Nestled in the middle of Manhattan is something you wouldn’t expect to find in the concrete jungle: a centuries-old farmhouse! The Dutch Colonial-style house is like a time capsule in the big city, transporting visitors back to the early days of America. Read on to find out how this house has stood the test of time and to take a peek inside!
In The Middle Of The City
Sitting on the corner of Broadway and 204th Street in Manhattan is a farmhouse that sticks out like a sore thumb. The building is in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet it looks like it came out of a time machine.
The two-story home is tiny compared to the skyscrapers all around. Unlike many farmhouses, it doesn’t have acres of land all around. Instead, it sits right on a busy street.
The House Is Tied To The Revolutionary War
The home was built in 1785, but its history goes back even further than that! It all started back in 1661 when a man named Jan Dyckman moved from Westphalia, Germany to America.
He established a farm in an area that today is known as Harlem. The Dyckman family lived there for generations and eventually, Jan’s grandson, William Dyckman, inherited the home. It was around this time that the Revolutionary War forced the family to move.
The Dyckmans left the only home they’d known in America to stay safe from the volatile war, which threatened to destroy their estate. While the family was able to make it out safe, their property was not.
The building was destroyed along with their orchards. William found himself in need of a place to establish a new home. It was then that he traveled southwest and found a plot of land to build a new farmhouse.
Features Of The Home
William Dyckman built the farmhouse that is still standing today in Manhattan. He used fieldstone, brick, and white clapboard to construct the building. The porches weren’t added on for another 40 years.
Inside, the floors are made of chestnut wood and there’s an indoor winter kitchen in the basement. There’s also a smokehouse summer kitchen outside. The house has a gambrel roof, characterized by its symmetry and the shallow angle of the upper slope followed by a steeper lower slope.
The Dyckmans Almost Sold The Farmhouse In 1787
Just three years after building the farmhouse, William Dyckman passed away. The remaining family members considered selling the home to make a quick buck. The one thing standing in their way was William’s son, Jacobus.
Ultimately, Jacobus convinced the family not to sell the estate and became the official owner of the home in 1793. He didn’t just get the tiny farmhouse, though. At the time, the estate included 250 acres of land and other properties!
The Estate Housed An Entire Community
The 250 acres of land didn’t just feature the farmhouse. There was also a barn, corn cribs, a cedar mill, a stable, and three other homes on the large estate. Jacobus lived in the main house along with his three children and six others.
A total of 20 other individuals lived in the remaining homes on the property. In the years between 1809 and 1822, several of the residents passed, though, including Jacobus’ wife, Hannah.
Growing Crops And Establishing A School
The Dyckmans made the best of their situation by growing crops on their land, which they expanded from 250 to 300 acres by the 1860s! They used the land to harvest vegetables and fruits, including cherries and apples.
The family also partnered with a woman named Eliza Hamilton to create the Hamilton Free School, making education more widespread in the area. The school later became the Dyckman Library before morphing again into the Dyckman Institute.
Passing Down The Family Inheritance
When Jacobus passed away in 1832, he left the estate to his sons, Michael and Isaac. They remained in the main farmhouse for decades before it was time to once again hand down the property to the next of kin.
That was James, Jacobus’ grandson. In an unusual turn of events, Isaac specified in his will that James would need to change his name to Isaac Michael Dyckman in order to inherit the land and assume control.
Selling The Estate
After William Dyckman built the home in 1785, it remained in the family for three generations straight. William passed it down to Michael and Isaac, and they passed it down to James, who agreed to a name change to make the inheritance official.
By 1868, James, now known as Isaac Michael Dyckman, decided to sell the estate. The home then became a rental property, which it remained for decades until two Dyckman descendants decided to turn things around.
Bringing The Farmhouse Back Into The Family
Isaac Michael Dyckman had two daughters, Fannie Fredericka Dyckman Welch and Mary Alice Dyckman Dean. Almost half a century after their father sold the property, Fannie and Mary decided to save the home.
