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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Flushing Freedom Trail, Flushing, New York

Some time in the last two decades of the 20th century, the Flushing Freedom Trail was established to guide people to historic sites and attractions in the Flushing area. A red line was painted along the sidewalk and signs were placed along the route. This earlier route received an update in the 1990s when the "Flushing Freedom Mile" was launched. Two trails are provided - the Green Trail and the Orange Trail.

A description of the Green Trail from one of the signs follows: "The Green Trail takes you through an area where some of the most important events in Flushing's history took place. You'll see Bowne House and George Fox Stone, testaments to religious freedom. You'll learn how the Macedonia A.M.E. Church and the Flushing Female Association School served Flushing's African-American community. You'll also pass the former Parsons Nursery, where Samuel Bowne Parsons introduced the Weeping Beech, to America."

Green Trail Historic Sites

Bowne House

Bowne House: This house, built by John Bowne in 1661, featured prominently in the early struggle for religious freedom in America. It was the first place of worship for Flushing's Quakers, who were forbidden by Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant to practice their religion. Bowne was arrested in 1662 for allowing Quaker services in his home, and was then banished to the Netherlands. During his exile he was granted a meeting with Dutch leaders in Amsterdam. He described Stuyvesant's persecution of the Quakers and argued for their right to worship freely. The Dutch responded by reprimanding Stuyvesant and declaring, "The conscience of men ought to remain free and unshackeld. Let every one remain free." In 1664 Bowne returned to his house, where Quaker meetings were held for another 30 years, until the Friends Meeting House was built.

Margaret Carman Green: Flushing is considered to be the "Birthplace of Horticulture" in the New World. The first tree nursery in America was established in Flushing by William Prince in 1937 (sic). Others soon followed. These nurseries were widely known for their beauty. It was said that British General William Howe, whose troops occupied Flushing during the Revolution, so admired William Prince's nursery and gardens that he ordered guards to protect them from damage. Remnants from these nurseries can be seen in Flushing today, including exotic trees such as Bald Cypresses, and Golden Larch. Street names also echo Flushing's horticultural past: Prince Street and Parsons Boulevard, Maple, Ash, Beech, and Cherry Avenues. This park named after Flushing historian Margaret Carman, stands on land that was part of Parsons Nursery, once one of the most renowned nurseries in the country.

Kingsland Homestead

Kingsland Homestead: This house is the only surviving example of 18th century architecture in Flushing. It was built ca. 1785 by Charles Doughty, a Quaker farmer, and was named "Kingsland" by his son-in-law, Joseph King. King was an English sea captain who bought the house in 1801. Kingsland has been relocated twice since it was built. Originally located at 155th Street, the house was first moved to allow for the building of an apartment house in 1923. It was moved to a nearby site where Captain King once owned a stables. When the house faced demolition again in 1968, it was moved here, to Weeping Beech Park, once part of the Parsons Nursery. Landmarked in 1965, Kingsland was the first building in Queens to be declared a New York City landmark. Kingsland Homestead is now home to the Queens Historical Society.

Site of Weeping Birch Tree

Site of Weeping Beech Tree: The Weeping Beech Tree that once stood in this park was the first of its species to grow in this country. It was planted in 1847 by Samuel Bowne Parsons, a Flushing nursery owner. Parsons, who provided Manhattan's Central Park with many of its original trees, brought the Weeping Beech cultivar to America from Belgium. The tree was given landmark status in 1966, and was the first living landmark in New York City. Although it died in 1998, its offspring can be found in Flushing and throughout the country; all Weeping Beech trees in the United States are said to be descended from this one tree. This site was originally part of the Parsons Nursery owned by Samuel and his brother Robert Bowne Parsons. Also known for their humanitarian works, the brothers were active in the Underground Railroad.

Site of Aspinwall House

Fox Stone

Macedonia AME Church

Site of Flushing Female Association School

Former RKO Keith's Theatre

Orange Trail Historic Sites
Flushing High School
Lewis Latimer House
Flushing Town Hall
Daniel Carter Beard Square
Former RKO Keith's Theatre
Friends Meeting House
State Armory
St. George's Church

Interpretive Sign from Green Trail

"Queens Locator Map" from Interpretive Sign

Other Sources