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Queens Chronicle

The unique Fowler house in Whitestone

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 10:30 am

The Fowler house in Whitestone provides an interesting story in terms of the early Queens pioneer spirit.

David and Alice Fowler, immigrants from England who first moved to Canada and came to the United States in 1924 with their two daughters, built the home in 1930.

David Fowler, a hotel plumber, never had a mortgage against his house but had everything else against him. Their street, 147th Place between Second and Third avenues, was the only block in Queens that had a 19th-century barn in the middle of the street. The barn was left over from the Charles Senff estate auction, and it obstructed their house in every way.

When it rained the water from the roof would run onto the Fowler property, clogging all the drains. When it snowed heavily the Fowlers could not get out of their driveway because of drifts caused by the barn. For their first few years they had no gas because of the obstruction the barn caused. Their sidewalk was used as a roadway.

But the Fowler house was surrounded with valuable spruce trees 40 to 45 feet high that were well cared for by tree experts. Fowler created a bird sanctuary around the house, filling his birdbaths as many as three times a day sometimes.

In 1934 the city’s attorneys wrote that though 147th Place was a street, the old Senff barn was protected under covenants and could not be touched. By the 1940s, however, the city had finally opened up the street entirely and eliminated the barn.

Fowler died in 1968 at age 86. His house towers over all the ranches and capes that were built later. But the spruce trees are all gone and the stucco house is covered with siding today. Public records show it last sold for $715,000 in 2009.

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