BY RICHARD FASANELLA
Tucked away between a Flushing playground and tall apartment buildings, and surrounded by the bustle of busy Bowne Street and 37th Avenue, stands a modest monument to American religious freedom — The Bowne House.
With the help of a new state grant announced last week this historical landmark may slowly regain some of the luster lost in recent years. A request for a state grant enabling the Bowne House Historical Society to continue the rehabilitation of the 17th century structure has been approved by Governor George Pataki, according to Senator Frank Padavan.
The $175,474 grant — issued under the historic preservation portion of the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act — will help the Bowne House continue its ongoing renovation project. Padavan was also successful in securing an earlier grant for the Bowne House project. In 1998, he won approval of a $100,000 grant to help launch the three-phase rehabilitation effort.
“We are delighted by this new grant,” said Evangeline Egglezos, executive director of the Bowne House Historical Society. “The Bowne House is deeply grateful for the efforts of all those who helped secure this vital funding.”
Stabilization of the foundation and the frame of the home built by John Bowne in 1661 is the first of three phases of rehabilitation mapped out by the Bowne House Historical Society. According to Egglezos, the grant money will go toward this phase of the restoration plan — which is also the most expensive.
“It is very encouraging to see the Bowne House getting the recognition it deserves,” Egglezos said. “By granting this money, there is an implicit recognition its significance as an historic landmark.”
The Bowne House was declared a city landmark in 1966 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
During an inspection of the house last year, Bradley Cohen, project manager of the Empire State Development Corporation commented that the house is “in remarkably good condition given its age.”
However work began last year to repair the house’s structural components that have been
compromised by “age, rot, unsympathetic alterations and termite infestation,” according to a newsletter published in 1999.
Currently the restoration firm of Crowley & Prudon Architects is taking part in the extensive repairs needed to maintain the structure. The area in most need of repair reportedly lies in the northeast corner of the 1680 addition and 1830 modification of the structure. The architectural preservation team is reportedly expected to underpin the house’s foundation provide site drainage, repair the structural frame, eliminate the termite infestation and reinstall the exterior cladding.
Egglezos said the second phase of the restoration plan is to treat the mechanical systems of the house including the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and wiring. Once that portion of the plan is completed, the focus of the project will switch to renovating the exterior and interior parts of the house.
Doug Bauer, president of the Bowne House Board of Trustees, said that currently there is a plan to raise an additional $4 million to help pay for the restoration. In order to gather such a large amount of money, Bauer said that the board is seeking the help of a professional fundraising group.
“If we have all of the money soon, we could probably complete the stabilization phase of the project in 18 to 24 months,” said Egglezos.
During the 1660’s the home was the epicenter of the quest for religious freedom — the first time it was attempted in any political state. It was there that Bowne allowed area Quakers seeking refuge from Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s restrictive religious edicts to worship.
The house which reflects the Dutch, English and New England styles of architecture, was opened to the public as a museum on July 4, 1947. Currently the house offers a glimpse of colonial and early American life with its extensive collection of furniture, textiles and paintings which were once owned by the Bowne-Parsons family.
– Stephen McGuire contributed to this story
Preserving The History Of Queens
BY JOSH KAUFMAN
When it comes to naming what will be preserved for future generations in Queens, landlords and civic leaders go to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, but keeping track of who owns everything worthy of the history books is a complicated list to find.
To compile a complete list of all the owners of Queens’ landmarks would take months of research in the Commission’s files, the Tribune was told, and that information just isn’t readily available. Neither did the city Buildings Department or the Department of Taxation have a reference list on hand.
However, Councilman John Sabini, chair of the council’s landmarks committee, explained that most of the landmarks in Queens are either city-owned or owned by foundations who raise funds to keep their history alive. As for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, monitoring ownership is not part of their regular job.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), was created in 1965 by Mayor Robert Wagner and is staffed by 11 Commissioners and a staff of nearly 50 — making it one of the smallest City agencies. It is responsible for the review and approval of sites to be designated as landmarks.
“It would take six months to gather data on who owns all the [Queens] landmarks,” said Terri Rosen Deutsch, chief of staff of the LPC. “That information is not readily available here.”
Instead, what the Commission does track is the status of sites, approves changes to their landmark segments, and issue fines when fines are called for.
The LPC regulates landmarks by approving renovations, restorations, and other changes to the structure of the landmark.
“Once a place is landmarked, the owner is on his own,” said Stanley Cogan, Queens Borough Historian. “About 90-percent of the time the sites are designated externally,” he said. “Internal designations are made in special cases. Landmarked churches are not altered internally.”
However, in 1998, Mayor Rudy Giuliani signed the Landmarks Protection Bill, which was passed by the City Council. The bill granted the LPC the ability to levy civil fines against violators of the Landmarks Law, which requires any external work to be done on a landmark first be approved by the LPC, according to officials.
There are four types of landmarks: individual, interior, scenic, and historic district. Individual landmarks are places such as Bowne House and Kingsland Homestead—the home of the Queens Borough Historical Society. Last June, Fire Engine Company 289 and Ladder Company 138 were designated in Elmhurst as individual landmarks.
Interior landmarks apply to churches and internal architecture that is deemed worth saving. St. George’s Episcopal Church and the Old Parish House in Flushing was designated on Feb. 8.
Scenic landmarks include overlook points and natural settings, while historic districts are whole areas such as the Hunter’s Point and Jackson Heights Historic Districts.
The designation process to classify a property as a landmark consists of many steps. First, the LPC must receive suggestions from property owners, citizens, public officials, and community groups generating interest in the preservation of a site. LPC officials are also capable of proposing buildings and sites for potential designation, according to LPC documents.
Interested parties must then file a Request for Evaluation (RFE) form, which will provide as much data on the site as possible, and includes photographs, slides, and other technical data, added Cogan.
The information is then reviewed by members of an internal RFE Committee, who decide if the site meets criteria for designation. If it does, the Designation Committee, staffed by five Commissioners, votes on whether to pass the property to the full Commission for review at a public hearing, said LPC officials.
The first public hearing “usually consists of discussions and a slide show, and then a decision to either table the site for a future meeting, or outright reject the site for consideration of landmark status,” said Cogan.
Public meetings are then held as necessary to further discuss the site, and then the Commission votes at a final public meeting whether or not to designate the property. Six votes are required to either approve or deny designation. The LPC then files the designation report with the City Planning Commission (CPC), City Council, and other city agencies. A Notice of Designation is sent to the property owner and the City Register or the County Clerks Office, according to the LPC.
The CPC has 60 days to report to the City Council, outlining the ways designation effects zoning and other city plans. Historic District designations require the CPC to hold a public hearing.
Finally, the City Council is allowed 120 days from the time the LPC filed its designation report. A majority vote by the Council is required to pass the motion, and the Mayor has five days to veto the vote. The City Council then has 10 days to override the Mayor’s veto with a two-thirds vote.