BY JAMES FARRELL
On Dec. 10, history and the holidays go hand in hand.
For the 30th consecutive year, the Historic Holiday House Tour will highlight some of Queens’ historic homes. This year’s tour will feature family-friendly activities, performances and refreshments spread out among seven iconic residences in the borough, all open to the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. History buffs can plan their day walking to each site at their own pace or hop onboard the Holiday House Tour Trolley, which stops at each location. Trolley information will be available at each site.
Given that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, this year’s event will celebrate the women who once called these historic sites home.
At the Louis Armstrong House Museum, located at 34-56 107th St., guests will have the opportunity to learn more about Lucille Armstrong, wife of the legendary jazz musician who once called the building home.
Lucille was the guiding hand behind many of the house’s decorative touches—including a marble bathroom with gold-plated features. Stories of her active relationship with the community and insight into Louis’ life will be highlighted. Listen to Louis Armstrong’s iconic voice recite “’Twas The Night Before Christmas.”
At Flushing Town Hall, located at 137-35 Northern Blvd., another stop on the tour, Queens resident and jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald’s life will be on display. Her music will be played throughout the building for guests, who will have the opportunity to shop at the town hall’s annual holiday market. Originally the focal point of 19th-century life in the neighborhood, Flushing Town Hall is now a cultural-arts performance center.
The Bowne House, located at 37-01 Bowne St., is Queens’ oldest domicile and retains city, state and federal landmark status. The English-born religious-freedom advocate John Bowne built it in 1661. This year, it will feature an exhibit on the history of Christmas, with a special emphasis on how women have figured into its history, along with other historic artifacts.
Almost as old as the Bowne House is the Quaker Meeting House, located at 137-16 Northern Blvd.
Constructed in 1694, the meetinghouse was the first house of worship in an earlier version of Flushing known as Vlissingen. It is New York’s oldest structure still in continuous use for religious purposes. During the tour, the meetinghouse will present visitors with live performances, folk singing and hot apple cider and teach guests about the Flushing Female Association, which established the area’s first free school in 1814.
Another stop on the tour, the Kings-land Homestead, located at 143-35 37th Ave., now serves as the headquarters for the Queens Historical Society. The house was built in 1785 and played host to five generations of the historic King and Murray families. The tour will highlight Annie Cornelia Mitchell Murray, who lived in the house in the 1800s and served as a nurse during the Civil War.
The Lewis Howard Latimer House, located at 34-41 137th St., will present a short film with Dr. Winifred Latimor Norman, who fought to save the historical house that once belonged to her grandfather, Lewis Latimer, an African American who contributed to several major inventions, such as the incandescent light bulb and telephone.
And the Voelker Orth House, located at 149-19 38th Ave., which housed three generations of the Voelker and Orth families dating back to 1891, will be decorated in a traditional German-American style—much how Voelker and Orth women would have decorated it for the holidays. Guests can join a sing-along, drink hot mulled cider and view paintings by German artist Elizabeth Korn.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Children under the age of 12 can attend for $5. One ticket is good for all stops. The event is sponsored by the Kindler Foundation, Con Edison, the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel, the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Historical Society.