Queens County Farm Museum
Visitors to the Queens County Farm Museum can tour New York City's oldest continually-operated farm, which dates back to 1687. The 47-acre working farmstead is the largest remaining tract in the city and features animals, farm machinery, a vineyard, various agricultural displays, as well as gardens, planting fields, and an orchard. It is also the host of the annual Queens County Fair. Of course, the centerpiece of the museum is its historic and restored farmhouse, which dates back to 1772. The museum opened to the public in 1975, and due to the generosity of supporters, it is able to offer free general admission (but not during public events) to visitors of all ages. Although the New York City Department of Parks now owns the farm, the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, Inc operates it.
Backstory and Context
John Bennum Sr. owned the farm until he died in 1882 and passed it down to his son, John Bennum Jr. However, due to severe droughts and unfortunate weather, John Bennum Jr. was forced to sell the farm to Daniel Lent later that year. Lent's fate was similar to John Bennum Jr.'s fate in that he also faced many weather problems. In 1826, there were two droughts followed by floods and heavy rainfall. Adding on to his misfortune, farming was becoming more industrialized, so small farmers had very little chance competing with the new farming technology. Consequently, Lent sold the farm to Peter Cox in 1833.
Peter Cox bought the farm during a time when agricultural practices were changing in America. He brought many of these improvements to the farm, especially after doubling the size of the farm in 1885. Cox grew a variety of produce such as corn, wheat, and potatoes, which he sold until he died in 1870. At that time, his son, Henry, made changes to produce market-garden crops, which turned the farm into the biggest market-crop producer in Queens by 1879. In 1892, Henry sold the farm to Daniel Stattel for $20,000.
Daniel Stattel made further improvements to the farm. By adding new structures and improving old ones, as well as by buying newer farming tools, he increased the property value to $32,000. However, this was the last time that the farm was privately owned.
Pauline Reisman bought the farm in 1926. In a couple of months, she sold it to a New York State hospital. The Creedmoor State Hospital used the farm to help rehabilitate their patients by allowing them to farm the lands and produce food. The Hospital also destroyed many of the outbuildings and created new ones that matched their needs. The Hospital owned until 1975.
After 1975, James A. Trent, who is the president and founder of the Museum, took steps to protect the park by restoring much of what was lost over time. The restoration of the Adriance Farmhouse was completed in 1986, and further restoration projects followed. Today, when guests visit the museum, they can watch produce as it moves from the fields to our tables.