011
Dear Members and friends of Bowne House:
I am pleased to report that the Bowne House is celebrating its 350th year. This is quite an accomplishment and we celebrated this milestone with an event at the Arsenal Roof in Central Park. Members, friends and descendants joined us for a festive cocktail party on October 6th; it was a crisp and clear evening, and the guests enjoyed a view of the park in autumn.
We chose this occasion to present our very first Historic Preservation Award. The award was given to Dr. Barbarlee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, who throughout her 40 year career has served as a leading voice on some of the defining issues of our time, including the preservation of our historic built structure. Among her many accomplishments, she was the longest serving Landmarks Commissioner, serving under four New York Mayors. She is currently Chair of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center and the Vice Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts. The author of 20 books on art, architecture, design and public policy, she has recently published “Landmarks of New York V”; the Bowne House is featured in this book.
During 2011, we have been involved with finalizing plans for both the restoration work and construction of the new visitor’s center. The plans for the 1661 house, prepared by Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, have been accepted as complete by Historic House Trust (HHT) and the New York Department of Parks & Recreation, who will oversee construction. The architect for the visitor’s center is James Dixon Architect, PC; those plans are 50% complete and we expect those plans to be finalized and approved soon. Both projects must undergo reviews by NYC Landmarks and by the local community board.
The planning process for the restoration has been complex and has taken considerably longer than anticipated. These delays are due to the multiple reviews required and the comments and revisions by many parties involved along the way. The Society has done everything it can to expedite the process; we are eager to get the house restored and reopened and to have it fully functioning again as a museum serving the community. We are continuing to work to advance the projects.
The first priority of the restoration is the replacement of the aging and infirm cedar roof; in the interim, we have taken measures to stabilize the condition of the house and to protect the roof from further damage. Work will start with the roof; following that, the frame of the house will be strengthened. The last steps will involve upgrading the mechanical systems and refurbishing the interior finishes.
During 2011, we have continued our local outreach by hosting local students as interns at the museum. Students have performed office work, done research on various history related projects, and mastered gardening techniques. We have also participated in community events such as “It’s My Park Day”.
In June, in partnership with the Voelker Orth House museum, we held a lecture program on American culinary traditions and garden history. The speaker was Lucinda Brockway of Past Designs: Ms. Brockway is a well known expert on historic gardens and their contributions to the American kitchen.
We will once again take part in the Flushing Holiday Historic House Tour; this will be held on Sunday, December 11th; please check our website, www.bownehouse.org, for the time.
While the museum itself remains closed for regular visiting hours, we have made every effort to welcome group visits by appointment, and our garden is open with some advance notice.
Bowne House was the recipient of a number of awards this year; in April, we were recognized at the New Yorkers for Parks Daffodil Project Benefit Breakfast for our work in beautifying our neighborhood. In June, we received a preservation award in recognition of our work in preserving and promoting the museum. Our educational programming was honored for its contribution to the knowledge and appreciation of American history. James Dixon received the 2010 Award of Merit from the Eastern New York Chapter for his design of the new Visitor’s Center. They stated that the design “embraced restraint and sophistication” and that “the site location provided an appropriate sequence and visual anchor”.
We were pleased to welcome a new trustee to our museum; former Senator Frank Padavan. He served as New York State Senator from District 11 in Queens for 38 years. With his extensive background in government and his interest and commitment to historic preservation issues, Senator Padavan will be a great asset to the Bowne House.
In closing, on behalf of all the trustees, I would like to thank your for your continued support of the museum and its mission, and most of all for your patience as we work to accomplish our goal of restoring Bowne House. We are grateful to all our elected officials, especially Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Comptroller John Liu, New York State Assemblywoman Grace Meng, and Councilman Peter Koo for their efforts on our behalf.
We would also like to thank our resident manager and volunteer coordinator, Anne Perl de Pal, who has mentored our interns, supervised our volunteer activities, and kept Bowne House secure. As a professional architect, Anne is well equipped to deal with old houses, their issues and their quirks. We are lucky to have her with us.
Bowne House was built on donor support and we depend on generous donors like you for our operating budget and our educational programs. Your gift helps us fulfill the mission our founders set out over 60 years ago – to be educational in purpose and a source of inspiration for future generations.
If you have not made a donation this year, please consider doing so; all donations are fully deductible for tax purposes. Gift forms may be downloaded and you may select your desired purpose on the form.
Thank you again, Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2012.
Rosemary S. Vietor
Dear Members and Friends of Bowne House:
On June 28 at 7:00 p.m., the members of the Bowne House Historical Society will hold their 2011 Annual Meeting. This year, we will once again meet at the historic Voelker Orth Museum and Gardens at 149-19 38th Avenue in Flushing. I would like to thank the museum for once again making this splendid venue available for our meeting.
