Saturday, February 15, 2014

Does this house in Jamaica date back to 1799?


"Here's a Queens gem for you. Have you ever heard of Keteltas Manor? According to photographer Matthew X. Kiernan, the colonial-period mansion built in 1799 is still standing at 88-35 144th Street in Jamaica. This building has had numerous renovations over the centuries and the City Map lists its completion as 1935.

Its original owner, Rev. Abraham Keteltas was a Revolutionary but also a slave owner. Its current owner is Deokallie Loknauth. Being located on a corner, I can imagine developers salivating over the thought of demolishing Keteltas Manor.

So let's fight for it while it has a chance!

Keteltas is a descendant of Huguenot French settlers. He is buried in Prospect Cemetery."

Your loyal reader

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it a historic landmark? I have a friend who lives in jamaica and her house also dates back to the 1870s.

Anonymous said...

When was the satellite dish added?

Joe Moretti said...

Believe it or not there are many homes like this throughout Jamaica, more than you think.

Another reason for the our leaders to put effort into Jamaica.

I am still amazed that with many places like this and also the low price for homes in Jamaica, that we have not had a rush of white folks with money come here and start snatching up many of these places.

Anonymous said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mateox/10846140833/

for this and more of Kieran's photographs of Jamaica ...

Anonymous said...

If this was Vallonia, it would be demolished or mutilated.

Appeals to help would answered with "talk to your councilman" accompanied with a smirk.

Anonymous said...

1935?

Those city records should be changed to reflect what is on 19th century maps.

Why hasn't QHS tear itself away from Victorian Teas and get after the city on this?

Anonymous said...

This building is very close to the Blackwell House that was on 'the Hill' in Old Astoria (I mean 'Two Coves' thanks to Goodwill who wanted to obliterate the community after they demolished a 150 year old gem to build a monster that looked like something out of Soviet Union).

That building as late 18th century, too.

The Blackwell Hose was put out its misery for Margaret Mary R C Church.

Ah Vallonia!

georgetheatheist said...

Relax. Katz is on it.

Anonymous said...

I did a little research on this:

Examining the building on Google Streets, the building reads as a late 19th century structure. I also looked at the biography and history of the Reverend.

The original house burned in 1799 and the family was basically penniless, so any new structure that was built - perhaps incorporating the remains of the original building - would have been after that.

I also looked at the Bromley 1909 Atlas of Queens and the 1873 Beers Atlas of Long Island.

The Beers Atlas has no building at that location; in fact, the properties outside of Jamaica Village were still basically unchanged from their original "Long Lot" type of subdivision that was typical in the 17th century after the imposition of British land laws on Dutch New York.

So, the properties were perpendicular to Jamaica Avenue, narrow in width and quite long, going past Hillside Avenue.

In the 1909 Bromley atlas, 144th Street (otherwise known as Kaplan Street) has been laid out and the Public School just to the north has already been constructed (then known as P.S. 82).

On the property in question, there are *two* wood frame buildings.

Both the Beers and Bromley atlases tend to be pretty accurate in what was extant at the time.

My gut feeling about this building is that it was moved from another location. This was fairly common in the early 20th century: moving an important building from another location to save it from being demolished. That would make sense, as the foundation looks to be an early to mid-20th century foundation, and late 18th/early 19th century foundations were usually cellar holes surrounded by wood, plaster and stone (although it could also have later been surrounded with cement).

So, while I can't say that it is from 1799 or soon after - and I don't believe that to be the case - I think it was a mid-19th century building, perhaps constructed from the remnants of the old mansion, and may have originally been located on Jamaica Avenue and moved to its current location to protect it from being demolished.

Obviously, further investigation is warranted.

Paul Graziano

georgetheatheist said...

The key lies in that basement and the examination of the foundation.

Reminds me years ago when I visited the Paul Revere House in Boston, the oldest building there. Revere bought it in 1770 when it was already 90 years old (constructed in 1660) and 354 years old today.

I asked the doyenne who was leading the small group around showing off the extant and ersatz artifacts if I could go into the basement to look at the foundation and how it was constructed. She was flummoxed that somebody wouldn't be more interested in the displays "up top". After the others left, I was excorted downstairs and was amazed at the quality of the 16" on-center joists and their real dimensioned 2x4 lumber. Only a few of the joists were "sistered" for repairs with more modern lumber. Wood lasts a long, long time if cared for.

The Jamaica house's basement will reveal all.

Joe Moretti said...

I have walked by this place many times. It looks like a flop house for the typical low-class Jamaica third world immigrants, the flags are a big give away. There are several families living there.

Who knows what the inside looks like and how chopped up and damaged it is by the owner.

Anonymous said...

@joe moretti - the black people are being pushed out of Jamaica. What do you think the subprime lending crisis is about? All those black middle class working people from the 1960 and 1970 who had nice steady union jobs and pensions being robbed of their equity. As soon as the for closures wind through the courts there will be very few black people left in Jamaica. Queens, particularly Jamaica, has led the state for many years in the number of mortgage defaults and foreclosure actions filed. Check current census figures and it will confirm that black people are leaving. Just watch - south queens is being gentrified faster than you think.

