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The Bronx’s Van Cortlandt House museum, which dates back to 1748.
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New York City’s 20 oldest buildings, mapped

The city's oldest building dates to 1652

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The Bronx’s Van Cortlandt House museum, which dates back to 1748.
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For centuries, the one hallmark of New York City has been constant change. Even back in 1839, ex-mayor Philip Hone lamented that "the spirit of pulling down and building up" had gripped the city. "New York," he wrote in his diary, "is rebuilt about once in 10 years."

That makes it all the more surprising that the city has managed to hold onto a significant number of structures that date all the way back to the middle of the 17th century, when the colony was still New Netherland. Instead of a strictly chronological list of the city's oldest structures, which are concentrated in Brooklyn and Staten Island, below instead are the three oldest buildings in each borough (plus an honorable mention for each).

Why are the city's oldest buildings in Brooklyn, and the "youngest" oldest ones in Manhattan? Thanks to the fires in 1776, 1835, and 1845, the oldest parts of the city, like lower Manhattan, didn't stand a chance. But the more important reason is development. Manhattan was always "the city," and old buildings are anathema to the sort of urban center New York has always aspired to be.

It's not just the pace of change—which is faster in "urban" Manhattan than, say, "rural" Queens—but the mindset that is different. Then and now, competitive, space-starved Manhattanites like shiny new things that serve as physical evidence to prove dominance over other buildings, cities, and nations.

Before the fun starts, two caveats: Many New York City buildings have spurious dates attached to them, such as the so-called "Lady Moody House" in Gravesend, and thus don't appear here. Also, modern conservation efforts (you'll see that many buildings on this list are under restoration) are likely to ultimately alter this timeline.

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Brooklyn: Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum

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Built ca. 1652, with additions

In 1652, the Flatlands section of Brooklyn was centered around the Dutch village of New Amersfoort. That year, Pieter Claesen Wyckoff—a former indentured servant from Rensselaerswyck, near Albany—and his wife Grietje moved to Brooklyn and likely built this one-room farmhouse where they raised their 11 children. After many years of additions, that original room is the kitchen of the house-museum, and it gives remarkable insight into the lives of Dutch farmers on what was then frontier. (Note that the museum can only be visited on a guided tour, and that tours are offered between 1 and 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only.)

A large brown house in the middle of an expansive green lawn surrounded by trees. James Nevius

Brooklyn: Jan Martense Schenck House

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Built ca. 1675

Brooklyn's second-oldest home stood for 275 years in the Mill Basin section of Flatlands (at 2133 East 63rd Street), about a 45-minute walk from the Wyckoffs' farm. For generations it was owned by the Schenck family, but in 1952, facing demolition, it was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum. In the 1960s, many of the later additions to the home were stripped away and it was installed in the museum's period rooms as a typical Dutch house. In 2005, the museum painstakingly dismantled the house, removed anachronistic flourishes from the earlier installation, and repainted the house red (based on 17th-century paint samples).

The interior of a historic house. There is a dining table with chairs and other kitchenware along the wall. There are exposed wooden beams on the ceiling and walls. Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn: Hendrick I. Lott House

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Built ca. 1720, with additions

In 1719, Johannes Lott acquired a farm in Flatlands, and built a one-room home very similar to the Wyckoff house. In the 1790s, Johannes's grandson, Hendrick, expanded the farmhouse, moving his grandfather's original building to the other side of the property to serve as the kitchen. Eventually expanding the farm to 200 acres, the Lott family continued to work the land well into the 20th century and the last Lott to own the home died there in 1989. Now owned by the city's Parks Department, the house is undergoing a restoration.

Brooklyn: Old Stone House

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Honorable mention: The Old Stone House in Park Slope was built in 1699 and demolished in 1897. This reconstruction, using some original material, dates to 1933.

Queens: The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead

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Built ca. 1654, with additions

The oldest home in Queens is also the oldest in the city that is still used as a private dwelling. It was likely built in 1654 as a one-room farmhouse by Abraham Riker. Over time, the Rikers (whose nearby island holds the infamous prison) eventually came to be known as the Lents, after their hometown in the Netherlands. The home has been owned by Michael and Marion Duckworth Smith since 1975, who have painstakingly restored the property. Though not generally open to the public, group tours can be booked.

The exterior of a house. The facade is yellow and the roof is red. There are trees surrounding the house. There is a path outside the house leading to the entrance. Max Touhey

Queens: The Bowne House

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Built ca. 1661

The story of John Bowne is familiar to anyone who has studied religious freedom in America: The Flushing Remonstrance, drawn up in 1657, was a plea from the Society of Friends (Quakers) and their supporters in Queens for a measure of religious tolerance in a colony that was notably intolerant. The Remonstrance had little immediate effect, so when Bowne began inviting Quakers to worship in his home, he was arrested and banished to the Netherlands, where he was able to plead his case directly to the Dutch authorities. Much to the surprise of Dutch director-general Peter Stuyvesant, his bosses in Europe sided with Bowne, sending him home in 1664 and admonishing Stuyvesant that "the consciences of men ought to be free and unshackled." The home is undergoing a multi-year renovation and is currently open to anyone on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m., and by appointment.

The exterior of a historic old house. There is weathered white siding on the facade and a green roof. There is a stone fence outside of the house. Wikipedia

Queens: Friends Meeting House

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Built in 1694

After John Bowne's return to America in 1664, the Quakers of Flushing continued to meet on his property for many years, even welcoming George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, in 1672. In 1676, Bowne donated a portion of his land for a Quaker graveyard and in 1692 the Friends acquired the lot next door for a proper meeting house—which, today, is the oldest house of worship in New York City. Tours are available at noon on Sundays after the weekly meeting.

