A Tour of New Netherland

Long Island

Drawing of the Lefferts Home

Midwout (Flatbush)


In the 1640s, New Amsterdammers began dividing the western portion of Long Island into farms and farming communities. Throughout the decade they avoided one area because it was heavily wooded, and thus would be difficult to clear for farming. The forests finally succumbed to Dutch axes, however, and by 1652 the village of Midwout, or Middle Woods, came into being. The name it eventually received under the English—Flatbush—is not of English origin, as is often thought, but a corruption of the Dutch "vlackebos," or wooded plain, and thus also refers to the thick forests that once covered the region.

The area that became famous in the first half of the twentieth century as the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers (and for the highly localized accent that would become synonymous with Brooklyn) was renowned in the seventeenth century as the home of the first Dutch church in the region outside of New Amsterdam. The church came into being a few years after the town itself. In December 1654, Petrus Stuyvesant, director-general of New Netherland, together with his council, resolved "to prepare and build in the village of Midwout a house of about sixty or sixty five feet in length, twenty eight feet in width and twelve or fourteen feet high under the crossbeams, with an extension in the rear, where a chamber may be partitioned off for the preacher." But taverns must have appeared sometime before the church, for in that same month the council appointed Warnaer Wessels to the job of collecting "the excise on wine and beer to be consumed by the tavernkeepers and tapsters on Long Island in the villages of Breuckelen, Midwout, Amersfoort and the adjacent places under their jurisdiction during the next coming year."

The Peter Lefferts House, built in 1777 in Flatbush, is a fine example of Dutch farmhouse architecture. See the Peter Lefferts Homestead Museum.



About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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