On the corner of Flushing and Maspeth Avenues, only a stone’s throw from Newtown creek, in the village of Maspeth stands an old fashioned mansion which cannot but interest every admirer of colonial architecture.
It is the house in which DeWitt Clinton courted his first wife, Maria Franklin, daughter of a Quaker merchant, who died after Clinton became the governor of New York State. The house was originally the home of Joseph Sackett, judge of the court of common pleas, who died twenty years before the Revolution. It afterward passed into the hands of Walter Franklin, who became Clinton’s father-in-law. The third occupant was Colonel Isaac Corsa, of the French War, who was with the Clinton brothers at the capture of Fort Frontenac. Corsa was a Loyalist in the Revolution and was married to Sarah Franklin, sister of Walter Franklin, and was consequently Clinton’s uncle. During the Revolution, General Warren of the British forces was quartered in the mansion. Corsa died at Flushing in 1807.
A short distance away is a house once occupied by Samuel Jones, a very influential New York lawyer and politician of his time, and under whom DeWitt Clinton studied law. Jones subsequently became controller of the state. The Clinton House is a wooden gambrel roofed mansion, with clapboards below and shingle above. It has four high chimneys, which rise from brick overheads built at the commencement of the structure. Three sides of the house are adorned with verandas and the upper story lies partly under the roof.
It was there that Clinton lived after his unsuccessful contest for the presidency and when his political prospects were by no means bright. Clinton had many warm friends, however, and some of the leading men of the state and nation were accustomed to visiting him at his Maspeth home. While living there he developed the Erie Canal project which earned for him unbounded popularity and was largely instrumental in putting him in the governor’s chair despite the opposition of Daniel D. Tompkins, Rufus King and other leaders of that time.
A story connected with the house is that Clinton was downcast after his defeat and for the presidency and the attacks of his enemies and that he came to Maspeth to live in retirement, but prominent friends visited him on a cold winter’s night and awakened in him a desire to re-enter public life. Whether this be true or not, it is certain that Clinton formulated some of his greatest projects while living in Maspeth and that he left his country home to become the executive of New York State.
The old homestead some years ago was converted into a place of amusement and is now known as Clinton Park. Until the advent of the Raines law it was a favorite place for Sunday dances. Now, however, the once famous Clinton mansion, where the best society of New York City was once royally entertained, is used as a tenement for poor Polish families. The old house has sadly changed as have its surroundings. Thirty years ago the neighborhood of DeWitt Clinton’s old home in the vicinity of Newtown Creek was known as the English Kills, and less than half a century ago the creek was a stream of pure water abounding with fish, while a hunter could find lots of game.