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National Historic Landmark VOORLEZER'S HOUSE
New York

Location: Richmond County, Arthur Kill Road opposite Center Street, Staten Island.

Ownership and Administration. Staten Island Historical Society, Richmondtown, Staten Island, N.Y.

Significance. This framehouse, built before 1696, is not only the oldest known elementary school building in the United States but also one of the most important surviving relics of 17th-century Dutch settlement in New York. The earliest documented reference to it is dated 1696; and the date of the patent on which it is located is 1680. The house was probably erected some time between those dates. How long it served as a school is not known. It passed through several hands, but remained in the possession of one family for more than 150 years. Though well maintained for many years, by 1936 it had fallen into disrepair and was threatened with demolition. Fortunately, a member of the Staten Island Historical Society purchased the building and donated it to the organization.

Present Appearance. The two-story house is clapboarded. The roof has an unequal pitch because the front of the house is 2 feet higher than the rear. The foundation walls are 2 feet thick, of rough, undressed field stone laid up in mud and mortar. All timbers are of oak or white wood, cut in nearby forests and hewn to size with a broadax. A massive stone-and-brick chimney is at the northeast end of the house. Around 1800, the present staircases were substituted for the straight ladder-like stairs believed to have been used originally.

The first floor contains a small room used as living quarters and a large room for church services. The second floor has a small bedchamber and a large room, believed to be the one used for the school. The extra set of floor beams indicate that the room was designed to accommodate a large number of persons. The floors in the house are of white pine boards, 14 to 16 inches wide. The windows and doors, which have been replaced, have the low and wide proportions of the originals. The building is open by appointment; a custodian is on the premises. [58]

NHL Designation: 11/05/61

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005