Flushing was originally inhabited by the Matinecoc Indians prior to colonialization and English settlement.
Old Flushing Burial Ground, used in 17th and 18th centuries, now a park.
On October 10, 1645, Flushing was established on the eastern bank of Flushing Creek under charter of the Dutch West India Company and was part of the New Netherland colony. The settlement was named after the city of Vlissingen, in the southwestern Netherlands, the main port of the company. However, by 1657, the residents called the place "Vlishing." Eventually, "Flushing", the British name for Vlissingen, was used. Despite being a Dutch colony, many of the early inhabitants were British. The original name is supposedly derived from the Dutch word "fles" which means "bottle."
Unlike all other towns in the region, the charter of Flushing allowed residents freedom of religion as practiced in Holland "without the disturbance of any magistrate or ecclesiastical minister." However, in 1656, New Amsterdam Director-General Peter Stuyvesant issued an edict prohibiting the harboring of Quakers. On December 27, 1657, the inhabitants of Flushing approved a protest known as The Flushing Remonstrance. This petition contained religious arguments even mentioning freedom for "Jews, Turks, and Egyptians," but ended with a forceful declaration that any infringement of the town charter would not be tolerated. Subsequently, a farmer named John Bowne held Quaker meetings in his home and was arrested for this and deported to Holland. Eventually he persuaded the Dutch West India Company to allow Quakers and others to worship freely. As such, Flushing is claimed to be a birthplace of religious freedom in the New World.
Landmarks remaining from the Dutch period in Flushing include the John Bowne House on Bowne Street and the Old Quaker Meeting House on Northern Boulevard. The Remonstrance was signed at a house on the site of the former State Armory, now a police facility, on the south side Northern Boulevard between Linden Place and Union Street.
English colonial history
In 1664, the English took control of New Amsterdam, ending Dutch control of the colony, and renamed it the Province of New York. When Queens County was established in 1683, the "Town of Flushing" was one of the original five towns which the county comprised. Many historical references to Flushing are to this town, bounded from Newtown on the west by Flushing Creek (now Flushing River), from Jamaica on the south by the watershed, and from Hempstead on the east by what later became the Nassau County line. The town was dissolved in 1898 when Queens became a borough of New York City, and the term "Flushing" today usually refers to a much smaller area, for example the former Village of Flushing.
Flushing was a seat of power as the Province of New York up to the American Revolution was led by Governor Cadwallader Colden, based at his Spring Hill estate.
Flushing was the site of the first commercial tree nurseries in North America, the most prominent being the Prince, Bloodgood, and Parsons nurseries. Much of the northern section of Kissena Park, former site of the Parsons nursery, still contains a wide variety of exotic trees. The naming of streets intersecting Kissena Boulevard on its way toward Kissena Park celebrates this fact (Ash Avenue, Beech, Cherry ...Poplar, Quince, Rose). Flushing also supplied trees to the Greensward project, now known as Central Park in Manhattan. Well into the 20th century, Flushing contained many horticultural establishments and greenhouses.
During the American Revolution, Flushing, along with most settlements in present-day Queens County, favored the British and quartered British troops, though one battalion of Scottish Highlanders is known to have been stationed at Flushing during the war. Following the Battle of Long Island, Nathan Hale, an officer in the Continental Army, was apprehended near Flushing Bay while on what was probably an intelligence gathering mission and was later hanged.
The 1785 Kingsland Homestead, originally the residence of a wealthy Quaker merchant, now serves as the home of the Queens Historical Society.
