Flushing Meeting Participates in Open House

On May 16 and 17, the 17th century BOWNE HOUSE, the oldest house in Queens, and FLUSHING MEETING will take part in the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s “Sacred Sites Open House Weekend” and the “Flushing Historic Sacred Sites Weekend.”

VOLUNTEER: Saturday May 16 from 9:00am to 12:30pm, the garden of the Bowne House and the adjacent Weeping Beech Park will host a horticulture-focused community service project. Drop-ins welcome.

PARTICIPATE: Bowne House and Flushing Quaker Meeting House will be open for guided tours from 12-4 on Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17. There will also be a craft project for families with children.

ATTEND: On Sunday the 17th, at 2 PM, there will be a special program with speakers on the history of freedom of religion and on the Flushing Remonstrance, the 1657 petition to Governor Stuyvesant, signed by a group of 31 local citizens, arguing for the right to freedom of conscience in the colony. The program will take place in garden at the museum.

LISTEN: Speakers for this event include Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents the 6th Congressional District in Queens and is the sponsor of the Flushing Remonstrance Study Act, and Dr. R. Scott Hanson.

Congresswoman Meng’s legislation, which was recently signed into law, requires the Secretary of the Interior to explore how the National Park Service can support historic sites associated with the Flushing Remonstrance, including the Bowne House and the old Quaker Meeting House.

Dr. Hanson is the author of “City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens 1645-2001”. He is a lecturer, History at University of Pennsylvania, Adjunct Professor of American Studies, History and Religion at Temple University, and a Project Affiliate of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

Bowne House, built by John Bowne in 1661, served as the house of worship in the Flushing community for over 30 years, until the community built the Quaker Meeting House in 1694. The house has recently completed the first phase of a major restoration. Bowne House, a City, State and National Landmark, is a unique amalgam of both New World Dutch and English traditions of building, with rare and sometimes unique examples of construction techniques used by these groups. Continuity of ownership by the Bowne/Parsons family provides an interesting view of changing cultural views and increased prosperity over time.

John Bowne is known for his courageous defense of religious liberty; his actions, and those of his fellow residents of Flushing helped establish this principle in America. In 1662, Bowne defied a ban imposed by Governor Peter Stuyvesant on the practice of religions other than the Dutch Reformed Church by allowing Quakers to worship in his home. Stuyvesant arrested and punished Bowne. Eventually, Stuyvesant deported Bowne to the Netherlands, where he successfully pleaded his case before the Dutch East India Company. He returned home victorious in 1664.  His victory established the principle of religious freedom in the colony.

The eastern third of the Friends Meeting House in Flushing is New York City’s oldest structure in continuous use for religious purposes. Built in 1694 by a community of Friends including the Bowne family, whose house survives nearby, and enlarged in 1716-19, the wood shingled meetinghouse is austerely simple, and offers evidence of the survival of medieval building techniques in the American colonies in its proportions and massive timber frame. The meetinghouse is a plain rectangular building, erected on a frame of forty-foot oak timbers, each hewn from a single tree. It features an unusually tall and steep hipped roof, with antecedents in medieval Holland. The meetinghouse was occupied by the British and used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War, and is a National Historic Landmark. Located in the center of bustling commercial Flushing, the meetinghouse sits on a rare acre of open lawn with a burial ground.

Since 1986 the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program has supported more than 700 religious institutions in New York State. Sacred Sites is the country’s oldest and largest statewide grant program to help landmark religious properties.

For additional information on the Sacred Sites Open House Weekend, contact Ann Friedman or Brian Gallagher at the New York Landmarks Conservancy at 212-995-5260 or sacredsites@nylandmarks.org.