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Old Dutch Church

"It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust-trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson." - Washington Irving in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

Legend has it that the Old Dutch Church, originally called the Christian Church of the Manor of Philipsburg, was built because the dam on the manor property was ruined when the Pocantico River had a flood. One of Frederick Philipse's slaves said that he had a dream that said until a church was built, the river would continue to flood, and the dam would continue to break. So Frederick Philipse built The Old Dutch Church.

Constructed around 1685 on what was then the manor of Frederick Philipse, whose 52,000 acre landholdings stretched from Yonkers to Croton. The church has undergone some alteration over the years, but nothing that would make it unrecognizable to generations past. The first significant changes in the church occurred during the War for Independence, when the special pews of the Lords of the Manor were removed, and high-backed, soft-pine pews were substituted for the plain oak tenant benches. When the Albany post road was rerouted from east of the church to west, the door was moved from the south wall to the west wall. The original small, square windows were replaced with the present large, pointed arches. The original bell, cast in the Netherlands, still hangs in the belfry. Its inscription is from the book of Romans: "Si Deus Pro Nobis, Quis Contra Nos?" "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

About 125 years later, in his classic tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", Washington Irving referred to this house of worship as "The Old Dutch Church," and the name stuck. Indeed, the church's presence figures rather prominently in the tale, as Ichabod Crane's fateful encounter with the Headless Horseman takes place on a nearby wooden bridge. The bridge is where Ichabod Crane thinks he will find safety. However, when he reaches the bridge, instead of the Headless Horseman disappearing in flames as Brom Bones predicted, the horseman threw a pumpkin at Ichabod Crane. When Ichabod Crane sees the pumpkin flying his way, he has the illusion that it is the Headless Horseman's head.

A Registered National Landmark, the church's interior is marked by an old-style high pulpit and sounding board (canopy). Old Bibles and three centuries' worth of church memorabilia are on display in the balcony. Of equal fascination is the burial ground adjacent to the church.

The congregation itself was formally organized in 1697 and continues today at its more modern (1837) building at Central Avenue and North Broadway in Tarrytown. The Old Dutch Church is used at Easter, Christmas Eve, for summer services, and occasional weddings. However, in 1851, the joint congregation divided, forming The First Reformed Protestant Church of Tarrytown (Old Dutch Church) and The Second Reformed Protestant Church of Tarrytown (South Church). One hundred forty years later, in May 1991, the two congregations reunited as the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns, currently presided over by Rev. Gerald Paul Vander Hart. For information on services, contact the congregation:

In the adjacent Old Dutch Church Burying Ground headstones bearing a veritable Who's Who of old Dutch family names, as well as distinctive Dutch decorative elements, are laid out across the lawn. Eleanor Van Tassel Brush, reputedly Irving's inspiration for the character Katrina Van Tassel in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," is buried here. But the Old Dutch Church is more than just a monument to yesterday. It is very much a part of the spiritual life of a late-20th Century community of worshipers.

Visiting the Old Dutch Church

Perennially popular Sunday afternoon tours of the burying ground run from Memorial Day weekend through the last weekend in October. With advanced notice, groups can be accommodated at other times. Free guided tours of the burying ground Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Meet at the church.

Or take a Self Guided Tour! Purchase the booklet, "Tales of the Old Dutch Burying Ground" at the gift shop at Philipsburg Manor or at Murray Franks Cards & Gifts (914-631-1997) at 35 North Broadway in Tarrytown, on the corner of Broadway and Central Avenue. A fold-out map in the center of the book guides you through the churchyard.

On special occasions - Christmas Eve, Easter morning and Sundays from mid-June through early September - services are held in the 300-year-old edifice.

The Old Dutch Church Burying Ground is open daily from dawn till dusk.

Specifics on visiting the Old Dutch Church were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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