Gravesend

Gravesend historian’s rallying cry: Save Lady Moody’s House!

Eye On Real Estate

September 9, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Joseph Ditta is campaigning to get Lady Moody's House landmarked. That magazine article in front of him, from June 1909, is about the historic home. Photo courtesy of Joseph Ditta

Save Lady Moody’s House!

That’s Joseph Ditta’s rallying cry.

The Gravesend property that belonged to the first woman to establish a colony in North America is doomed if it doesn’t get designated as a city landmark, he fears.

“Anyone can buy it and do whatever they want,” said Ditta, who’s an expert on the history of Gravesend, which is his hometown. “They can tear it down. They can put pink stucco on it.

“I think it’s the last chance — it’s now or never.”

A half-century after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) put the 18th-Century (or possibly older) farmhouse at 27 Gravesend Neck Road on its landmarking calendar, the day for decision-making is finally, finally coming.

On Oct. 8, the preservation agency will begin the gargantuan task of determining what to do about a backlog of 95 properties that were calendared for landmarking consideration five or more years ago. Eighty-five percent of them were calendared 20 or more years ago. The property that everybody in Brooklyn calls Lady Moody’s House is one of seven borough properties included in the backlog.

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The situation is particularly urgent for Lady M’s place. It’s for sale, and the owner keeps lowering the asking price. Currently it’s $869,000, versus $949,000 last December, a Zillow.com posting indicates.

Ditta recently launched an online campaign urging fans of the property — which is the only 18th-Century stone farmhouse left in all of Brooklyn, the LPC says — to send the agency letters about why it should be landmarked. The letters will be given to the Commissioners, who will take them into consideration when making their decision.

In the first two days of his campaign, a dozen people wrote supportive letters, he told Eye on Real Estate.

Those who wish to join the campaign should send their letters to [email protected] — and keep in mind that the deadline for sending them is Oct. 1. Also, see gravesendgazette.com for Ditta’s posting about Lady Moody’s House.

The author of “Then & Now: Gravesend, Brooklyn” (Arcadia Publishing, 2009) discovered during years of research that folks have been fussing fruitlessly about Lady Moody’s House since before any of us was born.

“There is a cry in the press as early as 1910: ‘Save this house!’ Nothing ever comes of it,” he told us.

Lady Deborah Moody was an English baronet’s widow who came to New Netherland in 1643 and was granted freedom to practice her religion. She was an Anabaptist. They were peace-loving and widely persecuted.

At the very least, Lady M owned the plot of land where the house at 27 Gravesend Neck Road now stands. An engineers’ evaluation in 2005 found evidence in the house of structural material possibly dating from the 17th Century.

By the way, the street grid laid out for Lady Moody and her fellow English settlers still exists today.

It’s a square bounded by Village Road North, Village Road East, Village Road South and Van Sicklen Street — and sliced into sections by Gravesend Neck Road and McDonald Avenue.

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