Bowne House Restoration Moving Ahead
From the Queens Tribune
By JULIET WERNER
Plans for the restoration of Bowne House and the construction of an adjoining visitor center were announced last Friday morning. Restoration began in 2000 but was put on hold when funding ran out. In the years since, the Bowne House Historical Society has raised $2.1 million, $700,000 from public sources. The Society cannot legally access this money until the House is transferred to the Historic House Trust of New York City. According to Executive Director the transfer is still pending.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) provided a significant portion of the public funding for the project and attended the unveiling. Marshall addressed the significance of Bowne’s contribution to American society and outlined her commitment to the undertaking.
“This year, we celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Flushing Remonstrance which is a forerunner to the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Marshall said. “Through John Bowne’s actions its place in history was assured.”
Bowne’s wife, Hannah Feake Bowne, was a Quaker minister and hosted “Friends’ meetings” in their Flushing home. When Director General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant discovered the meeting site, he deported Bowne to Europe.
Bowne’s testimony before the Dutch West India Company laid the groundwork for religious tolerance in the New World. The company acquitted him and demanded Stuyvesant to let people practice all religions freely.
Marshall, dedicated to honoring this legacy, has allotted $650,000 towards renovation on the House and $300,000 towards erecting a Visitor Center. She has challenged the Bowne House Historical Society to raise an additional $200,000.
State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) has been working to raise funds. He secured a $100,000 grant to redo the house’s back wall years ago
“The Visitor Center is something long overdue in terms of making the educational opportunity to our young people about the second oldest house in New York City and all of the meaning that goes into it in terms of the Flushing Remonstrance,” Padavan said.
The Visitor Center, designed by Architect James Dixon, will hold offices, meeting rooms and additional exhibit space as well as offer the community resources, which will be especially helpful during restoration on the House itself.