Tour the oldest house in NYC - and its graveyard

Once dubbed the haunted house on the block, this Queens home now stands as a historic landmark.  But, it's much more than that.

It’s a graveyard, a secret garden and historic treasures from the 1600's, it all lies ahead inside one of the oldest homes in NYC. 

"Welcome to the oldest private dwelling in NYC, circa 1654," said Marion Duckworth Smith, the third owner of this 360-year-old home.

But the first owners haven't exactly left yet…

"You can see name of Riker emblazoned of the cemetery gate," Smith said. "One hundred thirty-two Riker descendants are buried here."

You heard that right. The deceased are buried in Marion's backyard. 

The Riker family name likely rings a bell. The prominent figures once owned property all throughout New York City.

In fact, their most famous land is right across the Bowery Bay: the Rikers Island Jail complex. 

"It took me three months to carry down everything that was stored in the attic," Smith said, "to read everything, every ledger, every book, every correspondence, every cancelled check.  I read down through the years, I saw people pass away, new people come, the descendants - and I realized - they're all buried in my cemetery."

Some might find it creepy to live among the dead, but for Marion it's a fairytale.  

“When I met my husband on our second date he said ‘how would you like to see my cemetery?’ and I said ‘Oh, no man has his own cemetery’ and he said ‘Well, I do!’” Smith explained.

That was in 1979, four years later she got married to Michael Smith and there was never a question of where they would live.

They soon moved into this farm house, thus began a complete restoration project.

“There was a fire here in the 1950s, and when we started striping, we came across the remanence of the fire. Originally, I was very upset by it, but then I realized it was part of the history of the house,” Marion stated.

But for Marion it wasn’t only about preserving her home, it was about creating her own history.