New Utrecht was one of the six towns established by the Dutch and later combined by the British to form Kings County, New York. During the Revolutionary War the British made New Utrecht their base of operations for the Battle of Long Island, the first large-scale British invasion of the colonies.
The Town of New Utrecht
New Utrecht was the last of six towns established by the Dutch in what is today Brooklyn, NY. In 1652, Cornelius Van Werckhoven of Utrecht, Holland, a principal investor in the Dutch West India company, began purchasing land in Brooklyn from the Canarsie and Nyack Indians. The land where the town of New Utrecht was later situated was purchased from the natives for 6 shirts, 2 pairs of shoes, 6 pairs of stockings, 6 adzes, 6 knives, 2 scissors and 6 combs.
After Cornelius died in 1655, Jacques Cortelyou received permission to sell lots of the land to create a town. Under his leadership, nineteen families received grants of fifty acres each. By 1657 New Utrecht was granted status as a village and town and by 1660 eleven houses had been built. The broad main street of the village is now 84th Street between 16th and 18th Avenues. In 1661 Governor Peter Stuyvesant granted New Utrecht its own charter. Many prominent Dutch families, Benson, Cropsey, Nostrand, Van Pelt, Van Brunt and DeSille to name a few, called New Utrecht their home.
The New Utrecht (Dutch) Reformed Church
The New Utrecht Reformed Church was first organized by Dutch settlers in 1677. Previously, the inhabitants of New Utrecht formed part of the congregations of Flatbush, Flatlands and Brooklyn. Construction of the original church building was completed in 1700. It stood next to the Old New Utrecht Cemetery on the corner of 84th Street and 16th Avenue. During the Revolutionary War, it was used by the British as a hospital and riding school.
In 1828, to accommodate the changing needs of the community, the original octagonal structure was dismantled and its stones were used to build a new church on 84th Street and 18th Avenue. It is a rare example of a rural church in a picturesque setting in New York City. Like St. Augustine Church in Manhattan, built in the same year, its essentially Georgian design was superficially "Gothicized" by the addition of pointed-arch windows and pinnacles on the tower. Few ecclesiastical structures from this period exemplify this traditional style quite as handsomely and as well as this church.
church's first parishioners were among the most prominent
and influential Dutch families in Brooklyn. Today, the New
Utrecht Reformed Church plays an active role in the
community as events and services are held here weekly.
The Parish House
Parish House is an outstanding Richardsonian Romanesque
structure built in 1892 by parishioners to accommodate
various church sponsored activities. Among the commissions
of the architect, Lawrence Valk, are several Romanesque
Revival buildings erected in Park Slope in 1887.
The distinguished Parsonage is an excellent example of a Shingle style structure. Though several homes in the neighborhood were built in this style, the parsonage, built in 1906 as a pastoral residence, is the only one which remains relatively unchanged inside and out. The original parsonage on 18th Avenue near 79th Street was located on a small farm purchased by the church in 1808 from John Blake. Although the church sold the last of this farm land to a developer in 1881, it kept the parsonage for itself until it was sold in 1906.
The Old New Utrecht Cemetery
The Old New Utrecht Cemetery's earliest recorded burial was in 1654. It is located on 16th Avenue and 84th Street adjacent to the site of the original octagonal church. Approximately 1300 dead are interred here including members of such notable families as the Van Pelts, Van Brunts, Cropseys, Cowenhovens and Bennetts. There is a communal plot for Revolutionary War soldiers and a section where free and slave individuals of African descent were buried. The monuments, which are in dire need of restoration, are some of the finest examples of their time. In 1916 The Daughters of The American Revolution dedicated a monument to General Nathaniel Woodhull.The New Utrecht Liberty Pole
The church grounds are easily identifiable from miles around by the 106' tall Liberty Pole on its front lawn. The New Utrecht Liberty Pole is the sixth one erected in succession on the church grounds. A bronze tablet at the site is inscribed with the following:"This Liberty Pole marks the spot over which the American flag first waved in the town of New Utrecht. The original pole was erected by our forefathers at the Evacuation of the British, November 1783, amid the firing of cannons and demonstration of joy."