LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Dear Mr. Holden and Ms. Wilkinson,
Are you aware that the Onderdonk House was recently vandalized by adolescents who broke into the property and structure?
There's a police report on file and available for your perusal.
I hope that you plan on covering this tragic event in the next issue of the Juniper Berry.
Chief Curator and Artist-in-Residence Arthur Kirmss does an exemplary job of educating local schoolchildren and adult visitors about New York history from pre-Colonial times through the Civil War at the museum.
Mr. Kirmss and fellow historian Ellen Brody-Kirmss have designed and mounted remarkable exhibitions and staged popular events at the OH that have attracted scores of lively people from all five boroughs and beyond, bringing much-needed attention to this important Queens landmark.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a profound patron of the arts and humanities. I'm sure he would be upset if the Onderdonk House, a valuable historical resource for New York City students and historians, would have to curtail its educational activities because of lack of security.
Feature Writer for Art Galleries and Museums
Response by Mrs. Ellen Brody Kirmss:
“The Onderdonk House and grounds were actually broken into 2-3 times last week, but nothing was stolen or destroyed. Neighborhood children had the idea that the house is haunted, and were daring each other and competing to enter it at opportune times when no one from the GRHS was there.
The children were slipping through a small space where one fence post had been compromised. It is not clear whether this had been intentionally broken or decayed from wear and age. It has been repaired, and a number of other steps were taken to secure the house.
Four of the children were caught on the grounds by our caretaker and the police were called and responded. We felt it was important that the message be sent around the neighborhood that the house is a significant landmark, a cultural and historical center, and a museum that warrants care and respect.”
History of the Onderdonk House, from the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society:
The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, located in Ridgewood on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City. Peter Stuyvesant granted the land it sits on in the mid-seventeenth century, and by 1660, Hendrick Barents Smidt occupied a small house on the site. In 1709, Paulus Vander Ende of Flatbush purchased the farm and began construction of the current house. The building was a prominent marker in the 1769 settlement of the boundary dispute between Bushwick in Kings County and Newtown in Queens County.
During the 1820's, Adrian Onderdonk erected a small frame addition to the stone house immediately above the remnants of the foundation of the 1660 building. Its architectural features are typical of Dutch buildings in this period: a gambrel roof, Dutch doors, central hallway and double hung windows with shutters.
The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society was established in 1975 by a group of local residents to prevent the demolition of the Vander Ende Onderdonk House. From 1975 until 1981, the GRHS raised funds to reconstruct the house which had been seriously damaged by fire, and in 1976, published a history of the greater Ridgewood area, entitled Our Community, Its History and People.
In 1977, the House and property were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1978, granted the same status on the New York State Register. The House was given New York City landmark status in June of 1996. With the help of Federal, State and local funds, the Onderdonk House was opened to the public in 1982.
The House serves as a museum for a permanent exhibit on the archaeology of the Onderdonk site, as well as changing exhibits relating to history, the arts and culture. The Society also maintains a history and genealogical research library, and offers many cultural events annually, including: guided house tours, history lectures and programs, genealogy workshops, craft classes and special events, such as St. Nicholas Day and other Dutch celebrations. The history and location of the house provide a rich educational and cultural experience for visitors.