Located a couple blocks east of where Main Street is today, on modern-day Bowne Street, there was a small settlement of English farmhouses – this community, eventually called Flushing (an English bastardization of the name of a Netherlands town called Vlissingen). Living there before the English settles, and before the Dutch, the earliest known inhabitants of this area were the Matinecock Indians. The Dutch settled there in 1628, and were ousted from their colony, New Netherlands, in 1664. The colony was renamed New York, after the Duke of York, and except for a brief return of Dutch rule in 1673, remained an English colony until the Revolutionary War.
Since the 1650s, Flushing has been a community for refugees, when members of the Society of Friends began fleeing from Peter Stuyvesant’s Protestant persecution. Religious dissidents of New England were able to settle in the area; this fight for religious freedom was a very important event in the history of Dutch settlers. (Read more about Flushing’s freedom of religion here.) Then in the early 1800s, groups of African-Americans, drawn by the tolerance shown to Quakers, settled in the area as well.
The community began to flourish and solidify. In 1843, a local newspaper began to be published and a secondary education institution opened. Students from elsewhere in the United States, and even Europe and South and Central America began to attend. Direct rail service to New York City was instilled in 1854. Then, after the civil war, residency increased greatly – in part because trolley lines and the electrification of the railroad helped Flushing to become a commuter residence.
In the early 20th century, a subway line was added to connect Manhattan with the area, and apartment buildings replaced larger houses. This also helped to increase Flushing’s resident population. Later in the 20th century, an surge of Asian immigrants came to Flushing. Many Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans came, no doubt an affect of the passage of the Cellar-Hart law, as well as the repeal of all exclusion acts 2 decades before. Another wave of immigration occurred in the 1980s – 20% were Chinese, 20% Korean, but there were also groups from India, Colombia, Afghanistan, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, the Philippines and El Salvador.
In the mid 1990’s downtown Flushing, which is centered on Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, has become an area for commerce, with a vast array of Asian banks and businesses. Chinese and Korean immigration and residence in Flushing has almost doubled in the last 2 decades. See Demographics for more.
“Queens Library Community and History” http://www.queenslibrary.org/index.aspx?page_nm=CL-Communityinfo&branch_id=F&#clhistory
“The Melting Pot on a High Boil in Flushing” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/02/arts/02expl.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1