Exhibit celebrates 150th anniversary of Flushing Town Hall

Sen. Toby Stavisky (l.-r.), Councilman Dan Halloran, Flushing Town Hall Executive Director Ellen Kodadek, President Howard Graf of the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts' board of directors, Councilman Peter Koo and Comptroller John Liu pose at a celebration of the hall's 150th anniversary. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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Flushing Town Hall has worn many hats in its 150 years, but its latest incarnation may be the one that most resembles the first.

For the building’s milestone anniversary, the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, kicked off its “Flushing Town Hall: 150 Years of Community, Creativity and Culture” exhibit at the hall Sunday.

The showcase, which runs until Oct. 7, primarily features items from the time capsule laid in with the building’s cornerstone in 1862, like coins, business cards and a newspaper. It also has photos, postcards and clothes from the Victorian Era.

“It’s a great opportunity to see a glimpse of a time that no longer exists, but a look into the future of the Flushing Town Hall as well,” Ellen Kodadek, executive and artistic director of the hall, said.

The hall is at 137-35 Northern Blvd. in Flushing.

After its construction in 1862, the hall was used as a community gathering place to welcome home Civil War soldiers, Kodadek said. Throughout the next century and a half, the hall went through many changes. It was used as a theater, an opera house, a courthouse, a bank and possibly a house of ill-repute.

But in 1993, the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts began restoring what was then a broken-down and graffiti-ridden building, turning it into the multicultural arts institution it is today. It opened to the public in 1999 and continues to host exhibits, performances and community events.

“Our programs are as diverse as the visitors who walk through our doors,” Kodadek said.

For the first day of its exhibit Sunday, Flushing Town Hall hosted a talk by archivist Angelo Vigorito and visits from Flushing elected officials.

“I’m very proud to have this wonderful cultural institution right here in my district,” City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said.

City Comptroller John Liu, who grew up in Flushing, said he remembered the hall as a much different place and was happy to celebrate the anniversary.

“The Flushing Town Hall has been restored in so many ways to its great glory,” Liu said.

Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who loaned many historical objects for the exhibit, called Flushing Town Hall one of the jewels of New York City. He spoke of how the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition to Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant decrying his ban preventing Quakers from worshiping, was supposedly written across the street. He said this letter arguing on behalf of religious tolerance formed the basis of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s amazing to think how much America was shaped in the 1-mile radius around this hall,” Halloran said.

The exhibition is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Members can visit for free and the suggested admission for others is $5.

“We look forward to another 150 years,” state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone

Updated 3:50 am, September 13, 2012
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