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April 2010 Update & News

April 2010

Dear Member and Friend of Bowne House:

Winter is finally past, the daffodils are blooming in our gardens, and it is once again time for our Annual Meeting.

On May 11, 2010 at 6:00 p.m., the members of the Bowne House Historical Society will hold their 2010 Annual Meeting. This year, we will meet again at the historic Voelker Orth Museum, at 149-19 38th Avenue in Flushing. I would like to thank the museum for once again making this lovely venue available for our meeting.

As you know, 2009 was a challenging year for many small not-for-profits like ours. Bowne House, however, has weathered this period in good form and we continue to forge ahead with our restoration project as well as with the planned Visitors Center, in partnership with Historic House Trust (HHT) and NYC Parks. We hope to have part of the restoration project out to bid soon. As mentioned earlier, we will begin work with the outer shell of our 1661 house with a focus on the roof, which is in urgent need of repair.

In preparation for construction work, we have updated our collections inventory and relocated our furniture and furnishings to a secure, climate controlled offsite location. This has created some space in our 19th century parlor and we took advantage of this opportunity to take part once again in the Flushing Holiday Tour by hosting a limited number of visitors in the parlor, which had festive decorations. On display now are a series of lovely original watercolors of the interiors of Bowne House, so visitors can get an idea of how the rooms appeared when the museum was open to the public.

We are eager to re-establish our educational tours for children. Recently, we hosted a group of students and faculty from Flushing High School. Students gathered in the parlor for a discussion of Flushing in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and its many contributions to America in the fields of education, civil rights, abolition and horticulture. We hope to host more of these visits, which had been a part of students’ educational experience since 1947. Flushing High School has also updated a play on John Bowne, written several decades ago by Margaret I. Carman, which was in our archives; this play will be presented by them at a local elementary school in May.

We continue to serve the community through our participation in the Million Trees NYC  and New York Restoration Project program, a venture supported by David Rockefeller and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bowne House has been a distribution point for these trees, which are provided free for private residences and places of faith. The project seeks to plant one million new trees in the city by 2017. Trees benefit the community by absorbing pollutants and improving the environment while providing shade and enhancing the appearance of the community. This goal is compatible with our horticultural heritage as established by the Parsons family and the famous nurseries of Flushing. To date, we have distributed over 600 trees.

To augment and improve our community service, we have arranged to have educational materials translated into Mandarin. This service was provided without charge by the Queens College Translation Center, with support by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. We would like to thank President Marshall and the Translation Center for this
valuable service.

We will also partner with the Hart Island Project and the Lewis Latimer House on a poetry reading event to be held on Sunday, May 9. This will take place at the Flushing Quaker Meeting House on Northern Blvd. from 2-4 p.m.; the event is free and open to the public but space is very limited.

Our gardens continue to be splendid, thanks to the ministrations of Anne Perl de Pal, our resident manager, and her group of student interns. We grow flowers which cheer the community as well as vegetables which are contributed to a local food bank. Our gardens are available by appointment for visits by local nursing home residents; there are several nursing homes in the immediate area. Students learn horticultural skills as well as American history. We provide a meaningful after school experience for local youth.

Sadly, we have lost two valued members of our Bowne family this year. Edmund A. Stanley, Jr., retired chairman of Bowne and Company, was a Life Member and champion of Bowne history. His book, “Of Men and Dreams”, about Robert Bowne and the founding of the printing company in 1775, provided many insights on American history and the history of America’s oldest surviving public company. F. Martin Bowne was also a Life Member and long-term trustee of the Society. Both were active supporters of Bowne House and our sympathies go out to their families. We will miss them both greatly.

We have many people to thank; we would like to acknowledge Borough President Marshall and former Councilman John Liu, who is now New York City comptroller; State Senator Frank Padavan, who has provided funding for our Visitor Center; Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who provided a grant for our archival documents, and Councilwoman Grace Meng as well as former Councilwoman Ellen Young. We also thank our corporate, individual and foundation donors and would like to recognize the extraordinary legal assistance received from the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

In closing, I would like to once again mention daffodils and spring bulbs; Brent and Beckys’ Bulbs will donate a percentage of any order to Bowne House. Please keep Brent and Becky and Bowne House in mind when ordering your bulbs, books, tools, gift certificates. Their web site is www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com. To order, go to www.bloominbucks.com, and on the pull down menu select Bowne House Historical Society; you will be sent to the Brent and Becky web site where you may place your order. They are a source for the hard to find “Peter Stuyvesant” hyacinth.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments. And, thank you very much for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Rosemary S. Vietor