THE PARSONS

Samuel Parsons (1771-1841)

Samuel Parsons joined the Bowne family of Flushing when he married  Mary Bowne in 1806.  Samuel was a Quaker minister and a farmer.  Samuel and Mary owned property near the 1661 Bowne homestead to the north and east of Bowne House. Samuel acquired trees  and shrubs  with the intention of establishing a nursery to pass on to his sons upon his death. That land became the well-known Parsons Nursery.

Samuel B. Parsons, Sr. (1819-1906) and Robert Bowne Parsons (1821-1898)

Samuel Parsons, Sr. claimed to have established the  Parsons Nursery in 1838-40, according to an entry in his journal. He refers to borrowing $5000 from a bank, a large sum at the time,  to start the business with his brother Robert B. Parsons.  Another brother William B. Parsons is listed as a horticulturist in an 1850 census.

Flushing at that time was a flourishing center for horticulture. Several world famous nurseries were located there-Price, Bloodgood, Hicks.  Samuel Bowne Parsons, Sr. traveled extensively to find rare plant materials for the nursery. Among his specialties were the pink-flowering dogwood, the Japanese maple, hardy rhododendrons, azaleas, fruit trees, and roses. In1847, he brought back an oddity, the European Weeping Beech, in a small flowerpot. This became the legendary weeping beech which survived on 37th Avenue, Flushing, until the mid-20th century. Some notable plant specimens, like the Japanese maple, survive at the Bowne House and may be enjoyed by visitors today. 

Samuel Parsons, Jr. (1844-1923)

Samuel Parsons Jr., son of Samuel Bowne Parsons, Sr. and Susan Howland Parsons, inherited his father’s love of horticulture. His work as a landscape architect was seen and enjoyed in the public parks and private gardens of more than twenty states. For fifteen years, he worked in partnership with Calvert Vaux, one of the original designers along with Frederick Olmsted of New York’s Central Park, and served as Superintendent of Plantings of the Parks Department, chief Landscape Architect, and Superintendant of the Parks Department. He was also president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and landscape architect for the American Society for the Preservation of Scenic and Historical Places and Objects.

Notable works done by him include Washington Park (he was appointed by an Act of Congress to the post in 1900), San Diego Park, a 60 acre park on Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C., Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleges, and Colorado State University grounds and campus. As landscape architect for Greater New York (Commissioner of Parks), he supervised over 100 city parks of varying sizes, controlling every aspect of the parks such as siting of paths, lawns, buildings, statues, and plantings. Parsons and Co. also designed the grounds of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as well as of five churches of the Episcopal Corporation and planned the planting of trees on the Park Avenue medians above 59th St. Parsons and Co. also designed a number of important private gardens, many of which survived and can be seen today.