Flushing Quaker Meeting House137-16 Northern Boulevard
Flushing, New York 11354
The Old Quaker Meeting House has been used by the Flushing Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends as a house of worship for over 300 years. The house remains today much as when it was first built, with dark, warm floorboards, simple benches and hand-hewn timber ceiling beams. To step across the threshold is to leave the present behind and to enter a profoundly sacred space seasoned by centuries of devotion. To those who visit, the Meeting House is a peaceful reminder of an eventful and historic past.
Built in 1694 by John Bowne and other early Quakers, the Old Quaker Meeting House is, by all known accounts, the oldest house of worship in New York State and the second oldest Quaker meeting house in the nation. Visitors to the Meeting House have included George Washington, John Woolman and William Penn. The Meeting House is recognized as a rare example of ecclesiastical architecture and as a monument to an important event in the struggle for religious freedom in America, the Flushing Remonstrance, a document which is perhaps the earliest demand for religious freedom in America. The Meeting House also saw the beginnings of the abolitionist movement and the first school in Flushing. (For a more complete description of the Flushing Remonstrance and other important historical events, see Flushing Monthly Meeting History on this Web site.)
The Landmarks Preservation Commission described the Meeting House as "a prime example of medieval survival in its proportions and framing system. It is a plain rectangular building erected on a frame of forty-foot oak timbers, each hand hewn from a single tree. The architectural interest of the building is derived mainly from its unusually steep hipped roof; the roof is almost as high as the two stories below it. This feature can be traced to the high steep roofs of medieval Holland….it stands today as a reminder of New York City's earliest years and of the important contribution to the City made by the Society of Friends." In its 1970 National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, the National Park Service wrote: " The Old Quaker Meeting House …is the only surviving example in New York State of a typical 17th century ecclesiastical frame structure of medieval design."
A lovely graveyard planted with indigenous trees and flowers is part of the Meeting House's grounds. Although it is no longer used for interments, the burial ground is the final resting place for individuals and families who were prominent in Long Island history, including John Bowne and his family, the Leggett, Hicks and Wright families. (See Historic Graveyard.)
A National Historic Landmark and an Individual New York City Landmark, the Old Quaker Meeting House is also listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Although in good condition for its age, the Meeting House is in need of repair and maintenance. The ongoing capital campaign aims to fund the replacement of the wood shingle roof, Yankee gutters, wood cornice, and the drainage system, all of which are at the end of their service lives. The heavy-timber structure is also in urgent need of modern fire alarm and sprinkler systems to assure its survival for future generations. The New York Landmarks Conservancy has donated $7,000 towards Flushing Meeting's final goal of raising $300,000 over the next three years.
In addition to meetings for worship every Sunday at 11:00 a.m., the Meeting House is open every Sunday from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. for tours. All are welcome. Group tours can be scheduled for other days by appointment. The Meeting House is a popular stop along Flushing's Freedom Mile and is visited by tourists, school children and Quakers from all over the world.
Here, in midst of the ambitious and rapidly growing business district of Flushing, the Meeting House stands as a peaceful reminder that there is more to strive for than wealth and fame. For 300 years, Flushing Meeting members have made history struggling against religious intolerance, slavery, injustice and violence. And here Flushing Meeting continues to work, hope, and pray for a peaceful, just world.