The Bowne family had a long history of service and Mary Bowne Parsons (1784-1839) opened her home up to run away slaves in the Flushing area of what we now know as Queens. During her residency, the Bowne house was rumored to be a stop on the underground Railroad. Mary Bowne Parsons founded a school for indigent young women called the Flushing School for Young Women. They were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and needle and sewing skills, with the hope that they could go out and be self-supporting.
The Bowne house became a museum in 1947. Up until 1945, members of the Bowne family had lived in the house continually since it was built. The house was deeded to the city that year, for use as a museum. It is located in Weeping Beech Park, named after a Belgian weeping beech tree imported by Samuel Bowne Parsons, a noted horticulturist and husband of Mary Bowne Parsons.