Old Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow, New York

The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, around 1903. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2019:

This church was made famous by Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but the building predates the story by more than a century, and it stands as the second-oldest existing church building in the state of New York. It was built in the late 1690s by Frederick Philipse I, a wealthy Dutch settler who owned a large tract of land along the Hudson River in Westchester County.

Philipse immigrated to New York in the 1650s, about a decade before England gained control of the colony from the Dutch. However, the Dutch landowners here were allowed to retain their property, and by the 1670s he had acquired a significant amount of land, including the modern-day municipalities of Yonkers, Greenburgh, and Mount Pleasant. At the time, there was a small community here in North Tarrytown, including a graveyard here on the left side of this scene. However, the people lacked a permanent church building, so in the late 1690s Philipse had this stone, Dutch Colonial-style church constructed at the southern end of the graveyard for his tenant farmers. By some accounts, Philipse designed the church himself, and he also may have personally assisted with the construction work, including carving the pulpit.

The church is located on the west side of the Albany Post Road, modern-day US Route 9, on a hillside about a hundred yards north of where the road crosses the Pocantico River. During the American Revolution, this area around Sleepy Hollow was a sort of neutral zone, located between British-occupied New York City and the areas to the north, which were controlled by the Continental Army.

One of the most important wartime incidents here occurred in 1780, when Major John André was captured by American forces less than a mile south of the church. He had been returning south after a secret meeting with Benedict Arnold, and upon searching him the Americans discovered documents that incriminated Arnold in a plot to surrender West Point to the British. Arnold was able to evade capture after the plot was exposed, but West Point remained secure and André was subsequently executed as a spy, since he had been behind enemy lines in civilian clothing.

Another significant local event in the war was the Battle of White Plains, which was fought a few miles to the southeast of here in 1776. During the battle, a Hessian soldier was decapitated by an American cannonball, and this is said to have been the inspiration for the Headless Horseman of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In the story, the narrator describes how, according to legend, the ghostly apparition had lost his head in “some nameless battle” during the war. He was buried here in the graveyard next to this church in Sleepy Hollow, but he would leave every night and travel to the battlefield in search of his head, although he always needed to return to the graveyard by dawn.

By the time Washington Irving published his story in 1820, this church was already over 120 years old. In the story, he emphasized the eerie, isolated location of the church, particularly in this passage:

The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. 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. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees.

The first photo shows the church as it appeared nearly a century later, around 1903. By this point, both the church and its surroundings had undergone changes. The church was damaged by a fire after a lightning strike in 1837, and the repairs included alterations to the building. It was partially restored to its original appearance in the late 19th century, but by then it was no longer in regular use. The congregation had moved to a new building in Tarrytown during the mid-19th century, and the old one here in Sleepy Hollow was subsequently used only for special events.

Also during this period, the land around the church became a new cemetery. Originally named the Tarrytown Cemetery, it was later renamed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at the request of Washington Irving, who was interred here after his death in 1859. Unlike the much older graveyard next to the church, this new cemetery reflected the mid-19th century trend of rural cemeteries. These were typically well-landscaped, with plenty of trees and winding footpaths that followed the contours of the ground, making cemeteries feel more like a park. Aside from Irving, many other prominent people have been buried here in Sleepy Hollow, including industrialist Andrew Carnegie after his death in 1919.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, the 320-year-old church is still standing here alongside US Route 9. Remarkably little has changed in the scene during this time, and the building is still owned by the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns, which continues to hold events and services here on occasion. Because of its historical significance, along with its literary associations with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the church was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Albany, NY

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, at the corner of State and Lodge Streets in Albany, around 1908. Image from Views of Albany (1908).

The church in 2019:

This church is one of Albany’s most important architectural landmarks. It was designed by prominent architect Richard Upjohn, who specialized in Gothic Revival-style churches, and it was consecrated in 1860. However, the parish itself is much older, dating back to 1708, when Anglican services were first held in Albany. The first church building was constructed in 1715, at what is now the corner of State and Chapel Streets, and it was used throughout the rest of the 18th century, aside from a temporary closure during the American Revolution.

Then, in 1803 the church moved into a new building here at the corner of State and Lodge Streets. Its architect, Philip Hooker, was responsible for many of Albany’s important public buildings of the era, including the First Church in Albany on North Pearl Street. That church is still standing more than two centuries later, but his work here at St. Peter’s Church did not have the same longevity. The building, barely 50 years old, was declared structurally unsound in 1857, and the church temporarily held its services in the Geological Hall until a new church could be built.

