Van Cortlandt House, Van Cortlandt Park
Broadway & 246th Street
Bronx, NY 10471
Subway: #1 or #9 to 242nd Street Bus: Bx9 to Broadway/West 246th Street
Van Cortlandt House in the Bronx is a fine example of an 18th-century vernacular Georgian home, set in a wide valley in the third largest park in New York City.
The land that today forms Van Cortlandt Park was once the hunting grounds of the Mohican Indians. Dutch settler Adrian Van der Donck staked his claim to the area in 1646. Jacobus Van Cortlandt, a merchant and Mayor of New York (1710-11, 1719-20), purchased the first parcel of land in 1694. His son Frederick built the current house, the oldest in the Bronx, in 1748-49. During the American Revolution, the two-and-a-half-story fieldstone house was the scene of military maneuvers and intrigue. City Clerk Augustus Van Cortlandt, Frederick's son, spirited the city records to the family vault nearby on a rocky outcropping to the northeast of the house to hide them from the British. George Washington stayed at the Van Cortlandt House on at least two occasions at the beginning and end of the war, and other military commanders, both American and British, also used the house as a headquarters.
Van Cortlandt House, operated as a museum since 1896 by the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York, faces south toward an area that was at one time a large marsh. In the late 18th or early 19th century, this area was dyked, and a wonderful garden, including many different varieties of fruit trees, flourished there. Today a grand brick and iron gateway stands, ornamenting a colonial-style garden that was created in the early 1900s.
The windows of the house are accented with brick while those on the south, or front facade, have carved brownstone "grotesques" for keystones. Inside the L-shaped house, large windows and 11-foot ceilings create light and airy spaces for a distinguished collection of 18th- and early 19th-century furniture. In 1989, the front parlors of the house were restored and the cellar converted into an education center where school groups and local organizations now gather. The house grounds include an herb garden and magnificent shade trees.