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Queens Farm Museum’s roots go back to late 1600s

Older than the United States of America, the Queens County Farm Museum's history dates back to 1697 soon after the Dutch first settled the area.

Elbert Adriance purchased the land from John Harrison in 1697. Little is known about the property until 1772, when Jacob and Catherine Adriance purchased a portion of the land from Jacob's brother. The couple then built the farmhouse, which still stands on the Farm Museum.

Late 18th century farmers in the area were mostly self-sufficient, growing and raising everything they needed to feed themselves all on their own land. Farms often had large planting fields where most farmers grew wheat or another fiber for silage for their cattle.

In addition to planting fields, farms of the time also had a kitchen garden, run by the wife. The kitchen garden provided the herbs and special vegetables the family needed. Many farms also had orchards, with apples being the most common because of their use in making cider.

Jacob Adriance died in 1797 and the house was briefly occupied by the Brinckerhoff, Bennum and Lent families.

Peter Cox bought the Adriance farm in 1833 and continued the farming. As Cox's sons grew, the family established a livery business. The Coxes raised horses on the farmland and maintained a business in Brooklyn.

All of the owners of the farm were Dutch until 1880, when Daniel Stattel, a German immigrant bought the land. The Stattels converted the farm from one of self-sufficiency to a "truck farm."

Truck farms were in the business of growing produce to feed the growing city. Fruits and vegetables were grown in Queens and sold in markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The produce was transported by water, hours and later the railroad.

The Stattels devoted their fields to growing many varieties of produce to be sold in the city markets. Farmers competed to sell their crops to the city merchants during the prime business hours of midnight and 6 a.m. -- just before the start of the retail business day.

The Stattel family and other local farmers had to bring their produce to the Wallabout market in Brooklyn by wagon. Produce was brought to the Ganesvoort and Washington markets by wagon, which took the produce to a ferry across the East River and then by wagon again.

With the opening of the Erie Canal, better quality grains came to the Northeast from the Midwest. A census report form 1880 shows area farmers had a strong sense of family farming and had large numbers of hired help to produce the cash crops and the few items for their own consumption.

In 1908 a portion of the farm was sold to the state and at about the same time Daniel Stattel bought property in Rockville Center. Daniel's son George continued to farm the land until 1926. In 1927 the farm became the property of Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital.

Creedmoor continued to farm the land. A Mr. Foster, who worked for the hospital, supervised a small crew of patients, who worked the land. The program provided eggs, milk, meat, fruits, butter, flowers and vegetables for Creedmoor and was believed to provide exercise and therapy for the patients, along with fresh air.

In 1973 the farm's association with Creedmoor ended, and the property was dormant until 1975 when a group of concerned citizens banded together to save the property from development. James Trent lead the group and formed the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, which established and operates the Queens County Farm Museum.

Trent said area residents were concerned because the state was getting ready to auction the land and its zoning would have allowed high rises. North Shore Towers, two buildings rising high above the rest of eastern Queens, had just been built and the neighborhood did not want another set of high rises, Trent said.

But he said there was an interest in the farm that went beyond the desire to keep high rises out of the area.

"There weren't a whole lot of farms in the city," Trent said. "It had a uniqueness far beyond just keeping open space."

Trent said although the farm museum was started in 1975 and the farmhouse was landmarked in 1976, the city did not actually receive the title for the land until 1982.

Twenty years after it opened the Farm Museum has turned into more than a historic sight, Trent said. He said the museum draws more than 200,000 visitors a year for programs which range from an American-Indian Pow Wow to an antique auto show and the Queens County Fair.

Trent said the museum tries to host events that are varied because the farm is for everyone and not just history buffs. The museum has become the second-largest cultural institution in Queens, second to the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, he said.

Restorations worth $2.5 million have either been completed or begun on the farm, Trent said. He said when the restorations planned by the Restoration Society are competed, the Farm Museum will be the largest restoration project in Queens history.

Information about the History John Adriance Farm House was provided by the Queens County Farm Museum.

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