The intersection of John and Crown Streets in Kingston, NY is known as The Four Corners. It is the oldest intersection in America. The buildings on all four corners were built pre-Revolutionary War dating back to the 18th century. It is the nation's last pre-revolutionary intersection.
The city of Kingston, NY describes The Four Corners as the only remaining intersection in the country where buildings from the 18th century still stand at each corner. The Friends of Historic Kingston Organization recognizes The Four Corners as the only intersection in the U.S. where 18th century stone houses stand on all four corners.
Three of the four homes are privately owned but the fourth has been a museum since 1914. While there have been doctors offices, schools, and even a butcher shop, it's important to note the homes at this famous intersection played a role in the Underground Railroad as well.
The oldest of the four buildings was erected in the mid-1600s, two were constructed in 1754 and the last one was built 240 years ago in 1774. Three years later, though, they all went up in flames. In 1777, the New York state constitution was ratified just two blocks away, and Kingston became the first capital of New York. In retaliation, the British burned the city to the ground, but Kingston and its Four Corners were rebuilt the following spring. Since then, the structures have been home, at various times, to several doctors, a school, a gallows, the Underground Railroad, a butcher shop, restaurants and a Sears appliance store.
The pre-revolutionary stone houses on all four corners are: the Matthewis Persen House, the Dr. Matthew Jansen House, the Kingston Academy, and the Franz Roggen House. A historic marker, funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, was erected in 2018 at this oldest corner to recognize the unique legacy of these buildings.
The Jansen House is the earliest of the intersection’s buildings, dating to the mid-17th century. The earliest documents attesting to its existence are court records in Dutch, from 1663 and 1667. At that time, Kingston was known as Wiltwyck and was part of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. These records show transactions that took place following the death of the house’s original owner, Mathys Jansen. Upon his death, the house was loaned by the guardians of Jansen’s children to Evert Pels in 1663 for payment in kind. Four years later, in 1667, the house was inherited by Mattys Mattysen, Jansen’s son, as part of the division of his estate.
The Persen House is the next oldest, existing since at least 1698, when Ulster County court records indicate an indenture transferring the building from Thomas Hall to Teunis Tappen. The Persen House was named after its longest resident, Matthewis Persen, and served as a private residence until it was acquired by the Ulster County in 1914.
*Note: In 1777, the New York state constitution was ratified just two blocks away, and Kingston became the first capital of New York. The town of Kingston was New York state's first capital until Albany became the official capital of New York State in 1797.