Historic Structures

Lefferts House, Brooklyn New York

Date added: March 20, 2010 Categories: New York House Early Colonial

This house is located near the Empire Boulevard entrance to Prospect Park. Previous to 1918 it was located at 563 Flatbush Avenue, on the west side of the street, between Midwood and Maple Streets. Originally, it was on a tract of land which was purchased from the Indians by the early Dutch settlers in the early part of the 17th century.

In 1654 this plot became part of a village which the Dutch called Midwout or Middle Woods, and now as known as Flatbush.

In 1660 Lefferts Pietersen van Hagewout, the elder, came to America from Holland and received this parcel of land from the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant.

Lefferts Pietersen van Hagewout erected the original house some time after his arrival here and it may be definitely assumed as the latter part of the 17th century.

The Dutch surrendered the New Netherlands to the English in 1664 and it became known as the province of New York. The terms of the surrender provided respect of property rights of the Dutch settlers residing there, and since the land belonging to Lefferts Pietersen van Hagewout was effected, a confirmation of the patent was granted to him by the English governor, Colonel Thomas Dongan. This patent included the whole town, including Midwout or Flatbash and was executed on the 12th of November, 1685. After the death of Lefferte Pietersen van Hagewout, the elder, the house and land passed into the hands of his son, Lefferte Pietersen van Hagewout. He held it until 1717 when he conveyed the homestead to his son Jan or John for a consideration of 1400 pounds.

Jan or John Lefferts, great grandson of the first settler, owned and lived in the house until August 27, 1776, when it was accidentally or by intent destroyed by fire during the Battle of Long Island. The fire was set by American riflemen, who were ordered to fire the crops in order to prevent the supplies of grain from falling into the hands of the British. Jan or John Lefferts died shortly after the fire, his death receded as October, 1776. The property then passed into the hands of his son Pieter Lefferts, First Lieutenant of the Brooklyn Militia during the Revolution. Later he was a member of the Convention to adopt the Constitution at Poughkeepsie on June 37, 1788, State Senator in 1791. and Judge of the Court of Sessions and Common Pleas.

Using the old foundation, timbers and unburned portions of the original house, Pieter Lefferts and a few skilled carpenters built the present homestead in 1777. Judging from the analogy of other Dutch houses of the period and the fact that the Dutch were exceedingly conservative, it shall probably not be far from right in assuming that the new homestead followed closely the pattern of the original. The homestead has remained in the possession of the Lefferts family until 1918, when it was presented to the City of New York to serve as a museum. During this year it was moved from its original site at 553 Flatbush Avenue to Prospect Park at an expense of $16,000.

At present it belongs to the City of New York and is leased to the Fort Greene Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who maintain it under the supervision of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Department of Museums. It is being used as a museum at present (1936) and is occupied by a caretaker employed by the Department of Parks.