ARENT VAN CURLER & THE FLATTS

History, Archaeology & Art Illuminate a Life on the Hudson

A Reconstruction Plan of the Flatts Farm, ca. 1644

1. 1642 workmens' house.
2. 1643 hallehuis with two cellars (colored in red).
3. Yellow brick courtyard and cistern.
4. Depression with horseshoes & stake.
5. Fragment of palisade fence.

Plan drawing by Ellen Chase, in Before Albany: An Archaeology of Native-Dutch Relations in the Capital Region, 1600-1664.

Unearthing the Flatts


“Hardly half a day’s journey from the colony, on the Maquaes kill, there lies the most beautiful land that eye may wish to see, full a day’s journey long and mostly in one unbroken piece.”

- Arent van Curler to Kiliaen van Rensselaer, June 16, 1643

As Arent was contemplating the farm at the Flatts in 1643, he spied another land that would become his destiny.  By 1660, he had left the Flatts and was planning a community on that “most beautiful land” along the Mohawk River.  He called the settlement Schenectady.  A dozen years later Richard van Rensselaer sold the Flatts farm to Philip Schuyler for 700 beavers and fl. 1600 Holland money, totaling a value of 8,000 guilders.  Schuyler built a new house there later in the century.

In 1971, archaeologist Paul Huey investigated the Schuyler House, which had burned a decade before.  The town of Colonie had grown around it.  As he excavated, Huey discovered a cellar six feet deep.  It contained the remains of stairs to the outside, floor joists and footings for vertical posts.  The artifacts within dated from the 1640s to the 1660s.  Other features included brick footings for a structure overhead and a section of palisade or fence.  Thus was the house Arent described in his 1643 letter to the patroon unearthed.

Ten years later, Bobby Brustle discovered a second cellar to the north.  At its bottom lay a foot of accumulated trash also dating to Van Curler’s occupation.  Another foot of demolition debris covered it – brick, cobbles, tile fragments, window glass, hardware.  Workers probably deposited this debris when Jeremias van Rensselaer rebuilt the Flatts farmhouse in 1669.

Huey’s cellar lies beneath the dwelling portion of Arent’s house, its dimensions close to those Arent sketched out for the patroon.  Brustle’s cellar is apparently a later addition under the barn.  The Schuyler house had covered the area between Arent’s house and the one he built first for the carpenters and farmhands.

 

Profile of Cellar #1, the Flatts Farm

Paul Huey discovered cellar #1 in 1971.  The cellar was six feet deep and measured 14 feet on the northwest, 19 feet on the southeast and 29 feet on the sourthwest.  It appeared to have been filled with coarse yellow gravel between 1672 and about 1690.

     

Plan View of Cellar #1, the Flatts Farm

 

Read Related Documents in Translation:
Letter from Jeremias van Rensselaer to Oloff Stevensz van Cortland on sale of the Flatts, November 9, 1673 


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