The Christopher House has been in Staten Island

The Christopher House has been in Staten Island since 1756. (Credit: Emilio Guerra)

landmarks

Secrets of NYC's oldest houses

126 West Dr., Douglaston, Queens, New York 11363

As modern high-rises pop up all over the bustling boroughs, these homes sit as quiet reminders of New York City's humble beginnings. If these walls could talk, they'd have quite the stories to tell, from the American Revolution to the Civil War. (And they might even have some dirt on George Washington.)

Some are museums and some are private residences, but either way, they're all off-the-beaten-path sights every New Yorker should see.

Year built: 1750 Location:126 West Drive in Queens

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Creedmoor (Cornell) Farmhouse

Year built: 1750

Location:126 West Drive in Queens

Originally belonging to the Creed family, Conrad Poppenhusen, promoter of the Central Railroad of Long Island, bought the rights to lay his railroad along the farm in 1871. He then offered the rest of the land to the National Rifle Association, and it became a range for the New York State National Guard.

The land was given over to the State of New York in the 1890s, and in 1912, it became a "farm colony" for patients of the Brooklyn Psychiatric Center.

More buildings were constructed, and it became its own center by 1934, renamed the Creedmor State Hospital.

Year built: 1654 Location: 78-03 19th Road in

Credit: Flickr/vipnyc

Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead

Year built: 1654

Location: 78-03 19th Road in Queens

Believed to be the oldest inhabited private home in America, the Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead was built by Dutch immigrant Abraham Riker out of timber and fieldstone and referred to as "the poor farm." Since it was built in the 1650s, the house has only had three owners. The current owner, Marion Smith, began restoring the house in 1980 with her husband, Michael, who lived there when they met in 1979.
The grounds include a graveyard with 132 marked graves, a "secret garden" cultivated by Marion (a photographer with an eye for the whimsical) and a fairytale-inspired "gingerbread house," which functioned as Michael's workshop before he passed away in 2010.

Year built: 1662 Location: 1476 Richmond Road in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House

Year built: 1662

Location: 1476 Richmond Road in Staten Island

The Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House, first erected just after Staten Island's first permanent settlement, Oude Dorp (South Beach) was established, was built in five sections, completed between 1662 and 1830.

Pierre Billiou, a leader of the settlers, built the house on Richmond Road, believed to be the earliest settled road on the island. It remained in the hands of relatives until 1914, when the property was bought by the Staten Island Antiquarian Society. Restoration began on the home in May 2014 after a year-long fundraising campaign.

Year built: 1774 Location:143-35 37th Ave. in Queens

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Kingsland Homestead

Year built: 1774

Location:143-35 37th Ave. in Queens

Currently home to the Queens Historical Society, the Kingsland Homestead was built by Charles Doughty, the son of a wealthy Quaker. It was moved in 1923 when threatened by a proposed subway extension, and again in 1968 to avoid new construction projects. The land it sits on today is the site of Weeping Beech Park, home to one of only two living NYC landmarks until it died at 151 years old in 1998. A funeral was observed for the tree, and pieces of its trunk and branches were given to artists to use along a Flushing heritage trail.

Year built: 1670 Location: 509 Seguine Ave. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Manee-Seguine Homestead (Abraham Manee House)

Year built: 1670

Location: 509 Seguine Ave. in Staten Island

Originally a one-room house built by French Huguenot Paulus Regrenier, who came to Staten Island to escape religious persecution in Europe, this structure was built upon by another French Huguenot, Abraham Manee, in the late 1700s, and then again by the Seguine family. It served as a tavern and inn in the 1800s, and in recent years has been a point of contention for preservationists, who are worried by its state of disrepair.

Year built: 1695 (expanded in 1720) Location:1515 Hylan

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Poillon House

Year built: 1695 (expanded in 1720)

Location:1515 Hylan Blvd. in Staten Island

Born as a simple farm house, this building was remodeled by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead in 1848.

During the American Revolution, John Poillon, a member of the Committee of Safety for Richmond County, helped to organize the unsuccessful Peace Conference. By 1723, three generations of the Poillon family had lived in the Poillon House.

Year built: 1766 Location:1669 E. 22nd St. in

Credit: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

The Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead

Year built: 1766

Location:1669 E. 22nd St. in Brooklyn

Built by Hendrick Wyckoff on land along Kings Highway, the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead housed Hessian soldiers, German fighters contracted by the British, during the American Revolution. Some of the soldiers scratched their names into window panes to be remembered.

In 1983 it was bought by Annette and Stuart Mont, who had an affinity for history and antiques, and kept the place decorated with original furnishings, dishes and relics. Annette passed away in 2013.

