Monday, June 27, 2011

three country homes

I've been writing about the country homes in the village of Woodside, Queens, that were owned by three New York merchants — John A. Kelly, Gustav Sussdorf, and my great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller.[1] The village was an unnamed section of Newtown when the first and second bought their properties and it was just coming into existence when the last bought in. The area was rural and land comparatively cheap. Queens existed as a county from the late seventeenth century but would not become a borough of the City of New York until the end of the nineteenth and residents often gave their address as "Woodside, Long Island" rather than "Woodside, Queens, New York." Most of these residents grew things which they sold in City markets: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, and — Woodside specialties — flowers and cider.[2]

The area's first settlers were Indian tribes. Willingly or not they made room first for the Dutch, then English. Others joined the mix including, particularly, German and Irish immigrants, both seeking to escape hardships at home and both succeeding in influencing the character of the area. Broad generalizations can be invidious, but it's probably accurate to say the Irish endured a longer and more difficult transition from extreme poverty to a relative degree of prosperity than did the Germans. Historians account for this by saying that agricultural conditions at home, mainly the potato famine, resulted in a high proportion of subsistence peasants among Irish immigrants while the conditions that induced Germans to emigrate included not just poverty but also political turmoil and the Prussian policy of forced military service. Germans in consequence tended to be considerably better educated and to possess skills in useful occupations.[3]

As I said, John A. Kelly was the first of the three to buy property in the hamlet that would later become Woodside. In 1826 he and his sister-in-law bought a mansion located at a central cross road of the community along with 155 acres of land and two roads.[4] In 1859 Gustav Sussdorf moved to New York and soon thereafter bought his land and built his house. Windmuller built his place in 1867.

Despite his Celtic surname, John A. Kelly was, like Windmuller and Sussdorf, a German-American citizen.[5] Kelly and Sussdorf probably knew each other: before coming to New York both had been successful dry goods merchants in Charleston, South Carolina. Kelly died in 1833, before Windmuller was born.[6]. Because they were neighbors, Windmuller would have known Sussdorf, but the difference in their ages probably insured that they did not have an intimate friendship. Windmuller did definitely know the sons and daughters of both men.[7] In fact the Kelly, Sussdorf, and Windmuller families were not just neighbors but were closely linked with each other by their association with the local Episcopal church. The church grew out of gatherings that had been held at the Sussdorf home beginning in 1870 when the wife and daughters of Gustav Sussdorf's son, William, held Sunday school classes for local children. John A. Kelly's son, John A.F. Kelly, and Louis Windmuller joined with other locals to found the church and construct a building to house it. When it opened in 1874 there were 20 parishioners and 50 Sunday-school pupils.[8]

I've marked this property map of 1852 to give the approximate locations of the Kelly (green), Sussdorf (red), and Windmuller (blue) estates in the part of Newtown that would later become Woodside. Windmuller originally owned the small area closest to the Kelly Mansion, but it was taken for a public school after Woodside had grown too large for the one it had been using.[9]

{Detail from: Map of Newtown, Long Island, designed to exhibit the localities referred to in the "Annals of Newtown"; compiled by J. Riker, Jr., 1852, from The annals of Newtown, in Queens County, New York, by James Riker, Jr.; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

As you can see from this atlas sheet of 1912, land use changed a great deal over the next half century. On it I've shown the Windmuller (blue) and Sussdorf (red) estates. The Kellys had sold their land to a developer and moved out of the mansion at the head of Betts Road. The house was torn down to make way for St. Sebastian Catholic Church (green).

{Queens, Vol. 2, Double Page Plate No. 15; Part of Ward Two Woodside; (1908 updated to 1912) Map bounded by Kelly Ave., Woodside Ave., Greenpoint Ave., Thomson Ave.; Including Astoria Road (Highway to Calvary Cemetery) (Celtic Ave.), Middleburg Ave., Jackson Ave., Solon St., Mecke St.; Atlases of New York city. / Atlas of the borough of Queens, city of New York: based upon official plans and maps on file in the various city offices; supplemented by careful field measurements and personal observations / by and under the supervision of Hugo Ullitz. / First and second wards: Long Island City and Newtown; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

Here is the key to this atlas.

