by Kevin Walsh

Maspeth isn’t a location many associate with DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), a founding father who served as NY State Assemblyman, NYS Senator, NYS Governor, US Senator and NYC Mayor during an illustrious career capped by his indefatigable support for the Erie Canal. Several streets around town were named for him, and when Green-Wood Cemetery opened in 1838 his remains were later exhumed from the original burial plot in Albany, NY and moved to Brooklyn.

DeWitt Clinton lived in Maspeth for several decades in this house that had stood near Newtown Creek. The house was built in the mid-1700s, while Clinton moved here about 1780; it is said original plans for the Erie Canal were drawn up here. During the Revolutionary War the house was occupied by General Warren, and Gen. William Howe planned an invasion of NYC via Newtown Creek here.

The house didn’t fare well in its later years, as the area surrounding it became increasingly industrial, and it was divided into tenements in the 1920s and burned down in 1933. Earlier photographs show it with a double decker porch.

The NYS historical marker for the Clinton House stood on 58th Street and 56th Road and read:

DeWitt Clinton House 1790-1828. Stood several hundred feet north of here. Gov. Dewitt Clinton worked on plans for Erie Canal here

A nearby dance hall that still stands was called Clinton Hall for several years, and the Goodfellas Diner on Rust Street was previously called the Clinton Diner before it was renamed for the Scorsese mob flick that had several scenes shot there.

Another remnant of Clinton’s residence is in Whitestone, where Clinton had a summer house. For a time, Whitestone was called Clintonville, and a lengthy diagonal street still has that name.

Photo from the NYC Municipal Archives, which insists on plastering its watermark on its website photos; you’re expected to purchase the photo to get rid of the watermark. My book Forgotten Queens has over 100 scenes of Queens from 1920-1950, with no watermarks.


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