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Fidler-Wyckoff House Park

Dutch Prime Minister Visits NYC's Oldest Structure—Brooklyn's Wyckoff Farmhouse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 21, 2009
No. 98
http://www.nyc.gov/parks

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER VISITS NYC’S OLDEST STRUCTURE—BROOKLYN’S WYCKOFF FARMHOUSE—IN CELEBRATION OF NY400

In celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage and New York City’s Dutch heritage, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Wyckoff House & Association Chairman E. Lisk Wyckoff yesterday welcomed Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum—the first stop during his tour of New York City and his first visit to the farmhouse. The visit included a tour of the Dutch farmhouse, an unveiling of plans for the barn that will be constructed at the site, colonial cooking activities and a Dutch song performed by third graders from P.S. 119 Amserfort School for Social Awareness.

“On behalf of the Netherlands, I am honored to visit the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, as well as the Dutch Reformed Church and Brooklyn Museum, as I tour this beautiful borough of Breukelen in hopes of strengthening the borough’s historical and future ties with the Netherlands,” said Prime Minister Balkenende. “Earlier this year the Brooklyn Borough President saluted us as the founders of New Amsterdam and today I am thrilled to salute New York City, the Parks Department, the Wyckoff House & Association and the Historic House Trust for preserving this piece of Dutch-American history.”

“Prime Minister Balkenende has been a leading force behind the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival and there is no better place to welcome him than Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, the city’s oldest structure and first official landmark,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Tucked away in Flatlands, formerly known as New Amersfoort, this Dutch farmhouse is a direct link to our city’s ancestors. From this one little farmhouse, 15 generations of Wyckoffs and 60 variations of the name covering 50,000 descendants have spread across the city and country. We are delighted to share this treasure with the Prime Minister.”

“It is a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Balkenende here on behalf of Wyckoff House & Association in celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River,” said Wyckoff House & Association Chairman E. Lisk Wyckoff. “Not long after Pieter Claesen Wyckoff came to New Netherlands in 1637, he came to Brooklyn, where he married and raised 11 children. All of those children had numerous children themselves so that over the years the Wyckoff House was lived in by eight generations of family members until 1901.”

Also in attendance were Dutch Ambassador to the U.S. Renée Jones, Consul General of the Netherlands in New York Hugo Gajus Scheltema, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol, Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum Executive Director Byron Saunders, Historic House Trust Executive Director Franklin D. Vagnone, Wyckoff House & Association board members and descendents of Pieter Claesen Wyckoff.

Built c. 1652, the original portion of the Wyckoff Farmhouse is New York City’s oldest historic structure. The Wyckoff Farmhouse typifies the vernacular farmhouse architecture of the Dutch-American farms of Brooklyn and Queens. Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, an illiterate teenage farm laborer, arrived in the New Netherlands in 1637. After serving his indenture to the van Rensselaer family, he and his wife, Grietje van Nes, settled in the village of Nieuw Amersfoort (now East Flatbush-Flatlands, Brooklyn), where Wyckoff became a successful farmer and magistrate. Today his and Grietje’s eleven children have more than 50,000 descendants. Generations of Wyckoffs enlarged and altered the house and continued to farm the land until 1901. Today the Museum’s mission is to educate visitors about the diverse peoples of Brooklyn’s colonial farms.

During Prime Minister Balkenende’s visit, plans were unveiled announcing the construction of the Wyckoff-Durling Barn, which will relocate and reconstruct the timber frame of a 19th-century Dutch-style barn that was originally located in Somerset, NJ. This $4.95 million project will be the first barn-raising in Brooklyn in over 150 years. The barn will house the museum’s administrative offices, a caretaker’s apartment, greenhouse and additional exhibit space.

The Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum is owned by NYC Parks & Recreation, operated by the Wyckoff House & Association, and is a member of the Historic House Trust.

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Contact: Phil Abramson (Parks) (212) 360-1311

Abigail Lootens (Historic House Trust) (212) 360-8249

Shirley Brown Alleyne (Wyckoff) (718) 629-5400

NY400 celebrates the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival to New York Harbor on the Dutch ship the Half Moon (Halve Maen) and 400 years of friendship between the Netherlands and the United States. The celebration is an initiative by the Dutch government. For more information, visit www.NY400.org.

The Historic House Trust of New York City is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 to help the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation preserve its collection of historic houses. The Trust works with Parks and the nonprofit boards of each house to restore, interpret, and promote the sites, which span 350 years of New York City life. From modest farmers’ cottages to grand mansions, the 22 sites in the Trust’s collection are located in all five boroughs and chronicle a wide range of cultural, historical and architectural aspects of New York City. www.historichousetrust.org

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