The atlas sheet is quite detailed. You can see that the Windmuller mansion faces north and has a small wing on its west side. A drive encircles it and goes on to the stable. These observations accord with the tintype in my earlier blog post.

You can see that the Sussdorf Estate, like the Windmuller, has a two and a half story frame house. Both properties have outlying stables, but the Sussdorf one is brick while Windmuller's is frame construction. Sussdorf also has a barn located right on the property line. The buildings of both estates are accessed via drives from the street which runs on their western boundaries. It was called the Calvary Cemetery Road in the late 19th century and Astoria Road in the 1900s. It was replaced by Skillman Avenue in the 1920s.

You can see that Windmuller's property included one lot of 9 acres and two of 1.5 acres each for a total of 12. Sussdorf's was ten and a third acres. If you look at property maps of the 1870s and before you see that Windmuller's land originally included the lot where Public School No. 11 sits on the map of 1812. Apparently, the land was taken under eminent domain to build the school sometime late in the century. A atlas of 1891 shows the school while at atlas of 1873 does not.

Note that Greenpoint Avenue, which makes the eastern boundary of the Sussdorf property, did not exist in 1852.


{"From the Old to the New World" shows German emigrants boarding a steamer in Hamburg, Germany, to come to America. published in Harper’s Weekly, (New York) November 7, 1874}


Some sources:

What Apple Variety is Native to NYC?


The annals of Newtown, in Queens county, New-York, containing its history from its first settlement, together with many interesting facts concerning the adjacent towns ; also, a particular account of numerous Long island families now spread over this and various other states of the union by James Riker (D. Fanshaw, 1852)

HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY, with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882)

"Woodside" by William O'Gorman in HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY, with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882)

Little Germany, Manhattan in wikipedia

Irish and German Immigration

Irish - The Peopling of New York City

Germans - The Peopling of New York City

Demographics of New York City in wikipedia

Woodside, Queens in wikipedia

The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate

About the Susdorf surname



[1] The other two blog posts are Hillside Manor, Clara at Hillside Manor, and Kellys, Sussdorfs, and Windmullers in Woodside.

[2] See HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY, with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882), The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate and The annals of Newtown, in Queens county, New-York, containing its history from its first settlement, together with many interesting facts concerning the adjacent towns ; also, a particular account of numerous Long island families now spread over this and various other states of the union by James Riker (D. Fanshaw, 1852)

[3] "Beginning in the 1840s, large numbers of German immigrants entering the United States provided a constant population influx for Little Germany. In the 1850s alone, 800,000 Germans passed through New York. New York City would by 1855 become one of the three cities in the world with the largest population of German speakers, outranked only by Berlin and Vienna.[2] The German immigrants differed from others in that they usually were educated and had marketable skills in crafts. More than half of the era's bakers and cabinet makers were Germans or of German origin, and many Germans also worked in the construction business." -- Little Germany, Manhattan.

[4] The estate dated back to the end of the seventeenth century and its story is an interesting one. See The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate by Owen Clough.

[5] In Germany, the family name had been rendered as variations of Köllen, Köllin, and Kölle. When Johann Jakob Kölle emigrated to South Carolina in 1752, the name was given as Khele and then Kelly. See

[5] Gustav Sussdorf was listed in a Charleston directory for 1851: "Fancy Goods, 141 Meeting St". He owned more than one property because his name is in the Historic American Buildings Survey against this structure:

{Samuel Seyle Building, also known as the Shroeder/Sussdorf Building, 213 Meeting Street Charleston, SC; Historic American Buildings Survey}

For more on this building see: The buildings of Charleston by Jonathan H. Poston (Historic Charleston Foundation, Univ of South Carolina Press, 1997). This photo shows the 200 block of Meeting Street, near where Kelly had his dry goods business, in the early 1880s:

{source: flickr}

This one shows a restored building in the 100 block today.

{source: flickr}

I've written about the connections between Windmullers and Sussdorfs on another occasion. See helpful neighbors.

