King Manor Museum, or the Rufus King House, is a hidden historical Colonial treasure in Queens. Despite the A.I.A. Guide’s claim that the house is “more interesting for [its] social history than [its] architecture,” it is both an architectural and historical gem.
The house was originally constructed between 1733 and 1755 by Ames Smith. In 1805, the property was purchased by Rufus King. King was a career civil servant. He was a member of the Confederation Congress, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 where he served as a a framer and signer of the Constitution, the first United States Senator from New York, ambassador to Great Britain, and a Presidential candidate. King was also a noted early abolitionist, which is highlighted at the house.
Rufus King, who lived in the house until his death in 1827, and his children continued to add onto the original eighteenth-century structure and property. In 1896, Cornelia King, Rufus’ granddaughter, died after which the house and its remaining acreage were bought by the Village of Jamaica. In 1900, the house opened as a museum. Today, both the exterior and interior of the house are New York City Landmarks and it is administered by The Historic House Trust.
Located in Jamaica, the house is off the beaten path for most New Yorkers and has been for most of its existence. A 1914 New York Times article provides an itinerary for a “one-day trip of Jamaica and Jericho Turnpikes, full of memories of bygone days.” The author took the Jamaica trolley to visit the sites on her itinerary. Upon asking the conductor to stop at King Manor she “only received a blank stare” in return.
“We might still be wandering in search of this historic goal had it not been for a courteous old gentleman who overheard. ‘Do you mean to say,’ he asked in horror, ‘that the conductor did not know King’s Manor?’ He shook his head in despair. ‘These conductors have no reverence for history he deplored.”
Despite its relative obscurity, it is without a doubt, well worth a visit.
150-03 Jamaica Avenue