Lewis Howard Latimer (1848–1928) was an African-American inventor whose innovations in designing carbon filaments ushered in the age of electric light. He also drafted the patent drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Latimer was a self-taught master draftsman, an expert on patent law, a poet, and painter – in short, a Renaissance man.
The son of slaves, Latimer settled in Flushing, where he helped found the New York Unitarian Church and lived in what is now the Lewis H. Latimer House. The wood frame, two-story residence, which features Queen Anne style architecture, remained in Latimer’s family until 1963. Under threat of demolition in 1988, it was moved to its current location, converted into a museum, and granted city landmark status. Today, the museum’s public programs call attention to the many contributions to science and technology that Latimer and other African-Americans have made over the centuries.
Inside scoop: The nearby Latimer Gardens, a set of four, 10-story, city-run apartment buildings bordered by 34 and 35 avenues, Linden Place and Leavitt Street in Flushing, are also named after the inventor.
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