The little church made world-famous by Washington Irving's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is closed during winter except for special events. The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns will hold Good Friday services on the evening of April 18, 2014, and a Sunrise Service on Easter morning, April 20. Everyone is welcome.

The Church That Inspired the Legend


The Old Dutch was old when the American Revolution began. Immortalized by Washington Irving in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Old Dutch is also associated with another Washington—General George Washington. He wrote in his diary that on July 2, 1781, he and his Continental Army rested at the church until dusk.

The Octagonal Pulpit


In early church services, the domine, or pastor, climbed the steps to the octagonal pulpit and preached sermons in Dutch to farmers seated on backless oak benches. Meanwhile, the lord and lady of the manor sat oneither side of the pulpit on raised "thrones," probably cushioned chairs with silk canopies.

The pulpit with sounding board is an exact replica of the original. The sounding board was useful in the days before sound systems for reflecting the pastor's words down to the congregation.

The Communion Table

Catherine, the second wife of Frederick Philipse, willed the 17th-century black oak communion table with ebony inlay to the church. Beneath it, in a crypt under the floorboards, Frederick, Catherine and some 14 family members are buried.



Noack Tracker Organ

The pipe organ is modern; the wood case is in the style of a 17th-century Dutch church organ. Master organ builder Fritz Noack installed a tracker organ in the case in 1998. And if you're wondering about the funny-looking sled in the gallery, it's actually a coffin carrier. Coffins were eased on the carrier through a window.







Misc_-_Church_Bell_-_ODC_Gravestones-119Original 1685 Bell

The congregation hired its first pastor, or dominie, in 1697. Guiliam Bertholf came from New Jersey several times a year to administer the sacraments (in his absence, the Voorleser, or public reader, led services). The church's two-foot-thick fieldstone walls and Dutch Frisian-design roof were a welcome sight after his long trip. Arriving, he'd first glimpse the belfry. It's sturdy bell—the same one you see today—is richlydecorated with gargoyles, birds and other creatures. Inscribed on it is 1685 and a Latin Bible verse: "If God be for us, who can be against us?"


The Copper Weathervane


Next he might spot the copper weathervane bearing the Philipse's brand mark, an "F" for Flypse, the Dutch spelling.

The dominie would enter the church through a door on the south side. In 1837 the door was moved to the west side after the Albany Post Road was rerouted. Yellow bricks from Holland below a window mark the door's original location. In the same year, the original windows—small rectangles with sills seven feet up the walls—were replaced with arched windows.

Early American Gravestone Art



It is believed there was a burying ground here at the Old Dutch Church even before the church was built in 1685. The oldest grave that can be identified today is dated 1755.

Among the headstones are some of the earliest and most enduring examples of American folk art. One of the most respected carvers of headstones in the burying ground was Solomon Brewer. He lived in Greenburgh, New York, and was also a stonemason, schoolteacher, auctioneer and census taker. He decorated headstones with soul effigies, an 18th-century symbol of the soul’s flight to heaven. Round faces with downturned eyes at the outer corners distinguish his soul effigies.

Master carver John Zuricher of New York City also deserves mention. His soul effigies—sometimes square, oval or pear-shaped—bear distinctive puffy cheeks (see the photo above).

The choice of stone is an indication of the age of the grave. Red sandstone used throughout the 1700s gave way to white marble in the 1800s, and marble to durable granite in the 1900s.

Visitors interested in locating graves of their ancestors buried at Old Dutch may want to click on the "Searching for Ancestors?" link in the left panel.

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