A History Lesson With A Kick:
Two Centuries, One Exhibit
The memorabilia featured in the exhibit, which covers about 250 years of Queens history, is broken into eight themes – economic, war, transportation, religion, political, social, leisure and immigration.
QHS Executive Director Mitchell Grubler said, "The 35 Treasures exhibition unlocks significant items from the collection, which have never before or rarely been on display. These treasures are the tangible evidence of what happened here in Queens and they reveal not only its distinctive history, but also its connections to the history of our nation."
Most of the items on display were donated to the QHS from independent donors or were obtained from the Flushing Historical Society, which went out of business in the 1980s.
The exhibit is being show in the Kingsland Homestead, the QHS’s home and a piece of history itself with a pale yellow exterior shell and a natural, soft green interior. The building, constructed in 1785 by Quaker Charles Doughty, is located at 143-35 37th Avenue (off Parsons Blvd.) in Flushing.
Its glossed wooden floors creak as museum-goers step into the piece of history to view the exhibit, which will be on display until Sept. 5, 2004.
Old School Politics
There are several interesting political artifacts in the exhibit, including a helmet from the Black Stump Volunteer Hook and Ladder, a fire squad that was located in what is now Fresh Meadows from around 1904 to the early 1920s.
In the early 1920s, the city began its own firefighting squads, which extinguished the Black Stump Hooks and Ladders.
Also in the political section is a campaign button from Queens’ own Geraldine Ferraro, who ran for vice president in 1984.
There’s also a ticket to the United Nations General Assembly during the week that Palestine was created, and Israel was formed. The United Nations used to meet in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and Grubler said, "That is a momumental piece of history that continues to affect the world. It happened in Queens."
Perhaps the most telling piece of political memorabilia are two pieces of paper – one transferring ownership of a slave in Queens and another emancipating one.
The most recent pieces displayed in the exhibit are items taken from the Sept. 11 makeshift memorial constructed outside of the Flushing Branch of the Queensborough Public Library in the months after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Missing posters, letters, candles a teddy bear, poems and photos are just a few of the artifacts shown in the exhibit.
Another tragedy documented in the exhibit is the fire that killed more than 1,000 people on the steamboat General Slocum in 1904. The exhibit includes a ticket for the ride that was never used by a lucky passenger.
The ticket, donated by Robert Kuenstner, is from a Kuenstner family member that was supposed to be on board, but according to Kuenstner, whose grandmother, uncle and father survived the event, was too ill to go.
Several pieces from the Civil War are on display in the exhibit, including a huge flag from a regiment stationed in Flushing and letters from a Civil War soldier to his family in Flushing – a soldier who didn’t survive the war.
There’s also an actual drum used by the infantry in the Civil War, a piece Grubler said is "a truly rare find."
A campaign pin for Queens’ own Geraldine Ferraro is on display.
On The Lighter Side
In addition to pieces documenting historic events, the exhibit has dozens of items capturing the borough’s past, including a Queens County Jockey Club serving plate. The club used to be at the Aqueduct Racecourse.
The exhibit also features a sign from Rockaway Playland, an amusement park near the Rockaway beaches that closed in 1987. Stein, who said he loved the park, said, "That really brings back memories, that sign."
A watercolor painting depicting the old Kamman Hotel in what is now Woodhaven hangs on the walls, capturing the way the way the 1860 hotel looked in its glory days.
Another painting done in oil, portrays a steamboat that drove around Flushing in the 1800s.
A book written by William Prince – the owner of the Prince Nursery, the oldest commercial nursery in the United States – is displayed, as is the jacket of Hungarian General Meszaros, who moved to Flushing to tutor in 1849.
A souvenir piece of the first American Weeping Beech Tree that lived in the backyard of the Kingland Homestead is enclosed in a glass case, as is the exhibit’s oldest piece – a 1748 map of the Kingsland Property, which was then owned by Samuel Doughty.
Taking It In
To see the treasures mentioned here or the rest of the exhibit, head to the Kingsland Farmhouse on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. or by appointment.
Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors and free for members. For more information, call (718) 939-0647 ext. 17.
Living Like A King
The cozy Kingsland Homestead has a rich, historic background of its own, which gives the environment for the exhibit even more of a kick.