Historic Structures

Schenck-Crooke House, Brooklyn New York

Date added: March 31, 2010 Categories: New York House Early Colonial

This old homestead, built in 1655, is reputed to be the oldest house in New York State. Located originally on Mill Island, which is now Bergen Beach, Long Island, its story of early exploration and international commerce is an intriguing revelation.

This story begins with one Jan Martense Schenck Van Nydeck, of noble lineage, who was born in Amersfoort, Holland, emigrated to New Netherland, and in 1656 built this house. His family line has been traced back without a break to the fourteenth century. They were Lords of Afferden. General Peter Schenck Van Nydeck was born at Gosh in 1547. His son Martin, born in 1584, was the father of the above mentioned founder of the family in America, whose name in Modern English was Captain John Schenck.

Years before Jamaica Bay was even dreamed of as a terminal for ocean liners, Capt. Schenck built Schenck Wharf on the end of Mill Island, and personally commanded the trading vessels which carried much of the imports and exports between Holland and the New World. This enterprising traffic offered a fine chance for imaginative fiction invented by some of the oldest inhabitants of former years in Flatlands and Bergen Beach. It was said that Schenck was a lieutenant of that much maligned citizen of New York, Captain Kidd. Somebody called the house "the pirate house". But no member of the Schenck family, so far as discovered, ever left a record of that crime against the law of nations which governs the high seas. No tale of buried treasure has ever been connected, with Mill Island, and the movements of Captain Kidd when he came home after his alleged piratical expedition are fully recorded in the NY Colonial Documents.

Other episodes, of known historical verity, are associated with the property in its story through these many years. When Captain Schenck owned the property, it consisted of about 75 acres of woodland, upland, and salt marsh. His heirs sold the estate to Joris Martense, of Flatbush, for 2,500. This new owner was master of the propery when the Revolutionary War broke out, and, while outwardly unswerving in his loyalty to King George the Third, he contributed liberally to the Patriot cause, in all about $5,500. In this house, Capt. William Marrener, when he made his famous midnight expedition through Flatbush, captured Major Moncrief of the British army.

From the Martense family the propery passed into the possession of Gen. Philip S. Crooke, and after diverse vicissitudes of ownership was finally bought, and is still owned (in 1934), by The Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company.