In a world where you can virtually tour real estate listings, it’s nice to know that the good, old-fashioned house tour hasn’t gone out of style. And this Saturday, one of the oldest homes in Queens is opening its doors for a tour of its refurbished interior, exceptional gardens, and historic cemetery.
The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead in East Elmhurst was built circa 1656 by Abraham Riker, an early settler of New Amsterdam. Its current owner Marion Duckworth Smith still lives in the home, which makes the property the oldest private residence in the borough. She and her late husband Michael Smith began restoring the home in 1980, and since then Smith has offered the occasional tour, giving guests a glimpse into the Riker burial ground, which holds the remains of 132 descendants, the interior living areas, and the picturesque gardens, which include a gazebo and workshop designed to look like a gingerbread house.
According to Marion Duckworth Smith, the Riker name comes from nearby Rikers Island. In 1729, Abraham Lent, a descendent of Abraham Riker, made major additions to the original Dutch farmhouse. The house stayed in the Riker-Lent family until the 20th century when it was passed to William Gooth, the personal secretary of the last Riker to own the house. He rented the house out during the mid-1900’s, but agreed to change nothing about the property. Michael Smith moved in to the home in the 1960’s and purchased the property, along with all its contents, in 1975 from Gooth.
The cemetery in the rear of the site has 132 marked graves of the Rikers and Lents. The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead website also notes that, “the exiled Irish Catholic patriot, Dr. William J. MacNeven, husband of Jane Riker, is buried here. Also buried here is Catherine Ann Tone, wife of Wolfe Tone, leader of the 1848 Irish revolt.”
Photos courtesy of Marion Duckworth Smith
Neighborhoods : East Elmhurst