Colonial-era door returns to Queens – QNS.com

Colonial-era door returns to Queens

Courtesy of the New York Daily News

Made centuries ago of sturdy pine wood, it stands almost 8 feet tall and is covered with gray-green paint that has started to flake with age.
It has been branded with an arrow-shaped mark, the work of a saber wielded by a soldier high on battlefield triumph.
It is a Dutch-style door – and the rarest of links to the American Revolution in western Queens.
The door originally graced the front entrance of the Jacob Blackwell manor house, one of several Colonial-era mansions that once lined the East River in present-day Astoria.
Blackwell, a resolute rebel who fought in the Revolution, had his riverside home commandeered by the British, who carved the arrow into the door to signify its confiscation.
The door spent decades in mothballs at the Brooklyn Museum before returning to Queens last month in the care of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which plans to use it as the centerpiece of an exhibit on the American Revolution in western Queens.
“It’s like history being resurrected and brought out of the shadows,” said Matt LaRose, a member of the historical society’s board of trustees.
The door received its telltale scar in September 1776 after Gen. George Washington’s Colonial forces were beaten by the British in the Battle of Brooklyn, according to Richard Melnick, the historical society’s president.
Following the rout, Washington courageously saved his army and abandoned New York while the victorious Redcoats swept north into western Queens, capturing straggling soldiers, raiding rebel homes and eventually settling into what would be a long and brutal occupation.
Blackwell, a prominent Queens resident who was a delegate to the first Continental Congress in 1774, was a colonel in the local militia and fought in the Battle of Brooklyn, which is also known as the Battle of Long Island, Melnick said.
The stone house would have been a prime target for confiscation due to its size – and its owner’s status as a traitor to the Crown. “He was a patriot, so they probably ransacked his home, looted what they could and then gave it over to the officers for billeting,” Melnick said.
The home was razed in 1901, and the property is now the site of the Ravenswood Power Plant. How the door was preserved and how it spent its days until being donated to the Brooklyn Museum in 1951, is largely unknown, Melnick said.
“Considering that the house was torn down 107 years ago, it is a minimiracle that the door has come back to us,” Melnick said, adding that the historical society’s exhibit featuring the patriotic portal is expected to open in the spring.
Beyond its arrow-shape stamp – commonly known at the time as the broad mark of confiscation – the door is symbolic of the American spirit because it includes two bull’s-eye-like windows, which Colonials melted down from bottles to avoid a British tax on glass.
“The very fact the door has that type of glass on it was almost like they were thumbing their nose at the British authorities,” said Bob Singleton, a past president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. “For the British, it would’ve been like a pebble in their shoes.”

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