Old Dutch Reformed Church and Burial Ground, Sleepy Hollow, NY

Jane Neill-Hancock

Wayne, United States

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Featured in All About New York State, 20-Feb-2014

The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Dutch Reformed Church (Sleepy Hollow), is a 17th-century stone church located on Albany Post Road (U.S. Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow, New York, United States. It and its five-acre churchyard feature prominently in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The churchyard is the Old Dutch Burial ground, immediately behind that begins the very large but separate Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

It is the second oldest extant church and the 15th oldest extant building in the state of New York, renovated after an 1837 fire. Some of those renovations were reversed 60 years later, and further work was done in 1960. It was listed on the Register in 1966, among the earliest properties so recognized. It had already been designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Summer services are still held here, as well as on special occasions such as Christmas Eve.

The church is located on the east side of Albany Post Road, opposite the Devries Road intersection, just north of downtown Sleepy Hollow. The neighborhoods to the west are residential. A wooded area to the southeast buffers the church from residential areas in that direction. Across the street diagonally to the south is the mill pond at Philipsburg Manor House, another National Historic Landmark. The churchyard burial ground and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, itself listed on the Register, are to the north.

Frederick Philipse I, Lord of Philipse Manor, owned the vast stretch of land spanning from Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx to the Croton River. After swearing allegiance and later being granted his Manorship from the English, he chose to establish his country seat at what was then known as North Tarrytown, where the Pocantico Creek flowed into the Hudson River. A small community had already been established there when he arrived in 1683, with 50 burials in the small cemetery. He built the first church for them at the southern end of the cemetery.

Philipse’s wife died in 1691, and he soon remarried. His second wife urged him to build a more permanent stone church for his tenants, and later in the decade he obliged her. A marble tablet in front of the church gives its completion date as 1699. It was placed in the 19th century, however, and it is seen as more likely that the church was finished by 1697. The congregation was organized that year, the same year the first pastor began serving.

This church continued to serve as the church of Philipse Manor through the Revolution, after which the family’s lands were confiscated by the state for siding with the Crown. At that time the special pews for the Lord of the Manor were removed and the plain oak benches for the tenants were replaced with pine pews.

Thereafter it continued without the patronage. Washington Irving, whose Sunnyside estate was a few miles to the south, made the church famous when he gave it prominent mention in his early 19th-century short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

Notable burials in the Old Dutch Burial Grounds beside the church are:
*Frederick Philipse (1626–1702) – formerly held 52,000 acres (210 km²) of land along the Hudson River, Philipsburg Manor; builder of this church of Sleepy Hollow

*Catriena Ecker Van Tessel – a possible model for Katrina in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and her Revolutionary War hero husband Petrus Van Tessel

*Abraham Martling (1743–1830) – a possible inspiration for the character of Brom Bones in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

*William Paulding, Jr. (1770–1854), U.S. Representative from New York and mayor of New York City

*Samuel Youngs (1760–1839) – Friend of Washington Irving and one of several possible models for the character of Ichabod Crane of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. His remains were later removed to Ossining’s Dale Cemetery.

Paranormal Activity, Hauntings and Ghost Tours
Ghost tours are held here regularly – I actually took a photo of a small group leaving on a tour as we were leaving. I will post it on RB next after this. This church, its burial grounds and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are known for their paranormal activity. This should not be surprising since this is one of the oldest churches still in existent and being used in the USA today. Also – much blood shed occurred during the revolution in this area, and also because this town is so famous and has many tourists stolling and stomping over graves continually – that is a sure way to keep the spirits in a state of unrest. I have visited this burial ground and cemetery now about 4-5 times yearly and have captured many apparitions and spirits in my photos. There are actually some in this photo here – and before I point them out I would like to see who of you can find some of the more prominent appearing spirits in my photo.

I dedicate this photo/image to Washington Irving, one of my favorite authors, inventors, a Renaissance man who was clever, caring and insightful. This is a man who had skylights cut into his roof in the 1800s and had elevators for food and cleaning equipment for his servants before dumb waiters were invented. He also devised a system of running water by building him home at the bottom of a valley so the water from a fresh spring could fall down fountains and pipes to his home at the bottom. He also was so revered and admired that current authors such as Edgar Alan Poe came to visit him and ask his advice. Irving also began a friendly correspondence with the English writer Charles Dickens, and hosted the author and his wife at Sunnyside during Dickens’s American tour in 1842.

Washington Irving was named after George Washington and met him as a child, and considered him one of his greatest heroes and inspirations all his life.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
Washington Irving (1783 – 1859)

Great minds have purposes, others have wishes. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.
Washington Irving (1783 – 1859)

A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.
Washington Irving (1783 – 1859)

Reminder – let me know if you see any spirits in the image above – tell me where and what you think you see. In about 2 weeks time I will post and share what I see in this photo.

Artwork Comments

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