During the 19th century, as New York City continued to grow in population and economic vitality, so did Flushing. Its proximity to Manhattan was critical in its transformation into a fashionable residential area. On April 15, 1837, the Village of Flushing was incorporated within the Town of Flushing. The official seal was merely the words, "Village of Flushing," surrounded by nondescript flowers. No other emblem or flag is known to have been used. By the mid-1860s, Queens County had 30,429 residents. Flushing's growth continued with two new villages incorporating: College Point in 1867, and Whitestone in 1868. The first free public high school in what is now New York City was established in Flushing in 1875. Flushing, then a small village, established a library in 1858. This is the oldest in Queens County and only slightly younger than the library of the City of Brooklyn (1852). In 1898, although opposed to the proposal, the Town of Flushing (along with two other towns of Queens County) was consolidated into the City of New York to form the new Borough of Queens. All towns, villages, and cities within the new borough were dissolved. Local farmland continued to be subdivided and developed transforming Flushing into a densely populated neighborhood of New York City.
20th century development
The continued construction of bridges over the Flushing River and the development of other roads increased the volume of vehicular traffic into Flushing. In 1909, the construction of the Queensboro Bridge (also known as the 59th Street Bridge) over the East River connected Queens County to midtown Manhattan.
The introduction of rail road service to Manhattan in 1910 by the Long Island Rail Road Port Washington Branch and in 1928 by the New York City Subway's IRT Flushing Line (7 and <7> trains) hastened the continued transformation of Flushing to a commuter suburb and commercial center. Due to increased traffic, a main roadway through Flushing named Broadway was widened and renamed Northern Boulevard.
Flushing was a forerunner of Hollywood, when the young American film industry was still based on the U.S. East Coast and Chicago. Decades later, the RKO Keith's movie palace would host vaudeville acts and appearances by the likes of Mickey Rooney, the Marx Brothers and Bob Hope.
21st century transformation
In the 21st century, Flushing has cemented its status as an international "melting pot", predominantly attracting immigrants from Asia, particularly from throughout the various provinces of China, but including newcomers from all over the world. Flushing Chinatown is centered around Main Street and the area to its west, most prominently along Roosevelt Avenue, which have become the primary nexus of Flushing Chinatown. However, Chinatown continues to expand southeastward along Kissena Boulevard and northward beyond Northern Boulevard. The Flushing Chinatown houses over 30,000 individuals born in China alone, the largest Chinatown by this metric outside Asia and one of the largest and fastest-growing Chinatowns in the world.
In the 1970s, a Chinese community established a foothold in the neighborhood of Flushing, whose demographic constituency had been predominantly non-Hispanic white, interspersed with a small Japanese community. This wave of immigrants from Taiwan were the first to arrive and developed Flushing's Chinatown. It was known as Little Taipei or Little Taiwan. Along with immigrants from Taiwan at this time, a large South Korean population also called Flushing home.
Before the 1970s, Cantonese immigrants had vastly dominated Chinese immigration to New York City; however during the 1970s, the Taiwanese immigrants were the first wave of Chinese immigrants who spoke Mandarin (Taiwanese also spoken) rather than Cantonese to arrive in New York City. Many Taiwanese immigrants were additionally Hokkien and had relatives or connections to Fujian province in China, which led to large influxes of Fuzhounese Americans.
Over the years, many new non-Cantonese ethnic Chinese immigrants from different regions and provinces of China started to arrive in New York City and settled in Flushing through word of mouth. This led to the creation of a more Mandarin-speaking Chinatown or Mandarin Town that gradually replaced Little Taipei. This wave of immigrants spoke Mandarin and various regional/provincial dialects. The early 90s and 2000s brought a wave of Fuzhounese Americans and Wenzhounese immigrants. Like the Taiwanese, they faced cultural and communication problems in Manhattan's dominant Cantonese-speaking Chinatown and settled in Flushing as well as Elmhurst, Queens, which also has a significant Mandarin-speaking population. Flushing's Chinese population became very diverse over the next few decades as people from different provinces started to arrive, infusing their varied languages and cultures into this new "Chinatown."  Due to the increased opening of Mainland China, there has also been a growing Northern Chinese population in Flushing. These diverse Chinese immigrant populations have brought with them their own regional food cuisines which have led to Flushing being considered the "food mecca" for Chinese regional cuisine outside of Asia.