The old church was demolished in early 1859, and work soon followed on the new building here on the same site. It was completed about a year and a half later, and formally consecrated on October 4, 1860. The ceremony was attended by a variety of prominent Episcopal clergymen in the area, including Bishop Horatio Potter of the Diocese of New York. Albany was familiar territory for Potter, who had previously served as rector here at St. Peter’s Church from 1833 to 1854, before he was elevated to bishop. He would go on to serve as bishop of the diocese for more than 30 years, until his death in 1887.

The only part of the church that was not completed in 1860 was the tower. It would not be finished for another 16 years, and in the meantime it rose to a height of just 56 feet, with a temporary roof atop it. The rest of the building measured 136 feet in length, 68 feet in width, and 64 feet in height. The exterior consisted of Schenectady bluestone, with New Jersey sandstone for the trim. The design was inspired by French Gothic architecture, and although it is generally credited to Richard Upjohn, his son Richard M. Upjohn was also involved in the project. The younger Upjohn would go on to have a successful career in his own right, and he was responsible for designing the rest of the 180-foot tower that was added to the church in 1876.

The first photo was taken shortly after the turn of the 20th century, and by this point the church was joined by a number of other newer buildings. Immediately to the left is the Tudor-style Potts Memorial Rectory, which was completed in 1896 and named in honor of Jesse and Eunice Potts, whose children donated the money for its construction. Beyond the church on the far right side of the scene is the Albany Masonic Temple. It was also built in 1896, although the land itself has been owned by the Masons since 1766, making it the oldest continuously-owned Masonic property in the country. The other late 19th century building in the scene is Albany City Hall, which was completed in 1883 and stands in the distance on the left side. It is one of the few buildings in Albany that rival St. Peter’s Church in architectural importance, having been designed by famed architect Henry H. Richardson.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much has changed along State Street in Albany, as seen in the photos of an earlier post showing the view from a few blocks east of the church. However, the buildings in the first photo here have remained remarkably well-preserved during this time, and all four are still standing, with few significant exterior alterations. The church itself is still an active Episcopal parish, and in 1980 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance. The other nearby buildings have likewise received federal recognition; both the parish house and the Masonic Temple are now part of the Downtown Albany Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and City Hall is individually listed on the National Register.

First Church in Albany, Albany, New York

The First Church in Albany, located at the corner of North Pearl and Orange Streets in Albany, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2019:

The First Church in Albany was established in 1642, back when New York was still the Dutch colony of New Netherland. The British took control of the colony in 1664, renaming it New York, but the Dutch inhabitants continued to live here, and they continued to influence the region’s culture for several centuries. During this time, the members of the First Church met in several different buildings before the completion of the current one in 1799, at what is now the corner of North Pearl and Orange Streets.

The building was designed by Philip Hooker, a young Albany architect who would later go on to design other important buildings in the city, including Albany Academy, the old state capitol, and the old city hall. His design for the church featured a symmetrical main facade, with a columned portico that was flanked on either side by identical towers. In many ways its original appearance bore a strong resemblance to Charles Bulfinch’s Hollis Street Church in Boston, and Hooker may have drawn inspiration from it. However, Bulfinch’s church was built of wood and lasted barely 20 years before being replaced, while Hooker’s brick church has remained in use for more than two centuries.

The church here in Albany has seen some alterations over the years, though. The first major renovation came in 1830, with an addition to the rear of the church. This was late in Hooker’s career, and he was involved in the design process. A second renovation occurred in the late 1850s, which included removing the original Greek-style portico and replacing it with a new Romanesque-style entryway.

The first photo was taken around 1907, showing the view of the church from the southeast. A few years later, another renovation added Tiffany stained glass windows, along with other interior changes. Then, in 1939 the old addition on the rear of the building was demolished, and a new parish house was built in its place. Other more minor exterior changes have included the addition of small oval windows near the tops of the towers, and the removal of the ornate cornice above the front gable.

Throughout its history, perhaps the most famous parishioner of this church was Theodore Roosevelt, who attended services here during his time as governor. Another notable guest was Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who visited here as part of the church’s 300th anniversary celebration in 1942. Today, the church is still in use, and its congregation is one of the oldest in New York. The building itself is also the oldest church in the city, and it is one of Philip Hooker’s few surviving works. Because of its significance, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

State Street from South Pearl Street, Albany, New York

Looking west on State Street from near the corner of State and South Pearl Streets in Albany, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

State Street is the main east-west route through downtown Albany, originally starting at the Hudson River wharves and extending westward up the hill in a straight line toward the state capitol. It provided a direct link between the city’s water and rail transportation and its government institutions, and in the process it passed through the heart of Albany’s central business district, which is shown here in these two photos.

