THE PARSONS

Samuel Parsons (1771-1841)

 Mary Bowne Parsons’ husband Samuel Parsons was a Quaker minister who passed away in 1841, two years after his wife died in St. Croix. Upon her passing, the Bowne House  came into the hands of the Parsons’ family. Samuel and Mary owned farm land not far from the House and his diary entry mentions that he was buying trees for a nursery to pass on to two of his sons towards the end of his life.

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

Samuel Parsons, Sr. claimed to have actually commenced the well-known Parsons 

Nursery in @1838-40, at least according to an entry in his own journal. He explains how “we” borrowed $5000 from a bank to “hire” the land. His brother Robert B. Parsons was a partner with him in the nursery until they went their separate ways in the 1870’s. Another brother William B. Parsons was also horticulturist according to the 1850 census.

The nursery, located at the site of the present Flushing High School, was a source of many trees and shrubs for American gardens. Samuel B. Parsons, Sr. introduced the pink-flowering dogwood, and for a time he was the only grower of hardy rhododendrons and azaleas. He traveled to Europe in search of fine specimens for his nursery, and in 1847 brought back an oddity known as the European Weeping Beech in a small flowerpot. Additionally, he introduced the Valencia orange and the first frost resistant honeybee into the U.S. Some notable specimens still survive at Bowne House, and these plants can 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.