From New Amsterdam to New York

Church and Sunday in Old New York,
page 6 of 16

Of the seating arrangement of this Flatbush church Dr. Strong says: —

“The male part of the congregation were seated in a continuous pew all along the wall, divided into twenty apartments, with a sufficient number of doors for entrance, each person having one or more seats. The residue of the interior of the building was for the accommodation of the female part of the congregation, who were seated on chairs. These were arranged into seven rows or blocks, and every family had one or more chairs in some one of these blocks. This arrangement of seats was called ‘De Gestoeltens.’ Each chair was marked on the back by a number or by the name of the person to whom it belonged.”

When the church was remodelled, in 1774, there were two galleries, one for white folk, one for black; the benches directly under the galleries were free. In the centre of the main floor were two benches with backs, one called the Yefrows Bench, the other the Blue Bench. The former was for the minister’s wife and family; the other was let out to individuals, and was a seat of considerable dignity.

Many of the old Dutch churches, especially those on Long Island, were six-sided or eight-sided; these had always a high, steep, pyramidal roof terminating in a belfry, which was often topped by a gilded weerhaen, or weathercock. The churches at Jamaica and New Utrecht were octagonal. The Bush-wick church was hexagonal. It stood till 1827,—a little, dingy, rustic edifice. This form of architecture was not peculiar to the Dutch nor to the Dutch Reformed Church. Episcopal churches and the Quaker meetinghouse at Flushing were similar in shape.

When the bold sea-captain De Vries, that interesting figure in the early history of New Netherland, arrived in churchless New Amsterdam, he promptly rallied Director Kieft on his dilatoriness and ungodliness, saying it was a shame to let Englishmen see the mean barn which served Manhattan as a church; and he drew odious comparisons,— that “the first thing they build in New England after their dwelling-houses is a fine church.”


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