Built in 1696, the Voorlezer's House is the oldest schoolhouse in America. The clapboard house is also the oldest relic from the Dutch settlement on the Island from the 17th century. The word "voorlezer" comes from the Dutch which means "one who reads to other."
The house had three purposes: serve as a church, a school from boys and girls, and a residency. The house had numerous homeowners but the longest family lived in the Voorlezer's House for 150 years.
The school's population were children between the ages of 7 and 12. The parents paid for their children to learn reading, writing, arthimetic, religion and Dutch history. Arthimetic was taught to both boys and girls so they would learn how to maintain a home and business when they become adults.
As stated by the National Park Service, the house's current layout consists of:
The first floor contains a small room used as living quarters and a large room for church services. The second floor has a small bedchamber and a large room, believed to be the one used for the school.
- The foundation walls are 2 feet thick, of rough, undressed field stone laid up in mud and mortar.
- All timbers are of oak or white wood, cut in nearby forests and hewn to size with a broadax.
- A massive stone-and-brick chimney is at the northeast end of the house.
- Around 1800, the present staircases were substituted for the straight ladder-like stairs believed to have been used originally.
- The floors are 14" to 16" wide white pine boards.
Historical Richmond Town
In 1936, the Voorlezer's House was a private residency that started to fall to disrepair and was summoned to be demolished. However, a family member from the Staten Island Historical Society had purchased the house and donated it the organization.
This building is now a National Historic Landmark.