The first photo was taken around 1904, and it shows a busy street scene. Dozens of pedestrians are visible walking on the sidewalks and crossing the street, and there is also a mix of horse-drawn wagons, along with at least three trolleys traveling up and down the hill. Automobiles are conspicuously missing from the scene, but this would not last long. The New York state legislature, meeting in the state capitol at the top of the hill here, had passed the first motor vehicle registration laws in the country in 1901, and by 1904 the state had some 15,550 registered cars on its roads.

The buildings on either side of State Street in the first photo reflect the changes in architectural styles during the late 19th century, along with the city’s growth during this same time. Starting on the far left is the Globe Hotel, which is perhaps the oldest building in the photo. It appears to have been built around the mid-19th century, and by the time the first photo was taken it housed the hotel, along with a number of retail tenants. These included a fruit market at the corner of South Pearl Street, and the photographic supply shop of Finch & Hahn on the State Street side of the building.

Further in the distance, towering above the Globe Hotel, is the Albany City Savings Institution building, which was probably the newest building in the first photo. This large Beaux-Arts building was designed by noted local architect Marcus T. Reynolds, and it opened in 1902 as the city’s first skyscraper. Just beyond the bank is another new building, the Empire Theatre, a burlesque theater that opened here in 1898.

On the other side of State Street, starting in the foreground, is the Tweddle Building. It was built at the corner of North Pearl Street in the mid-1880s, replacing the earlier Tweddle Hall, which had been destroyed in a fire in 1883. Beyond it is the Ten Eyck Hotel, with a painted sign on the side of the building proclaiming it to be “positively fire proof.” The nine-story hotel opened in 1899, filling a void in Albany’s hotel business after the Delavan House burned in 1894. This disaster, which claimed the lives of 16 people, would have still been fresh in people’s minds when the Ten Eyck opened, and likely explains why the owners went to such lengths to advertise its fireproof construction.

Beyond the Ten Eyck, on the other side of Chapel Street, is the Albany Savings Bank. This ornate building was completed in 1875, and it was occupied by the bank until the late 1890s, when the bank moved to a new building on North Pearl Street. The county then purchased the building, and it was in use as county offices when the first photo was taken.

Further up the hill from the bank building are two other commercial blocks, followed by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on the other side of Lodge Street. The main portion of the church was designed by architect Richard Upjohn, who was particularly well-known for his Gothic-style churches. It was consecrated in 1860, but in 1876 the parish added the 180-foot tower, which was designed by Upjohn’s son, Richard M. Upjohn.

At the top of the hill, in the distant center of the first photo, is the New York State Capitol. Construction on the capital had begun in 1867, but it was not completed until 1899, when Theodore Roosevelt was governor. By the time the first photo was taken, Roosevelt had become president, but less than a decade later another politician with the same last name would arrive at the capitol. Franklin Roosevelt served here as a senator from 1911 to 1913, and he later returned as governor, serving from 1929 until he was elected president in 1932.

Today, nearly 120 years after the first photo was taken, the capitol still dominates the background of this scene. It remains in use as the seat of the state government, although it has since been joined by a number of other government buildings, including the 34-story Alfred E. Smith State Office Building, which rises above the roof of the capitol in the present-day photo.

However, most of the other buildings in this scene at the turn of the century are gone now, including everything in the foreground. The Globe Hotel was altered beyond recognition in the early 20th century, and was known as the Arkay Building until the late 1920s, when it was demolished to build the National Savings Bank, which stands on the site today. Across the street, the Tweddle Building was demolished in the mid-1910s, and in its place the Ten Eyck Hotel built a new 17-story skyscraper. The hotel also continued to operate the older Ten Eyck, which became known as the Annex, and both buildings stood here until they were demolished in the early 1970s.

Further in the distance, only a few recognizable buildings from the first photo are still standing, aside from the capitol. On the left, the Albany City Savings Institution is still here, although it was altered in the 1920s with the addition of a large clock tower, and it is now mostly hidden from this angle by the National Savings Bank. Across the street, St. Peter’s Church is also still standing. Unlike the Savings Institution building, it has not been overshadowed by taller neighbors, and it continues to be a very prominent feature here on State Street. It remains an active Episcopalian parish, and in 1980 it was named a National Historic Landmark, becoming one of four Albany buildings, including the capitol, to receive this designation.

