VECHTE - CORTELYOU HOUSE 5th Avenue between 3rd & 4th Streets

IN 1934 there was erected in the Gowanus section what purports to be a replica of the VECHTE-CORTELYOU house which is known in history as the Old Stone House at Gowanus. Its original was a large and handsome dwelling, two storeys and a garret high, with a steep roof that probably had stepped gables. It was built of stone with its ends above the eaves of brick, and on the gable that fronted on the road was the date 1699 in foot-long iron figures. It stood facing the south on the east side of the old Gowanus Road about 100 feet southwest of the present 5th Avenue and 3rd Street. It was built by Klaes Arents VECHT, who with his wife Lammetje, their three sons and another boy arrived at New Amsterdam on the De Bonte Kou (The Spotted Cow) in April 1660. He came from Norg, Drenthe, although the surname VECHT, VECHTEN and VAN VECHTEN indicates that either he or his forebears lived either in Vechten, a hamlet in Utrecht or near the River Vecht. He settled in Brooklyn where he owned a farm in the Gowanus section in 1672. His son Hendrick married Grietje Reiniers WIZZELPENNING 10 October 1680, was a magistrate in Brooklyn from 1690 to 1700 and died 8 December 1716. Hendrick had a son Claes (baptized 9 September 1704) who inherited his grandfather's house and farm and willed it on 24 August 1779 to his grandson Nicholas COWENHOVEN. At some time, maybe just prior to the Revolution, the house was rented to Isaac CORTELYOU of New Utrecht who lived in it with his family and young kinsman Peter I. CORTELYOU (27 November 17668 - 12 September 1804). In 1790, Jacques CORTELYOU of the Narrows, father of the above mentioned Peter, bought the house and farm for £2,500. He renovated the house, furnished it, and Peter and his wife Femmetje (Phebe) VOORHEES, whom he married 7 July 1789 went to live in it. Their second son Jacques was born there 1 March 1796. In 1813 Jacques CORTELYOU of New Utrecht willed the property to Peter's sons Adrian and Jacques to be equally divided whcn Jacques came of age. When he came of age, Jacques received the house and the northern part of the farm. About 1850, he sold his property to Edward C. LITCHFIELD for a real estate development. Then he moved to Fishkill where he died 13 June 1891. The house had a caretaker, a colored family for a time, and was then used as headquarters by the Washington Park baseball players and by a skating club. Later it stood vacant, a target for rhe neighborhood boys. It was demolished and its upper walls buried within its foundations about 1897 when the ground surrounding it was being leveled for city streets. During the battle of Long Island, the house was a fort around which the major part of the engagement was fought. Lord STIRLING with picked American troops was ordered to hold the hills (including Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery) southeast of the house, against the English under General GRANT. This he did from two o'clock in the morning until shortly after noon when the British under General CORNWALLIS attacked him from the rear. Finding himself almost surrounded by the enemy, Lord STIRLING told most of his men to make their way across the nearby marshes to the American lines on Brooklyn Heights. With a company of Marylanders, he then engaged the attention of CORNWALLIS who had taken his position in the VECHTE house. He made threc desperate attacks on the building and then seeing that his retreating men had reached safety, ordered the Marylandcrs to surrender. Rather than give his sword to an Englishman, he made his way to the woods and gave himself up to a Hessian general. Many years after the engagement a tablet to commemorate the event was placed in the sidewalk of 5th Avenue. It has since been incorporated in the north gable of the reconstructed house. It reads: Here on the 27th of August, 1776, Two hundred and fifty out of four hundred brave Maryland soldiers, under the command of Lord STIRLING, were killed in combat with British troops under CORNWALLIS. Next Chapter..FLATBUSH DUTCH Houses..Index Main Return to TOWN Index Main Return to BROOKLYN Index Main