This community, one of the first European settlements in Queens, started
from Dutch land grants along an arm of Newtown Creek (Dutch: Newtown Kills).
Today, a vibrant neighborhood north of Queenboro Plaza maintains a 350
year tradition. Look for the attractive community banners placed by the
Dutch Kills Civic Association. Architecturally distinguished, St. Patrick's
Church recently celebrated its centennial.
The first settlement in western Queens, in 1642, may have been Richard
Bruntall who owned 100 acres on the eastside of Dutch Kills at its intersection
with Newtown Creek. The farm included all of Blissville one half of Old
Calvary Cemetery. Ten years later he sold the western end to the Debevoise
family whose homes remained on Van Dam Street in 1900. The eastern end
of the farm was sold to William Herrick of Flushing who died a few years
later.His widow married Thomas Wandell. He died in 1691 after expanding
the farm to include all of Cavalry Cemetery and Laurel Hill. His nephew,
Richard Alsop inherited the farm. The colonial Alsop family burial ground
can still be seen among Cavalrys modern graves. The Alsop Farm,
which grew tobacco, was on the richest land in Newtown Township. With
the intrusion of industry in the 1840s on Newtown Creek, it was sold forming
the nucleus for Cavalry Cemetery.
The Brinekerhof House in old Dutch Kills
The west bank of Dutch Kills was granted by Gov. Kieft to Tyman Jansen,
who had been a ships carpenter. He sold the land to Joris Stevenson,
a sailor from Alst in Flanders, the ancestor of the Van Alst Family. For
200 years the land remained in the family and the farmhouse, built in
1766, stood a few feet east of Queens Blvd as late as 1910.
Jansens neighbor to the north was Burger Jorissen. After running
a blacksmith shop and a trading sloop along the Hudson, in June 1643 he
obtained the land along Bridge Plaza eastward to Jackson Avenue. By 1650,
he constructed a tidal gristmill that today would be described as between
41st Avenue and 40th Road south of Jackson Avenue.
Millstones circa 1657
This mill, and the long ditch supplying water to the mill pond, (called
"Burgers Sluice" and which started at about 48th Street
and Northern Blvd. lasted until 1861) when the Long Island Rail Road filled
them in. The farm became property of the Payntar Family, whose house,
at the beginning of Northern Blvd. just inside the rail yards stood for
200 years until the early 1900s. The mill stones, placed by the Payntar
family in the sidewalk in front of their home, and then again moved to
their present location on Queens Plaza North, are considered the oldest
European artifacts in Queens: they are believed to be imported from Europe
By the American Revolution, a road had grown up along both banks of Dutch
Kills. The west bank road is approximately Jackson Avenue between 41 Ave
and 43rd Avenue; the eastbank road is today Van Dam street. The stream
was crossed by a lane that today follows 41th Avenue to 28th Street. St.
Patrick's Church, a small store and a handful of houses made up the tiny
hamlet of Dutch Kills little over 100 years ago.
The Sunnyside Rail Yards and a few years later, the Queensboro Bridge
in 1909, changed this. The yards effectively cleared all traces of colonial
Dutch Kills by tearing down the ancient dwellings, that were unfortunately
viewed in those pre-Landmark days, as both decrepit and without modern
plumbing. At this time the community gained the old Long Island City High
School, one of the largest schools in Queens. Local residents fondly recall
Volkert's Hall and the Queensboro Arena.
Then: Brewster Building
Now: Bridge Plaza Tech Center
The Queensboro Bridge brought the Twentieth Century, and Manhattan, to
the community's doorstop. What had been open lots and empty fields only
a few decades before, became the center of one of the most important transportation
hubs in the entire region. By the mid-teens the IRT constructed the most
complicated station of the entire system at Queensboro Plaza.
Where there were small shops and homes, within a few years rose some
of the most significant buildings in the borough: The Brewster Building,
the Bank of Manhattan Building, and the Long Island Savings Bank Building
anchored Long Island City's important commercial district. The Queens
Chamber of Commerce was for many years at Queensboro Plaza.
Today these buildings on the Plaza are being retrofitted for the high-tech
demands of a new age. Dutch Kills, just minutes from Bloomingdales, again
beckons the savvy home buyer who wants convenience to Manhattan in a small
town setting. The first community in Queens stands on the threshold of
a bright future in the New Millennium!