Old Meeting House, South Hadley, Mass

The Old Meeting House at the northern end of the town common in South Hadley, around 1930-1937. Image courtesy of Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

The scene in 2019:

Although it is difficult to tell from its current appearance, this modest-looking colonial house is actually the original meetinghouse in South Hadley. It was built around 1732, when South Hadley was still a part of Hadley, and it is likely the oldest surviving church building in western Massachusetts. It is also one of the oldest in the entire state, dating back to a time when New England meetinghouses were typically built without steeples or bell towers.

Present-day South Hadley was first settled by European colonists around the 1720s. These early residents would have been expected to attend church and town meetings in Hadley, but this proved challenging. The town center was eight miles away along rough roads, and South Hadley was geographically isolated from the rest of the town by Mount Holyoke. As a result, the settlers soon requested a church of their own, which was established around 1732. This meetinghouse was constructed around this time, and the building was originally situated about 100-150 feet south of its current location, on what is now the town common.

The first meeting appears to have been held here in March 1733, and the first pastor of the church was Grindall Rawson, who was ordained on October 3, 1733. He was a recent Harvard graduate who was about 25 years old, and five years later he married Dorothy Chauncey, the daughter of Reverend Isaac Chauncey of the Hadley church. During this time, work continued on the interior of the meetinghouse. This was done in several stages, beginning with the installation of nine pews in 1733, and it was not completed until 1744, when the gallery was finished.

It was not uncommon for early 18th century pastors to remain with the same church for their entire ministry career, but this ultimately was not the case for Reverend Rawson. Described in the 1863 History of Hadley book as “eccentric, free-spoken, and rash,” he soon became a source of controversy here in South Hadley. In 1737 a council of local clergymen met to discuss Rawson. Few details survive from this meeting, including where it was held, but one of the attendees was Jonathan Edwards, the famous pastor of the church in Northampton. He served as the scribe of the meeting, and in his memoirs he later wrote that the question at hand was “Whether Mr. R. was qualified for the work of the ministry as to his learning, his orthodoxy and his morals.” The council apparently found no issues with his qualifications, but this did little to appease his parishioners.

In February 1740, the congregation voted in favor of dismissing Rawson. However, he remained in that position for more than a year before, in March 1741, the church reaffirmed their decision and declared that “we have no further service for him in the office of a gospel minister, and that we expect he will refrain from any public acts in that office among us.” Rawson was apparently unfazed by this, though, and he continued to conduct services from the pulpit here throughout much of 1741. Finally, in October the church passed a resolution stating:

As Mr. Rawson has lately in an abrupt manner entered the meeting house and performed divine service, contrary to the mind of this precinct, the committee are directed and empowered to prevent Mr. Rawson from entering the meeting house on the Sabbath, by such means as they shall think best, except he shall promise not to officiate or perform service as a minister, and if Mr. Rawson shall offer to perform service as a minister, the committee shall put him forth out of the meeting house.

This still did not stop Rawson, who took to the pulpit a few weeks later. This time, though, a group of men seized him and forcibly carried him out of the building. The parish subsequently voted to appropriate 10 pounds as a legal defense fund, in the event that Rawson pressed charges against the men involved, but he did not, nor did he make any further attempts to preach here. He did, however, continue to live here in South Hadley for three more years, before accepting a position as pastor of a church in Hadlyme, Connecticut, where he served until his death in 1777.

In the meantime, South Hadley continued to grow in population, and this meetinghouse soon became too small for the parish. As early as 1751 the congregation voted to build a new church, but this caused a new controversy regarding its location. The residents here in the western part of the parish favored a site near the existing meetinghouse, while those in the eastern part—in present-day Granby—wanted the new church in a more central location on Cold Hill. After a decade of wrangling, the western faction finally prevailed, and the new church was built nearby in 1762. That same year, the eastern half of the district was established as a separate parish, and in 1768 it was incorporated as the town of Granby.

In the meantime, once the new church was completed the old building was moved northward to its current location, and it was converted into a house. This was a typical practice in New England during the 18th and 19th centuries, with thrifty Yankees generally preferring to move and repurpose old buildings instead of demolishing them. In the case of this meetinghouse, its relatively small size for a church—only 40 feet by 30 feet—made it well-suited for use as a house.

