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The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, A Place That Matters


The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, located in the Ridgewood section of Queens near the Brooklyn border, is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City. It was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for its connection to the 18th century history of Queens and for its story of neighborhood preservation advocacy.

The site of the Onderdonk house and farm was originally granted to Hendrick Barents Smidt by Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant in the 1660s. However, the house that stands today was not built until after the Ende family acquired the land in 1709. According to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report, the house was originally constructed in the mid- to late-18th century. It was built facing Flushing Avenue, the colonial road connecting the Dutch town of Bushwick with the English town of Newtown. The frame addition to the house was constructed in the 1820s by Adrian Onderdonk, who purchased the farm shortly after his marriage to Ann Wyckoff, a member of the prominent Dutch-American Brooklyn family.

In the early 20th century, this section of Ridgewood was rapidly transforming into an industrial district. After the last Onderdonk descendant sold the house and the farm in 1912, industrial buildings were built on the land. Thankfully, the house was not demolished but rather it was used for a scrap glassworks, followed by other industrial uses over the next six decades. By 1973, the industrial structures surrounding the Dutch farmhouse had been torn down, although the neighborhood remained industrial in character.

The Vander Ende-Onderdonk house ultimately survived thanks to the heroic efforts of neighborhood advocates, who formed the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society with the primary goal of saving the house. Although a devastating fire was a huge setback to the neighborhood’s efforts in 1975, the historical society soon gained ownership of the house and set to work raising funds for its restoration by long-time MAS board member, former president, and renowned preservation architect Giorgio Cavaglieri. The careful reconstruction was based on remaining physical evidence after the fire, as well as the 1930s Historic American Buildings Survey documentation of the building.

The house opened to the public in 1982, and continues to welcome visitors on Saturdays. Today, visitors can not only see this rare surviving example of Dutch colonial architecture in Queens, but also learn about the significant prehistoric and colonial archeological discoveries on the site. The historical society’s programs include tours and lectures, as well as special Dutch-inspired celebrations. These programs and events will continue well beyond this year’s festivities surrounding the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon voyage.