We’ve all seen books of local pride. When the location is a major city, or somewhere in the news, these books can become bestsellers. Sleepy Hollow, New York, is a small town. Not far from Yonkers, or, for that matter, New York City, its claim to fame is Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In that story the Old Dutch Church is mentioned a time or two. This book is a celebration of that church. Lots of pictures, full color, and narratives about local events and personages make this an interesting read. It is still a functioning church, so there’s a bit of more “churchy” information as well, such as a page by the pastor.
The Old Dutch Church claims to be the oldest surviving church in its original location in the state of New York. With roots in the 1680s it is a reasonable claim. The book lays out the origins of the community with an estate owned by a wealthy New Yorker who set up a mill there and rented cottages to his workers. The estate was forfeited, however, because the owner at the time of the Revolution was a loyalist. Still, the church stood through it all and has survived to be used for summer and occasional services. (The heating is from the pre-modern era.)
This large-format book contains quite a bit of information. It’s certainly more convenient than reading dusty tomes about the history of the county. There are, naturally, quite a few nods to Washington Irving. Irving eventually settled in the area of Sleepy Hollow, but his story was written while he was overseas. I wrote a blog post about the book as well (Sects and Violence in the Ancient World), reflecting on how significant churches are a large part of the historical narrative. This is a colorful, celebratory source of information for those who want to know a bit more about Irving’s fictionalize vision of a place with deep historical roots.