East Elmhurst and the Lent-Riker-Smith House


    There’s a little parcel of a neighborhood east of Astoria and north of Jackson Heights, east of the bail bonds offices of Hazen Street, north of the whizzing Grand Central Parkway and west of LaGuardia Airport’s expanse, containing a couple of surprising artifacts. Stop for lunch at the chrome-plated Airline Diner, built in 1952, at Astoria Boulevard and 70th Street where a scene from Goodfellas was filmed, make your way up Hazen, where buses enroute to Rikers Island roll past, detour a little down 77th Street; east on 19th Road brings you to one of Queens’ oldest homes.

    It’s a colonial farmhouse that was by most accounts built by Abraham Rycken Van Lent in 1729, though some historians date the oldest part of the house to be even older…perhaps 1656, according to an American Historic Buildings Survey. Rycken, whose family later changed its name to Riker, is remembered by most New Yorkers for the offshore island he acquired from New York governor Peter Stuyvesant in  1664, later acquired by NYC’s Department of Corrections in 1884. Riker would no doubt have preferred that his well-preserved Queens home be his chief remembrance.  Michael Smith purchased and restored the historic house n the late 1970s, and Marion Smith continues to maintain the residence after her husband’s decease a couple of years ago.


    A NYC Cow Parade cow from 2000 is spotted in the yard. The Cow Parade reaches Shanghai, China in 2015.

    Adjacent to the homestead is the Riker family cemetery, which is unfortunately completely invisible from 19th Avenue and 19th Road, which border it. The cemetery contains some of Queens’ oldest gravesites, including patriarch Abraham Riker (1746) and his son, also named Abraham, who died at Valley Forge (1778).

    For more information on this historic home, visit lentrikersmithhomestead.com.

    Photo via Queens Gazette

    Just a few blocks away is a representative of a world that Abraham Rycken Van Lent never conceived of in his wildest dreams, where people reach the west coast anywhere in the USA or Europe in a few hours… the magnificently restored Marine Air Terminal at 82nd Street and Ditmars Boulevard.

    Designed and built in 1939 by William Delano, it’s the only active passenger terminal remaining from the first generation of USA air travel, dating back to LaGuardia Airport’s first days. LGA opened in October 1939 and the Marine Air Terminal was dedicated the following March, serving Pan American’s magnificent Yankee Clipper aircraft, seaplanes known as “flying boats.” Today it serves commuter airlines including the Delta Water Shuttle (a ferry service), air taxis, and a private weather station.


    Among the Marine Air Terminal’s most distinguishing elements is its frieze of terra-cotta flying fish along the roofline. They represent the Pan Am “flying boats” the terminal originally serviced.

    Photo by Chris Sloan

    The 12-foot-high, 235-foot-long mural “Flight” byJames Brooks was restored in the mid-1980s. The mural encircling the interior wall of the terminal’s rotunda tells the story of human flight, from Greek mythology through the mid-20th century was the largest and last mural commissioned by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Incredibly, and unconscionably, the mural had been painted over in the 1950s, apparently since some commissioner thought it resembled a communist propaganda poster.

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