Westchester County Colonial Era Tour
A tour of landmarks built during the Colonial Era of Westchester County
St. Paul’s Church is one of New York's oldest parishes. The present masonry church replaced the wooden structure built by 1696. Started in 1763, the church's construction was stalled by the congregation’s lack of resources and the turmoil caused by the Revolutionary War. During that conflict the unfinished church was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers by the British Army’s Hessian allies following Battle of Pell’s Point. The church was finally completed in 1788. The church grounds are occupied by an historical cemetery, where as many as 9,000 burials occurred with the first dating from 1704 and continuing through the 20th century. The burials include Hessian soldiers and people of African descent.
The congregation that worships at St. John's Episcopal Church was founded in 1693 to serve the residents of Philipsburg Manor who adhered to the Church of England. The congregation's first house of worship was built in 1752 through a bequest left by Frederick Philipse II, lord of Philipsburg Manor. The present St. John's Episcopal Church was built in 1874. Designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, the house of worship includes a portion of the 1752 church.
The Sherwood House is one of the few remaining pre-Revolutionary War tenant farmhouses in the New York metropolitan area. Built in 1740 by Thomas Sherwood on a 25-acre farm originally leased on Philipsburg Manor. His son Stephen bought the farm from the State Commissioners of Forfeiture after the war. It now serves as a home for the Yonkers Historical Society since 1962. Through various ownership changes, it was owned by Yonkers' first medical doctor, become a tavern, a Prohibition speakeasy, a popular restaurant, and it now is a museum. The Sherwood House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The Timothy Knapp House is the oldest surviving dwelling in Westchester County. Originally constructed about 1670 as a two-room dwelling, the house has been added on to several times, and took on its saltbox appearance in the middle of the 18th century. In 1992 the Timothy Knapp House was acquired by the Rye Historical Society, which restored the structure to is Colonial appearance. Across the street from the Knapp House is Milton Cemetery, a community burial ground that was laid out about 1750 by the Town of Rye. Together, the house and the cemetery were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Constructed in 1732, the Odell House or Rochambeau Headquarters, served as French headquarters for a unit of five thousand men during the Revolutionary War. While the structure itself has no outstandingly architectural features, the stories of its residents, and its use by the Count Rochambeau during the war for independence gives this small home immense historical meaning.
The Jacob Purdy House was used by President George Washington as his headquarters twice, in 1776 and 1778, during the Revolutionary War. The Purdy House is believed to be the oldest residence in the city of White Plains.
This home, owned by Ann and Elijah Miller during the Revolutionary War, is often incorrectly identified as General George Washington's command post during the Battle of White Plains. From this location, Washington directed his troops north from White Plains before eventually moving into New Jersey. The inability of Washington's troops to establish and maintain a presence in New York allowed the British army to occupy the city during the early phase of the war. However, some historians believe this battle was a turning point for Washington strategically. Rather than confront a superior force in hopes of defending major cities from British occupation--a strategy that would have likely resulted in the destruction of his small army--Washington devised a strategy that allowed him to keep his army near the British, attacking only when he deemed it advantageous. This strategy extended the war and increased the likelihood of American victory.
From 1693 to 1779 all of the present towns of Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and Ossining, as well as the City of Yonkers, were part of Philipsburg Manor, which had been granted the Philipse family through a royal charter. The manor featured hundreds of tenant farms, one of which was leased by the Hammond family. Comprising 242 acres, the farm included a house that was built by William Hammond in 1719. When the tenant farms were auctioned by New York State in 1785, the Hammond family purchased their farm, and resided on the property for at least three more generations. Operated by the Westchester County Historical Society as a museum for many years and now privately owned, the Hammond House is an excellent example of a Colonial tenant farmhouse.
Located in Sleepy Hollow, New York, Philipsburg Manor once encompassed over 52,000 acres. Owned by the Philipse family through the grant of a royal charter in 1693, this manor was a commercial venture managed by Adolph Philipse, an international merchant who lived in New York City. The land was divided and rented to European tenant farmers. This location was referred to as the Upper Mills and was the industrial heart of the Manor where the farmers brought their grain to the gristmill. Adolph's nephew, Frederick, owned a similar farm located in what is now Yonkers, which was referred to as the Lower Mills. It is important to note that, at one point, the Manor relied on 23 African slaves to run the complex. By the mid-eighteenth century, the Philipse's were one of the wealthiest families in New York and largest slave owners in the Northern colonies. When the American Revolution broke out, the Philipse family took the side of the British. This resulted in the land’s confiscation in 1779 and subsequent departure for America by the Philipse family in 1783. Philipsburg Manor was added as a National Historic Landmark on November 5, 1961. In 2004, it was included as a stop on the African American Heritage Trail of Westchester County.
The Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow is the oldest standing church in the state of New York. Built in 1685, it was officially organized as a Dutch Reformed congregation 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 holds service during select times of the year. The Old Dutch Church and its adjoining cemetery are perhaps best known as being the iconic church and churchyard that Washington Irving wrote about in his famous tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
Constructed in 1753, the Friends Meeting House of Chappaqua served as a center for worship and business meetings for both men and women, uncommon during a time where gender inequality was the norm. The building is the oldest standing Quaker house located in Westchester County, and resembles a simple farmhouse. The significance of the meeting house stems from the members who met within its walls, and the actions they carried out. The Quakers of Chappaqua were some of the first people to take a stand against slavery in New York.
One of the oldest surviving houses of worship in Westchster County, Old St. Peter's Church was built in 1766 to serve the adherents of the Church of England in the northwest portion of Cortlandt Manor. The land on which the church stands had been acquired from one of the heirs of Cortlandt Manor in 1750, and was in use as a cemetery at the time the church was built. Among those who interred in the cemetery are several French soldiers who died in the church while it was being used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. The largest monument in the cemetery marks the grave of John Paulding, one of the three militiamen who captured Major John André in 1780. Although the Episcopal congregation that used Old St. Peter's moved to a new house of worship in Peekskill in 1838, the old church still stands and is used for special occasions.
This 18th-century homestead was home to members of the Strang family, one of the earliest families to settle in Yorktown. During the Revolutionary War, the Strang family was an example of the divisions that existed in Westchester at the time. While some family members supported the American cause of liberty, others supported the British Crown.
The present Amawalk Friends Meeting House was built in 1831 on a site that has been used for Quaker meetings since about 1760. Two previous meeting houses had been destroyed by fire in 1779 and 1830. The meeting house has changed little since it was first constructed, and is a rare surviving example of an early 19th-century Friends meeting house. The 2.9 acre property on which the meeting house stands also includes a burial ground that dates to the 18th century and a First Day School that was completed in 1987.
The Davenport House is the only surviving structure in Westchester Country which was held by Continental troops throughout the Revolutionary War as a command post. The property was the command post for Colonel Christopher Greene and the 1st Rhode Island Regiment and was the site of the Battle of Pines Bridge in 1781.
North Salem Town House, also known as Stephen De Lancey House is located at Route 116, North Salem, New York. Stephen DeLancey was born the grandson of a wealthy Huguenot immigrant named Etienne (or Stephen) DeLancey and an heir to Cortland Manor named Ann Van Cortlandt. In 1770 Stephen De Lancey decided to build the manor that would measure up to the Philipses and Van Cortlandts. The land became famous in Westchester because of the family name and their influence during the time of the Revolutionary War in colonial New York.