In 2015, I will visit every @hhtnyc house in NYC. And plan a literary mini-tour of @GreenWoodHF. #museolutions
— Kristin Maffei (@ktin520) January 2, 2015
.@heyshaelyn @roger_arnold @ktin520 You guys in 2015: 🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡🏃🏡 make sure u Tweet the quest!
— Historic House Trust (@hhtnyc) January 2, 2015
So on Saturday, when we woke up to a few inches of snow and no real plans, we checked their website and decided to visit our first one, the Wyckoff Farmhouse. I'm visiting them in chronological order, and the Wyckoff house, built in 1652, is actually the oldest house in New York City. We grabbed a quick brunch in Park Slope at Dizzy's, and then headed to Atlantic Avenue to catch the train.
It's a lot easier to get to the house than I'd originally thought it would. Located at 5816 Clarendon Road; Brooklyn, NY 11203, we took the 3 train to Church Ave and then took the B47 to Clarendon, but you can also take the 2 or 5 train to Newkirk and then the B8 bus to Beverley Road at East 59th Street. It was a very easy trip, so don't let the lack of a subway stop you from visiting! Just remember: they're only open for tours on Friday and Saturday at 1pm and 3pm.
Because of the snow, we were the only visitors for the 1pm tour, so we got a very personal experience as Lucie, our guide, led us through the six rooms of the house. She was very knowledgeable about the house and its history. Pieter Clasen, the man who built and lived in the home, was originally an indentured servant who emigrated to Rensselaerswyck—which, at the time, was actually three times as large as modern-day Rensselaer County—when he was 12 or 13. He built the house as one room in 1652 and today it is one of the ten oldest wood houses in America, and the oldest house in New York City. It also has an excellent example of a Dutch jambless fireplace, which you can see here, since I don't have any photos of it.
The first addition to the house was done two generations later, by Pieter's grandson, and shows some of the popular styles of the time, including built-in shelves and porcelain. The room was likely used as domestic kitchen, while the original room was used primarily for commercial work.
Toward the end of his life, Pieter's grandson added a third room to the house, which became more of a formal room, with tiles around the fireplace, built-in shelves, and very wide floorboards.
Three bedrooms were added to what had previously been the back of the house in the 19th century, and it was used as a working farm until 1901. At the end of the tour, Lucie showed us some incredible photos of the house through the 20th century, when it fell into disrepair and the neighborhood around it was built up, particularly after WWII. It's shocking that the house is even still standing given that much of the area was bulldozed and turned into a junkyard, and that there was a serious fire there, but it's a survivor and was restored late in the 20th century and opened to the public for tours in 2001.
If you're looking for an interesting site to tour, I would definitely check out the Wyckoff Farmhouse. Especially in the summer, when the gardens are blooming, it's a great place to spend an afternoon!