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The Denton House: More Than Just a McDonald’s

By: Alexa Anderwkavich
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The McDonald's 2045 Jericho Turnpike, also known as the Denton House.Long Island Home / Tim Baker

You’re getting more than just fries with that when you visit the McDonald’s on Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park, because it’s the only burger joint in the legendary chain that is also a 19th-century Georgian mansion home.

But how did the world’s largest fast-food giant, known for its golden arches and cookie-cutter outlets, end up opening inside this historic Long Island homestead?

What has since 1991 been called the “most beautiful McDonald’s in America” was, in 1795, the family farmhouse of Joseph Denton — the son of one of the Town of Hempstead’s founders Richard Denton. In the 1860s, it was converted into a Georgian-style mansion with intricate ornamentation adorning its trims and edges that it still has today. It remained a family homestead until about World War I.

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Welcome to New Hyde Park!Long Island Home / Tim Baker

From then until the 1980s, the Denton House was used as a commercial property, first as a funeral parlor and then as various restaurants, the last of which being the Charred Oak Manor — which was somewhat passive-aggressively reviewed by the New York Times in 1981 (Our favorite line: “By ordering carefully — that is, not testing the kitchen’s ability to turn out ambitious combinations — one can have a satisfactory and pleasant dining experience here.”).

In 1985 — the time the McDonald Corporation took an interest in property — the restaurant was closed, the building was vacant and in disrepair, and the world’s biggest burger seller had a simple plan: demolish the two-story house and build a standard, everyday McDonald’s in its place.

But New Hyde Park and Nassau County preservationists who did not want to see the historical structure torn down stepped in. After petitioning for landmark status for two years, they succeeded in 1987, and saved the building.

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The ceiling has an old-school look.Long Island Home / Tim Baker

McDonald’s agreed to refurbish the mansion to its former glory — including gingerbread-house details— on the outside as long as it was allowed to add a drive-thru, which it was.

The company installed standard franchise guts — a kitchen with fryers, shake machines, and griddles to make burgers, hot cakes, and sausage; colorful plastic furniture; and all the trimmings of your standard McDonald’s —which were gift-wrapped with an original double grand staircase that leads to an area that can be rented for parties.
And since then, it’s become a neighborhood staple.

“I remember seeing it get built. I loved going there with my kids.” said lifelong New Hyde Park resident Renee Guthart. “We would sit in that all-glass room. It was so special.”

The first owners, Lawrence and Joan Anderer, said they were taking a big chance franchising a McDonald’s back in the ’90s, but considered the deal a win-win-win: McDonald’s got its restaurant, the community saved a historic landmark, and the Anderer family have made a living for two decades — while giving many New Hyde Park kids their first chance at a real job.

“People knock getting a Mcdonald’s job,” he told Patch. “ But you can go to work with enthusiasm and learn as much as you can.”

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The interior is typical McDonalds, but with some fancy touches.Long Island Home / Tim Baker

There is value in keeping historic buildings fossilized in their original state, as it gives us the closest glimpse into the past; but there is another kind of beauty that stems from repurposing these historical landmarks, one that can best be described by those that ended up frequenting the McDonald’s on a regular basis.

“Every Sunday my husband and I and four other couples would go to the McDonald’s after church. We had so much fun,” said 89-year-old Helena Swierkosz, who has lived in New Hyde Park for 45 years. “We could stay as long as we wanted to. We talked and laughed for hours. It was such a good time in our lives.”