Carrie Wick of Peotone, Illinois, shown here with Rev. Jeffrey Gargano, traces her family history back to Guiliam Bertholf, the first pastor of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, a congregation that continues today as the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns. Rev. Bertholf organized the congregation as Protestant Dutch Reformed in 1697 and ministered to it for 27 years, traveling from Hackensack, New Jersey, to the church several times a year to preach, conduct the sacraments, catechize children and visit the sick. As the sole Dutch minister in New Jersey, he also ministered to churches in Hackensack and Passaic and up to nine other isolated congregations. He is Ms. Wick's seventh great-grandfather. She was traveling in the area and made a special effort to attend the Easter Sunday 10:30 a.m. worship service. Welcome, Carrie!
The old steps are gone, the walkway is blocked off as work begins at the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow to build a new landing, stairs and wheelchair ramp. The work is scheduled to be finished in time for the start of summer worship services in mid-June. Meanwhile, the church is closed. The Burying Ground remains open; access is via the paved road that runs alongside the Burying Ground. (Enter through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery gate just south of the church.)
"The congregation and friends are doing a remarkable thing for the community," Waddell Stillman, president of Historic Hudson Valley, told a gathering at the Old Dutch Church on April 3. The occasion was a groundbreaking ceremony for the $350,000 Accessibility Project. "Making historic buildings accessible to the physically challenged is one of the most difficult things to do well; we can all think of ungainly examples," Stillman said. "Hats off to the architect and congregation for a sensitive solution. It's a beautiful project, brilliantly conceived." Stillman and Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray, who also spoke, noted that the congregation had kept up repairs on the building over three centuries. "The congregation's remarkable stewardship allows us to enjoy the building today," Stillman said.
Taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony were (L to R) Fred Volpacchio of Hudson Design Build Group; Rev. Jeffrey Gargano; Renee Chillemi, vice president of the Consistory at the Reformed Church; Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray; Joanne Tall of Kamen Tall Associates; and Aubrey Hawes, president of Friends of the Old Dutch Church & Burying Ground.
Work will begin immediately to install the planned new entrance with expanded landing and wheelchair ramp and paved sidewalks. Completion is projected for mid-June, when regular summer worship starts.
The photograph above shows how the church entrance will look when the Old Dutch Church Accessibility Project is completed in mid-2017. A more welcoming stairway will replace the uneven stones, and there will be a new wheelchair ramp and an expanded landing at the threshold. A fundraising effort has so far raised nearly $260,000. The total cost is projected to be $350,000. Says the Rev. Jeffrey Gargano, pastor of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns (continuing congregation of the Old Dutch Church), "Just as we have been gifted this marvelous house of worship by previous generations, we now have an opportunity to enhance it for future generations." Online donations
The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow will "Marco Panuccio Presents O Holy Night: A Classic Christmas" on December 11. The candlelight concert begins at 7:30 p.m. This production was described by the Chicago Tribune as "what a holiday concert should be: beautifully sung, moving, intelligent." Mr. Panuccio is an EMMY nominated and award winning lyric tenor. He has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Beijing Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and other esteemed opera companies. Expect timeless pieces such as Shubert's "Ave Maria" and Franck's "Panis Angelicus," as well as yuletide songs from a more modern era, including "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Mr. Panuccio will be accompanied on piano by David McConnell.Tickets: $25; $15 students
The Reformed Church recently welcomed Donald Guenther and his family, pictured (L-R): Kyung and Donald, currently of Allentown, PA, and nephew Klaus and his wife, Heidi, of New York City. Don and Heidi are holding the silver communion beakers with which Don's seventh great-grandparents Sybout Herrickse Krankheyt and Marytie Abrahamsen Rycken celebrated Communion in 1697, the year the congregation of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow was officially formed. Klaus is holding the Baptismal Basin used to baptize Don's fifth great-grandfather Hercules Kranckheyt on June 24, 1727, in the Sleepy Hollow Old Dutch Church.
An environmental club at Sleepy Hollow High School is doing a series of garden plantings in the rear courtyard. They have a section that has simulated gravestones for different kinds of seeds next to a cutout of the Old Dutch Church and the Headless Horseman. The "headstones" read (left to right): RIP Lettuce, In Memory of Basil, RIP Mint, Here Lies Pumpkins.
A choir made up of members of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns and other churches taking part in the Community Thanksgiving Service Nov. 25 rattled the rafters from their seats under the roof. The congregation much appreciated the anthem chosen, "Simple Gifts From God," and the closing song, "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies." Afterward, there was hot cider for everyone! See the full story.
Church members and friends brought the flavor of colonial Dutch days to the Tarrytown Halloween Parade on Oct. 25 with a float featuring a windmill and colonial Dutch dress. The annual parade capped a busy day at the Old Dutch Church Fest, which ran for three weekends, ending Saturday, Nov. 1.
Mid-afternoon on Friday, Oct. 31, was a good time to bring the children to the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, spread a blanket in the Burying Ground and read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Irving's famous tale of the Headless Horseman, which is set in and around the old church. In Irving's "Legend," Ichabod Crane is chased by the Headless Horseman and races for the safety of the Old Dutch Church grounds, a refuge then and still today.