On a perfectly ordinary street in Queens, not far from LaGuardia airport, is a house with a remarkable history. This little ivy-covered cottage, built in 1654, has the distinction of being the oldest private home in New York City — and maybe the oldest still-occupied private home in the entire country.
The house is the home of Marion Duckworth-Smith, who moved in when she married Michael Smith in 1983. Michael bought the home from the Rikers, descendants of the family that originally built the house (and gave their name to Rikers Island, and its namesake prison).
When Marion moved in, the house wasn't in great shape. Ceilings sagged, electricity was spotty, and linoleum covered the centuries-old floors. Marion vowed to bring the house back to life, and together with Micheal, she started a painstaking restoration. After Michael's death in 2010, she has continued to care for and improve this little house with a rich history.
Pictured above is the kitchen, in the oldest part of the house, built in 1654. (Other rooms and the second story were added in 1729.) Marion, a lover of antiques, has filled her home with a mix of period pieces and quirky collectibles.
It's really inspiring to see a historic home that isn't just a time capsule. I admire the way Marion has been respectful of the house's history, but still added her own personal touch. It feels like a home that has been well cared for and well loved.
If that wasn't enough, the house also has a lovely setting, with beautiful grounds with just the right touch of wildness. In the backyard is a cemetery, where 132 of the Rikers (and some of Marion's loved ones) are buried. Some of the gravestones are so old and time-worn that the inscriptions are barely legible. It's a poignant reminder of the many years of history behind this humble little house.
You can visit Curbed for many, many (many many) more photos of the house and its grounds. Visit the home's website for more info, including information about how you can visit the house and contribute to restoration efforts.