The Blackwell House on Roosevelt Island finally opened for tours after a major renovation of the house. When I had visited Roosevelt Island the last time in 2017, the house was corded off and was not open for touring. It had looked like it was falling apart from the inside out.
The home has now gone through a major renovation. The grounds outside were beautifully landscaped and gave the house a very warm and welcoming entrance to the property. In the middle of the summer, the flowers and trees were all in bloom and it was a nice view from the street. The house is conveniently located in the middle of the island, so it is not far from the tram and the subway.
I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the tour of the house what there was of it. The house had gone through a renovation but not a historic restoration, so the house is not a period piece with historic displays of furniture and art objects. It was like touring a modern home. I felt like I was walking through a 1980’s McMansion.
When you enter the front hall, there is a reproduction of a portrait of Captain Blackwell, who was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. The house was built in 1796 for James Blackwell and added to in 1804, when the family fortunes had improved after the war.
The island had been ‘patented’ to Captain John Manning by British Governor Nicolls in 1668. Before the Dutch had arrived, the island had been used by the Native Americans for hunting and fishing. The island had been inherited by the captain’s stepdaughter, Mary Manningham Blackwell and her husband, Jacob Blackwell, thus named Blackwell’s Island, upon his death. The island passed to her children, James and Jacob. The island was sold to the City of New York in 1823 (Roosevelt Island history).
All around the first floor, which is the only floor you can visit, there are all sorts of reproductions of historical maps and pictures of the island. The tour guide who had lived on the island his whole life, told me that the house had always been in disrepair and the local kids had thought it was haunted.
Now you can walk the grounds around the house and admire the beauty of the home from the outside. The only thing historical that I saw inside is when the tour guide opened the door to the cellar and showed me the stones that made up the foundation of the home. They had been quarried locally and still had the look of that time period.
The home is nice for a quick tour but do not expect much from the history side of the house.
After visiting three historical homes in the Fishkill area covering the towns of Hopewell Junction and Wappingers Falls, my last stop of the day was the First Dutch Reformed Church of Fishkill, NY. The church was closed at this point with services being on Sunday’s only starting at 10:00am. I was able to tour around the church admiring its architecture, looking over the DuBois House which is also owned by the church and exploring the cemetery.
The cemetery was the most interesting being the final resting place of many of the ‘first families’ of the area, including family plots of the Van Wyck and Brinckerhoff families, who also intermarried with each other. There were sections dedicated just to the families and then to the blended ones.
There were also members of the DuBois Family among others. What was interesting was toward the back of the cemetery near the new playground was the Van Wyck Family Vault. This large mound is noted with the stone maker in the front of the vault.
The Van Wyck family vault at the Fishkill Reformed Church Cemetery
The Church played an important role in worshipping in the community as it does today.
The Founding of the Church:
(From the Church records)
On October 10th, 1715, the Revered Petrus Vas of Kingston, NY under the direction of the Classis of Amsterdam, started two Dutch Reformed Churches, one in Poughkeepsie and the other in Fishkill. This occurred when the population of the are increased and they did not want to keep travelling to New Paltz for worship.
The First Reformed Dutch Church of Fishkill, NY at 1153 Main Street
The Church today:
(From the Church website)
The 20th Century brought additional changed to the property. Some gravestones were moved to make space for the Christian Education Building, which was constructed in 1964. The old chapel, a 19th century addition to the property was torn down. The playground is now located where the chapel was once. A Memorial Garden was added to the cemetery in 1980 and includes a columbarium for cremains. The sanctuary’s exterior was refurbished in 1975, the steeple reshingled and the rooster regilded in 1984.
In 1992, a condition survey was done (the church is the centerpiece of the Fishkill Village National Historic District). This report concluded that the sanctuary is one of the most significant nonresidential 18th Century buildings in New York, if not the country. The framing is a perfect example of an upside-down boat. While it was urged to pursue National Landmark Status for the church itself, it has not yet been done.
In 1995, a report on the preservation of cemetery gravestones was done. A Boy Scout Eagle Project, in 2002, recorded pictures and inscriptions of each stone in the cemetery and created a finder’s map of the cemetery.
The Enoch Crosby marker for a spy for the American forces during the Revolutionary War
The trial was performed here, and Enoch Crosby was allowed to escape. This marker is dedicated to that event.
The cemetery behind the church with the DuBois House and Church to the right:
The DuBois House:
(From the Church website)
The property was expanded in 1991 with the purchase of the DuBois House (named for the founding elder of the church). There is no record of when it was built but with structural similarities to the Van Wyck House made it believed to be built in the mid 1700’s. Abraham Brinckerhoff Rapalje purchased the house with fifty-four acres of land from his uncle, Abraham Brinckerhoff in 1790. Rapalje was the man hired by the consistory to do finish work after the church was enlarged following the Revolution. The house served as the hearing room for the court proceedings of the Committee of Safety over which John Jay, who would later become our nation’s first Supreme Court Justice presided.
