Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jewish Heritage Travel: The Gomez House

One of the great gems of Jewish American architecture stands just north of New York City near the Hudson River in Marlboro. Built in 1714, the Gomez Mill House was originally the trading post and home of Luis Moses Gomez. The house is the oldest Jewish dwelling in the United States and is a fine example of Dutch colonial architecture. Like many other early Jewish homes throughout the American colonies, the Gomez Mill House contained both living space and work space, a tradition that can be seen in other early iconic Jewish buildings like the Penha house in Curacao.

The Gomez House likewise reflects the opportunities available to Jewish settlers in the colonies. Although a refugee of the Spanish Inquisition, Luis Gomez was able to purchase the land for the house because he had obtained denizen papers from Queen Anne of England. In addition to the Mill House, Gomez owned a home and prosperous store in Manhattan. Gomez's denizen rights also allowed him to purchase the land that would serve as the first cemetery for Shearith Israel, for which he served as the parnass.

Today the Mill House has been lovingly restored by the Gomez Foundation for Mill House. Included in the house are examples of early American furniture and early Jewish ritual artifacts, including a Dutch hanukkiyah. Also on display are the denizen papers that allowed Luis Gomez to make his fortune. The grounds are lovely, so you may want to pack a lunch. Directions from Manhattan are posted on the house's website.

Educators and those interested in the history of American domestic architecture may find the section on Dutch Colonial Architecture in Rachel Carley's Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture (pages 33-39) helpful to compare to the floorplan and design elements found at the Mill House. Those interested in studying the furniture may find Early American Furniture: A Practical Guide for Collectors by John Obbard will enrich their understanding of the early American aesthetic.

The Mill

The Mill House, First Story Dates to Era of Gomez Ownership

Fireplace in the Front Room of Gomez House, Dates to Era of Gomez Ownership. Fireplaces were a key element of Early American architecture and provided not only a source of heat, but also a place to cook. In some early houses, fireplaces were large enough to sit inside.
Denization Papers Given to Luis Moses Gomez by Queen Anne

All Photos by Laura Leibman, 2007.


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