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I SIt And Look Out: Queens County Farm Museum preserves boro’s green heritage

On a cool, almost misty Saturday afternoon early this past spring, I visited the Queens County Farm Museum in Little Neck. I had just come from an exciting conference on the environment at the Al Oerter center in Flushing and on my way home I made a detour.

I had not been to the museum in some time and once again was impressed by it.

There were not many visitors when I was there and I was able to wander and wonder at this oasis of beauty and restfulness. As I stood below the windmill, all I could hear was the quiet whir of the blades. The world we live in — with the Grand Central Parkway just up Little Neck Parkway — no longer existed for those few moments.

That this wonderful place exists at all is something of a miracle.

These 47 acres were part of a farm owned by private individuals for 229 years, from 1697 to 1926. In 1904, the Stattel family sold a portion of the farm to New York state. Between 1929 and 1934 the state built some farm buildings for Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital. The Adriance Farmhouse, however, was built around 1772.

When the 1970s fiscal crisis hit, the farm land, used by Creedmoor, was declared surplus. It might have gone the way of so many other open spaces in the city, but thanks to the efforts of James A. Trent, the museum’s founder, and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose was organized in 1975 and the city obtained the land, farmhouse and outbuildings. In 1979, these structures and the seven surrounding acres were declared national and city landmarks.

Today, the museum’s mission is to restore, preserve and interpret this site and to educate the public about the site’s history and significance in our borough’s agricultural, horticultural and viticultural past.

You can take a self-guided tour to see the farmhouse, herb garden, steel windmill, chicken coop, orchard, cow pen, north lawn, planting fields, pavilion, vineyard, duck pond, sheep pasture, cow barn, horse barn, education building, butterfly garden and greenhouse complex. A leaflet for the self-guided tour is available.

A farm stand is open from July through October and the museum has its own stand at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan every Monday. There are many special events during the year, as well as school trips and corporate and private site rentals. This is a busy place. More than 18,000 people, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, attended the annual museum fair the previous weekend.

But perhaps above all, as I found out that gray Saturday afternoon, the Queens County Farm Museum is a place where you can go to renew your spirit and outlook on the world.

It seems to say, especially to those who can go off by themselves and just wander, “This is a place of peace and quiet. Stay awhile. Reflect upon how people used to live here and how much we owe to the work of those who made this place possible for you to look and wonder. Take your time. That is what this special place is all about — helping people realize the wonder of time seeming to stand still.”

Owned by the city Parks Department and operated by the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, the farm museum is open for free every day. For information, call 718-347-FARM or send an e-mail to info@queensfarm.org. You will find much information there.

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