Please note that the meeting will take place following a special program we are holding jointly with Voelker Orth. Our guest lecturer will be Lucinda Brockway, who will speak on Gardening in America – Past and Present. She will discuss American gardens, their history and traditions and their contributions to our culture and cuisine. This program will begin at 6:00 p.m.; we hope you will join us for this event.
First, I would like to say that Bowne House has made steady progress. Work on the restoration and the new visitors center has progressed more slowly than we would have liked, but the Society is doing everything it can to advance both projects, which are subject to review by Historic House Trust and NYC Parks Capital. Archaeological work has gone out to bid. The first item on the agenda is replacement of the aging and deteriorating roof on our 1661 house; we hope that will take place later this year. The visitors center plans have been extensively reviewed and now have to be submitted to additional agencies for further review and comment; these steps should also be completed in 2011. Each project requires multiple approvals by a number of parties and the process is cumbersome and time-consuming. We are making every effort to nudge these projects along.
Our financial condition continues to be sound, although we are incurring major expenses for architects’ and consultants’ fees. Under our agreement with NYC Parks, Bowne House is paying these expenses from our private capital funds raised for the restoration. We initiated a permanent Endowment Fund; income from this fund will provide an ongoing source of operating income when the museum reopens to regular visitors.
Capital funding for the restoration and for construction of the new visitors center will utilize public funding allocated for that purpose; these funds will be administered by NYC Parks and Historic House Trust and are being held in the Parks/HHT budget. A total of $4,648,000 has been raised, with another $401,000 pending at the state level. To date, none of these funds have been spent for construction at the museum. We are very grateful to both our membership and to our elected officials who have given so generously to this project.
The adjacent Margaret I. Carman Green Park has had work underway for several months; this park, which abuts Bowne House, is receiving a major upgrade which will be historically sensitive and should be a magnet for the community, while greatly enhancing both Bowne House and the nearby 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 October we hosted a successful benefit at the Arsenal in Central Park. We also took part once again in the annual tree giveaway, in partnership with Million Trees NYC and New York Restoration Project. Bowne House has served as a distribution point for this popular program which seeks to improve the quality of life in the city by distributing a million trees throughout the five boroughs by 2017.
Bowne House was honored to receive an award from the New Yorkers for Parks Daffodil Project. We were thrilled to have NYC Comptroller John Liu on hand to present the award to our museum at a breakfast in April. Each year, New Yorker’s for Parks presents “Daffodil Awards” to individuals and community groups from each borough who donate their time and resources to renew the spirit of New York. Bowne House has been planting daffodils and other spring bulbs since the fall of 2001. Our resident manager, Anne Perl de Pal, has overseen this project. Anne accepted the award for Bowne House.
We have also continued our student internship and mentoring programs at the museum. Students from local schools work at the museum and learn about American history while acquiring office and research skills. Some interns work in our gardens, learning organic gardening techniques while planting and tending vegetables that are donated to a local food bank. Each year, we host a summer cookout to honor our volunteers and docents, past and present.
Looking ahead, we will continue to be actively engaged in the restoration of the museum and construction of the new visitors center. We are committed to moving these projects along as expeditiously as we can.
We are also planning events to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Bowne House. We have had a lot of interest from descendant members who would like to take part in the festivities. We will keep our members informed of plans as they evolve.
I am sad to say that even as we look forward to celebrating our 350th anniversary, two sister institutions will no longer be with us; Bowne & Co. has been acquired by R. R. Donnelly and the Robert Bowne Foundation has announced plans to dissolve. Bowne & Co. was founded in 1775; it was the oldest surviving public company in America. We will miss both organizations.
We have many individuals to thank this year. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall
has continued to be a great supporter of Bowne House and other cultural institutions in the borough. We are grateful also to Assemblywoman Meng and Councilman Peter Koo. We would also like to acknowledge the following organizations for their support: the Colonial Lords of Manor, the Hoerle Foundation, the Gerson Family Foundation, the Octagon Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Flushing Cemetery Association, Macy’s, New Yorkers for Parks, Queensboro Community Church, the Parsons Family Trust, the Thorne Foundation, the Valley Charitable Trust, PS 20 and Citizens Committee for New York as well as the many individuals who contributed to the museum.
We are also grateful to our volunteers and to our resident manager, Anne Perl de Pal, who continue to keep Bowne House functioning and engaged with the community while we are closed to the general public and awaiting restoration. Anne has kept the office humming and the house secure. We welcomed volunteers from John Bowne High School, Cardozo High School, the Flushing International School, the Chinese American Planning Council (CCPC) and NYC Outward Bound.
I would also like to thank our pro-bono legal team at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, LLP, who have continued to provide sound advice and guidance.
Thank you again for your support of Bowne House, and we hope to see you at the Annual Meeting.
Rosemary S. Vietor