New York City is a dream destination. With its spectacular skyline, towering skyscrapers, active lifestyle, and busy streets, name it all – it sure is a promising city to visit and explore. Famously dubbed as the city that never sleeps, it has a myriad of cultures converging into such a dynamic atmosphere. But this notable place has a lot to offer other than being modern and fancy. Just like anywhere else in the world, it is rich in history and stories that contributed to its development. If only facades could speak, then a thousand stories would be heard. Luckily, some of these tales are imprinted on the oldest buildings in New York City. Stories waiting to be discovered.
Reconnecting to New Yorkers Roots | Oldest Buildings In New York City
There is more to Wyckoff Building than just an alienated residential place surrounded by a dynamic cityscape. Considered the oldest surviving structure in New York City, this house is renowned for its impactful past. It was known that Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, together with his wife Grietje Van Ness, built this humble abode in 1652. This became the family’s permanent residence, and home to their eleven (11) children. Today, the house is enlarged following a typical Dutch American Farmhouse Architectural style. Its Dutch colonial Vernacular Facade and architecture are retained along with its H-frame structural components, shiplap-pattern and shingled walls, breezy Dutch doors, and Gabled roof with gentle slope eaves. It is situated on a 1.5 acre of land in a convergence lot of Clarendon Road and Ditmas avenue. Its outdoor lot is utilized for volunteer farming programs – a precious space for the community to reconnect with its historical context. Promising.
The interior of the house has undergone several renovations and improvements over the years. Now, it has six additional rooms, three fireplaces, and an attic – a good deviation from its original one room and a hearth. Nevertheless, it gives a sense of zeitgeist to what it was back then – a humble lifestyle. It is now utilized as a Farmhouse Museum and a registered national park. As if frozen in time and witnessing century-old stories including the clash of the British & American forces in Brooklyn on August 27, 1776, this gentle structure made history by surviving various circumstances – as if left fragments of the past existing in the modern realm.
Old Stone House
Just like Wyckoff House, The Old Stone House is another important site to visit when in New York City. This charming home is a replica of the original Vechte-Cortelyou House built in 1699 and reconstructed somewhere between 1933 – 1934. The place is located on a 3.5-acre recreation site, and practices programs that enrich the site – such as farming and gardening; it also has a playscape area where toddlers, children, and even adults can relax and enjoy the peaceful environment. A few functions of the place included being a home for the Cortelyou family; they were responsible for the farming operations of the family before. It then became the first headquarters of the Brooklyn Baseball Club, The Brooklyn Dodgers. Though this is only a reconstruction, it served a higher purpose of commemorating the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776. Maryland’s four hundred sacrificed themselves to allow the rest of the troops to escape the British force, saving the American army. Today, the house provides exhibits on the American revolution and is listed on the national register of historic places in 2012.
Morris Jumel Mansion
The Morris Jumel Mansion is the oldest surviving residence in Manhattan. Its Palladian architecture is sure to catch one’s attention – symmetrical elements, Doric columns, wood corner blocks imitating stone quoins, and a wider portico adding up to the grand appearance of the mansion. It was built in 1765 for the Morris family, and later became the headquarters for General George Washington and Hessian troops during the American revolution. This summer villa became a museum in 1904 and hosts temporary exhibitions that inspire an array of audiences. What’s unique about this property is that it also offers paranormal tours. It’s believed that spirits of former residents still haunt the place and are seen during wee-hours – not for the faint-hearted architects. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Old Quaker Meeting House
This next building is another historical site in New York City, known as the oldest house of worship in the state – The Old Quaker Meeting House. The Quakers is a Christian group formally known as the Religious Society of Friends or Friends Church. They were originally from the Netherlands and settled in the area where John Browne built the said house. The architecture is inspired by medieval building techniques as seen from the wood construction, wood shingle roof, Yankee gutter, and cornice elements. It has a graveyard planted with indigenous trees and flowers where it serves as a burial ground for prominent individuals on Long Island including John Browne. The place had been visited by influential personalities like George Washington, John Woolman, and William Penn. Currently, it has few recognitions such as being listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1967, and New York City designated landmark in 1970.
