King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens is a historic site from almost 200 years ago, serving as a museum and a former — and current — residence. King Manor originally served as an inn and farmhouse when it was first built in the 1750s, and soon after as the parsonage for two local ministers. A century later, the home’s namesake, Rufus King, purchased the home and surrounding farm and woodland for $12,000. King was a New York senator and signatory of the U.S. Constitution. To accommodate the New York elite at his home, King enlarged the rooms and added an oval dining room to the home’s eastern portion. King lived in the manor for 20 years before he was forced to move to Manhattan as he became increasingly sick. In 1827 upon his death, the manor was inherited by his son John Alsop King, who for one year served as Governor of New York. The house was purchased by the Village of Jamaica in 1897, and in 1900 the King Manor Association was established to care for the home.
On September 11, join King Manor Museum Executive Director Kelsey Brow for a special access tour of the home of Rufus King, who was also an early voice in the anti-slavery movement. Brow will lead guests behind the scenes to see the entire house from the basement to the (two!) attics and from the servants’ quarters to the King family’s parlor. Explore how the house, a designated New York City Individual and Interior Landmark, tells its history of three major phases of construction (c. 1750, c. 1790 and 1810) and still holds more than a few mysteries. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).
Behind the Scenes at King Manor
Visitors on this tour will be the first to see newly discovered historic paint that gives clues to how the working spaces in the house were used and, in honor of Juneteenth, also get a special preview of our new initiative that explores The Green, a free Black community in Jamaica dating back to the early 19th century. Wear your walking shoes, and if you’re up for it after the house tour, explore The Green on this new self-guided walking tour.
On the tour of King Manor Museum, you can also go inside The Fox Hole, the museum caretaker’s booklined apartment, a veritable museum unto itself! Check out not one but two hidden 18th-century windows. Peek into museum storage spaces and catch a glimpse of a few of the treasures not on display. And meet Mary, the friendly museum cat.
When Roy Fox retired as a radio host for stations in cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh, he needed a place to settle down. While one would expect him to retire in a home in his native Chicago or perhaps a Manhattan apartment, he instead took up an offer to live rent-free in King Manor. As one of just two dozen New Yorkers who live in the city’s publicly owned historic sites, Fox resides on the top floor of the historic home, which dates back to around 1700.
Around the time that the restoration project began, Fox’s then-wife learned that the parks commissioner was looking for someone to live in the manor. In 1989, Fox agreed to become the manor’s caretaker, giving him the opportunity to live for free in the 29-room home. Fox went to work on redesigning the interior, from his awkwardly shaped bedroom to the combined kitchen and dining room. While Fox keeps most of the historic artifacts downstairs, which is open to the public, he has his fair share of his personal books in the apartment, amounting to over 4,000. This number even surpasses King’s collection of 3,200, many of which are now in the Library of Congress.
Kelsey Brow is Executive Director at the King Manor Museum, one of the longest-operating historic house museums in New York City, which interprets the life and times of anti-slavery founding father Rufus King to foster critical thinking. Trained in the study of decorative arts and material culture at the Bard Graduate Center, Brow’s academic work focuses on the intersection of consumption, gender, and ethics with material culture and the decorative arts. She has given talks at the AAM Historic House Summit, NEMA, the Greater Hudson Heritage Network conference, The Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the New School, and Rutgers University, among others. She is most proud to have been selected to speak at ICOM Kyoto on the importance of professionalization in small museums in September 2019. She takes her work seriously, but not herself, making her public speaking fun and engaging. When not doing museum things, Brow enjoys sewing custom clothing, sipping tea and craft cocktails, or headbanging at metal shows.
On September 11, join King Manor Museum Executive Director Kelsey Brow for a special access tour of the home of Rufus King. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).
Behind the Scenes at King Manor
Next, check out The 8 Oldest Buildings in Queens!