There are many of us who lived in other boroughs but resettled in Queens because we thought it was the country. Needless to say, the present trend of paving over lawns and building to the maximum bulk allowed by zoning is eroding that feeling of living in the country. But in eastern Queens there is a place where a true rural experience awaits your senses.
It all started in 1973 when the State of New York announced its intention of selling off surplus lands around the state to generate income. In Queens, Creedmoor Hospital was identified as having 47½ acres of land that once comprised the hospital farm that was available for sale since farming had ceased in 1960. Patients used to work the land, but some busybodies called that slave labor and persuaded the State to stop using patients in that manner (as if sitting in hospital wards all day long with nothing to do was more humane).
In any case, the local community was concerned about dumping this huge parcel onto the market. It was zoned R3-2 and in those days that zone didn't have a height restriction. The previous sale of the Glen Oaks Golf Course which also was zoned R3-2 led to the construction of three 32-story towers, an eyesore which the civic community swore would never be allowed to happen again. We were proponents of suburban living, and high rises were alien to our way of life. We moved to stop the auction.
A local not-for-profit group known corporately as the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, Inc. founded the Queens County Farm Museum in 1975 and operates it to this day. It took nine years of negotiations, but in 1981, the land was finally transferred from the State of New York to the City of New York and the farm became known as Adriance Farm Park.
Today, 31 years since our founding, we have grown to be the most visited farm museum in America, if not the world. We serve 500,000 people a year and have restored the buildings on the grounds to their original appearance. Buildings on the property, which are landmark designated, date variously from 1772 to 1934. These buildings include a farmhouse, cow barn, horse barn complex (used for public assembly), garages, chicken coops, greenhouses, potting shed, windmill, animal shelters, open-air pavilion, and wagon sheds.
We have livestock, a three-acre fruit orchard, butterfly garden, and beehives. We sell eggs, honey, and produce to the public as available. We are home to the only corn maze in the City (over two acres in size), and also boast a one-acre French wine vineyard, the westernmost vineyard on Long Island which is planted to Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. We hope to have our first commercial wine for sale in 2008.
We have many activities that appeal to people of varying ages and interests: school class tours with various workshops, line-dancing classes, Midsummer Indian Pow-Wow (dance contests with vendors selling high-quality American Indian jewelry), an authentic Agricultural Fair, Easter Egg Hunt, antique motorcycle show, Apple Festival, Children's' Fall Fest, Halloween pick-your-own pumpkin patch, haunted house, hay rides, and more.
We also feature a gift shop and plant shop located in our restored greenhouse complex consisting of some of the last wooden greenhouses you'll find in the metropolitan region.
The Farm Museum is open year-round, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (outdoor visiting only) and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is free except on special-event days. On weekends we offer free guided tours of the historic farmhouse. We are located on Little Neck Parkway with a pedestrian entrance at 73rd Road, and a parking lot at 74th Avenue. You can learn more about us by visiting our website at www.queensfarm.org.
Ownership history of the Queens County Farm Museum
Jacob and Catherine Adriance (1697‒1808)
The original landowner of what is now the Queens County Farm Museum was Elbert Adriance. The Adriance family era spanned over one hundred years and five generations. In 1771 Elbert sold this parcel to his brother Jacob. In 1772 Jacob and his wife Catherine built the earliest portion of the Adriance farmhouse, which consisted of three modest rooms. Catherine and Jacob had no children and were farming primarily as sustenance farmers to provide food for themselves in conjunction with neighboring farms, some of which were owned by other Adriance family members. When Jacob died in 1797, Hendrick, his adopted nephew, bought the farm from Jacob's executors. When Hendrick died in 1806, he left the farm to Albert Brinkerhoff who sold the farm to its next significant owner, John Bennum, Sr. The Adriance family's history on the farm provides us with a profound narrative of the site's early Dutch beginnings and of farming as a way of life from as early as the seventeenth century.
John Bennum, Sr. (1808‒22)
John Bennum, Sr., purchased the farm from Albert Brinkerhoff in 1808 and farmed it until his death in 1822. His son ran the farm for a short time. The Bennums suffered various calamities; weather records indicate that severe droughts occurred on Long Island in 1819 and 1822. This was obviously devastating for farmers. Interestingly, weather may very well have altered the farm's future as a defeated John Bennum, Jr., sold the farm's mortgage to
Daniel Lent in 1822.
