November 3, 2012, Saturday, 307

Flushing History

From The Peopling of New York City


Historical Flushing
While the earliest inhabitants of Flushing were the Algonquin-speaking Matinecock Indians, the first Europeans to settle were the Dutch, who arrived in 1628, under the Dutch West India Company. In 1639 Governor William Kieft bought the land that became Queens County, and on October 10, 1645 the land that became Flushing was officially founded and named Vlissengen, after a Dutch village. The name was changed to Flushing after British takeover. It addition to the Dutch, it was largely settled by English families.


Dutch Rule

Quaker Meeting House [1]
One of the most important events to take place in Flushing history was the Quaker fight for religious tolerance. The first Quaker settlers were immediately put in jail or sent back to England by the Dutch government. Soon, however, the Quaker population increased and the group’s religious teachings became widely practiced, even with the continued opposition of the government. With the official religion being the Dutch Reformed Church, only Dutch reformed congregations were allowed during this time. Nonetheless, the Quakers freely practiced their religion. Governor Peter Stuyvesant, in response to this, demanded the expulsion, of not only the Quakers, but also the Jews and other religious groups. Many Quakers, including a prominent Flushing settler Henry Townsend, held meetings in their homes, only to be fined and banished by the government. In response, on December 27, 1657, the town members drafted the Flushing Remonstrance, which cleverly quoted the original Flushing Charter that had granted the right to practice one’s religion without persecution.
Freedom Trail
While the founders of the draft were jailed and persecuted, the remonstrance was able to spread a religious message to many, including the British settler John Bowne, who soon after built a house where Quaker meetings were held. For this defiance, Bowne was imprisoned, tried, fined and eventually banished. Bowne, however, did not give up on his cause. He went to Holland where, before the Dutch West India Company, he presented his case and won. A letter was written to Governor Stuyvesant in 1663, proclaiming the religious liberty of the colony. Both the Flushing Remonstrance and this 1663 letter became the first declarations of religious freedom in North America, and became a foundation for the American Constitution. In 1692, land was bought for the Quaker Meeting House, which John Bowne and other Quakers helped built in 1694. It has become the oldest house of worship in New York City and New York State and the second oldest Quaker meeting house in the United States. Today the Quaker Meeting House is still used as a house of worship by the Flushing Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, as it has been over the past 300 years.

The British Takeover

A sign on Northern Boulevard honoring William Prince’s nursery, The Flushing Landing
In 1664, the Dutch surrendered to the British, and New Netherlands was named New York, which remained an English Colony until after the Revolutionary War. During the early 1730s, one of the first tree nurseries in America, Linnaean Gardens, opened north of Northern Boulevard. Another prominent nursery was William Prince’s Flushing Landing, which by 1771 expanded to 113 acres, housing a variety of plum trees, pear trees, apple trees, and a collection of nectarines. Soon the northern section of what became Kissena Park became home of many nurseries, which is why many streets intersecting Kissena Boulevard are named after the exotic trees, such as beech, cherry, and poplar trees.

The 19th & 20th Century

In the 19th Century, the number of African-American settlers in Flushing grew, because of the known tolerance of the area. One of the best known among them was Lewis Latimer, an electrical inventor, who had formerly worked with Thomas Edison. It was after the Civil War that residential development increased, and until World War I, the neighborhood had expanded to the east and south. The extension of trolley lines and the building of the Flushing railroad in 1854, which became part of the Long Island Railroad, further increased the population and influenced the urbanization, allowing Flushing to become one of the first commuter suburbs, with its newly built apartment buildings. The opening of the Queensborough Bridge in 1909, as well as the extension of the subway line to Flushing in 1928, also increased the urbanization.
The Unisphere[2]
During this time, Flushing also became the home to RKO Keith’s movie theatre, where vaudeville acts took place and where performers Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney and many others performed. In 1939 New York World’s Fair took place in what today is known as the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the third largest park in New York City. Many different countries participated in the fair and about 44 million people attended the many variety of exhibits. One of the first notable exhibits was the Westinghouse Time Capsule, which was not to be opened till 6939 A.D, containing the writings of Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, Life Magazine copies, microfilm texts, and much more. The New York World's Fair of 1964 also took place in this park and what remains from this event are the Unisphere as well as the New York State Pavilion, which is now the Queens Museum of Art.
The 1960s brought with it increased populations by immigrants from China and Korea and by the 1980s, there was another high wave of immigration from not only East Asian nations, but also from India, Colombia, Afghanistan, Guyana, Dominican Republican, and other Latino countries. Today the downtown area of Flushing, which is Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, has become highly diversified and commercialized as a result of the high immigration into the neighborhood.


"Flushing Quaker Meeting House." Flushing Monthly Meeting . 2008. Flushing Monthly Meeting . 9 Mar 2008 <>.

"Flushing Revitalization." Flushing Townhall. 2008. FCCA. 9 Mar 2008 <>

DeWan, George. “The Blooming of Flushing.” News Day Inc. 26 April 2008 <,0,6961092.story>

"Community and Library Information: Flushing." Queens Library. 9 Mar 2008 <>

Hevesi , Alan. "Economic Development and Economy of Flushing, Queens." New York State Office of State Comptroller. 9 Mar 2008 <>.

Shorto, Russell. The Island at the Center of the World. 1. New York: Random House Inc., 2004.