While the Riker name has negative connotations in New York thanks to the jail complex located on the eponymous island north of Queens, the Rikers were a real family that settled in Queens in the 17th-century, and their house still stands in East Elmhurst.
The Dutch Colonial house was built as a one-room residence in 1656, with expansions in 1729 and 1800. For most of its history, the house has been occupied by the same family, all descended from Abraham Rycken Van Lent, commonly known as Abraham Riker. The house remained in the family until the 20th-century when it was passed on to family secretary William Gooth. Gooth’s estate would later try to move the house after his death, but after finding out they couldn’t, they sold it to the tenant at the time, Michael Smith. Smith died in 2010 but his widow still occupies the property, making it the oldest private residence in New York City.
In addition to the house, the plot also contains a small family cemetery of 132 headstones marking the remains of various Rikers, Rykers, and Lents. Marion Smith occasionally gives tours of the property, allowing guests to walk the garden and cemetery, as well as guided tours of the downstairs living quarters and various exhibits inside that Marion maintains herself.
Know Before You Go
The house is located on the north side of 19th Road, between 78th and 80th Streets. The nearest bus line is the Q100, which stops near the corner of Hazen Street and 19th Avenue.
As the house is a private residence, please be respectful. In spring and summer, the house may be hard to see from the street due to the thick foliage; for a closer look, it may be best to sign up for an official tour to step on the property.