Daniel Lent (1822‒33)
Daniel Lent acquired the farm in 1822 and held it until 1833. During his ownership, the farm experienced two droughts and the floods of 1826. In June, 1826 Long Island recorded over 9 inches of rain in two days followed by record rainfalls in August of the same year. While Lent was trying to overcome these dramatic weather conditions, he had to contend with the rapid growth of new technology. The early eighteen hundreds saw the demise of the Dutch plow and the advent of the iron plow, as well as mechanized threshing machines, potato harvesters, hay mowers, and the iron harrow, and numerous other tool improvements. Smaller farmers found it a challenge to keep up with the expensive new technology.
Public consciousness was awakening to commercial agriculture; the Queens Agricultural Society which began in 1817 was becoming more structured and beneficial to farmers. Farm publications such as the American Farmer and the New York Farmer were widely circulated and highly valued by farmers as early as 1827. By 1832 the New York State Agricultural Society was formed, and farming was on its way to becoming big business, especially in Queens County. Lent sold the farm to Peter Cox in 1833.
Peter Cox (1833‒92)
Peter Cox purchased the farm at the very beginning of what would prove to be the most dynamic years of agricultural growth in our nation's history. Cox had more than doubled the size of the modest three-room farmhouse by 1855. The farmhouse at the farm's museum today includes both the original Adriance portion built in 1772 and the 1855 Cox expansion. Cox grew primarily wheat, corn, and, later, potatoes for local sale until his death in 1870. When his son Henry joined the Queens Agricultural Society in 1872 and began concentrating on market-garden crops, he was about ten years ahead of the curve, obviously a person with vision. By 1879 he was the largest market-crop producer in Queens County. In 1833 Peter Cox had purchased the farm for 5,500 dollars; in 1892 his son Henry sold the farm to Daniel Stattel for 20,000 dollars.
Daniel Stattel (1892‒1926)
As it turns out, Daniel Stattel made a good investment when buying the farm; in 1900, only eight years after its purchase, the farm rated as the second largest in size in Queens County and the highest in dollar value. It was assessed at 32,000 dollars; 3,000 dollars more than the largest farm in Queens County. Stattel was a leader during the golden age of truck farming, or market gardening, sending record tonnage of crops to market by the wagon load. The Stattels installed the windmill, improved existing structures, added outbuildings, and purchased modern farm implements. The Stattels were the gold standard as far as farms in Queens County were concerned. In 1919 Daniel Stattel purchased the farm from his father. Not only were the Stattels significant to the farm's history because of the improvements they made and their great dedication to farming; they were also the last private family farmers to own the property. Descendants still visit the museum and have contributed greatly to the archives through valuable oral history.
Pauline Reisman (1926‒1926)
In 1926 the Stattels sold the farm to Pauline Reisman, a real-estate investor, and in less than six months she sold it to New York State for use by Creedmoor State Hospital. Though Ms. Reisman did not contribute any agricultural history of note, she was in fact the person who sold the farm to the state, probably sparing the site from the tidal wave of development that was taking place in Queens in the 1920s.
Creedmoor State Hospital (1926‒1975)
New York State purchased the farm in 1926 for Creedmoor State Hospital to use for rehabilitation of patients, growing fruits and vegetables for the kitchen at the hospital, and for growing ornamental plants and shrubs for the Creedmoor campus. With the exception of the farmhouse, Creedmoor demolished all the buildings on the farm, replacing them with buildings that met their needs. Though historic structures were lost, other types of historic structures were created that have in fact presented a beneficial opportunity to the Farm Museum. Buildings constructed immediately prior to the Second World War are rarely preserved in favor of colonial or Victorian era structures, but we have been given a unique opportunity to present institutional farm buildings from the 1930s that are truly unique. As the museum continues to meet its interpretive objectives, these buildings will provide the backdrop for our unique story: farming, horticulture, and the lives of the patients and staff of Creedmoor at the farm in the 1930s.
Today the Queens County Farm Museum is a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. NYS Senator Frank Padavan wrote the legislation that transferred ownership from the state to the New York City Department of Parks and protected the site from development for future generations.
We are also at work trying to save the Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows, a 2.2 acre farm that unfortunately was recently discontinued as a working farm and is now owned by developers related to the notorious Huang family. We along with the Fresh Meadows community are trying to raise the funds to buy the land and reactivate it as a working farm open to the public.
James A. Trent is the founder and president of the Queens County Farm Museum.