Home to some of the oldest structures in all of New York City, the borough of Queens is a treasure trove of historic buildings and the fourth in our series on the oldest buildings in New York City (previous so far: Brooklyn and Manhattan). Queens holds structures that have existed for almost four centuries – many which hold titles for oldest building in various categories not only in New York City but in the country – and played parts in key historical moments in the nation’s history.
From the oldest existing dwelling in the city, to an 18th century farmhouse, to homes that played a vital role in the struggle for religious freedom in the United States, here are the top eight oldest buildings in Queens.
1. The Riker-Lent-Smith Homestead and Cemetery, 1654
The Riker-Lent-Smith homestead, a Dutch-Colonial style house located in East Elmhurst, holds the title for the oldest known dwelling in all of New York City that is still a residential structure. It is also the last remaining home of the Riker family and has been nearly continuously inhabited since its construction. Its current resident is Marion Duckworth Smith, who opens the house to visitors on occasion. Restorations on the house have revealed that the home began in 1654 as a one-room structure made of timber and fieldstone. The graveyard in the rear of the house contains 132 marked graves, including William James MacNeven, a renowned physician and Irish revolutionary.
Research has traced the Riker family, the original owners of the homestead, to the First Crusades in 1096. The family was part of the community of early settlers in New Amsterdam, and the house itself was built by Riker-descendant Abraham Riker. Rikers Island, home to New York City’s main jail complex, is named after the Riker family, who owned the island until 1884. You can read more about the Riker-Lent-Smith Homestead here.
The Riker-Lent-Smith Homestead is located in 78-03 19th Road, East Elmhurst.