Philipseburg Manor, Upper Mill
Cross the bridge over the river
into Philipsburg Manor and step back in time.
It's 1750, and Philipsburg Manor is a farming, milling,
and trading center owned by the Philipses, a family of
Anglo-Dutch merchants. They rent land to tenant farmers
of diverse European backgrounds and rely on a community
of 23 enslaved Africans to operate the complex.
Interpreters in period costume invite
you to stroll through the farm, with historic breeds
of oxen, cows, sheep, and chickens. Participate in hands-on
activities of the 18th century, and take in a theatrical
vignette exploring the riveting yet little-known story
of enslavement in the colonial north. Step into the
working gristmill, where, surrounded by the sound of
rushing water and the creaking of wooden gears, you
learn about the skills of Caesar, the enslaved African
miller. A colonial bateau tied to the wharf reflects
the flourishing river trade and the skills of Diamond,
an enslaved riverboat pilot.
Tour the 300-year-old manor house.
Its dairy, kitchens, bedchambers, warehouse rooms and
parlor attest to its significance as a place of work,
business, trade, leisure, and repose. Period artifacts
and touchable reproductions give you an understanding
of the people who lived and worked here.
Visit the activity center and explore
the foodways, textile production techniques, and medicinal
practices of Philipsburg Manor's inhabitants. Shell
some beans, work flax into linen, or produce a tray
of ship biscuits. Nearby is the slaves' garden, with
vegetables and herbs for consumption, market, and medicinal
The three-story, whitewashed fieldstone
manor house at Philipsburg was built in two stages.
First, about 1680, the Philipse family constructed what
constitutes the present eastern side of the house (two
rooms on each of the upper two floors, plus a kitchen
and cellar.) The part of the house constituting the
western side was built about 1720; it doubled the size
of the house and the number of rooms.
In the centuries after Philipsburg
Manor was broken up and sold, successive owners of the
manor house frequently modified and expanded it. Beginning
in the late 1950s, research identified the original
parts of the house, and restoration was complete by
late 1960s. The rooms of the house were turned into
period settings which suggested that the manor house
was a secondary home of the Philipse family. Visitors
stood behind ropes while interpreters explained the
history of the objects and furnishings and the use of
Now, the manor house is no longer
portrayed solely as a family residence. Instead it is
more accurately interpreted as a vital component of
a commercial enterprise that had worldwide connections.
Of its ten period rooms, five are refurnished with reproduction
objects to facilitate interactive, hands-on learning.
That alone differentiates it from most historic house
museums in the country.
Dairy and Lower Kitchen - You don't
enter the house through the "front door"
but through the rooms where enslaved Africans worked,
cooked, ate, and slept. Unlike most other historic
site tours, visitors are encouraged to identify not
only with the owners of the house but also with the
slaves and tenant farmers whose labor made manor operations
possible. Here interpreters discuss the daily lives
of slaves, methods of resistance, the roles of enslaved
women, and the provisioning trade. In the Dairy, African
women maintained the dairy production, a profitable
business for New York landowner/merchants like the
Philipses. Butter from New York and the mid-Atlantic
was heavily salted and shipped as far away as the
West Indies . The Kitchen was both a cooking and living
space. Mostly "one-pot" meals for the slaves,
based largely around corn meal, were made here on
a fire that burned from sunup to sundown.
- The Upper Kitchen - Interpreters
discuss the role of slave labor in preparing food
and the Philipse family's access to luxury goods and
exotic foods through their worldwide trade connections.
Luxuries would have included coffee, chocolate, spices,
citrus fruits, and sugar, all products of slave-based
economies in other parts of the world. The artifacts
in this room are part of a fine collection of high-end
cooking equipment dating from the 18th century.
- Adolph Philipse's Bedchamber -
Here the interpreters discuss the multi-faceted Adolph
Philipse: Anglo-Dutch merchant, businessman, gentleman,
wealthy politician, slave owner and trader. The furnishings
are primarily 18th-century period objects, including
New England chairs, Chinese porcelain ewer and basin,
and books in English and Dutch. The reproduction shackles
are clear reminders of the violence that underscored
the system of enslavement; manacles were listed in
this chamber on a 1750 probate inventory of the property.
- Second Bedchamber - Also entirely
furnished in 18th -century artifacts, this room interprets
the process of making the probate inventory of 1750.
The room, in some disarray due to this process and
the recent death of property owner Adolph Philipse,
is interpreted as a metaphor for the breaking up of
the manor, its furnishings, and equipment. More importantly,
it is a metaphor for the dissolution of slave families
through sale and other means of dispersal, and the
insecure position held by the tenant farmers and the
white employees of the manor as well at that period.
- Warehouse Rooms - Two rooms furnished
in reproductions recall that the manor house was essentially
a commercial building rather than a home. Interpreters
discuss the Philipse family's quest for financial
success and material goods, and the cross-cultural
contact that took place during the process of business
enterprise. The rooms resemble storage rooms rather
than rooms for living. Sea chests, reproduced by the
Tuckahoe Trading Company of Virginia, are filled with
reproduction items of 18th-century trade that visitors
may unpack and handle. Interpreters offer a program
of informal lessons, which give meaning to the objects.
- Office - The Office remains furnished
in 18th-century objects. Interpreters discuss aspects
of the business at Philipsburg Manor and its international
connections and bring to life the relationships that
existed between the overseers, owners and those enslaved.
The 18th-century steel chest, made for the storage
of money, and other 18th-century objects help drive
- Parlor - Interpreters discuss the
value of the Parlor in establishing and maintaining
business through entertaining. Now as then, relationship
building with associates remains a fundamental element
of business. This room continues to feature authentic
period furnishings. Visitors are asked to imagine
discussions relating to the selling of Philipsburg
Manor and all its parts, including its chattel, human
and otherwise, and what those conversations might
have sounded like to the Africans waiting on table.
