Rescuing A Treasure: Bernardus Bloom Farmhouse
by Michael Perlman
Sep 29, 2015 | 17568 views | 8 8 comments | 170 170 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bernadus Bloom farmhouse current photo, Courtesy of Newtown Civic Association
Bernadus Bloom farmhouse current photo, Courtesy of Newtown Civic Association
slideshow
Bernadus Bloom farmhouse historic photo, Courtesy of Newtown Civic Association
Bernadus Bloom farmhouse historic photo, Courtesy of Newtown Civic Association
slideshow
Queens residents will be hard-pressed to see a trace of their borough’s Colonial past, but such a relic - known as the Bernardus Bloom Farmhouse or the Horsebrook House – still exists at 90-11 56th Avenue in Elmhurst.

It dates back to 1862 according to a registered deed, but it is rumored to have a wing that may date back to the 1700s.

However, the Second Empire-style home suspiciously sustained fire damage in September after being put up for sale, and locals fear that demolition and redevelopment is next in line.

Now the Newtown Civic Association is on a mission to preserve a few centuries of history and is calling on the community and elected officials for help.

Marialena Giampino, communications officer of the Newtown Civic Association and director of the Elmhurst Memorial League, is among the initiative’s supporters.

“Our goal is to save the oldest surviving farmhouse in Elmhurst and the most historically significant, and possibly move it to a park or empty lot,” she said. “Newtown was one of the first communities in Queens, and this home is well known by locals and is the subject of historical Elmhurst tours.”

Ideally, Giampino would like to see the home restored and revitalized as Elmhurst’s first house museum and cultural and historical institution.

“This would be a great way to get the community’s youth and all ages involved,” she said. “It is extremely important to show our beginnings and how far we have come as one of the most multiculturally diverse neighborhoods in the U.S.”

The land that became Forest Hills and Rego Park was part of Newtown in the 17th century. It comprised all of Queens west of Flushing Meadows. Brooklyn was to the south and the East River extending into Flushing Bay was to the north.

The town center was the intersection of Broadway, Grand Avenue, and Queens Boulevard, which consisted of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, shops, a courthouse, an inn, and town hall.

The Bloom family had strong roots in Newtown. In June 1829, the establishment of the 9th Post Office for Queens was a major achievement, and a tavern keeper named Bernadus Bloom was appointed as the first postmaster.

The first recorded Bernardus Bloom is believed to have been that postmaster's grandfather, a blacksmith who also served as a colonel in the militia during the Revolution and a signer who declined to recognize the Continental Congress in 1775.

The Horse Brook Stream once ran behind the house, and the house was alternately known as the Horsebrook House.

According to the Newtown Historical Guide, the farm consisted of three home lots purchased by Colonel Bloom in 1742, and was formally comprised of 40 acres acquired by John Brinckerhoff shortly after 1700.

Records from the late 1800s refer to the house as the J.S. Suydam House. Around 1908, the McCarthy family acquired the property.

Newtown historian Marjorie Melikian, who is active at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, also sees a future for the home as a Newtown museum. Examining the predominantly unaltered façade, she said, “This is a rare reminder of our past in an area that has become urbanized with no hint of its former beauty and identity.”

“The house was built before there even was a place called Elmhurst,” she continued. “Current citizens are woefully unknowledgeable about their historic area.”

On September 21, the Newtown Civic Association coordinated a public meeting, sparking the interest of local volunteers. Over the past few years, the civic attempted to preserve the early 20th century Andrew Carnegie library on Broadway, but now a new library is rising in its place.

“We have a list of remaining historical structures in Elmhurst which are few, and one that we began researching was the Bloom Farmhouse prior to its sale and the fire,” Giampino said. “Our civic welcomes ideas and volunteers that are needed for preservation and other positive initiatives.”

Comments
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Newtown Civic
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October 22, 2015
Please support our cause to save and landmark this home! https://www.change.org/p/new-york-city-landmarks-preservation-commission-landmark-the-last-historic-farmhouse-in-elmhurst?recruiter=409505035&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_for_starters_page&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg&fb_ref=Default
Walter Paul Bebirian
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October 06, 2015
It is indeed a shame that so much of any of the fascinating history of any people's and culture become neglected and forgotten over time and that it become such an expensive endeavor to rekindle and reignite interest in such valuable knowledge -

I imagine though - that these sentiments run in cycles and vary from time to time based on the personal interests of the people living in a particular area at any point in time - with no definite plan or structure for consistency throughout -

Christi a
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October 01, 2015
I think they should get it historical status and then ask Nicole Curtis from Rehab Addict to do the restoration. This is totally in her wheel bouse! That would be a great solution as opposed to tearing it down to make more condos, a bank or another CVS!
Marjorie Melikian
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September 30, 2015
I just wanted to give credit where credit is due. Michael pointed out his editor incorrectly inserted my name in the last paragraph. The quote at the end was actually by Marialena Giampino of Newtown Civic Association. As pointed out in the article, however I also had the idea it would be nice, if possible, to turn it into a museum of Newtown history. Under the lead of Rev. John Moore, Newtown was settled in 1652 by Puritans fleeing religious persecution in in England. They first lived in Mass. & L.I. when they came. The Puritan church they founded here later (1715) became The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown. 52 men of this group bought ALL of western Queens from the Indians. This area was then a Dutch colony. British did not arrive in NY until 4 years later. How many people know that? Or the Revolutionary War history of Newtown? There are 363 years of history since the founding, with many other historic moments that really need to be known, & celebrated.It is sad so many people don't have a clue about what happened in their own neighborhood in the past.
Shai Isenberg
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October 01, 2015
I grew up here and am fascinated by NYC / Queens history. Particularly the Dutch period. Inspired by Michael's work I put together a small (amateur enthusiast's) page dedicated to same; would love any input, correction, suggestions, guidance and / or additional information!

My anecdotal experience & sense is that appreciation of local history, while not exactly attracting hordes, is far more widespread than it was say, 20-30 years ago. Which is great!

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.300600306804276.1073741828.300592456805061&type=3
Marjorie Melikian
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October 01, 2015
In regard to my previous comment, the error may also have been made by a colleague of the editor or assistant editor. I didn't meant to pinpoint anyone.

Linda Shookster
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September 30, 2015
I would hate to see it destroyed, as was the Helen Keller house. It should be made into a museum and include the local history. Is there any way that we, the local residents, can help do this?
jeffrey lipson
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September 30, 2015
I just read that there is talk of moving it to another location. The house could fall apart if it is not reinforced.