KIRPAL GORDON: I first saw your book, “
Flushing: 1880---1935,” at the Voekler Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and when George Wallace spoke there last month on Walt Whitman. As you may know, Jim, Giant Steps Press has many connections to Victorian Garden Flushing, so please tell our readers about you, your involvement with the museum as well as the Queens Historical Society and how the book, published by Arcadia Press, came to be.
JAMES DRISCOLL: I taught social studies in the New York Public Schools for over twenty years and have lived in
Flushing all my life. I started doing research at the Queens Historical Society about twenty years ago. I am also on the board of the Voelker Orth Museum. About seven years ago their executive director, Catherine Abrams, asked me to do a book about Flushing for . Arcadia
KIRPAL GORDON: I was knocked out to read of the Flushing Remonstrance and the partJAMES DRISCOLL:
Flushing played in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.
KIRPAL GORDON: I found Chapter Two, “
Flushing’s Horticultural Heritage,” particularly interesting, especially your remark that many of the trees in Central Park in and Manhattan in Prospect Park Brooklyn originally came from nurseries here.
JAMES DRISCOLL: The first commercial nursery was started in
North America was started in 1737 by members of the Prince Family. According to the Journals of Frederick Olmstead, Olmstead picked out trees in Europe for Central Park. His buying partner was Samuel Bowne Parsons, one of the owners of the Parsons Nursery in Flushing. That was in the 1850s.
KIRPAL GORDON: Both the historical chapters and the geographical chapters on Broadway, Main Street, Murray Hill, Waldheim and Kissena Park really come to life thanks to the paintings, sketches, maps, photos and postcards you have managed to collect and comment upon. What was it like researching this project?
JAMES DRISCOLL: I used Vincent Seyfried's postcards for about 80 percent of the images. The maps I Used came from the Queens Historical
Society collection. The Queens Historical Society now owns many of his cards.
KIRPAL GORDON: In your last chapter, “Changes in the 1920s,” you really sent me down Memory Lane with that postcard of the magnificent interior of the old RKO on Main Street and Northern Boulevard. Will that ever be restored?
JAMES DRISCOLL: The RKO Keiths was landmarked in its entirety but the late Donald Manes had landmark status withdrawn from the auditorium. The best we can hope for is that the building is restored preserving the sections that are still landmarked: the ticket lobby and the grand foyer.
with what you are doing?
KIRPAL GORDON: In an earlier blog post, I asked Jason Antos, author of Whitestone, about curbing overdevelopment, and he said, “That is up to the people, our local politicians and zoning laws. The laws have to be enforced and perhaps changed so that Whitestone can retain some of its small town feel.” Do you think this is also true for
Flushing? What would you recommend that citizens do to help preserve Flushing’s unique history?
JAMES DRISCOLL: Whitestone and Bayside are more residential so they have a different set of problems than
Flushing. What has helped in Flushinghas
been the landmark law. Some of the buildings we wanted to save, such as the
Quaker Meeting House and the Kingsland Home, have been declared
landmarks. Unfortunately the Landmarks law only dates from the late 1960s
and many of the buildings we wanted to save, such as the Prince Homestead,
have been torn down.KIRPAL GORDON: How can folks purchase your book and stay in touch
with what you are doing?
JAMES DRISCOLL: Currently I am working on the Underground Railroad on Duffield Street in
Brooklyn. To buy a copy of “ Flushing,” call the Voelker Orth House at 718-359-6227 or visit online at www.vomuseum.org or in person at 149-19 38 Avenue, . Flushing, NY, 11354