Old Dutch Church
The Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow is the oldest church in the state of New York. Built in 1685, it was officially organized as Dutch Reformed in 1697, and served as a home for its congregation for over 150 years, until a new church was built elsewhere. However, it still holds service during select times of the year. Despite its long history, though, the church is perhaps best known as being the iconic church and churchyard that Washington Irving wrote about in his famous tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
Backstory and Context
The Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow is the oldest church in the state of New York. Built in 1685, as the date inscribed on its Holland-made bell suggests, it was officially organized as Dutch Reformed in 1697. The church served as a home for its congregation for over 150 years, until a new church was built elsewhere. However, it still has worship on summer Sundays as well as on special holidays.
Congregational gatherings aren't the only traditions that the church continues. Through ceremonies and dramatic readings, the church keeps alive Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," because Old Dutch Church and churchyard are the icons that Irving wrote of in his tale. He first saw the church as a teenager, and would make it world-famous in 1820 with the publication of his story. One portion of the tale reads:
It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust-trees and lofty elms, from among which its descent, whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity, beaming through the shades of retirement.... To look upon this grassgrown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace.
Ever since, visitors from across the country have come to see the iconic church "where Ichabod Crane led the choir and courted Katrina Van Tassel among the old gravestones in the churchyard." They also enjoy wandering through the church's 2.5-acre cemetery (not to be confused with the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which lies adjacent to the church), where the hamlet's residents who likely inspired such characters as Katrina Van Tassel, Brom Bones, and others from the legend are interred.
Those wishing to visit should know that the cemetery is free of admission, and open year-round to the public. The church itself is open during select times of the year for worship services, ceremonies, and readings.
“Old Dutch Church.” Visit Sleepy Hollow, visitsleepyhollow.com/historic-sites/old-dutch-church/.
“The Church That Inspired the Legend.” Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns, www.rctodc.org/old-dutch/sleepyheads-2.
Greenwood, Richard. Dutch Reformed (Sleepy Hollow) Church. The National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form. Published March 31st 1976.