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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 purposes.

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 the rooms.

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.

The Manor House

    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 the story.
  • 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.

The Garden

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 various greens.

Slavery in Colonial America

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 than increase.

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.

Visiting Philipsburg Manor

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

Specifics on visiting Philipsburg Manor, Upper Mill were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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