Revolutionary War Heritage Trail
The Dyckman Farm and the War
By the late 18th century, the Dyckman family owned approximately 250 acres, one of the largest farms in northern Manhattan. Their original home was located at the Harlem River, north of present day 207th Street. During the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), major military activity took place in the area of Manhattan. After forcing the British out of Boston in March of 1776, George Washington moved his troops to defend the port of New York. By August, the British assembled an enormous fleet in New York Harbor, carrying 45,000 British and Hessian soldiers. Although these soldiers defeated Washington at the Battle of Brooklyn, he maneuvered his army to northern Manhattan and managed to stop the British temporarily at the Battle of Harlem Heights. He tried one last time to defend New York at the Battle of Fort Washington in November of 1776, but failed. The British forces then occupied New York for the rest of the war. The Dyckman family, like many others, fled Manhattan and did not return until after the war. Upon their return, they found their home had been destroyed, so they built the present farmhouse on this site c. 1784.
Who were the Hessians?
During the Revolutionary War, the British hired approximately 30,000 German troops to assist in fighting. Their Prince, Frederick II, sold their service to the British and the largest number of them came from the State of Hessen-Kassel, so all of the German troops became known generically as "Hessians." After the Revolutionary War, many Hessians stayed in America, settling predominantly in Reading and Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Fredericksburg, Maryland.
During the British occupation of New York, there was a Hessian soldier encampment of more than sixty huts constructed on Dyckman family land between present-day 201st and 204th Streets along Payson Avenue. Northern Manhattan remained a relatively rural area until the early 20th century, leaving many of its archaeological remains undisturbed. Amateur archaeologists and historians, including Reginald Pelham Bolton, began conducting digs throughout the area and in 1914 he discovered the Hessian encampment site on Payson Avenue. In 1915, Bolton and his colleagues reconstructed this hut on the grounds of the newly restored Dyckman Farmhouse. They moved the original stone floor, walls and fireplace and added timbers to create a full hut. This hut originally would have housed six to eight Hessians. During the excavation, Bolton also found items left by the soldiers, including bottles, buckles, buttons and ceramics. These items provide valuable insight into the lives of the soldiers who lived in the huts.
The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum is owned and operated by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and is a member of the Historic Trust of New York City.