[7] The dates of John A. Kelly, Sr., are October 6, 1792, to January 6, 1833. Here is Kelly's obit from the Newtown Register, May 13, 1897:

[8] Despite a fire in 2007 the church still stands. It's St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church and it looks like this

{St. Paul's, Woodside, Queens, NY; source:}

See "CHURCHES AT WOODSIDE" in HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882)

[9] Here is the full map from which my marked detail is taken:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kellys, Sussdorfs, and Windmullers in Woodside

The other day I showed a tintype of my great-grandfather's home in Woodside, Queens. When he moved his family there in 1867 the village had only two other homes large enough to be considered mansions. One belonged to John A. Kelly, the other to Gustav Sussdorf.

Kelly had bought the house and adjoining 115 acre farm of the Sackett family in 1825 or '26 and thereafter split his time between that place and a residence in Manhattan.[1] In about 1859 Sussdorf had bought a much smaller property nearby and he also split his time between city and country residences.[2] I don't have a photo of Sussdorf's place, but this is was what the Kelly Mansion looked like.

{Kelly Mansion at the foot of Betts Ave.; source: Queens Borough Hall via}

Woodside's other houses were ancient farmsteads or new small-lot single-family homes. This photo shows one of the old houses. Built about 1732, it belonged to the Leverich family whose ancestors had settled in Newtown in 1662.[3]

This photo shows the newer homes. It was taken in 1923 but depicts nonetheless the mixture of open land, woods, and "development" that began to characterize Woodside in the late 1860s and later. It shows the area north of the Kelly Mansion, to the east of Windmuller's and Sussdorf's estates.

{General view - Queens - Roosevelt Avenue - Woodside Avenue. "A general view N.W. from Roosevelt Ave., at its intersection with Woodside Ave., showing a section of Newtown known as Woodside, as seen from the elevated structure of the I.R.T. and B.M.T. subway lines; same running on Roosevelt Ave. at this point. About 1923. Creator: Armbruster, Eugene L., 1865-1943 -- Photographer; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This detail lets you see a type of frame house that was common in the area. It also shows that there was much that was "unimproved" about Woodside even in 1923: unpaved roads and in general a rural feeling.

In this detail you can see Hell Gate Bridge (indistinctly) on the horizon at right. The dark horizontal line just below it is the New York Connecting Railroad. The Windmuller and Sussdorf properties are too far off to the left (west) to be in view.

This 1922 map shows the rough location of the Windmuller and Sussdorf properties, the location of the photographer, and the direction the camera lens was pointing.

{source: Library of Congress}

Here's a satellite view covering a smaller area but showing much the same. The Lawrence Virgilio Playground and Doughboy Plaza are both within the City's Windmuller Park. Louis Windmuller had died in 1913 and his wife Annie lived until 1929. When hew will cleared probate after her death, her two children owned the old estate outright. Late in the 1930s they gave some of the land to the City for this park. A few years later they sold the remaining land for construction of apartment buildings. (The Sussdorf property had been sold for apartment buildings in the late teens of the century.)


Some sources:

The annals of Newtown, in Queens County, New York; containing its history from its first settlement, together with many interesting facts concerning the adjacent towns by James Riker (Fanshaw, 1852)

"Old Newtown – Selections for the scrapbook originally written by the town clerk, William O’Gorman" in The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate by Owen Clough (taken from the pages of the Newtown Register, 1887, in Queens Borough Public Library, from Woodside Queens; NY a Historical Perspective 1652 – 1994, Catherine Gregory; and from Woodside of Long Ago, The Woodsider, March 1983)

The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York by Owen Clough: Excerpt: "The Kelly surname started out as Kollen, and future generations changed to Kollin, Kolle, and finally to Kelly/Kelley. The family of Johann Jakob Kölle migrated to S.C. in 1752 arriving about the first of December on the Brigantine John and Mary (SC Gazette, issue of 4 Dec 1752)."