Anonymous said...

The Jamaica house's basement will reveal all.


I agree, George - but as I said before, there's no evidence on the 1873 and 1909 atlases that this house was on this site...in 1873, there was definitely no building, and the 1909 atlas shows two identical detached woodframe houses, one of which is still standing right next door to the north (as seen in the photo).

Paul Graziano

Joe Moretti said...

ANON Stated: @joe moretti - the black people are being pushed out of Jamaica. What do you think the subprime lending crisis is about?

Just watch - south queens is being gentrified faster than you think.

---------------------
Number 1: Let's also put responsibility on the people who bought the houses. If you have only x amount of dollars, you do not purchase a house that is going to cost you xxxxxx amount of dollars and have no way of paying that back, that is simple basic math.

Number 2: The majority of people in Jamaica are still black, so it is not like they are being pushed out. Yes their numbers have gone down some, because other groups have moved in, but they are still the majority

Number 3: Right now there is no kind of gentrification going on. BUT, if any area needs gentrifying, it is Jamaica. This area has been a major mess and disaster for decades. There is no other place in Queens that is this problematic. So yes, there is a need for gentrification, because the alternative is to do what has been done for years, ignore it and let it go down hill further. And if you do not see Jamaica as a huge community disaster, you are either 1)ignorant and blind, 2) in denial, 3) have extremely low standards or 4) are a crooked corrupt elected leader.

Anonymous said...

No maps going (back to at least 1852) clearly show a building with this footprint i this area.

Now as to the suggestion that Kelteltas Family built it:

“He (Rev Kelteltas) sued his neighbor one Richard Betts, a Tory, for cutting off his woodland. He died in 1798 aged 66, leaving his family scanty means of support; and to crown their misfortunes the mansion house, though old and out of repair, was accidentally burnt in March, 1799, by which a large family were rendered homeless.”

I do not think that a family in this circumstance could build a house like this –

The earliest maps (1852) show only a few buildings in this area but none with a building foot print like this. Not surprising as those maps were not always accurate. Even google earth shows a footprint that looks different in the street view.

The son of Rufus King seems to have owned land here but property lines are not clear.

However this time period shows one or two show buildings set back from Jamaica Avenue with a circular driveway - a general signal of wealth.

Records show that Abraham K. Fleet, a wealthy farmer, purchased property near here in the mid-1830s.

This makes sense when we compare buildings from that period:

It resembles the Sanford mansion (1840s) in Astoria (lower left)

http://astoriahistory.smugmug.com/Community-Landmarks/Astoria-1915/i-V492qzG

The upper story could have been raised from a sloping roof: the Blackwell Mansion (1820s):

http://astoriahistory.smugmug.com/GAHS-Books/Then-and-Now/i-XVxTbvg

Note the porch style in Old Astoria (1840s)

http://astoriahistory.smugmug.com/organize/Other/East-River-2/i-th3Jhns

“Rosement” (1853)

http://astoriahistory.smugmug.com/Neighborhoods/Old-Astoria-Village/i-tDDrvSf

Its current location, on a late 19th century side street, not facing Jamaica Avenue, gives us a strong possibility that it was moved.

The foundations look smooth - not stone that would signal something much older than 20th century. A 1913 map of Jamaica shows it in the present location. A 1901 map shows the lot empty, so it was likely moved in that time frame.

The problem is that, unlike New York or Brooklyn, the early historic records of Queens are a mess. An effort should be made to find and make accessible early property records.

Its simplely unacceptable to list everything "circa 1901". This gives things a green light to be torn down.

This building has good bones under that siding and is likely a very strong candidate for designation - but in Queens even to say that will be its death notice.

Anonymous said...

I am the creator of the photo that was referenced early in this blog. I find all the research fascinating and welcome any refinement on my original commentary. You should look at a photo from the Queens Library Archives that shows the house, possibly in the 1930s. It is clearly a Regency style house, probably dating sometime between 1800 and 1830. The photo was reprinted in Carl Ballenas, Jamaica, for the Images of America series on page 82 (You can access this book on Google Books).

As to whether the house was moved, that would not be unusual, as older houses of quality were often moved to accommodate new street patterns. I look forward to more research on this house.

Anonymous said...

I am the creator of the photo that was referenced early in this blog. I find all the research fascinating and welcome any refinement on my original commentary. You should look at a photo from the Queens Library Archives that shows the house, possibly in the 1930s. It is clearly a Regency style house, probably dating sometime between 1800 and 1830. The photo was reprinted in Carl Ballenas, Jamaica, for the Images of America series on page 82 (You can access this book on Google Books).

As to whether the house was moved, that would not be unusual, as older houses of quality were often moved to accommodate new street patterns. I look forward to more research on this house.


