Flushing was founded by the Dutch, but it's the English who gave it the name we use today. As part of Queens Week, “What's in a Name,” NY1’s Ruschell Boone takes us through the history of the neighborhood.
Among the high rises are glimpses of the past dating back to the 17th century in Flushing. The Quaker Meetinghouse on Northern Boulevard was built in 1694. Flushing is the English translation of the original Dutch name, Vlissigen.
“It's derived from the name ‘Vlissigen,’ which was a major port in the province of Zealand,” says Richard Hourahan of the Queens Historical Society.
The Dutch West India Company established the town in 1645, but mostly English farmers settled here. Many were Quakers and they faced persecution for their faith. Quakers worship in silence as they look inward for a direct experience with God, and there is no ordained leader.
“A meeting for worship is very particular and somewhat unlike what most people are used to in other denominational churches,” says Quaker historian Patrick Symes.
The Dutch prohibited the Quaker practice, which led to what is called the Flushing Remonstrance, a document written and signed by 30 residents, asserting religious rights. The movement picked up steam when John Bowne was arrested for allowing Quaker meetings at his home. He eventually won Dutch support, and people of all faiths were allowed to practice freely.
“The joint effort with John Bowne, his involvement with the Quakers, helped in allowance to develop a sense of religious freedom in this country,” says Symes.
On Bowne Street, a rock marks the spot where founding Quaker, George Fox, preached. There were two oak trees here when the land was a part of John Bowne's garden.
Across the street are trees that have stood the test of time. Flushing was one of only five towns when Queens became a county and it would eventually become a center of horticulture and commercial nurseries.
“Three big ones. There was Prince's Nursery. That's Prince Street on the other side of Main Street. There was Parson's Nursery, which was the largest one, and Parsons Boulevard is the next street after Bowne Street to my right, and there was the Murray Nurseries and a couple smaller ones—most of them memorialized by street names here in Flushing,” explains Queens borough historian Jack Eichenbaum.
Not just street names but living monuments to those nurseries, trees planted here over 300 years ago.