By Merle Exit
It’s beginning to look a lot like the start of the holiday season in Queens.
Next week, seven borough landmarks will open their doors to the public for the 28th annual Holiday Historic House Tour, sponsored by the Queens Historical Society.
“Our tour is a chance to do some urban exploring in your own backyard,” Andrea Zrake, outreach and educational director for the historical society, said.
The participating sites—Bowne House, Flushing Town Hall, Friends Quaker Meeting House, Kingsland Homestead, Lewis H. Latimer House Museum, Louis Armstrong House Museum and Voelker Orth Museum Bird Sanctuary & Victorian Garden—will be decorated as they were during Christmas celebrations of yore. They will also offer special activities, craft fairs and refreshments.
The stops include several of the better-known sites in Flushing and Corona.
English-born religious freedom advocate John Bowne built the Bowne House (37-01 Bowne St.) in 1661. It is the oldest house in Queens. Nine generations of the Bowne and Parsons family lived there until 1945, when the house became a museum. This year, the historic original kitchen is open to visitors.
Built in 1862, Flushing Town Hall (137-35 Northern Blvd.) hosted swearing-in ceremonies for Union soldiers during the Civil War, and served as an opera house, courthouse, jail, and bank branch on the way to its current role as a cultural venue. Visitors will be able to shop at a holiday market featuring a wide range of items, all made in Queens.
The Friends Quaker Meeting House (137-16 Northern Blvd., Flushing), constructed in 1694, is the city’s oldest structure in continuous use for religious purposes. Visitors will be able to walk around the property and view its historic cemetery.
Charles Doughty, son of a wealthy Quaker, built a house in 1785. It became Kingsland Homestead (143-35 37th Ave., Flushing) after Doughty’s son-in-law, a British sea captain named Joseph King, bought it in 1801.
Lewis H. Latimer, the African-American son of fugitive slaves, was vital in developing the telephone and the incandescent light bulb. From 1903 until his death in 1928, he lived in a house at 34-41 137th St. in Flushing. Tours of that house, along with holiday refreshments, will be offered.
Jazz legend Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, moved into what is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum (34-56 107th St., Corona) in 1943. In keeping with Armstrong tradition, Satchmo’s house will be brightly decorated for the holidays. The tour will feature audio clips from his personal recordings. Visitors will hear his magical voice reading “’Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Visit from St. Nicholas” from 1971, along with other seasonal recordings.
The Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden (149-19 38th Ave., Flushing) dates to 1891. Its garden contains many of the popular plants and berry bushes of the late 19th century. For the tour, visitors will enjoy a sing-along at the piano, accompanied by Grammy-nominated composer/musician John Guari.
There is a gift and plant sale, and visitors can warm up with a cup of mulled cider and cookies.
If you go
Holiday Historic House Tour
When: Sunday, Dec. 6, from 12:30 pm – 5 pm
Where: Various sites in Flushing and Corona
Cost: $20/advance, $25/day of, $10/children under 12
Contact: (718) 939-0647