Bowne, Latimer homes join city’s Historic House Trust

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The oldest house in Queens along with the home of a renowned black inventor in Flushing are in the process of being taken under the wing of an agency that looks out for many of New York City’s historic dwellings.

“Bowne House and Latimer House are the latest properties that are to become part of the Historic House Trust,” said Therese Braddick, executive director of the nonprofit organization.

The trust, which is a partner with the city Department of Parks and Recreation, provides expertise and curators, organizes events and spearheads funding efforts for sites under its purview.

State Sen. Frank Padavan, R-Bellerose, has long been active in preservation of Queens historical sites, particularly Bowne House, at 37-01 Bowne St. in Flushing — the oldest house in the borough.

“This house has great religious significance because John Bowne, who built the house in 1661, invited Quakers to meet in his home in defiance of Dutch authorities,” Padavan said.

The government of Governor Peter Stuyvesant had banned the Quaker sect and Bowne was arrested in 1662, jailed and fined but was later released. Bowne appealed to the directors of the Dutch West India Company. They directed Stuyvesant not to jail such dissenters provided they did not cause “social disruption.”

“This led ultimately to the Flushing Remonstrance, the first declaration of religious freedom in this country,” said Padavan, whose past efforts have helped provide state funds to help renovate and maintain Bowne House.

Bowne House is considered one of the finest examples of vernacular Dutch-English architecture in the United States. Through the century after its construction in 1661, few changes and additions were made. Since 1830, only plumbing and electrification have been added. It contains a collection of indigenous furniture and pewter ware.

Ken Cohen, president of Lewis H. Latimer Fund Inc., said Latimer House at 34-41 137th St. in Flushing, needs some help.

Latimer House, built at 64 Holly Ave. in Flushing, the home of Lewis Howard Latimer, the black inventor of the modern electric light bulb filament, was scheduled to be torn down 15 years ago.

It was saved from destruction and was moved two miles to the 137th Street location.

“But the project to restore Latimer House was largely ineffective because of inferior building materials and poor management of the job,” said Ken Cohen “A lot of the reconstruction work had rotted.”

He pointed out that “we have been trying to obtain money from the city, maybe as much as $130,000, to get a qualified building contractor to get the restoration done.”

Braddick said the Historic House Trust could begin working with Latimer House immediately, although it might take somewhat longer with Bowne House.

“Bowne House is owned by Bowne House Historical Society so there are a few legal considerat­ions,” Braddick said.

The two new Queens sites will bring to 24 the number of properties citywide to be overseen by the Historic House Trust, which already include Queens Kingsland House, the Queens County Farm Museum in Bellerose and King Manor, a mansion in Jamaica.

Other famous sites under the agency’s jurisdiction include the Swedish Cottage in Central Park and Dyckman House at 207th Street and Broadway, both in Manhattan.

Latimer, who died in 1928 at the age of 85, was the only black member of Thomas A. Edison’s research team of scientists.

Edison invented the incandescent bulb, but Latimer developed and patented the process for manufacturing the carbon filaments for lighting bulbs. Up until then, filaments had been made from paper. Latimer also supervised installation of electric street lighting in New York City, Philadelphia, London and Montreal.

Latimer, born in Chelsea, Mass., was the son of George Latimer, a fugitive slave.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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