The Committee of Safety played an important role in the story of Enoch Crosby, the Revolutionary Spy. The house was originally located east of its present location and was moved in 1929 to make way for the expansion of the Albany Post Road, now Route 9. The building is used for service to the community and church. It contains the church parlor and offices for the Minister and Secretary on the first floor and the office of the Music Director.
The Brinckerhoff/Van Wyck family plots
The Van Wyck family plot
The full Dutch Reformed Church of Fishkill cemetery and church
The Van Wyck Family Vault:
The History of the Dutch Reformed Church of Fishkill, NY:
By 1716, the population of the area had grown enough (though the whole county had only 440 people) that the settlers wanted their own church instead of having to cross the river to New Paltz or Kingston where the two closest Reformed Churches were located. Therefore, on October 10th, 1716, the Reverend Petrus Vas from Kingston under the direction of the Classis of Amsterdam started two Dutch Reformed Churches, one in Poughkeepsie and one in Fishkill.
While Poughkeepsie began building immediately, Fishkill did not begin building until 1725. Tradition and most published sources have it that Madame Brett by now a widow and the wealthiest landowner in the area gave the land for a churchyard while the land the church occupied was given by Johannes Ter Boss.
However, two deeds registered at the County Courthouse tell a different story. The first parcel of land, “it being that certain piece of land on which the Dutch Church so called now stands” was given by Madame Brett, through Jacob DuBois, it being the intent of him that the Reformed Nether Dutch Congregation of Rumbouth precinct “always be kept and preserved as a church or public edifice for the particular sole and only use and benefit of the aforementioned church to worship the Almighty God, in and to and for no other ends purposes use or uses whatsoever.” The second deed states that Obidiah Cooper and Esther, his wife, gave another small parcel of land to the church. These records were written thirty years after the fact and were not filed in Poughkeepsie until 1915.
There is also a deed from 1747 in which Johannes Ter Boss sells a parcel of land north of the Fishkill’s, reserving one acre for a meeting house. Every published history has this acre for the Rombout Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1747 about three miles from First Reformed. So, it would appear that there was confused between DuBois and Ter Boss, probably due to the old handwriting and a Frenchman, born in Leyden, Holland and a Dutchman. Another supporting piece of information is that there is no Ter Boss listed in the church records of The First Reformed Church, while the DuBois family is prominent, starting with Peter DuBois, the first elder.
It took seven years to build the original sanctuary. Field stone was brought by ox teams and the local inhabitants, and their slaves did the building. Work proceeded slowly because the men had fields to attend and families to support. The sanctuary was a small, square building with a hip roof and a cupola in the center, which supported a bell. The central door opened onto the street as the side door does today.
In 1785 the congregation decided to enlarge the original building. The east and west walls were taken down and the building was lengthened. A second story was added, and balconies suspended by iron rods were put into seat slaves. The tower and the steeple made with beams 18″ square and 80″ long rose 120 feet above the ground. The west end had four small windows.
In the midst of the reconstruction, John Stickland, an English traveler wrote “Here is a large Dutch Church, rapidly going to decay, probably never to be repaired.” However, construction continued, and the consistory hired Abraham Brinckerhoff Rapalje, who lived next door to build the new pulpit, new pews and to enclose the square lower section of the tower.
Five years later, in 1795, they hired him again to shingle the spire. With construction finished, the spire was topped with a gilded cock, symbolic of Peter’s denial of Jesus. It is actually about three feet high. It is one of the few left in the country.
The expanded sanctuary was remodeled in 1806. Columns were added to support the balconies and the pulpit and side pews were lowered to the level of the rest of the sanctuary. More alterations were made in 1854, when the balconies were narrowed and lowered. An alcove was made in the west end for the pulpit and the four small windows were replaced by the stained glass and painted windows. The alcoves and doors on each side of the tower were added.
The church decorated for Christmas in 2022
The chandeliers were imported from Holland and can be lowered by chains to the level of the pews for service. Gas replaced candles in the chandeliers in 1858. In 1908, they were electrified. In the late 1800’s, most of the ‘extra’ original property was sold for building lots at $100.00 each no one foreseeing the need for parking lots of the future.
(Disclaimer: I changed a few things around from the church history to make it flow better. More details are on the above link to the church’s history).
The entrance to the First Reformed Church of Fishkill in December 2022 decorated for the holidays.
Visiting the Van Wyck Homestead is like stepping back into the past to see a part of our nation’s history. The homestead sits at a once pivotal point location in the Hudson River Valley and during the Revolutionary War, George Washington established his main northern supply depot here in October of 1776. After the war was over, the Van Wyck family returned to the home and lived here for five generations until the late 1800’s. The last member of the family, Sidney Van Wyck hung himself in the barn on the property (Van Wyck Homestead pamphlet).
