An 1829 farmhouse at 1213 Clove Road, Sunnyside, one of the few surviving structures on Staten Island associated with early Vanderbilt family history, could be surrounded by a new housing development.
Constructed at a time when Staten Island was rapidly evolving from an isolated rural area to a community populated by new development the John King Vanderbilt House is a survivor of this transitional period.
A Manhattan grocer who became active in real estate, Vanderbilt and his extended family moved to Staten Island in 1825 where his Vanderbilt ancestors had settled in the 18th century. John King Vanderbilt was first cousin to Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt.
Between 1871, the date of John King Vanderbilt’s death, and 1908, the house was owned and/or occupied by members of the Vanderbilt and Vredenburg
families. The last member of the Vanderbilt family to occupy the house, Joseph Mortimer Vanderbilt, was the father of noted arbiter of social decorum Amy Vanderbilt (1908-1974). He sold the house the year she was born.
It returned to family ownership in 1955 when it was purchased and restored by Dorothy Valentine Smith, great-great-grand-daughter of of John King Vanderbilt. The home evokes the era when the Clove Valley area where it is located was the enclave of Vanderbilts described in Smith’s 1970 book, Staten Island Gateway to New York.
Dorothy Valentine Smith, who died in 1984, was named an Advance Woman of Achievement in 1962 for helping to meet Staten Island’s “current health, welfare and cultural needs.” She also penned This Was Staten Island (1980) and co-authored Staten Island Patroons (1961).
Smith was a founding member of Richmondtown Restoration (now Historic Richmond Town), and served on board of the Staten Island Historical Society. She also was a member of the Richmond County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Greek Revival style house, built on land granted one of her ancestors in 1680 by Edmund Andros, the English colonial Governor of New York, was designated a Landmark Property in 1987.
Victorio Associates, have applied for the landowner to the Landmark Preservation Commission who is reviewing the application for the development of two new one-family residences on the Landmark site.
The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is supporting the Staten Island Community Board 1’s position that the John King Vanderbilt House should be restored before any new work proceeds on this landmarked property.
HDC said “we find the massing to be generally appropriate, but we have concerns with the siting in relation to the landmark. Further, we believe that the proposed design lacks detail. We believe the applicant should look to the landmarked house as precedent.”
HDC asked the Commission to take no action on the proposal and require the applicant to returned with a more detailed proposal that takes these issues into consideration.
Photos, from above: John King Vanderbilt House before a 2015 fire which destroyed the addition at right (Landmarks Commission photo); an architect rendering of the same house with the planned new buildings adjacent.