Learn About the Farm: Series of Owners Since 1697
Jacob and Catherine Adriance (1697–1808)
The original landowner of what is now the Queens County Farm Museum was
John Harrison. Harrison sold the farm to Elbert Adriance in 1697 beginning the Adriance family era which spanned over one hundred years and five generations. In 1704 Elbert died; his son Rem inherited the farm. Rem had two sons, Elbert and Jacob, upon Rem's death in 1730 the farm was passed on to his older son, Elbert. In 1771 Elbert sold the portion of the land that is Queens County Farm Museum to his younger brother Jacob. In 1772 Jacob and his wife Catherine built the earliest portion of the Adriance farmhouse, which consisted of three modest rooms. Catherine and Jacob had no children and were farming primarily as sustenance farmers to provide food for themselves in conjunction with neighboring farms, some of which were owned by other Adriance family members. When Jacob died in 1797, Hendrick Brinkerhoff, his adopted nephew, bought the farm from Jacob’s executors. Hendrick died in 1806 leaving the farm to his son, Albert Brinkerhoff. Albert's ownership marked the end of the "Adriance Era" when he sold the farm to its next significant owner, John Bennum, Sr. The Adriance family history on the farm provides us with a profound narrative of the site’s early Dutch beginnings and of farming as a way of life from as early as the seventeenth century.
John Bennum, Sr. (1808–22)
John Bennum, Sr., purchased the farm from Albert Brinkerhoff in 1808 and farmed it until his death in 1822. His son ran the farm for a short time. The Bennums suffered various calamities; weather records indicate that severe droughts occurred on Long Island in 1819 and 1822. This was obviously devastating for farmers. Interestingly, weather may very well have altered the farm’s future as a defeated John Bennum, Jr., sold the farm’s mortgage to Daniel Lent in 1822.
Daniel Lent (1822–33)
Daniel Lent acquired the farm in 1822 and held it until 1833. During his ownership, the farm experienced two droughts and the floods of 1826. In June, 1826 Long Island recorded over 9 inches of rain in two days followed by record rainfalls in August of the same year. While Lent was trying to overcome these dramatic weather conditions, he had to contend with the rapid growth of new technology. The early eighteen hundreds saw the demise of the Dutch plow and the advent of the iron plow, as well as mechanized threshing machines, potato harvesters, hay mowers, and the iron harrow, and numerous other tool improvements. Smaller farmers found it a challenge to keep up with the expensive new technology.
Public consciousness was awakening to commercial agriculture; the Queens Agricultural Society which began in 1817 was becoming more structured and beneficial to farmers. Farm publications such as the American Farmer and the New York Farmer were widely circulated and highly valued by farmers as early as 1827. By 1832 the New York State Agricultural Society was formed, and farming was on its way to becoming big business, especially in Queens County. Lent sold the farm to Peter Cox in 1833.
Peter Cox (1833–92)
Peter Cox purchased the farm at the very beginning of what would prove to be the most dynamic years of agricultural growth in our nation’s history. Cox had more than doubled the size of the modest three-room farmhouse by 1855. The farmhouse at the farm's museum today includes both the original Adriance portion built in 1772 and the 1855 Cox expansion. Cox grew primarily wheat, corn, and, later, potatoes for local sale until his death in 1870. When his son Henry joined the Queens Agricultural Society in 1872 and began concentrating on market-garden crops, he was about ten years ahead of the curve, obviously a person with vision. By 1879 he was the largest market-crop producer in Queens County. In 1833 Peter Cox had purchased the farm for 5,500 dollars; in 1892 his son Henry sold the farm to Daniel Stattel for 20,000 dollars.
Daniel Stattel (1892–1926)
As it turns out, Daniel Stattel made a good investment when buying the farm; in 1900, only eight years after its purchase, the farm rated as the second largest in size in Queens County and the highest in dollar value. It was assessed at 32,000 dollars; 3,000 dollars more than the largest farm in Queens County. Stattel was a leader during the golden age of “truck farming,” or market gardening, sending record tonnage of crops to market by the wagon load. The Stattels installed the windmill, improved existing structures, added outbuildings, and purchased modern farm implements. The Stattels were the gold standard as far as farms in Queens County were concerned. In 1919 Daniel Stattel purchased the farm from his father. Not only were the Stattels significant to the farm’s history because of the improvements they made and their great dedication to farming; they were also the last private family farmers to own the property. Descendants still visit the museum and have contributed greatly to the archives through valuable oral history.
Pauline Reisman (1926–1926)
In 1926 the Stattels sold the farm to Pauline Reisman, a real-estate investor, and in less than six months she sold it to New York State for use by Creedmoor State Hospital. Though Ms. Reisman did not contribute any agricultural history of note, she was in fact the person who sold the farm to the state, probably sparing the site from the tidal wave of development that was taking place in Queens in the 1920s.
Creedmoor State Hospital (1926–1975)
New York State purchased the farm in 1926 for Creedmoor State Hospital to use for rehabilitation of patients, growing fruits and vegetables for the kitchen at the hospital, and for growing ornamental plants and shrubs for the Creedmoor campus. With the exception of the farmhouse, Creedmoor demolished all the buildings on the farm, replacing them with buildings that met their needs. Though historic structures were lost, other types of historic structures were created that have in fact presented a beneficial opportunity to the Farm Museum. Buildings constructed immediately prior to the Second World War are rarely preserved in favor of colonial or Victorian era structures, but we have been given a unique opportunity to present institutional farm buildings from the 1930s that are truly unique. As the museum continues to meet its interpretive objectives, these buildings will provide the backdrop for our unique story: farming, horticulture, and the lives of the patients and staff of Creedmoor at the farm in the 1930s.
Today the Queens County Farm Museum is a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Museum founder and president, James A. Trent, and New York State senator Frank Padavan spared the farm from development. Senator Padavan wrote the legislation that transferred ownership from the state to the New York City Department of Parks and protected the site from development for future generations. With all the present buildings restored, the master plan for the museum is being steadily pursued. The museum provides a broad spectrum of educational programs, public events, services, and general visiting more than 500,000 people each year. The Farm Museum is the highest attended cultural attraction in Queens County. We look forward to completing our interpretation and providing valuable services to our audience.