- Foreroom - The entrance room serves
as a hands-on resource center furnished with reproduction
objects that are handled and used by visitors. The
key feature is the reproduction kas (a type of large
storage cabinet) made by Rob Tarule of Essex Junction,
Vermont. Visitors open the kas and remove the reproduction
documents stored inside. (These include advertisements
for runaway slaves, the 1750 inventory of Philipsburg
Manor, and other primary sources.) Philipsburg staff
explains to visitors how research based on these documents
leads to an understanding of the past and encourage
visitors to draw their own conclusions from the documents.
To examine the documents, visitors sit in the leather-covered
chairs at a table, reproduced for Historic Hudson
Valley by John Baron of Hebron, Connecticut.
Philipsburg Manor Garden Reflects
Lives of Enslaved Africans. The garden has been planted
to reflect key aspects of enslavement in the north and
the lives of African captives who worked such gardens
in the 18th century. Its design and planting plan is
conjectural, based on research into general practices
of the day, and reflects a possible garden large enough
for one or two people-say, a husband and wife. The garden
is an exciting feature of the museum landscape because
it is a work in progress that will change and grow as
more research is done.
The fenced garden contains raised
beds separated by paths of oyster shells. The raised
beds, found in northern European kitchen gardens but
not in West African gardens, represent adjustments for
climatic differences that African gardeners in northern
colonies might make. Raised beds are warmer in the early
part of the season, giving plants a head start in colder
climates. Additionally, they provide improved drainage
where soils are dense.
It was common practice in rural areas
of the American north and South to allocate garden plots
to enslaved men and women so they could supplement their
limited food ration by their own labor. This additional
labor added to the work of individual African captives,
but also had benefits.
In plots allotted to them, enslaved
men and women worked to supplement their diets by growing
their own, preferred foods. Plants grown in the Philipsburg
Manor garden that reflect this purpose include root
crops such as white and sweet potatoes, as well as beans,
black-eyed peas, cayenne pepper, winter squash, and
In 1624, the Dutch West India Company
began settling its colony of New Netherland. Set up
as a business, and the main goal was for profit from
trading beaver pelts and other goods from America with
Europe. In 1625, the Dutch brought the first group of
eleven enslaved male Africans to New Amsterdam to build
and support the new colony. By the 1590s, the Dutch
were involved in the slave trade, so their use of slave
labor in developing this new enterprise was not unexpected.
So the colony would succeed they gave
Dutch settlers large parcels of land (patroonships)
on which they were required to establish homes, businesses,
and farms. Patroons also were expected to lease portions
of their land to tenants and supply with equipment,
buildings, and animals. In addition to the Dutch, these
tenants included English, Germans, Irish, and Polish
settlers, Walloons from Belgium, and a small number
of Jews from the Netherlands and Brazil. Despite these
efforts the colony did not prosper as expected so they
decided to bring more enslaved Africans to New Netherland.
By the 1660s, the Dutch West India Company itself was
the largest slaveholder in New Amsterdam.
The English seized control of New
Netherland in 1664 and divided it into the two colonies
of New York and New Jersey. Under English rule, slavery
as an institution continued to grow and became more
regulated, with laws being put in place to tighten control
and to limit manumissions of enslaved Africans.
By 1720, 5,740 enslaved individuals
lived in the colony of New York (16% of the total population)
and about half that number lived in New Jersey. By the
mid-1700s slavery was deeply entrenched in New York.
In 1750, the enslaved population of New York was 11,014
(14% of the total population), nearly double the figure
of 1720. It would be another fifty years before the
number of enslaved Africans began to decrease rather
In 1685 the Philipses, a wealthy,
Dutch merchant family, began their involvement in the
slave trade. It was then that Frederick Philipse's ship,
the Charles, sailed from Amsterdam to Angola on the
Congo River in West Africa to exchange weapons and other
goods for Africans. A deposition made by two of the
seamen who worked on the ship tells us that 146 Africans
were taken from West Africa to Barbados, but only 105
arrived there. It can be assumed that the other 41 enslaved
Africans died during the voyage 's typical mortality
rate for the Middle Passage. Eight enslaved Africans
who were too sick to be sold in Barbados were transported
to Frederick's son Adolph near Rye, New York, and mostly
likely became the first group of enslaved Africans at
the Upper Mills at Philipsburg Manor. A ninth enslaved
African (with one eye) was sent to New York City, perhaps
to Frederick's Manhattan home. The earliest slaves at
the Upper Mills would have cleared the land for farming,
and probably built structures including the manor house,
mill barn, church, and wharf.
By providing a missing piece of the
story - slavery in the colonial north - Philipsburg's
new interpretation plays a crucial role in the public's
understanding of the history of race relations in this
country. By providing the missing people of the story
- Caesar, Abigail, Flip, Betty, and the other African
captives at Philipsburg Manor, Upper Mills - the new
interpretation works toward public understanding of
the African presence in colonial New York.
Beginning of April to end of October - daily (closed
Tuesday): 10am - 5pm, last tour at 4pm. End of October
thru December - daily (closed Tuesday): 10am - 4pm,
last tour at 3pm. March open weekends only 10am - 4pm,
last tour at 3pm
Tour the gardens and many of the
historic buildings on your own. Guided tours of the
manor house and the grist mill are available at posted
times throughout the day. Activities and demonstrations
are continuous throughout the day.
Adult: $10, Senior (62 +): $9, Child (5-17): $6, Members
+ Children under 5: FREE