Newtown Frauds--Over a Million Dollars Worth of Property Not on the Assessment Roll, New York Times, December 22, 1870

Old Queens, N.Y., in early photographs by Vincent F. Seyfried and William Asadorian (Courier Dover Publications, 1991)

HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882)

The buildings of Charleston by Jonathan H. Poston (Historic Charleston Foundation, Univ of South Carolina Press, 1997)

Sohncke Square, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Excerpt: "The surrounding neighborhood of Woodside, called 'Suicide’s Paradise' by the colonials for its harsh environment, was settled in the late 17th century by Joseph Sackett. Between 1830 and 1860, the area grew and became home to mansions owned by John Kelly, William Schroeder, Gustav Sussdorf, and Louis Windmuller, all men from Charleston, South Carolina. Woodside’s moniker comes from a correspondence written by John Andrew Kelly to his son, John A. F. Kelly, entitled 'Letters from Woodside,' inspired by the unending run of trees visible from his writing desk. The younger Kelly, publisher of The Brooklyn Times, printed the letters for the enjoyment of the paper’s readers. Laid out in 1869, Woodside exists today as a patchwork of industrial, commercial and residential areas."

JOHANNES WERNER FAMILY contributed by Carl W. Nichols, Siegbert Frick & Ann Corum

Trow's New York city directory (J. F. Trow., 1859)

If You're Thinking of Living In/Woodside, Queens; A Polyglot Enclave, At First, 'Irishtown', New York Times, 1999

Reside in Woodside Historically rich microcosm of city by Ruth Bashinsky, New York Daily News, October 27, 2002

Directory of the city of Charleston (J.H. Bagget., 1851)

Herman Gustaf Leiding. Excerpt: "Herman Gustaf Leiding was born August 06, 1828 in Germany, and died December 06, 1896 in Charleston, Charleston Co., SC. He married Catherine Jenkins Prentiss on April 06, 1874 in Charleston, Charleston Co., SC, daughter of Rev. William Otis Prentiss and Maria C. Jenkins. Marriage: April 06, 1874, Charleston, Charleston Co., SC."

Directories for the city of Charleston, South Carolina: for the years 1849 (Genealogical Publishing Com, 1998)

The buildings of Charleston: a guide to the city's architecture

The New York Connecting Railroad



[1] Having arrived in Dutch times, the Sacketts were one of the oldest families of Newtown, the place out of which Woodside was carved in the middle of the 19th century. It's irrelevant to my story, but still interesting, that the Sacketts were thus neighbors of Thornes and Kissams, both of them members of my family's ancestral line. You can trace the associations in Riker's Annals of Newtown. Regarding John A. Kelly, see The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York by Owen Clough.

[2] In 1859 Sussdorf sold his fancy goods business and the building that housed it and moved to New York (see The buildings of Charleston by Jonathan H. Poston (Historic Charleston Foundation, Univ of South Carolina Press, 1997)). I don't have the exact date he built his mansion in Woodside, but it was probably within a year or two of then. His second home in Manhattan is listed in an 1859 city directory: (Trow's New York city directory (J. F. Trow., 1859)).

[3] The first Leverich in Newtown was the Rev. William Leverich, an Anglican priest — born 1603, died 1677 — who had emigrated from England in 1633. I've written about the Leverich family before. See Windmuller sits for a portrait, flourishing, ranting quakers, and Newtown families.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Clara at Hillside Manor

This photo shows my grandmother in the garden of her father's estate, Hillside Manor, in Woodside, Queens, NY. She was Clara Louise Windmuller; he Louis Windmuller. I've written quite a bit about him, but little of her. In the photo her age seems to be between 18 and 28. If she were 25 at the time, then the photo was taken in 1895. Supposing that the dress she's wearing was fashionable — meaning that she didn't wear any old dress for the photo — then the date is probably somewhere in the second half of the 1890s.[1]

{Clara Louise Windmuller with dog in garden, Woodside; source: personal collection}

The photo was cut from a larger one using scissors and then pasted onto a gray sheet of card stock. It is quite small — only 3" x 3.5" — and has deteriorated with age. Enlarging the part that shows Clara reveals few additional details.

