Wine isn’t the only thing that gets better with age! Four Flushing landmarks will open their doors to the public during the 35th Annual Holiday Historic House Tour on Sunday, Dec. 11 from 1 pm to 5 pm.
The participating sites — Bowne House, Flushing Friends Meetinghouse, Kingsland Homestead, and Voelker Orth Museum — will be decorated like they were during their first holiday seasons. Plus, each one will offer time-honored activities, snacks, refreshments, and maybe even some shopping options.
General admission is $20, but children can attend for $12 each. Visitors will walk, drive, or take public transportation at their own pace to the venues, whose descriptions follow.
English-born religious freedom advocate John Bowne built the Bowne House (37-01 Bowne St.) in circa 1661. It’s the borough’s oldest domicile and has city, state, and federal landmark status. Nine generations of the Bowne and Parsons families lived in the residence until 1945, when it became a museum. The Bowne House is known for its association with the principles of freedom of conscience and religious liberty. It’s also a facility for research on Underground Railroad history. The structure has a unique blend of Dutch and English construction techniques.
When the Flushing Friends Meetinghouse (137-16 Northern Blvd.) was constructed in 1694, it was the first house of worship in a town that was then called “Vlissingen.” The two-story building’s architecture reflects Quaker restraint and simplicity although an unusually steep roof shows some Dutch influence. The walls and roof are shingled and the inside features dark floorboards, no frills benches, and hand-made timber frames. Quakers did not use headstones until the mid 1820s, so it’s difficult to determine all of those who are buried in the graveyard, but it’s the final resting place for a number of prominent members. These include noted abolitionists William Burling and Matthew Franklin; Samuel Leggett, who founded The New York Gas Light Company; and John Murray Jr., who co-founded the Free School Society and The Society for the Manumission of Slaves. The above-mentioned John Bowne, who donated the land upon, is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on site. (After meeting clandestinely at the Bowne House for several decades, Quakers built the meetinghouse after winning the struggle for religious freedom.) On Dec. 11, visitors will be able to walk around the grounds and explore the historic cemetery.
Charles Doughty, a wealthy Quaker’s son, built a Victorian domicile in 1785. The estate became Kingsland Homestead (143-35 37th Ave.) after his son-in-law, British sea captain Joseph King, bought it in 1801. Five generations of the King and Murray families lived there until the 1930s. In 1968, the dwelling was moved from its original address to its current location, where it serves as the Queens Historical Society’s headquarters. The two-story Long Island half house has a gambrel roof, a crescent-shaped window in a side gable, a Federal-period chimney piece with an iron Franklin stove, and a Dutch-style, two-level front door. On the second floor, the Victorian Room features a melodeon manufactured by Carhard, Needham & Co., lacework, and items such as family notebooks. Everything is arranged to reflect life in 1870, when 10 people – two young couples and their children – lived in the house.
Voelker Orth House, (149-19 38th Ave.) which dates to 1891, provided shelter to three generations of a family with German roots. The Voelker granddaughter, Elisabeth Orth (1926-1995), bequeathed her estate to establish the museum and preserve a view of Flushing’s past. The garden contains many popular plants and berry bushes of the late 19th century. They are maintained with time-honored gardening techniques (no pesticides) for birds, butterflies, and honey bees to feast upon and pollinate. On Dec. 11, pianist Kenneth Gartman will play holiday songs throughout the afternoon, while the venue serves hot cider and a cookie sampler. Visitors can shop for holiday gifts, plants, and honey from the backyard. The exhibition Walking in the Cosmos is on view.
Voelker Orth will honor the multi-house passes, but it will also provide admission to its property only for $12.