Join Justin Ferate on this offbeat tour of Flushing, Queens – highlighting a varied selection of unusual landmark buildings. Today, Flushing is one of the country’s most diverse communities. With a population of approximately 236,000, one can hear as many as 170 languages spoken on the street! The neighborhood has some delightful and overlooked treasures. Join us to discover a few of them!

First, we’ll take a stroll to view Flushing Town Hall. Constructed in 1862 by a local carpenter, this Landmark building is a delightful example of Romanesque Revival. The building served as Town Hall before Flushing became a part of Queens and later, when Flushing became a part of New York City. Subsequently, it became a municipal courthouse and today is the seat of the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts. The architects Platt Byard Dovell magnificently restored this historic building in 1995.

Next, we’ll cross the street to view the Flushing Friends Meeting House. Built in 1694 by John Bowne and the early Quaker settlers, the “Old Quaker Meeting House” is, by all known accounts, the oldest house of worship in New York State and the second oldest Quaker meetinghouse in the nation. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has used the building as a house of worship for over 300 years. The “Friends” were at the forefront of the movement to secure freedom of conscience throughout the American colonies.

Continuing on our journey, we’ll view the charming NYC Landmark Queen Anne-style Lewis H. Latimer House. The African American inventor, Lewis Latimer, was born in 1848 as the son of runaway slaves. He served in the Union Navy during the Civil War and taught himself mechanical drawing. He quickly rose to become chief draftsman at a Boston patent attorney's firm, where he executed the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. Latimer's talent earned him a position at the United States Electric Light Company. In 1879, Latimer invented the carbon filament and patented several subsequent improvements to the incandescent light bulb. He also developed the first threaded light bulb socket and assisted in the installation of New York City's first electric streetlamps. In 1884, Latimer was employed by the Edison Electric Light Company where he had the distinction of being the only African American member of "Edison's Pioneers" – Thomas Edison's team of inventors. The Latimer family lived in this house until 1963.

Nearby, the delightful Hanmaum Korean Buddhist Temple, with its elegant upswept pagoda roof, is crowned with a lotus flower and a golden sphere. Hanmaum Buddhism was founded by Daehaeng Kun Sunim (1927-2012), who was a Korean Buddhist nun and Seon (Zen) master. She taught monks as well as nuns with an emphasis on increasing the participation of young people in Korean Buddhism. The participation of laypeople – both male and female – breaks from traditional practice.

We’ll also view Kingsland Homestead – built between 1774 and 1785 – the only surviving example of 18th century architecture in Flushing. In 1801, Captain Joseph King purchased the original farmhouse from his father-in-law and transformed it into the house we see today. The King family and their descendants lived in the house until the 1930s. Kingsland Homestead is located in Weeping Beech Park, once part of the Parsons Nursery, which provided many of the trees in Central Park.

Our next very special stop will be the Voelker-Orth Museum, Victorian Garden & Bird Sanctuary. Here, we will sit to eat our brown bag lunches as well as tour both the house and the garden. This was the home of a single family for nearly its entire history of over a century. Little has been altered since Conrad Voelker purchased the house after he emigrated from Germany in 1881.

The Voelker-Orth Museum’s garden is a distinguishing feature, containing plants that were once regular favorites in the Victorian era. The garden is maintained with 18th century propagation methods and gardening techniques, such as hand pruning and the use of natural fertilizers and pesticides. Serving as a bird sanctuary, the garden’s many varieties of berry bushes and trees attract migrating birds, such as orioles, mockingbirds, hummingbirds, cardinals, and local species. In June and July, the butterfly bush attracts monarchs and swallowtails, among others.

We will also view and discuss the John Bowne House – the best-preserved example of Anglo-Dutch vernacular residential architecture in the country. The structure that became the Bowne House was built around 1661, and was expanded by John Bowne in 1669 and 1680, as his family grew and prospered. The present footprint of the house was completed in 1695. Based on a Dutch plan but employing English building techniques, the house represents a blend of the two main architectural traditions of colonial New York.

In 1657, New Amsterdam’s governor, Peter Stuyvesant, outlawed the practice of all religions other than that of the Dutch Reformed Church, the established church of Holland. This policy resulted in numerous acts of religious persecution and harassment – especially toward members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). The result was the pivotal Flushing Remonstrance, which was signed on December 27, 1657, by a group of English citizens who were affronted by persecution of Quakers and the religious policies of Stuyvesant. None of the signers was a Quaker. The impressive Flushing Remonstrance is often credited with inspiring the then-unique concept that became an anchor in the creation of the United States: Freedom of Religion.

John Bowne – not a Quaker himself – had offered his home as the first place of worship for Flushing's Quakers. As a result of Stuyvesant’s proclamation, Bowne was arrested in 1662 for allowing Quaker services in his home, and was subsequently banished to the Netherlands. Bowne met with Dutch leaders in Amsterdam and described Stuyvesant's persecution of the Quakers. The Dutch responded by reprimanding Stuyvesant and declaring, "The conscience of men ought to remain free and unshackled. Let every one remain free." In 1664 Bowne returned to his house, where Quaker meetings were held for another 30 years, until the Friends Meeting House was built. The Bowne House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a New York City Landmark.

And the final stop on our Offbeat Tour of Flushing will be to view the Official Birthplace of former First Lady, Nancy Reagan. (First Lady: 1981-1989) Nancy Robbins (later Davis) was born at 149-14 Roosevelt Avenue (then called Amity Street) on July 6, 1917. (Nancy Reagan’s “official” birth date is July 6, 1921– but who’s counting?) While Nancy Reagan rarely (if ever) acknowledged her Queens roots, she was decidedly a daughter of Flushing. The house is one of the few frame dwellings remaining on Roosevelt Avenue.

For those who would like to travel back to Manhattan at this time, the subway station is five blocks away. Some may want to explore the multi-ethnic shops and restaurants of downtown Flushing.

Please bring lunch and beverage for trip.
Tour cost includes all admission fees.
Please download, print and mail in your registration form along with payment.
» Download Registration Form
» Download the full Wolfe Walkers brochure including the Registration Form
Date: Saturday September 26, 2015
Time: 9:30 AM  to approximately 3:30 PM
Cost: $ 33 in advance || $ 38 on-site (by check to Johanna Sterbin)
Meet: Northeast corner of Main and Roosevelt Avenue, near the #7 subway station
Train: IRT 7 Flushing Train to Main Street (Allow 45-60 minutes from Manhattan)
Please bring lunch and beverage for trip.
Tour cost includes all admission fees.
Tours operate rain or shine. Please dress appropriately. For more information or to confirm meeting locations please call (212) 223-2777. Please note that tours sometimes run late. While tours are rarely cancelled you can call the number above to confirm, or join our mailing list to keep informed of cancellations due to extreme weather conditions.
Justin Ferate's Tours of the City |
Justin Ferate's Tours of the City    |    (212) 223-2777    |    
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