The house was built in two sections. The original section of the house off to the right of the building is the original section of the home that was built in 1732 and the larger section of the home was finished in the 1750’s.
When you enter the homestead, you are greeted in the hallway that runs the length of the main part of the home. To the right of the hallway is old living room and to the right of the hallway is the combination kitchen and dining room. The stairs leading to the upstairs, now serving as offices, are at the end of the hallway.
The former Dining Room of the Van Wyck home with the fireplace of the addition of the house. The crib in front of the fireplace is a recent donation from the Van Wyck family and had been used by the family for generations.
The family portrait above the fireplace was recently returned to the home and fit perfectly above the fireplace. The Spinning Wheel is another family heirloom donated to the house.
An original piece of Van Wyck furniture returned to its home
When you step down the stairs into the smaller part of the original part of the house, you will be greeted in by the original kitchen and living space. This was used by the family for all functions of work and social aspects of the farm.
Items used in Colonial and Victorian kitchens
Items in the Colonial kitchen display which have not changed much over the years.
The Colonial Kitchen at the Van Wyck Homestead
To the right of the hallway is the old Living Room that is now used as a lecture hall and where meetings are held. The room was dedicated to George Washington for the service that he did for the area during the war.
The old Dining Room and lecture room
The Revolutionary War displays in the old Living Room
The room is lined with displays that are dedicated to the family and the war years. All sorts of artifacts and pictures are displayed here.
The display case in the old Dining Room
In the back of the home is the old Library that is now used a Research Library on the history of the area and of the Van Wyck family. Here you can research your roots in the community.
The Research Library at the Van Wyck Homestead
The Research Library at the Van Wyck Homestead
When you walk the grounds, the story boards tell the story of the home as it played a role in the history of the region and its place in the war years.
The Path to Victory
On the grounds of the home is also a working garden and the working beehive oven that is a recreation of the original that once stood on the property.
The Van Wyck Garden and outdoor over towards the back
History of the Van Wyck Homestead:
(From the Museum pamphlet)
In 1732, Cornelius Van Wyck from Hempstead, Long Island, acquired 959 acres from Madame Brett. He built the small east wing of the Van Wyck Homestead. By 1757, the larger west wing of the home had been added. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington established his main northern supply depot here in October of 1776. The Van Wyck house was requisitioned by the Continental Army to serve as the depot’s headquarters.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, the house reverted back to the owner, Issac Van Wyck. The old barracks and huts used for the war were torn down and the land went back to farming. The Van Wyck descendants lived in the house until the late 1800’s.
The original part of the house was built in 1732
By the mid-twentieth century, the house stood empty and was slated to be torn down for the new Interstate 84. The Fishkill Historical Society was formed in 1962 and after going to Albany, members were successful in getting the historical building saved and I-84’s plan changed. The Fishkill Historical Society was able to purchase the property and begin the restoration. This work is ongoing as we maintain this historical structure and grounds.
The Homestead is listed on the National Register and is part of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. It is also part of the Rochambeau Trail which celebrates the French Alliance with the new United States.
The historic marker outside the house donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. A cemetery for soldiers of the American Revolution were buried somewhere near the estate. When graves were discovered south of the museum, this could have been one of the resting places for them (Van Wyck pamphlet).
The Brinckerhoff House Historical Site was built in three different time periods with the oldest part of the house to the right, the main part of the house was built second and the Sun Room and porch to the left was built last. The house opens up in all parts but you can see the distinct different in the style of the design.
The entrance of the original homestead
The entrance of the Homestead has the schoolhouse and icehouse to the left of the entrance and the blacksmith shop and the carriage house to the right. The Blacksmith shop has a real blacksmith on duty working when the house is open for tours.
The original section of the house in the “Everything Room” where cooking, dining and socializing took place for the first generation of the family. This is the original part of the home that was built around 1755 by John G. Brinckerhoff and his bride, Marie Terboss for their family. There was a single upper room for the family as well. The main room is where all the cooking, eating, socializing and work was done by the family.
The original Brinckerhoff Kitchen in the first section of the home
When their family grew, the moved out and John’s brother, George G. and his wife, Elizabeth Wilcox moved into the house. After the Revolutionary War was over (both brothers were captains in the local militia), George G. added the main addition to the house with four additional rooms in the eastern wing of the house.
The addition showed the affluence of the family in that they could have separate rooms for socializing and higher ceilings meaning that they could heat the house properly.
The formal Dining Room in the Victorian times set for entertaining. A hot chocolate service is on the table which was a luxury at the time.
The formal Living Room is where socializing and work was done. Spinning and needlepoint as well as dressmaking where done by the ladies here.
