Dyckman Sitting Area
Jan Dyckman, a shoemaker and patriarch of the Dyckman family in America, emigrated from Holland in the mid-1600s. Dyckman, along with fellow Dutchman Jan Nagel, purchased much of the land between present-day 155th Street and the northern end of the island sometime after 1661. Members of the Dyckman and Nagel families lived on this land continuously for three generations, until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
During the British occupation of Manhattan (1776-1783), the Dyckmans, like many other patriots, fled the city and did not return until the British evacuation. When the war ended and the Dyckmans found that their home and orchards had been destroyed, they built a new house on Kingsbridge Road, today’s Broadway, near what is now 204th Street. They chose this location on a major thoroughfare in order to supplement their income by providing accommodations for travelers on their way to and from Manhattan. The Dyckmans also made their fields available to livestock in transit to the slaughterhouses and markets of Lower Manhattan.
By the 1850s, the amount of traffic and the increased quantity of livestock being brought to market made Broadway a less hospitable place to live. The Dyckman household moved roughly half a mile away to another part of their property. After it was sold by the Dyckmans in the 1870s, the farmhouse served as a hotel for a brief period of time. Mary Alice Dyckman Dean and Fannie Fredericka Dyckman Welch, daughters of the last Dyckman descendant to reside in this house, gave the property to the City of New York in 1916. The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum has been open to the public since its establishment by the City in 1916. It is presently operated by Parks and the Historic House Trust.
This small sitting area, bounded by Dyckman and Nagle Avenues, is located within Highbridge Park. The greater park derives its name from New York City’s oldest standing bridge, the High Bridge (1848), which was built to carry the Old Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River. It was part of the first reliable and uninterrupted water supply system in New York City.
As the city was devastated by fire and disease in the 1830s, the inadequacy of the City’s patchwork of wells and cisterns became apparent. It was decided in the early 1830s that an aqueduct be established to bring water into Manhattan. The Croton River, located in northern Westchester County was found to be sufficient in quantity and quality to serve the needs of the City, and work began in earnest to construct the extensive project in 1835.
The Old Croton Aqueduct was the first of its kind ever constructed in the United States. The innovative system used gravity to propel water along its 41 mile run into New York City. Its heavy iron pipes were enclosed within a masonry structure that crossed ridges, valleys, and rivers along its way. The High Bridge, the most monumental watercourse along the aqueduct, soars 138 feet above the 620 foot-wide Harlem River, with a total length of 1450 feet. The bridge, designed with a pedestrian walkway, was not used for vehicular traffic. In the 1920s, the bridge's center masonry arches were declared a hazard to navigation and replaced by a single steel span.
The area that is today's Highbridge Park was assembled gradually between 1867 and the 1960s, with the bulk being acquired through condemnation from 1895 to 1901. The cliffside area from West 181st Street to Dyckman Street was acquired in 1902, and the parcel including Fort George Hill was acquired in 1928. In 1934, Parks obtained the majestic Highbridge Tower and the site of old High Bridge Reservoir. The High Bridge and surrounding land, including the Dyckman Sitting Area came under Parks jurisdiction in 1960.
Directions to Highbridge Park
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