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City acquires Bowne House

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The long-awaited restoration of Flushing’s historic Bowne House could be completed by 2012 after the city acquired the property last week, making it the 23rd home of its kind to join the city’s Historic House Trust.

City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced the agency had taken over the home, which was built circa 1661, at a news conference Sept. 30.

The Historic House Trust, which will continue to operate the house as a museum, will likely begin its two-year renovation of the property next year that could be completed by 2012, said Abigail Lootens, a spokeswoman for the trust.

“Bowne House has always been more than an historic house,” said Rosemary Vietor, president of the house’s historical society. “It has been a center of learning and inspiration to generations of visitors. We look forward to a bright future ahead.”

Bowne House is at 37-01 Bowne St. in Flushing.

In May, Vietor had said $628,000 for the home’s renovation had been moved to the 2013 fiscal year and that work at the site could not begin until the city took control of the property, which had been slow to happen.

Now the $2.3 million renovation of the home’s exterior is expected to begin in 2010, Lootens said. It is currently in the design phase with the bidding process and city review of the renovation to take place before construction starts, she said.

This phase of the project will include replacement and repair of the home’s timber framing, siding, windows, doors, shutters, brick and the wood shingle roof as well as exterior repainting.

The project will also include the construction of a $1.7 million visitor center, an archeological investigation of the site and redevelopment of the Bowne House’s surrounding park.

Franny Eberhart, chairwoman of the Historic House Trust, said the home played an early role in the formation of the United States’ social contract.

“One of the first cries for liberty in America was heard from the Bowne House when, in the 1660s, John Bowne opened his doors to the Quakers in defiance of the Dutch governor of New Netherlands,” she said.

Bowne, a prominent Quaker who emigrated from England to Boston before settling in Flushing, used the home as a meeting place to celebrate religious diversity at a time when it was forbidden by law. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated city landmark.

“The Bowne House is a microcosm of social, cultural and political history,” Benepe said. “Not only is it one of the oldest surviving structures of New York City and the oldest in Queens, but the Bowne family has also left its mark on the city again and again, helping New York City become the cradle of tolerance and diversity.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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