THIS WEEK’S E-MAIL NEWSLETTER FROM Brooklyn Based reminded me that there are still some nearby historic houses in my “I keep meaning to get there” category.
I’ve seen the Lefferts homestead in Prospect Park (not its original location), the 1652 Wyckoff House, oldest in the city, and even went out in search of a obscure, privately owned Dutch colonial house in Flatlands, which I found and wrote about on this blog.
But I have yet to get to one of the most impressive restorations in the city — Weeksville in Crown Heights, a group of three 19th century houses on what was once called Hunterfly Road.
Established in 1838 by James Weeks, a free African American, a decade after the abolition of slavery in New York, Weeksville was a thriving community of laborers, entrepreneurs, and professionals, active in anti-slavery activities and with its own churches, benevolent associations, and even newspapers.
Over time, Weeksville was subsumed by the burgeoning city of Brooklyn and forgotten. In 1968, a few nineteenth century wooden structures, threatened imminently by urban renewal plans, were re-discovered.
Using archaeological evidence, local students, activists, historians, and archaeologists testified before the New York City Landmarks Commission and Weeksville was landmarked in 1971. Three houses, fully restored and decorated to represent different eras in the community’s history, were opened to the public in 2005.
For lots more on visiting Weeksville, and the educational center set to open next year, go here.
One historic house I’d never even heard of is the Onderdonk House, above, the oldest Dutch Colonial stone farmhouse in New York City, on the border between Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Ridgewood, Queens.
The foundations date back to 1660. Most of the stone structure is from the first decade of the 18th century, and there’s a frame addition from 1821. With its gambrel roof, Dutch doors, and central hallway, its architecture has much in common with the dozen or so Dutch colonial houses still extant in Brooklyn.
Again, a community effort in the 1970s saved the Onderdonk House from demolition and raised funds for its restoration. It opened to the public in 1982. Today, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s been a city landmark since 1996.