Thanks for your interest. After reading Carl Ballenas' excellent summation and seeing the archival photo (ca. 1920) it is clear that A) the house was moved, probably from somewhere on Jamaica Avenue; B) the foundation is a newly constructed one which lends credence to the previous point; C) most of its original detail from it's pre-1850 incarnation is intact, including ionic wood columns, clapboards at the first floor fa├žade and wood shingles elsewhere, a faux-2nd floor cornice with shallow attic above and a wooden balustrade widow's walk at the top.

Clearly moved, definitely (re)constructed and expanded between 1820 and 1870 (as the rear addition for a water closet / bathroom stack typically built after outhouses went out of vogue occurred after the Civil War), this magnificent ruin of a house screams for restoration!

Considering its history, it is definitely a candidate for landmarking and a Request for Evaluation should be written. The building is in Rory Lancman's Council District (24).


Paul Graziano


Paul Graziano

Anonymous said...

"I look forward to more research on this house."

Towards what purpose? Its like counting the number of bricks on the wall or constantly rearranging the silverware.

The role of historians should go much further:

Historians need to get after those organizations and government officials to do something about cleaning up historical information and getting it out in the public eye places like this.

The borough's historical database is a mess. This is unacceptable.

And the process needs to be expanded from a tiny number of insiders. Remember the Amex contest a few years back where Queens participation ranked near the bottom?

People love their neighborhoods but this is what happens when they are cut off from meaningful participation - playing into the hands of the developer lobby that tells us the mantra that people in the borough don't care.

The Queens Library archives, a great place on paper, is part of this problem: difficult to get to,and on a typical day almost empty save for a handful of local kids working on a school project.

Queens needs to clean up its act on historic designation. We are not going to get significant help from those outside the borough (our portion of the pie has been their second helping for decades so why should they?)

The historic institutions in Queens need to be more vocal on both allocation of resources and nature of their programs: quilts and teas have their place as finger paints and playtime in education - but its time we start demanding seminars and symposiums too.

Anonymous said...

Considering its history, it is definitely a candidate for landmarking and a Request for Evaluation should be written. The building is in Rory Lancman's Council District (24).

* * *

Paul, one definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something new.

It matters nothing that this is an old historic building.

The commission will tell you that it is altered and does not match the criterion of the commission - and under the current law they can get away with this garbage - one of the reasons (and there are many) that the law is all but useless.

The only way that it will get designated is if Laceman thinks it should be, and the owner agrees - and you can bet your last dollar that for every call a preservationist will make to him (with the weak support they give us in Queens), there will be 10 from developers dancing dollars for development.

Anonymous said...


Paul, one definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something new.

It matters nothing that this is an old historic building.

The commission will tell you that it is altered and does not match the criterion of the commission - and under the current law they can get away with this garbage - one of the reasons (and there are many) that the law is all but useless.

The only way that it will get designated is if Laceman thinks it should be, and the owner agrees - and you can bet your last dollar that for every call a preservationist will make to him (with the weak support they give us in Queens), there will be 10 from developers dancing dollars for development.



Not disagreeing at all. My statement was simple: put in an RFE and contact the local elected. If people want to make a big fight out of this, they will. Otherwise it will end up in the dustbin of history like so many other places in NYC.


Paul Graziano

Anonymous said...

We haven't heard Lancman speak about preservation since his failed Congressional run, when he spoke about St. Savior's and the Brinckerhoff Ceemtery. He would only support preservation if it served his political ambitions.

Anonymous said...

So why don't we make this a test case.

Have Queens Civic Congress sponsor this for designation.

1. encouraged by the real estate interests, when the pitchfork and torch crowd will show up ranting on the evils of preservation, demand that the preservation community come out to share with us the reason that preservation - and our taxes being used to support it - is a swell thing.

Demand the press cover the debate, stomp on their toes if they do a terrible job, then let the local electeds know that they can resign themselves to being in the public cross hairs for a very very long time if they vote for supporting preservation in Manhattan districts while denying it for their own communities that, as a result of this dual policy, are getting bulldozed into oblivion.

2. submit the application and watch it get lost, delayed, or rejected.

3. then go after the system - throw it out the window.

Believe me, if Cranberry Street and Bleecker Street is put in the same boat as our borough our preservation problems would be solved very quickly.

By trashing the law the only thing we would lose would be our second class status - and the wasting of our taxes on a program that discriminates against those that are forced to support it.

Anonymous said...

An 1842 map does indicate that Ketaltas owned land just west of the earlier mentioned plot owned by John A. King, who at that time also owned what is now known as King Manor and the farm originally owned by his Rufus King. Prior to owning King Manor, John had a home named Beaver Hall down the road from his father's farm, although the 1842 map shows no structure on John King's plot next to Ketaltas. The Ketaltas plot indicates two structures were on the land at that time, although neither in the general form of the structure in the above photo. The more southern of the two structures appears approximately the same distance from Jamaica Ave on that map as King Manor is; it is depicted as a square structure with a smaller square segment to the east. The more northern structure is a larger rectangle.