Someone wrote on the back of the photo that the dog was named Perry. Clara loved dogs all her life, evidently including this one. Photos with animals were still quite unusual at this time since even in bright light conditions the exposure times had to be a quarter of a second or more and animals could not be counted on to hold still for that long. The photographer evidently relied on a third person to attract Perry's attention in hopes he would poise alertly, as evidently he did, long enough for the exposure.[2]

The photo doesn't show much of the grounds of the Windmuller estate. You can see that Clara stands in a garden surrounded by trees and other plants.

Both "Hillside" and "Woodside" are descriptive names. The Windmuller estate was located on a wooded hill in an area where marshy lowlands alternated with wooded uplands. Woodside was part of Newtown and "Newtown" is not in the normal sense descriptive, having been "new" in 1665 when the Dutch still ruled in New Amsterdam.[3] I've written about Woodside before; see in particular Woodside, Newtown families, and Bragaws.



[1] Wikipedia' article on fashions of the 1890s says that dresses like Clara's began to appear in 1892. They had low waists and high necklines and their sleeves had a high, gathered head and were fitted to the lower arm.
These two images show daytime dresses that young misses might wear in the summer.

Of the one on the right, a web site called Victorian 1890s Misses' Summer Dress says: "This young misses' dress dates to the late 1890s and features a fitted bodice with ruching at the neckline and fitted, ruched sleeves with a ruffled cap at the shoulders." (Ruching is another name for gathering or bunching. It was used to make ruffles and flower petals as well as simple gathers.)

Here's an example of a more elaborate garden dress.


[2] Compare this formal portrait of Clara which was taken at about the same time as the photo of Clara with Perry. I took the one to its right in 1954 when she was 84 years old. In the latter you can see she's holding a leash. She doted on dogs then as, apparently, she did when young.

[3] HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY, with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882)

Hillside Manor

I've written before about my great-grandmother, Hannah Eliza Lefman Windmuller, whom people called Annie. During the warm months of the year, she presided over this large house in Woodside, Queens, NY.

{Tintype of Hillside Manor, home of Louis Windmuller and family; source: personal collection}

My father said this tintype was taken about 1870. He wasn't always accurate in assigning dates to photos, but internal evidence also suggests 1870 as the date. My great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller, moved into this house in 1867. As I've written before, the family had been living on Dean Street in Brooklyn, but moved to Queens at least partly to see whether the country air would improve the health of his second child, Bertha, born in 1866.[1]

The tintype was therefore made no earlier than 1867. Tintypes were supplanted by silver gelatin prints in 1880 so that's (probably) the latest it could have been made. The plantings around the house — which look newly added — suggest an earlier rather than a later date. So does the youthful appearance of Annie, seated on the porch, who was born in 1836 and was thus 34 in 1870.

From the clothes of Annie and the two servants you can tell it's a warm day. The upstairs windows may have been shuttered against the heat, but then you'd expect the downstairs windows to be open, which they're not. Since the downstairs ones are closed with shades mostly drawn, this tintype could be a record of the reopening of the house for the summer season. (The family spent the colder months in an apartment in Manhattan.[2]) The broom in the hands of the woman I take to be the housekeeper might be intended to signify that the house is being prepared for re-occupancy, but it's hard to say; it might be just another late spring day. The lawn has recently been cut. There are flowers growing in large ornamental urns. A trellis has vines in leaf growing up it. It's odd that there are no porch railings nor any chairs, couches, or swings, just one bench.

Annie has something on her lap, maybe a shawl and jacket or other garments? I can't tell. Here's a detail view of her.

The maid standing next to the housekeeper looks small enough to be a child.

You can tell that the ground floor ceilings are high, maybe 18 feet judging by the housekeeper's height. The chimneys indicate that house did not have central heating, as you'd expect. The site seems to be gently sloped and, indeed, the family called the place Hillside Manor.[3]



[1] The change of scene didn't help Bertha who died soon after they moved. See my earlier posts: an obituary and 19 w. 46th St..

[2] Residents of Queens were then dependent on ferry service to cross the East River and that service became unreliable in the cold months. I've previously written about the skinny building at 19 West 46th St. in which the family spent most winters. See 19 w. 46th St. and 19 w. 46th, again.

[3] Quite a few news clippings give Hillside Manor as the name of the estate. For example this one on the celebration of Louis and Annie's Golden Wedding Anniversary: