Southern Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s Dutch Houses A Borough Treasure

65

Did you know a dozen original Dutch houses still stand in Brooklyn? Dating back as far as 1652, the houses are owned by both public and private interests, and some are even still used as residences. The homes were the topic of discussion at last night’s Annual History Night, hosted by Bay Improvement Group.

BIG President Barrison presents Schweiger with a "deed" to the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger regaled a crowd of around 60 residents with stories of the houses and their families. Some of the homes stand intact and even have crockery, furniture and other artifacts that go back hundreds of years. Other houses, like the Old Stone House in Park Slope, were torn down and rebuilt from mostly original pieces (in the case of this house, it was rebuit in the 1930s when a Work Progress Administration park project on the site uncovered the stones and other items from the 1699 building).

The hour-and-a-half presentation kicked off with the history of the Dutch in New York State, from their naming Coney Island (originally Konijnen Eiland, meaning Rabbit Island) to exploring the rest of the state. Schweiger traced back some of the famous families, many of whose names grace our roadways (Hubbard, Henderson, Ryder, Van Wyck). The talk then turned to Dutch architecture, with Schweiger pointing out that all Dutch houses have curved roof lines and face south, before turning to the individual houses and their histories. Some of the houses reflect new preservation efforts, and are adding to Brooklyn’s status as a historical asset. Not everything gets razed to be a condo…

Schweiger worked on the presentation for months (following an illness and emergency surgery from which he’s recovering) selecting slides and visiting the homes. He added a few Sheepshead Bay photos at the last minute, with images of the racetracks, racing clubs, restaurants and roadways.

Bay Improvement Group Steve Barrison presented Schweiger with a “deed” to the Brooklyn Bridge, to honor the historian for his work on preserving the borough’s history. The deed was given to the group to offer to Schweiger by Carlo Dipalmer, a local resident and history buff who appreciates the preservationist’s efforts. [Corrected]

The best part, according to Schweiger, is that all the homes are within 25 minutes of each other. The proximity creates an opportunity for a personal tour, so use the list below to explore Brooklyn’s unique Dutch history yourself.

  • Pieter Claesen Wyckoff Farmhouse – built 1652 – 5816 Clarendon Road at Ralph avenue
  • Old Stone House – built 1699 and rebuilt in the 1930s – 5th Avenue at 3rd Street in J.J. Byrne Park
  • Hendrick I. Lott House – built 1719 and 1800 – 1940 East 36th Street between Fillmore Avenue and Avenue S
  • Wyckoff-Bennett-Mont House – built 1766 – 1669 East 22nd Street at Kings Highway
  • Lefferts House Museum – built 1770s and rebuilt in 1783 – Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Park
  • Stoothoff Kouwenhoven Baxter House – built 1747 and 1811 – 1640 East 48th Street between Avenue M and Avenue N
  • Johannes Van Nuyse Magaw House – built 1800 – 1041 East 22nd Street between Avenue I and Avenue J
  • 1926 East 28th Street between Avenue S and Avenue T
  • Hubbard House – built 1835 – 2138 MacDonald Avenue between Avenue S and Avenue T
  • Ditmas-Coe House – built 1790s-1800 – 1128 East 34th Street off Flatbush Avenue
  • John Williamson House – built 1799-1801 – 1587 East 53rd Street between Avenue M and Avenue N
  • Willimson House – built 1869 – On Hubbard Place between Flatbush Avenue and Kings Highway

[Correction: The original article implied that Barrison and BIG supplied the deed. It was, in fact, Dipalmer, and the article has been updated to reflect this.]

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    32 COMMENTS

    1. Yes, the crowd was largely (but not exclusively) older. But the presentation was still pretty cool and interesting.

      Also, there was the coolest old lady running around telling people dirty jokes. Seriously, she was like 98 and in a walker and telling that one about the prostitute and the rooster. Then she'd forget she told you and tell you again. She was totally awesome.

    2. I hear that Mr. Schweiger had some fairly major surgery recently. Good to see that he's back on his feet.

    3. Schweiger had surgery just before last year's history night, forcing him to cancel his presentation. He has had a long recovery and appears to be doing well. I don't have much information about it, and though he did talk about it briefly, I felt it best to leave out of the article. We're all glad he's doing better, and hope his recovery continues to go well.