Year built: 1671 Location: 1001 Richmond Hill Road

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Cubberly-Britton Cottage

Year built: 1671

Location: 1001 Richmond Hill Road in Staten Island

The home of New York Botanical Garden creator Nathaniel Lord Britton, the cottage was built in New Dorp Beach, but moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965. Britton and his wife, Elizabeth, gave the house to the Staten Island Institute of the Arts in 1915. It was used to exhibit the work of Navy officer turned artist Captain J.G. Wilson in the 1940s, and then passed to the Staten Island Historical Society. It is awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

Year built: 1680 Location: 298 Satterlee St. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Conference House

Year built: 1680

Location: 298 Satterlee St. in Staten Island

Built by Captain Christopher Billopp and extended in the 18th century, the Conference House was named after the Staten Island Peace Conference of 1776, when Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge met with England's Lord Richard Howe at the home in a failed attempt at ending the American Revolutionary War and negotiating independence for the colonies.

After falling into disrepair in the 1920s, the house was restored in the 1930s and became the first house museum on the island. It is still open to the public today.

Year built: 1652 Location: 5816 Clarendon Road in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House

Year built: 1652

Location: 5816 Clarendon Road in Brooklyn

Located inside Canarsie's Milton Fidler Park, this is New York City's oldest standing house and first official landmark. Pieter Claesen, who later changed his last name to Wyckoff, was a tenant farmer and immigrant from present-day Germany. He lived in the one-room home with his wife, Grietje, and their 11 children. The house, which stayed in the Wyckoff family for eight generations, was later expanded and modernized, and now has six rooms with an attic and cellar. It suffered a devastating fire, but was restored in 1982 and opened as a museum and event space.

Year built: 1758 Location: 3266 Bainbridge Ave. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Varian House

Year built: 1758

Location: 3266 Bainbridge Ave. in the Bronx

Built by Isaac Valentine on property that included a blacksmith shop, farmland, outhouses and slaves, according to the Bronx Historical Society, this four-story house was occupied by the British for most of the Revolutionary War.

It became a museum showcasing Bronx History in 1968, and its three galleries are still open to the public today.

Year built:1730 (first part) Location:150-03 Jamaica Ave. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Rufus King House

Year built:1730 (first part)

Location:150-03 Jamaica Ave. in Queens

The Rufus King House was home to a Harvard graduate and lawyer who served in the American Revolution and signed the U.S. Constitution. King was an outspoken opponent to slavery, a senator and a presidential candidate, losing his run to James Monroe in 1816.

His estate has been a museum since 1900, and still offers tours and educational programs today under the grand moniker, King Manor.

Year built: 1750 Location: 75 Arthur Kill Road

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Boehm House

Year built: 1750

Location: 75 Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island

Though the original occupant of this historic house is unknown, it was home to Henry Martin Boehm, a teacher and school commissioner on Staten Island in the mid-1800s. He lived there with his wife Rizpah, and also used the building as a school.

In 1965, it was moved to Historic Richmond Town, where it sits today on the former plot of the Dr. Thomas Frost House, which was destroyed by a fire in the 1880s.

Year built: 1747 Location:1640 E. 48th St. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Stoothoff-Baxter-Kouwenhoven House

Year built: 1747

Location:1640 E. 48th St. in Brooklyn

Wilhelmus Stoothoff built the original section of this home on Mill Lane, where his son, Garret, inherited it and passed it on to his daughter, Altje.

Altje's husband, John Baxter, moved the house in 1811 with the help of ten wagons and about 60 neighbors, according to records of his writing. It stayed in the family until the 1920s.

Today, it sits one and a half stories with an extended kitchen wing and white picket fence, facing E. 48th Street.

Year built: 1661 Location: 37-01 Bowne St. in

Credit: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

The Bowne House

Year built: 1661

Location: 37-01 Bowne St. in Queens

John Bowne, a transplant from Boston by way of England, bought this property in current-day Flushing from the Matinecock Indians for eight strings of wampum, or about $14.

He became famous for his defense of religious freedom after allowing Quakers to hold worship services in his home in spite of Gov. Peter Stuyvesant's demands that no religion be observed other than that of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was arrested, imprisoned and then banished to Holland, but won his case and returned home to a religiously liberated colony.

Bowne's home was expanded throughout the years, but no alterations have been made since the 1800s. It has operated as a museum since 1947, and major preservation work is currently underway.

Year built: 1748 Location:Broadway at West 246th Street

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Van Cortlandt Mansion

Year built: 1748

Location:Broadway at West 246th Street in the Bronx

This mansion on the Van Cortlandt estate was a strategic spot for both the Colonial and British armies during the American Revolution. It's believed George Washington stayed in the house at least twice (where didn't that guy sleep?)

