The Queens Historical Society will host a tour of three historic houses on the "Flushing Freedom Mile" allowing visitors to go back in time to a quieter, slower era when Christmas decorations were not plugged into a wall outlet.
The Queens Historical Society was formed in 1968 two months after the Kingsland Mansion, its current home and the first stop on the tour, was moved, for the second time, because of construction going on next door.
The first time the 2 1/2-story, gambrel-roofed house built for Charles Doughty around 1774 was moved was in 1923 when the Flushing IRT was under construction and was expected to be extended to Bayside.
It's fitting, then, that the only museum dedicated to the history of the city's largest borough is headquartered in the home named after Doughty's son-in-law Joseph King.
The current exhibition is "Angels of Deliverance: The Struggle Against Slavery in Queens and Long Island."
The mansion takes visitors back to an authentic late Victorian Christmas. Santa's elf Mitchell Grubler, whose day job is executive director of the Society, last week was making last-minute adjustments to the historically correct, handcrafted decorations. "We used white pine roping which we looped around the columns and stair railings," Grubler said as he pinned a pine wreath to the top half of the Dutch-door entrance to Kingsland at 143-35 37th Ave.
Upstairs, Santa Claus (Society Vice-President James Driscoll) was practicing his reading of "The Night Before Christmas" to delight children and adults alike this Saturday.
The second stop on the tour is the Lewis Latimer House, which joins the holiday event for the first time this year. Ironically, the house will be decorated, like Kingsland, without electric displays even though Latimer invented the process for making carbon filaments for the light bulb that is still used today.
Inside Latimer House, at 34-41 137th St., the elves were carefully placing porcelain figurines on the Christmas tree that stood just inches from a bust of Latimer, the son of a runaway slave who became the self-taught chief draftsman for Thomas Edison. A new display in the 1887 house, "Bringing the Latimers Home," illustrates daily life in Flushing for the African-American inventor who received a patent in 1882 for his carbon filament manufacturing process and went on to supervise the installation of street lighting in New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London.
Lest one forgets the religious significance of Christmas (which is not difficult, considering modern-day commercial bombardment), the third stop will be at the Friends Meeting House at 137-16 Northern Blvd. where Quakers met in Flushing's first house of worship. Flushing is considered to be the birth of religious freedom in America since it was the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance that permitted the Quakers to gather without interference.
The Meeting House, built in 1694, will be the scene of a one-hour performance by the Goliard Carolers. The show, starting at 3 p.m., features popular holiday favorites by this quartet of an alto, soprano, tenor and bass.
Each house offers holiday refreshments. Admission to the tour is $10 for adults, free for children under 12 when accompanied by an adult. A mini bus will pick up visitors every 20 minutes from the municipal parking lot and make stops at each historic house.
For more information call 718-939-0647.
©2000 Community News Group
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