It is difficult to trace the ownership of the building in the early years after conversion to a house, but at some point in the first half of the 19th century it was owned by the Goodman family. It was then owned by Alfred Judd, who had been living there for “many years” by the time the History of Hadley was published in 1863. In a footnote, the author remarked that it was a “comely dwelling,” and that its old frame “may yet last a century.” More than 150 years later, this prediction that has proven to be a significant underestimate of the building’s longevity.

The 1860 census shows Alfred Judd living here with his daughter Irene, her husband Joseph Preston, and their two young children, Alfred and Joseph Jr. Alfred was 62 years old at the time, and he had just recently been widowed after his wife of 38 years, Mary, died in February 1860. He subsequently remarried to Sophia Preston in 1861, and he appears to have lived here until his death in 1878.

At some point afterward, Judd’s grandson Joseph Preston Jr. purchased the property to the right of the family home and built the Hotel Woodbridge, which later became Judson Hall, a dormitory for nearby Mount Holyoke College. In the meantime, the old house remained in the Preston family for many years. Joseph Jr. died in 1922, but his widow Elmina continued to own it until at least the 1930s, although it seems unclear as to whether Joseph or Elmina actually lived here during the early 20th century, or simply rented it to other tenants.

In any case, the first photo was taken at some point during Elmina’s ownership in the 1930s. By then, the building was the home of the Old Meeting House Tea Room, as indicated by the sign above the front door. It is difficult to determine exactly how much its exterior appearance had changed by this point, but it was clearly different from how it would have looked when it was moved here in the early 1760s. In particular, the wide pediment just below the roof and the pilasters in the corners are most certainly not original; these would have probably been added around the early 19th century, giving the old colonial meetinghouse a vaguely Greek Revival appearance.

In more than 80 years since the first photo was taken, this building has undergone some significant changes, including additions to the left, right, and behind the original structure. The front of the building has also been altered, particularly on the ground floor, but overall it is still recognizable from the first photo. Throughout this time, it has continued to be used as a commercial property, and it is currently the Yarde Tavern restaurant. The second floor of the building was damaged by a fire in April 2019, and these windows were still boarded up when the second photo was taken a few months later, but the restaurant itself was only closed for a few weeks.

Today, the building bears almost no resemblance to the Puritan meetinghouse that Grindall Rawson was dragged out of nearly 280 years ago. However, it despite these changes it still has significant historic value as one of the oldest buildings in South Hadley, in addition to being one of the few surviving early 18th century church buildings in this part of the state.

Judson Hall, South Hadley, Mass

The view looking north on College Street toward the intersection of Hadley Street in the center of South Hadley, around 1912. Image from In Old South Hadley (1912).

The scene in 2019:

The first photo was taken sometime in or before 1912, and it shows Judson Hall, a dormitory for students at nearby Mount Holyoke College. This building was originally constructed in the late 19th century as the Hotel Woodbridge, which was owned by Joseph S. Preston Jr. References to the hotel first appear in local newspapers around 1896, and it appears to have been in business for about a decade or so. Most of these newspaper advertisements mention the hotel’s “spacious piazzas,” which ran along the south and east sides of all three stories, and an 1898 ad lists the rates as ranging from $8 to $14 per week.

The hotel was temporarily used to house Mount Holyoke students in 1896, after the main college building was destroyed in a fire on September 27. Then, in 1908 the college purchased the hotel and renamed it Judson Hall in honor of Judson Smith, who had served as president of the board of trustees from 1894 until his death in 1906. It was subsequently used as a dormitory for the next 24 years, before being closed in 1932.

Judson Hall was demolished two years later, and the property was sold to the federal government to construct a post office here. The loss of the old hotel-turned-dormitory was evidently seen as an improvement by many people at the time, including the Springfield Republican, which wrote in 1934 that “Not only has it proved inadequate as a residence and inappropriate for business activities, but also its style of architecture has disturbed the harmony and beauty of South Hadley for many years.”

Today, the post office is still standing here in the center of this scene, and the only surviving building from the first photo is the one on the far left. Although it looks like an ordinary colonial-era house, it was actually built around 1732 as South Hadley’s first meeting house. It was only used as a church for a few decades though, before it was replaced by a new larger church in 1764. The old building was then moved here to this site and converted into a house, and more recently it has been occupied by a number of different restaurants. It is currently the Yarde Tavern, and despite the many alterations it is perhaps the oldest surviving church building in western Massachusetts.