Voelker Orth Museum


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About the Family

Born in 1861, Conrad Voelcker (later spelled Voelker) emigrated from Edenkoben, a small town in Germany's Palantine region, near the Rhine River. He arrived in New York in 1881 and became a successful publisher of German language newspapers. In 1899, the year after Queens became part of New York City, Conrad, his wife, Elizabeth (1875-1919), and their infant daughter, Theresa moved to Flushing, purchasing the property for $4,500. The neighborhood, just beyond Flushing's bustling downtown, was developing as a new middle class suburb called Murray Hill, offering comfortable living with an easy commute into Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad.

After Conrad Voelcker's death in 1930, his daughter, Theresa (1898-1992), her husband, Dr. Rudolph Orth (1887-1948), and daughter, Elisabetha (1926-1995) moved into the house. Dr. Orth, the son of German immigrants, graduated from Cornell University Medical School in 1909. During World War I he served in France with great distinction as an army surgeon. In 1921 he was appointed as a police surgeon with the New York City Police Department and served in that capacity until his retirement.

In 1935, the Orth family adopted a second daughter of similar age, who they named Barbara.

Elisabetha remained her mother's life-long companion. She trained to be a teacher and loved gardening, birding, the arts and history. Elisabetha ensured that her family's legacy would be remembered by donating the Voelcker Brothers newspapers to the regional archive in Germany. Elisabetha later bequeathed her estate to establish the Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden.

In 1999, a newly formed board of trustees set to work on restoring the property. Family photographs from the early 1900s helped guide that work. Many of the family furnishings remained and community members donated their own items to contribute to the presentation and an understanding of home life and activity of the early 20th century. The Museum's period rooms reflect the late 1890s to early 1930s, when the Orth family made it their home.

The Victorian-style garden welcomes and educates visitors, and provides a habitat for backyard birds and wildlife. It contains many of the plants and uses gardening techniques typical of 19th century home gardens, including a honeybee colony.

The Voelker Orth Museum operates as a private non-profit organization. Its programs receive funding from a number of public and private sources. The Museum acknowledges support from Councilman Peter Koo, the Museum Association of New York, with funds from NYCA. Programs are supported in part by New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs, Materials for the Arts, and the Queens Council on the Arts.

Family 1
Family 2
Theresa and Elisabetha; c.1931
Conrad Voelker and Rudolph Orth,
with Elisabetha, c.1929










Family 3
Family 4
Rudolph and Theresa Orth, c.1930
Elisabetha Orth, c.1976

149-19 38TH AVENUE, FLUSHING, NY 11354  |  718-359-6227  |  CONTACT US  |  © 2014 THE VOELKER ORTH MUSEUM