“The land that the Bloom Farmhouse sits on is the last remaining untouched farmland in Elmhurst,” says Marialena Giampino, communications director of the Newtown Civic Association.
All prior efforts to landmark and preserve this property were rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The farmhouse was purchased in August by a developer and within a few weeks a fire gutted the top floor. Residents are concerned that the developers will tear down the historic building and replace it with apartments.
“We're on a tight schedule,” Giampino says. “Any day, the permits to demolish the house could go through. The clock is definitely ticking.”
The organization has started a petition to urge the LPC to reconsider their past decisions not to protect this building and every signature is important. You can access it at bit.ly/save-the-farmhouse.
Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, sees great value in preserving this property.
“The Bloom House is in one of the most accessible locations in Elmhurst,” she said. “There are multiple bus and subway lines in close proximity. It’s steps away from highly trafficked places such as the Newtown High School Athletic Field, Newtown Playground, Cathedral High School, shopping malls, historic churches, and more.
“The educational possibilities here are endless, and a museum or cultural center at this site would draw a large, diverse crowd and be an asset to this growing community,” she added.
The farmhouse and the property it sits on has an interesting history stretching back to the earliest days of Queens.
“The Brinkerhoff family originally bought the farm in 1700. It was 40 acres back then,” says Giampino. “They sold it to the Bloom family.”
That would be Colonel Bernardus Bloom, whom the farmhouse is still named after. Bloom was a tavern owner, a blacksmith, a colonel in the militia in the Revolutionary War, and one of the signers declining to recognize the Continental Congress.
Later, the farmhouse was bought by the Suydams, which is where our Woodhaven connection arises. As it turns out, we have over a dozen Suydams buried in our historic Wyckoff-Snedicker Family Cemetery behind All Saints Church on 96th Street, which is currently being restored by members of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.
Teacher Patty Eggers of St. Thomas the Apostle passed along information about this house to the student members of the STA Woodhaven History Club, who have been taking part in the restoration and researching the history of families who are buried there, like the Suydams.
Students were enthusiastic about efforts to preserve this historic structure in Elmhurst and during last weekend’s tour of the cemetery, they could be heard advising people to seek out the petition online and sign it.
It was a nice moment, seeing the students recognize this as not just an Elmhurst-related issue, but one that we should all care about as residents of Queens.
So far, the effort to preserve the farmhouse has attracted the support of Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilman Daniel Dromm, and state senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Tony Avella, as well as the Historic Districts Council and the Corona East Elmhurst Historic Preservation Society.
“An opportunity like this will likely never come along again,” Wilkinson says. “So we are counting on our elected officials to act immediately to save this important site.”
It would be a tragedy to lose such a valuable piece of our history. Queens has lost so much of its historical structures over the years and the LPC seems to be less inclined to look favorably upon efforts to landmark buildings in Queens, certainly less inclined than they might be towards structures in Manhattan.
It’s long overdue for the residents and the civics and historical societies from all around Queens to work together, as one borough, and let the City of New York know that this is not acceptable; that our borough has a rich and interesting history that deserves respect and needs to be preserved.