    4. I wish I could have attended this presentation, but I have a question for you (hopefully the historian will see it)

      How can these claim to be “dutch” houses when…

      “The Dutch lost New Netherland to the English during the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1664 only a few years after the establishment of Wiltwyck. Along the West Coast of Africa, British charter companies clashed with the forces of the Dutch West India Company over rights to slaves, ivory, and gold in 1663. Less about slaves or ivory, the Anglo-Dutch Wars were actually more about who would be the dominant European naval power. By 1664, both the Dutch and English were preparing for war, and King Charles of England granted his brother, James, Duke of York, vast American territories that included all of New Netherland. James immediately raised a small fleet and sent it to New Amsterdam. Director General Stuyvesant, without a fleet or any real army to defend the colony, was forced to surrender the colony to the English war fleet without a struggle. In September of 1664, New York was born, effectively ending the Netherlands' direct involvement in North America.”

      The only one remaining that was built while the Dutch were still in control was Pieter Claesen Wyckoff Farmhouse.

    5. I can forward this question to Schweiger, if you like, but I'm not sure if you're serious or just busting chops. Let me know and I'll act accordingly.

    6. I don't think she was quite that old. Anyway, I decided to tell her one dirty joke after hearing two of hers. I think I made her day. She loved it, but mine wasn't really a joke. It actually happened and it happened at a nursing home. She got a big laugh out of it and I felt great too. If anyone wants to hear it, it is printable.

    7. Ron forgot to publicly mention why the houses all faced south. In case anyone is still wondering, the reason had to do with keeping the houses warmer in the winter so the windows could absorb the heat from the sunshine since the fireplaces weren't that adequate. Solar heating back even then. Wonder if that would make them qualify for energy star.

      Real interesting evening. I enjoyed it a lot and Schweiger seems like a real nice guy.

    8. The word on that has spread, months ago I contacted preservationists about the situation, and those people informed others. I have faith that eventually the house will be restored and used as a community resource and its history will be preserved.

    9. This seminar was so interesting. It was nice to hear about the original Dutch houses of Brooklyn, and our country, for that matter! It would be great to see a documentary made about the houses. I didn't get a chance to ask: was the house with the satellite dish attached to it a landmarked building?

    10. I told her that I was visiting at a nursing home and for a special occasion the staff ordered sandwiches from Subway for the residents to give them a break from the standard nursing home fare. The recreation director asked everyone if they liked their sandwiches. Most raised their hands. Then she asked if anyone had any problems and only one hand went up. The Director walked over to find out what the problem was and the old lady told her something in her ear. The Rec Director then repeated what she said into the microphone. “What did you say? You didn't think six inches was enough?”

    11. I can forward this question to Schweiger, if you like, but I'm not sure if you're serious or just busting chops. Let me know and I'll act accordingly.

    12. I don't think she was quite that old. Anyway, I decided to tell her one dirty joke after hearing two of hers. I think I made her day. She loved it, but mine wasn't really a joke. It actually happened and it happened at a nursing home. She got a big laugh out of it and I felt great too. If anyone wants to hear it, it is printable.

    13. Ron forgot to publicly mention why the houses all faced south. In case anyone is still wondering, the reason had to do with keeping the houses warmer in the winter so the windows could absorb the heat from the sunshine since the fireplaces weren't that adequate. Solar heating back even then. Wonder if that would make them qualify for energy star.

      Real interesting evening. I enjoyed it a lot and Schweiger seems like a real nice guy.

    14. The word on that has spread, months ago I contacted preservationists about the situation, and those people informed others. I have faith that eventually the house will be restored and used as a community resource and its history will be preserved.

    15. This seminar was so interesting. It was nice to hear about the original Dutch houses of Brooklyn, and our country, for that matter! It would be great to see a documentary made about the houses. I didn't get a chance to ask: was the house with the satellite dish attached to it a landmarked building?

    16. I told her that I was visiting at a nursing home and for a special occasion the staff ordered sandwiches from Subway for the residents to give them a break from the standard nursing home fare. The recreation director asked everyone if they liked their sandwiches. Most raised their hands. Then she asked if anyone had any problems and only one hand went up. The Director walked over to find out what the problem was and the old lady told her something in her ear. The Rec Director then repeated what she said into the microphone. “What did you say? You didn't think six inches was enough?”

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