OKs Bowne House Center Plan
Rendering courtesy the Parks Department
Flushing's Bowne House is set to build a new
visitor's center, which will include office space,
restrooms and a gallery. Photo courtesy Parks Department
By Alex Robinson
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission approved
a $2.8 million plan to build a visitor’s center
for Flushing’s historic John Bowne House in late
The 1,250-square-foot visitor’s center will
be on the southeast corner of the property and will
face the 17th-century house, which was built by Bowne,
a pioneer in religious freedom whose principles contributed
to the Bill of Rights.
The new facility will contain office space, a gallery
that will double as a community meeting space and badly
“Getting those things out of the 17th-century
house will give us more room in the house for tours,” said
Rosemary Vietor, vice president of The Bowne House
“The current rest room probably dates from the
turn of the 19th century and the plumbing is extremely
fragile. It is certainly not handicapped accessible.
The water in the sink hasn’t worked for years.
It’s one step up from an outhouse,” she
The city Parks Department has led a restoration of
the exterior of the house, at 37-01 Bowne St., that
started in the spring. Contractors recently uncovered
a number of artifacts and historical details in the
When some deteriorated portions of the house’s
timber frame were replaced in late November, contractors
found a heavy mud-like material that was used to insulate
the house in the 1690s.
“It’s almost like concrete and it has
animal hair in it. That’s interesting to see
what they used for insulation in the 17th century,” Vietor
The historical society plans to send the animal hair
away to a lab to have it identified.
Contractors also found the house’s original color
after scraping off several centuries of paint jobs.
“It was interesting going through the various
layers of paint to see what had happened over time,” Vietor
The house’s original layer was a cream color,
said Vietor. The house was then painted citrine and
“As you know styles change and the finish on
the house was whatever the fashion of the time was,” she
Bowne first bought the land the house sits on in 1653.
The exact date the house was built is up for debate.
The house’s historical society first thought
it was built in the 1660s, but timber professionals
recently told them it might have been earlier.
The restoration of the house’s exterior is slated
to be finished in May.
The Parks Department expects to break ground on the
new visitor’s center in spring 2015, pending
all approvals and permits.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or
by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group