New York City Hall
The City Hall is the oldest government building in New York City and is still operational up to date. Its governor’s room houses historical furniture and portraits. The place has around 108 painting collections dating back to the 18th-20th century. Just like other historical sites, this place also has a story of its own such as hosting prominent figures like Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein in the past. Imagine stepping foot on this historical building alongside those individuals, mind-boggling. Its exterior façade is inspired by the French Renaissance movement while an American Georgian Style is its interior take. The original and primary material was marble but then later replaced with brownstone, and Alabama limestone to endure the changing times. Visitors are greeted with a grand rotunda displaying two massive marble double staircase. The place also flaunts fluted Corinthian columns which support the intricately designed coffered dome, a beautiful sight of meticulous effort. Its architecture is sure to captivate architects with classical tastes.
Visiting New York will not be complete without witnessing the renowned Flatiron Building built in 1901, and designed by architect Daniel Burnham. This beaux-art classic is known as the oldest skyscraper in the city and captivates the attention of artists and photographers for its dramatic facades as if vanishing to a point. Such a masterpiece is only 22 levels and 87 meters in height; though not the tallest building in New York, it is one of the landmarks that identify the city. It was originally the Tower Building that was the first skyscraper in New York built in 1889, but it wasn’t long enough before it was gone. Today, the Flatiron building is an iconic architecture associated with New York City.
New York is not what it is without the existence of apartments and flats, appropriate for its dynamic atmosphere. The Stuyvesan apartment is the oldest accommodation in the city and finished construction in 1870, originally targeting middle-class individuals as tenants. Most of the earliest people who settled in were influential personalities. The place had also been featured in an Oscar-nominated film. It was architect Richard Morris Hunt who helped the owners design and realized the success of this apartment building – a significant development of that time. Though it no longer exists, it paved the way for the apartment business of New York City and provided convenience for the community.
Oliver H. Perry School
Oliver H. Perry School, also known as P.S. 34, is one of the oldest schools in New York. The institution was named after the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie that occurred during a war in 1812. It aimed to enhance the educational system of Greenpoint by providing an additional facility that is conducive to learning. At present, the school continues to operate, hence providing quality education to children in the neighborhood. Students are encouraged to participate in arts, creatives, environmental, and the like activities aiming for a holistic approach to learning. The architecture of the place is inspired by the Roman Revival style accented with Italian motifs. It is easily recognized with its running brick bond pattern and roman arches façade, good details to observe for a keen architect.
Bar hopping experiences are another activity to look forward to in New York City. So what can one expect in the city that never sleeps? Located at the corner lot of Pearl and Broad streets, Fraunces Tavern is another historical site to visit. It was built in 1719, historically known as the place where General George Washington delivered an emotional speech to his officers after the British force left the United States. It is now considered a significant part of New York City and currently serves as a bar, restaurant, and museum. Its beautiful architecture and materials are still intact making it a good place to appreciate its history intertwined with the present time.
St. Paul’s Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel is the oldest surviving Church in Manhattan. It was built in 1766 and was considered the tallest structure in New York City during that time. Situated in the city’s commercial district, the chapel displays a Georgian Ecclesiastical architectural style. One of the significant events of this chapel was becoming a haven among those affected by the 9/11 tragedy. It became a sanctuary of hope for the exhausted rescue workers, and everyone involved in the incident. The chapel humbly stood alongside gigantic skyscrapers as if a humble being, firm and calm amidst the evolving times.
New York City has a lot of stories to tell. Though known to be one of the newest developments in the world, pieces of its history have been conserved in a few corners, being taken care of. What’s more exciting than to explore this city and appreciate its humble beginnings transformed into a lively and dynamic place – a symbolic place standing steadfast. That is New York.
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