The farmhouse that their family occupied for generations was on the brink of being torn down. Time and neglect had left the home in shambles, but the sisters were determined to bring it back to life. Fortunately, Fannie’s husband was an architect.
The Farmhouse Became A Museum
Fannie and Mary purchased the home and were able to restore it under the supervision of Fannie’s architect husband, Alexander M. Welch. After fixing up their beloved farmhouse, the sisters transferred the ownership to New York City.
The city then opened up the farmhouse to the public, making it a museum of Dutch and Colonial life. They even included the Dyckman family’s original furnishings in the home. Today, the farmhouse is the oldest of its kind in Manhattan.
The Museum Is Pay-What-You-Wish
The museum is the perfect spot for locals or tourists to travel down history lane without spending much money. The tour is pay-what-you-wish, which is quite a bargain considering all that’s been put into the home to keep it standing.
When you walk up to the property, you’re met with a mint green door that matches the shutters on the windows. The brick walls are painted white, and there’s enough room on the front porch for numerous guests to gather at once.
A Quaint Parlor
Back then, homes had parlors rather than living and family rooms, but they essentially served the same purpose. This was the room where the Dyckman family would have gathered to relax or to read and write.
The desk in the corner is covered in dated papers to simulate how it would have looked back then. Next to the desk is a lovely fireplace that makes the low ceilings feel a bit taller, as does the molding along the walls.
A Small Study Or Bedroom
This room is one of the smaller spaces in the house, especially due to the slanted ceiling. The window at the far wall offers a bit of natural light, but it would have been mostly dim when the Dyckman’s lived here since electricity was not yet invented.
There is enough room for a long sofa, two chairs, and a desk, which could have made it ideal for a study. The center of the room showcases the hardwood floors, which predate wall-to-wall carpeting.
The Luxurious Master Bedroom
This room appears to be the master and is likely where the homeowner slept. The ceiling looks like it’s even taller than the one downstairs! The fireplace also looks wider than the one in the downstairs parlor.
Even with a full-sized bed in the room, there is still plenty of space to move around and to place furniture, including a large dresser and three chairs. The two windows bring plenty of natural light into the spacious room.
The Basement Winter Kitchen
One thing that gives away the farmhouse’s age is the kitchen down in the basement. We would venture to guess that the “low headroom” sign was added in later on, not by the Dyckmans.
The kitchen is quite roomy with plenty of empty space in the middle where an island counter would go if this were a modern design. To the left is a small counter for preparing food and a dining table rests in the corner.
The Space Doubled As A Heater
Known as a winter kitchen, it was designed downstairs on purpose. You see, the kitchen would heat the rest of the house since the warmth would rise through the upper levels.
The heat source was the large hearth pictured here. In colder months, the Dyckmans could move the dining room table next to the hearth for warmth. This way, everyone could warm up as they ate in the cozy basement before heading back upstairs.
The Summer Kitchen-Turned-Warden’s House
If there’s a winter kitchen, it would follow that there’d also be a summer kitchen. After all, they wouldn’t want the heat filling up the rest of the house in hot months. That’s why the summer kitchen was outside.
Rather than updating the summer kitchen, the city of New York converted it into a room for the museum’s warden to stay. The adorable tiny home features white wooden walls and a window with blue shutters.
Gardens Around The Side
While most of the acres disappeared as New York City grew around the farmhouse, there is still a small garden at the side of the home. You’ll also notice that there are stairs going up to the property.
That’s because the sidewalk used to be flush with the estate, but the pavement ended up being lowered by 15 feet as the city continued to develop. Now the home sits slightly above the rest of the area.
A Historic Gem In The Concrete Jungle
The Dyckman farmhouse is the oldest in Manhattan and serves as a tiny reminder of what New York used to be. The home-turned-museum isn’t just open for tours, either.
It serves as a place to host community programs, such as history lectures, farm-based summer camps, art displays, and bilingual read alouds. Remember that the Dyckman estate was once an institute for learning. Thanks to the family’s vision and commitment, their legacy now lives on in Manhattan.