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New Utrecht

New Utrecht was the last of six towns to be founded in what is today the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. It was named after the city of Utrecht, Netherlands. In 1652 Cornelius van Werckhoven, a surveyor born in Utrecht and a principal investor in the Dutch West India Company, began purchasing land from the Canarsee and Nyack tribes. Upon his death in 1655 Jacques Cortelyou received permission to sell lots of the land to create a town.

Twenty lots were laid out; Nicasius di Sille, an attorney from Arnhem in the Netherlands, was one of the first to purchase a lot and build a house using locally available stone and red roof tiles imported from Holland. He moved to New Utrecht from his former residence in Nieuw Amsterdam (now New York) located near the current intersection of Broad St. and Exchange Pl. Nicasius di Sille was employed as an advisor to Petrus Stuyvesant and as a “schout fiscal”, a combination of sheriff and district attorney. In 1660 di Sille’s List of the Inhabitants of Nieuw Amsterdam was completed at the behest of Stuyvesant. The names and addresses on the list correspond to the houses drawn on the Castello Plan. During the American Revolution his house would be where the British brought the mortally wounded American General Nathaniel Woodhull who would ultimately die there.

In 1657 New Utrecht was granted status as a village and received its charter in 1661, when the entire region was part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland. New Netherland later came under British rule in 1664 as the colony of New York.

In 1677 New Utrecht Reformed Church was chartered. In 1683, when Kings County was established within the colony of New York, New Utrecht was one of its six original towns; five were Dutch, the sixth was the English town of Gravesend, founded by Lady Deborah Moody. It was later annexed by the City of Brooklyn on July 1, 1894, which ultimately became part of the City of New York on January 1, 1898.

The area that encompassed the town center of New Utrecht is located in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Eighty-fourth Street between Sixteenth and Eighteenth Avenues approximates the main thoroughfare of the town. The rest of the towns lands are today the neighborhoods of Borough Park, which has a large Hasidic Jewish population, and Bay Ridge. Bay Ridge was formerly known as Yellow Hook; the name was changed due to the multiple outbreaks of yellow fever that struck the New York area. The Bensons were one of the original Dutch settlers in New Utrecht. Some of the names of the other original families in New Utrecht are di Sille, Van Pelt, Cropsey and Nostrand. Cropsey Ave. and Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn are named for the latter two.

What is called the Van Pelt Manor House was built in stages. The first section, of stone, was built by Jan Van Cleef (Cleve) around 1675 and later sold to Nicholas de Meyer, who sold it to Teunis Van Pelt. But an agreement with de Meyer allowed Van Cleef to live in the dwelling from 1691 until his death c1699. Around 1686 the house was enlarged and had a second floor added. Van Pelt’s land was never established nor granted the status of “Manor.”

Bath Beach Bay Ridge Bensonhurst Borough Park Dyker Heights Fort Hamilton New Utrecht

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