A Surviving House and A Surviving Name

Bowery Bay is a small indent in the north (East River) shore of Queens, between Astoria and LaGuardia Airport. Flushing Bay, which is a significantly bigger indent, is on the east side of the airport, making the airport a peninsula unto itself. There’s a historic house on the south edge of Bowery Bay, called the Lent Homestead in the National Register nomination and the New York Landmarks designation report.

The house is officially stated to have been built in 1729, but may incorporate portions of a house built in 1656, after the family – not the Lent family, see below – acquired the land in 1654. Which family? Abraham Lent, who built the 1729 portion fo the house, had changed his last name to “Lent,” the name of his maternal family, from “Riker.” His paternal grandfather, Abraham Riker, had received the grant of this land and an adjacent island in the river from the Dutch colonial government shortly before the English takeover of New Amsterdam. The name had been “von Rycken” and was altered in various spellings before its final Anglicization.

Few people have heard of the Riker-Lent house, but Rikers Island is unfortunately well known for its jail complex. The apostrophe in “Riker’s Island” disappeared over time, just as the mid-sized stream that passed though Jonas Bronck’s farm on the mainland and known as Bronck’s River eventually became the Bronx River.

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