No landmarking for Gravesend’s endangered Ryder-Van Cleef House, LPC rules

The house in its original location in 1922 with a glimpse of P.S. 95 in the background. The dwelling was still home to descendants of Lawrence and Margaret Ryder at the time.
Photo via New York Public Library

A construction fence has gone up around Gravesend’s early 19th century Ryder-Van Cleef House, and it seems destined for demolition after the Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to consider it for designation.

Built circa 1840 by builder and carpenter Lawrence Ryder, the house is one of a handful of modest Dutch-American frame dwellings built by descendants of the Dutch and English settlers who developed the town on Canarsee land. Its side gable roof with curved, overhanging eaves is a tip-off to its origins; it is a late example of a style that borrowed Dutch and English building methods to create a uniquely American form that flourished in Southern Brooklyn.

Located at 38 Village Road North, it had been in the hands of the same family since 1968 until it was purchased in August of this year by Village Road Development LLC for $1.2 million. Filings show the owner behind the LLC is Marc Jajati.

An application for a demolition permit for the house, as well as for two adjoining 19th century properties, was filed in August, alarming preservationists who have been advocating for recognition of the house and other properties in Gravesend for decades.

The Ryder-Van Cleef house last week.Photo by Susan De Vries

Gravesend historian Joseph Ditta submitted a formal Request For Evaluation (RFE) to LPC and received a letter of response from Kate Lemos McHale, Director of Research at LPC on November 29. The letter revealed the LPC determined that because the house was moved and altered, it “does not retain adequate visible historic fabric from the 19th century Dutch-American period in Gravesend, and therefore does not appear to possess enough integrity of historic association, design or materials for consideration as an individual landmark.”

The alterations to the small house, according to the LPC, include an added porch, non-historic siding and changes to windows, the stoop and front door. The moving of the house eastward from its original location on the block in the 1920s and its “being partially hemmed in by a large neighboring building” contributed to the decision, according to the letter.

The flag is still in place at the front door.Photo by Susan De Vries

“It’s a sad day for Gravesend,” Ditta told Brownstoner. “What I find most galling is LPC’s argument that the Ryder-Van Cleef House has suffered such drastic alterations. Those same issues didn’t stop them from designating other properties. The house, the others on the block and the stone chapel are all doomed.”

While a recent walk on the block showed that a construction fence now stretches in front of all three houses and there were signs of some interior work, no demolition permit has been posted on site. Records show that the applications were processed in August, but no permits have been issued.

The development site owned by the LLC includes 38, 32 and 30 Village Road North.Photo by Susan De Vries

The three frame houses sit within the outlines of the original four-square town plan laid out by founder Lady Deborah Moody in the 17th century. They also sit on a block that includes the stone Van Sicklen House at 27 Gravesend Neck Road. Better known as the Lady Moody House, it contains some details at least three centuries old. The house was designated an individual landmark in 2016 as part of the Landmarks backlog initiative. It is one of just three individual landmarks in Gravesend. There are no historic districts, despite the significant history of the neighborhood.

Not far away, in Madison, another Dutch-American house is in jeopardy. The 18th century Wyckoff-Benett House at 1669 East 22nd Street is an individual landmark, but was sold to investors and since then has been vandalized and is deteriorating, its future unsure.

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.