The Living Room at the Brinckerhoff House
In the main hallway of the addition to the home services as a display area for all sorts of artifacts that deal with the different time periods of the home. These items are from the Revolutionary War.
Display cases in the main hall
Arriving at the Brinckerhoff House for the holidays on a beautiful sunny day
During a recent Christmas event held at the house in December of 2022, the house was decked out for the holidays. The Brinckerhoff house held its annual Holiday Tea, which it not held since 2019 due to COVID. This popular fundraising event was sold out that day.
The Brinckerhoff House ready for the holidays in December 2022
Approaching the house on the estate. The Van Wyck Barn is to the right.
Santa’s Sleigh for when Santa comes to visit the Brinkerhoff House
This sold out event really showcased the beauty of the house during a Revolutionary Christmas. Homes would be decorated in natural garlands and fruits of the season and the house would be decorated with candles. There was a Christmas tree in the home but that would not be seen until the Victorian era.
The Keeping Room decked out for the Afternoon Tea at the Brinkerhoff House
The Family Room at the Brinkerhoff House for the holiday in 2022
The Living Room decorated for the Afternoon Tea
The Living Room decorated for the Afternoon Tea at Christmas 2022
The family Christmas tree would not have been part of a Revolutionary Christmas but a Victorian era decoration in the late 1800’s
A Children’s wish list for Santa during the Victorian era with all sorts of playthings; dolls, sleighs, tea sets and books
The family remained in the house until the death of George G. in 1812 when his brother moved back in and then it was sold to Thorn Purdy in 1814. The Purdy family added the west wing of the house in 1830 that houses a small summer kitchen with a fireplace, crane and small brick oven.
The house was donated to the East Fishkill Historical Society by developer Gustav Fink in 1974 along with three acres when he could not sell it for redevelopment.
History of the Brinckerhoff-Pudney-Palen House:
(From Museum Pamphlet)
Around 1755, John G. Brinckerhoff and his bride, Marie Terboss purchased the land that the home sits on today. The original structure consisted of one room that included a kitchen with a large fireplace and beehive oven and a single upper room.
When their family their family grew, the house and farmed were conveyed to John. G.’s brother, George G. Brinckerhoff and his wife, Elizabeth Wilcox. In 1755, John G. and George G. were given commissions as Lieutenants in the Dutchess County Militia. Both men were promoted to Captain and were active with the Committee of Safety of the Rombout Precinct.
After the war in 1785, George G. built a four-room addition to the original east wing of the house. This is the largest section of the house and contains a spacious center hall, graced by elegant architectural features. The small paned windows, enclosed staircases, Dutch doors and wrought iron “HI” hinges were characteristics of the 18th century. A small shed was added around the same time.
When Captain George G. Brinckerhoff died in 1812, Captain John G. Brinckerhoff took possession of the farm again and in 1814 sold it to Thorn Pudney who christened it “ARCADIA”. The Pudney family would remain at “ARCADIA” for the next 60 years. In 1830, the family added the western wing of the house featuring a small summer kitchen complete with a fireplace, crane and a brick oven with an iron door cast at Fishkill Landing. It also contains an indoor stone cistern in the basement to collect rainwater for cooking, washing and drinking.
In 1875, Edward Palen purchased “ARCADIA” from Thorn Pudney’s son Jacob and changed the character of the farm by focusing on dairy production. It was very convenient to ship their milk to marker in New York City via the rail line two miles away at Hopewell Junction.
Edward Palen’s son, James H. would eventually take over the farm. The Palen farm produced their own lumber from the trees grown on the farm. As James Palen’s health began to fail, the farm was sold to Banton Moore in 1926, who rented it to Gene Satterlee. Gene continued dairy farming for many years until a fire burned the cow barn in 1970.
The house and the farm were sold one last time in 1974 to local developer Gustav Fink, who after many unsuccessful attempts to sell the house to be restored gave the house and three acres to the East Fishkill Historical Society. At this time, the old farmhouse was in a poor state of repair.
The Brinckerhoff Historical Sites Schoolhouse and Icehouse on the estate
Through the continuing efforts of the East Fishkill Historical Society’s members and many years of fundraising and restoration, the Brinckerhoff-Pudney-Palen House has once again been resurrected to its original condition and stands as a fine example of an original Hudson River Valley Dutch farmhouse.
On the grounds are also the 1870 Icehouse, the 1826 Schoolhouse, the 1880 John Hyatt Blacksmith Shop and the 1845 Carriage Barn from the Van Wyck family.
The 1880 John Hyatt Blacksmith Shop
The Van Wyck Carriage Barn from 1845
The entrance to the Brinckerhoff home with the Schoolhouse from 1826 to the left and the Blacksmith Shop to the right and the main homestead of the estate.
Don’t forget to visit the Brinckerhoff House gift shop at the end of your tour! This helps with the fundraising efforts to support this wonderful home.