The Dyckman Farmhouse

Sunday, August 6th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Music, NYC History

The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum sits anachronistically perched on a knoll, 15 feet above street level at 204th Street and Broadway on the narrow northern tip of Manhattan. The avenue has been lowered many times since the Dyckmans, one of the early Dutch families of New Amsterdam, built the house around 1783 to replace an earlier structure that had been burned down by British troops during the Revolutionary War. Today the original farmhouse is a museum, run by the City of New York/Parks & Recreation and the Historic House Trust since 1916, when it was restored and donated to the city by two daughters of the last Dyckman to grow up there. It is Manhattan’s only surviving 18th century Dutch Colonial-style farmhouse.

The Dyckmans harvested salt hay (from the marshes lining the river borders of the property) and planted cabbage and fruit orchards on land worked largely by indentured and freed slaves until the mid 19th century. The family owned several hundred acres of Manhattan property – worth about a bazillion dollars in today’s real estate market – before the last of the Dyckmans decamped for the urban comforts of a Queen Anne-style row house on East 71st Street in the 1870s.
The museum grounds cover just under 1/2 acre on which sits the farmhouse itself – reopened this Summer after three years of extensive renovations – a reproduction smokehouse and a tiny formal garden (both put in by the Dyckman sisters) and a reconstructed Hessian Hut, which in its former life had housed German soldiers, primarily from the province of Hesse-Cassel, during the Revolutionary War.

Several weeks earlier, I had made reservations for the after-hours guided tour. The group numbered just six people, plus the guide, which was just manageable, given the confines of the small space. We toured the inside of the house, which was still in the process of being refurnished after the renovation. Most of the objects inside date from the 19th century, brought in by the Dyckman sisters. With the notable exception of a dining room sideboard, almost none of the furniture pieces are original to the 18th century farmhouse; many objects were scattered when the family vacated after three generations, and some were lost in a trade with Boscobel, another Dyckman home, in Putnam County. The wall along the interior stairs leading to the cellar kitchen bares one of Inwood’s many schist outcroppings. The upper floor houses museum offices and two refurnished bedrooms. The space was stiflingly hot in even today’s pleasant weather; the guide told us that during last week’s heat wave, the lone air conditioning unit, running at full blast, could not bring the temperature below the mid 80s.
Dyckman Farmhouse

Back Porch

Hessian Hut

On the way out, we chatted up Maeve, one of the summer interns, who earlier in the day had given us a good recommendation for our pre-tour lunch. Inwood, once home to Irish and Jewish immigrants, is a predominantly Dominican enclave. Galeria Restaurant at 207th and Vermilyea is just one of the many local eateries serving authentic food at reasonable prices. The slight snag was in the ordering process, which I couldn’t figure out: most of the pre-set meals seemed intended for much larger groups, and there didn’t appear to be any a la carte option posted. In the end, we just pointed at whatever looked good (fried/roast chicken, rice and beans, sweet plantains) which the server obligingly piled onto a plate until asked to stop — all for $6.
Galeria lunch

Páprika – an all-female group from Brooklyn, specializing in dance music from around the globe, e.g., Turkish pop star Tarkan‘s Simarik, better known stateside as “Kiss Kiss.” At Riverside Park South, Acoustic Sundays:


GW Bridge

There's 1 comment so far ... The Dyckman Farmhouse

August 8, 2006

No mention of your fisherman encounter. He was quite ready to reel you in…

Go for it ...