The Newtown Historical Society’s 2-year mission to replace a long-lost roadside historic marker that notes the former location of the mansion of Governor DeWitt Clinton, the “Father of the Erie Canal,” was finally accomplished in December. The marker replaces one that was originally installed in the 1930s and is located at the triangular park at the intersection of Maspeth Ave, 56th Terrace and 58th Street.
Governor Clinton (1769-1828) is believed to have planned the Erie Canal at his Maspeth summer home, which he and his wife Maria inherited from his father-in-law, Walter Franklin. The mansion stood very close to Newtown Landing, the historic town dock. The house burned down in 1933 after many years of neglect. Shortly after, an historic marker was placed to note the location of the local landmark by the NYS Department of Education’s State History Office, indicating that it had statewide importance. It is believed that the marker disappeared decades ago when the roads were widened and reconfigured.
“While doing historic research back in 2017, I came across a photo of the old marker that was at the intersection,” said Newtown Historical Society President Christina Wilkinson. “I thought to myself, why couldn’t NHS replace it? There’s a tree-lined plaza at the location now and it would enhance the area while teaching residents about the history of Maspeth.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo’s office did the research determining that the plaza was owned by the NYC Dept of Transportation. Funding from Council Member Robert Holden covered the cost of the marker. It was purchased from Catskills Castings, which also created the original marker for the State History Office.
Last March, Community Board 2 unanimously voted in favor of supporting the placement of the marker and this past July the NYC Design Commission approved NHS’ application.
When Juniper Park Civic Association President Tony Nunziato heard about the project, he arranged for Marco Properties to install the marker, and on December 16th the work was completed. Money collected via a Facebook fundraiser covered the cost of installation.
“Montauk has long been known as 'The End' of Long Island,” said Nunziato. “Well, Maspeth is a big part of 'The Beginning' both geographically and historically and this project helps acknowledge that.”
The mansion had a long history that predated Clinton’s time there, including a Revolutionary War connection.
This is the second historic marker that NHS has installed. The first was erected last December at the Ridgewood Reservoir.