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End of Year Letter 2012

November 21, 2012

Dear Members and Friends of the Bowne House Historical Society:

We are pleased to report that the museum has had a busy and productive year. All preparations for the restoration of Bowne House are in place, multiple reviews have been completed, and contracts have been awarded. The Visitors Center is progressing as well; architects on staff with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (parks) will be working with our architect, James Dixon, to expedite reviews, approvals and contracts for construction of this new multi-purpose space on-site. Public funding for both projects is being held by parks and will be administered by them, while the Society is using privately donated funds for architects and consultants.

Additional archeological studies were done in preparation for construction. The firm of Historic Perspectives, Inc. conducted the research.  Findings included an extensive cobblestone area in the vicinity of the garage. The stones, which were found several feet below the surface, may have been a loading area for a barn formerly located on the property. Further analysis will determine the age of the paving.

 The restoration of the house itself will involve replacement of the cedar roof, strengthening of the timber framing as needed, and repair and replacement of cedar siding. This phase of the project, once it starts, is expected to be completed in 14 months, perhaps less.

We can report that Bowne House survived two very damaging storms within an 8 day period without suffering serious structural damage. Some of our more fragile historic trees, however, did sustain damage, as did the nearby Quaker Meeting House, a national historic landmark also dating from the 17th century. Our neighbors in southern Queens were not so fortunate; many buildings were destroyed and many more were damaged and will be uninhabitable.

Our educational programming and community outreach has continued. We are partnering with local schools, mentoring student interns who learn about American history and horticulture while helping out in our office and gardens, acquiring skills in photography, or researching original materials. Local groups were organized for planting daffodil bulbs, and for the annual “It’s My Park Day” sprucing up local parks. Once again, we hosted our annual summer cookout for volunteers, interns, parents, members of local civic groups and teachers in our garden.

Our refurnished and reopened parlor has welcomed groups for tours. Beginning with a group of over one hundred who joined us for December’s tour of historic sites in downtown Flushing, we continued to welcome school groups and a number of visiting descendants, including some from England.

Other highlights of the year include:

  • Our third annual autumn benefit party took place in October. This year's Reception and Award Ceremony was held in Manhattan; the recipient of our Historic Preservation Award was Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. Borough President Marshall has been a stalwart champion of libraries and of educational and cultural institutions; among her projects are the Louis Armstrong House, a National Historic Landmark in Corona, New York; the Lewis Latimer House, and of course the Bowne House. Borough President Marshall has been a generous benefactor of Bowne House, allocating several million dollars to restore the house and construct a visitors center on the grounds. Without her support, and the support of our other elected officials, this restoration would have been virtually impossible to achieve.
  • The twenty fifth anniversary of the Flushing Historic House Holiday Tour will take place December 9th. Six sites in downtown Flushing, including Bowne House, will be decorated for the holidays. Last year we had over 100 visitors during our two hour opening period. Once again, we will feature a program on early American holiday customs, including one in Mandarin. Please check our website at www.bownehouse.org for times and ticket information.
  • We received a grant from Queens Councilman Peter Koo. This grant will be directed towards our educational programming, with a focus on horticultural studies.
  • A descendant has generously donated a number of lovely miniature portraits of the Bowne and Parsons family; these will be displayed in our new Visitors Center. Miniatures were a popular art form during the 18th and 19th centuries in America; they remained popular until the advent of the daguerreotype and the photograph in the mid 19th century. These images of several generations of family should help visitors feel a personal connection to the various occupants of Bowne House, adding to their educational experience.

In closing, we would like to thank you for your continued support of Bowne House. Once construction begins at the museum, we will have frequent updates on our website. We will likely be unable to welcome the public from time to time, so please check the web before scheduling a visit. We do hope to be posting pictures of ongoing construction work and will of course update our members of any significant developments. At some point, we would like to host a program about our findings.

We would particularly like to thank Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilman Peter Koo and the following foundations: Baumbusch, Bray’s Island, Gerson Family, Nautilus, Octagon, and New York Community Trust, as well as our many loyal members and descendants.

We would also like to acknowledge our resident manager, Anne Perl de Pal, an architect by profession, who has watched over the house while coordinating with local civic groups and schools, organizing and supervising our intern program. Anne has been quick to alert us to any issues needing to be addressed at the house or on our grounds; her vigilance has allowed us to avoid more serious damage from adverse weather conditions. We are very fortunate to have her with us.

If you have not previously made a donation, please consider doing so now.  All donations are fully tax deductible. We depend on your generosity to fund our operating expenses and to support our community outreach and educational programming, as well as our commitments to the restoration.
Have a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy and healthy New Year,

Sincerely,

Morris Hylton III, president