By Alex Palmer
Those interested in getting an in-person taste of how Queens once celebrated the holidays are in luck.
The Queens Historical Society hosts its 26th annual Holiday Historic House Tour on Sunday, Dec. 8, offering a first-hand look at seven historical sites and how Queens residents celebrated the holidays throughout the centuries.
The tours run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and participants can go at their own pace, exploring the different houses in any order they like.
But regardless of which order participants follow the tour, it would be best to begin at Kingsland Homestead, 143-35 37th Ave. in Flushing, a late 18th-century home and the headquarters for the Queens Historical Society. Musical performances will be taking place there throughout the day, not to mention a gift shop will be open as well.
“As you’re moving and progressing, going from house to house, you go from era to era learning about family and homes and a piece of history from these different times,” said Ellissa Fazio, executive director of the Queens Historical Society. “You can go to any house at any time and learn something different.”
Other stops on the tour include the Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden,149-19 38th Ave. in Flushing, which dates back to 1891 and provides a peek into Victorian era holiday décor as well as the Lewis H. Latimer House Museum, 34-41 137th St. in Flushing, which will be serving traditional holiday refreshments.
“Latimer worked with Thomas Edison — was probably the only African American employee of his — and helped to create the incandescent light bulb,” Fazio said.
While the holiday house tour has been taking place for more than a quarter century, this will be the first year that the Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th St. in Corona, will be included as part of the agenda. Visitors to this National Historic Landmark built in 1910 will be able to check out the period decorations while enjoying rare audio recordings of Satchmo himself reading Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
The Friends Meeting House, 137-16 Northern Blvd., the first house of worship in Flushing will be hosting the John Scardina Musical Ensemble throughout the day, while members of the Bowne House Historical Society, 37-01 Bowne St. in Flushing, will offer a talk on traditional American Christmas customs.
Rounding out the locations is Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd. Built in 1862, the building offers a history of dignitaries, such as P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb, who visited the borough. It also staged operas and even included a jail cell in the building.
Anyone concerned that their feet might get tired from strolling from house to house does not have to worry, as the Historical Society will be providing shuttles between the properties.
“The main goal is to have people realize that these historic houses are just right around them,” says Fazio. “Some of these homes have been here since the 1700s — they’ve been sitting here the whole time and a lot of people have probably walked by them a hundred times without realizing.”
More information on the tour is available at the Queens Historical Society’s website, queenshistoricalsociety.org.
If you go
Holiday Historic House Tour
Sunday, Dec. 8 from 1 pm to 5 pm
Advanced tickets are $10 and available at HolidayHouseTour2013.eventbrite.com; Day-of-event tickets are $12 and can be purchased at each of the venues.