Van Cortlandt descendants sold the entire estate to the city in 1886. The mansion now serves as a museum, open to the public.

Year built: 1690 Location: 2 Hylan Blvd. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Alice Austen House

Year built: 1690

Location: 2 Hylan Blvd. in Staten Island

Built as a one room Dutch colonial and expanded by John Haggerty Austen, this waterfront house is named for his granddaughter, Alice Austen, a renowned photographer who lived there for most of her life.

Her candid photographs of Victorian New York are on display for the public to view in the waterfront house.

Year built: 1735 Location:126 West Drive in QueensStephen

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Cornelius Van Wyck House

Year built: 1735

Location:126 West Drive in Queens

Stephen Van Wyck, who inherited this home facing Little Neck Bay from his father, Cornelius, went on to become a delegate in the Continental Congress.120 acres were added to the property when the Van Wyck family sold it in 1819 to Winant Van Zandt.

Year built: 1765 Location: 65 Jumel Terrace in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Year built: 1765

Location: 65 Jumel Terrace in Manhattan

Morris-Jumel Mansion is the oldest house in Manhattan. It was built by a British colonel and his American wife as a summer home in the country. George Washington used the mansion as his temporary headquarters in the fall of 1776. In 1810, a French merchant bought the home. After his death, his wife, Eliza Bowen Jumel, married (and later divorced) former vice president Aaron Burr.

The house has been a museum since 1904.

Year built: 1730 Location: 752 Delafield Ave. in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Scott-Edwards House

Year built: 1730

Location: 752 Delafield Ave. in Staten Island

A mixture of original Dutch Colonial and later-added Greek Revival architecture, this house was built on the estate of Gov. Thomas Dongan, who served in 1683. It then became the home of Judge Ogden Edwards, who would go on to become the first New York Supreme Court justice from Staten Island.

It then got into the hands of florist Adam Scott and Bronx Botanical Gardens employee Samuel Henshaw, who is credited for its beautiful landscaping.

Year built: 1722 Location: 1262 Richmond Terrace in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Kreuzer-Pelton House

Year built: 1722

Location: 1262 Richmond Terrace in Staten Island

The Kreuzer-Pelton House served as the command headquarters for the American Loyalist party during the American Revolution, and was occupied by British General Cortlant Skinner.

In 1835, the house was bought by abolitionist Daniel Pelton. A trap door and "dungeon" space below the house led to the legend that this property was used in the Underground Railroad.

Year built: 1696 Location: 45 Arthur Kill Road

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Voorlezer's House

Year built: 1696

Location: 45 Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island

Voorlezer's House once served as a school -- making it one of the oldest schoolhouses in America. It was also used a religious facility by the Dutch Reformed congregation. As a private residence, it remained in one family for more than 150 years. The next owners ran a hotel-saloon on the premises in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The house was restored and renovated in the 1980s. It's now open to the public.

Year built: 1730 Location: 308 Saint John Ave.

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Housman House

Year built: 1730

Location: 308 Saint John Ave. in Staten Island

Peter Houseman, a millwright, bought this house from Thomas Dongan, great-nephew of the colonial New York governor of the same name, and expanded the structure. Houseman would later be killed by robbers there in 1784, and his son John, a Richmond County supervisor and assemblyman, would take over the estate. After passing through the hands of the Vanderbilt and Vreeland families, it was sold to be developed into a summer resort called Prohibition Park. Today, it sits in the residential neighborhood of Westerleigh, on three plots of land.

Year built: 1770 Location:806 Richmond Terrace in Staten

Credit: Flickr/Matt Green

Neville-Tysen House

Year built: 1770

Location:806 Richmond Terrace in Staten Island

This house, built by sea captain John Neville, has served as a home, a courtroom for Judge Jacob Tysen, and, in the late 1800s, as a pub for sailors called The Old Stone Jug. Its interior was restored to its colonial style in the 1990s by local historian John Landis, but it then fell into disrepair and was bought by Georgia Lind and her husband in 2012. Lind, who reportedly hoped to turn the house into a bed and breakfast, made headlines when she fell 12 feet into an old well while surveying the property.

Year built: 1756 Location: 819 Willowbrook Road in

Credit: Emilio Guerra

Christopher House

Year built: 1756

Location: 819 Willowbrook Road in Staten Island

This farmhouse, beloved to historians for its stone masonry, was used as a meeting place during the American Revolution, when Joseph Christopher, a member of the Richmond County Committee of Safety, called it home. The house was relocated to Historic Richmond Town in 1969, and is now a museum, showcasing colonial farm life.

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