In the early part of the 20th century there were still many 18th- and 19th-century houses in Queens. Most are gone, but among those that remain is one whose occupants played key roles in our history. Jamaica’s King Manor, which blended Dutch and Georgian Colonial architecture, was spared for its historical value, despite its high property value fronting on Jamaica Avenue.
Rufus King (1755-1827) was among the framers of our Constitution and one of New York’s first two U.S. senators. He later was ambassador to the Court of St James’s.
His son John Alsop King (1788-1867) also had a career in politics and was New York’s 20th governor. He lived in the house until his death. John Alsop King Jr. (1817-1900) entered politics too and became a state senator. He also was president of the New-York Historical Society. He produced five daughters and no sons, however, ending the King political dynasty.
One famous descendent of the King family was Jane Wyatt, a film, stage and TV actress who starred in several movies and plays, as well as “Father Knows Best” from 1954 to 1963. Wyatt even played Spock’s mother on “Star Trek” in 1967.
In real life, Wyatt was a blue-blood socialite. She was introduced to Edgar Percy Ward by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR, at a 1930 party in Hyde Park, NY. Jane married Ward on Nov. 9, 1935 in her great-great-grandmother’s embroidered Indian muslin wedding dress. Her great-great-grandmother was Mrs. Rufus King, who had worn the dress in 1800 in the Court of St. James’s.
Wyatt died on Nov. 8, 2000, one day shy of her 65th wedding anniversary at age 96.
Her ancestors’ home is a landmark museum and center for community activities.