The stately Jamaica manor of Rufus King, who helped frame the U.S. Constitution and voiced fiery, ahead-of-his-time appeals against slavery, ranks far down the list of the city's favored tourist sites.
His role in shaping the fledgling nation likely fell into obscurity because he never ascended to the presidency - and few historians explored his accomplishments in crucial yet unsung roles as senator and ambassador to Great Britain.
But a researcher who is combing through King's 2,200-title library - among the most extensive in early America - hopes findings about books he read and notes he took may someday vault him into the national spotlight.
"Right now, Rufus King would be considered a second-tier founding father," admitted David Gary, 31, who is exploring King's volumes for his doctoral dissertation. "My research is trying to make him a first-tier."
And yet, only months into his two-year project, Gary has uncovered pamphlets and newspaper clippings that document - for the first time - exactly how King studied to craft his unprecedented argument in 1820 that slavery was illegal.
Gary hopes that painting a fuller picture of King's vision to halt the spread of slavery - four decades before Abraham Lincoln was elected President - will foster greater public appreciation for King's place in history.
King opposed slavery from the inception of his political career, helping pass the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that prohibited enslavement in a chunk of territory newly adopted by the Union.
Beyond the rhetoric, though, little depth has accompanied accounts of King's anti-slavery stances. That's why Gary thinks it's valuable to know, for example, that King read natural-law advocates who asserted everyone is born free.
At the New-York Historical Society, where many of King's books were donated, Gary also discovered King had clipped a newspaper article that slammed Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, for owning slaves.
"It's a small thing, but it shows King's personal thoughts on the matter that we didn't know before," Gary said, adding he wants to raise King's profile to the level of Jefferson and John Adams.
Skeptics doubted Gary's research would immediately captivate the public and elevate King.
But King Manor Museum caretaker Roy Fox figured King, who died in 1827 and is buried blocks from his home at Grace Episcopal Church, will soon get his due.
"I get the feeling we're just getting started," Fox said. "There's a gem in history here to be polished and brought out."