The exterior of a large house with siding. This is a historic image which is in black and white. There is shrubbery on the side of the house. Library of Congress

Queens: Queens County Farm Museum

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Honorable mention: The Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park dates back to 1697 and is the city's oldest working farm.

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Staten Island: Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House

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Building ca. 1662, with additions

Staten Island's oldest home was built by Pierre Billiou, one of the founders of Oude Dorp (today's South Beach), who'd arrived from France in 1661. Sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century, Billiou's son-in-law, Thomas Stillwell, moved another house to the property from elsewhere in Oude Dorp, connecting it to Billiou's home. Three more additions in the 18th and 19th centuries brought the structure to its current size. In the 1920s, photographer Alice Austen (whose house is an honorable mention, below) operated the Box Tree Tea Room out of the house. Now part of Historic Richmond Town (but not relocated to its main site), the home is sometimes open for visitors.

The exterior of a house. There is white siding and a thatched roof. There is a wooden fence, lawn, and trees that surround the house. NYPL

Staten Island: Britton Cottage

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Built ca. 1670, with additions

The single greatest collection of colonial buildings in New York, Historic Richmond Town has splendid examples of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century houses, many of which were relocated to the site to escape demolition. Once such house is the Britton Cottage, a hybrid fieldstone/wood structure, the oldest section of which dates to about 1670. The home originally stood in New Dorp, where it was built by Obadiah Holmes, a judicial clerk. The small house may have also served court and governmental functions. Slated for renovation, the home is not currently open for visitors.

A historic image of the exterior of a house. The house is made of stone and there are plants and greenery growing along one side of the house. The house is surrounded by trees. Staten Island Museum

Staten Island: Conference House Park

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Built ca. 1680

If things had gone differently on this spot on September 11, 1776, the course of the Revolutionary War would have been very different. On that day, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge, and John Adams led a delegation to discuss peace with Lord Richard Howe, Admiral of the British Fleet. However, since the first item on Britain's agenda was the revocation of the Declaration of Independence, the talks soon fizzled out, and 10 days later, George Washington's troops were being chased out of Manhattan, which would remain the British headquarters throughout the war. The house in which the peace conference took place had been built around 1680 by Christopher Billopp, a ship's captain, and has been altered little in the intervening centuries. The house is open April to mid-December on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

The exterior of a stone house with a grey roof. The house has multiple windows. Wikipedia

Staten Island: Alice Austen House

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Honorable mention: The Alice Austen House not only dates back to 1690, but is filled with photographs by this pioneering woman in the field.

The exterior of a house. The house is white with a brown roof. There is a green lawn and trees surrounding the house. The Alive Austen House official website

The Bronx: Van Cortlandt House Museum

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Built ca. 1748

Not only did George Washington sleep here, this large estate was also where Patriots hid important city documents after the British takeover of Manhattan during the Revolutionary War. The Van Cortlandts were among New Amsterdam's earliest and wealthiest colonists. Oloff Stevenson Van Cortlandt ran the colony's first brewery; his son, Stephanus, was mayor; his granddaughter Anne married Stephen Delancey, one of the most powerful figures in English Colonial New York. The Van Cortlandt House was built as the country seat of Frederick Van Cortlandt, and the property originally housed a farm, brewery, and timber mill. A self-guided tour walks visitors through the house and garden.

The exterior of a house. The facade is brown brick and there is a painted white door. There are multiple windows. There is a path leading up to the entrance of the house. Wikimedia Commons

The Bronx: The Valentine Varian House

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Built ca. 1758

When blacksmith Isaac Valentine built this two-story farmhouse, it would have been a stone's throw from the Boston Post Road, the main artery in and out of New York, ensuring Valentine plenty of work in his shop. Donated to the Bronx Historical Society in 1965, the building now houses the Museum of Bronx History.

The outside of a house. The house is red brick with a large white door. There are trees surrounding the house. Wikipedia

The Bronx: Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

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Built in 1816

According the Bronx County Historical Society, Poe Cottage is the borough's third oldest building. Built in what was then the village of Fordham in 1816, the Poes—Edgar Allan, his consumptive wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law—moved in around May 1846. It was here Virginia died in her tiny bed, every warm article of clothing she owned piled on top of her. Edgar Allan Poe was still technically a resident when he died, but that was under strange circumstances in Baltimore two years later. The cottage was moved to its current site in 1913 and has a new visitor center and gallery.

The Bronx: Lorillard Snuff Mill

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Honorable mention: The Lorillard Snuff Mill from 1840, now on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden, is the oldest factory building in New York City and the oldest tobacco plant in the country. (It's also sometimes called, simply, The Stone Mill.)

The exterior of a house. The house facade is multicolor brick and there are trees surrounding the house. One side of the house has green ivy growing on the outer wall. Wikipedia

Manhattan: Morris Jumel Mansion

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Built in 1765

Not surprisingly, the oldest buildings in Manhattan are the youngest on this list, with Manhattan's oldest home constructed more than a century later than the Wyckoff home in Brooklyn. This Palladian mansion, built by British Loyalist Roger Morris, remains one of the finest homes in the city. In 1776, George Washington used the house as his headquarters before the Americans fled the city entirely. Later purchased by Stephen Jumel, his widow, Eliza, married former Vice President Aaron Burr in the parlor here in 1833. In addition to tours of the house, the mansion also hosts temporary exhibitions.

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Manhattan: St. Paul's Chapel

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Built in 1766

The oldest church in Manhattan, St. Paul's was built as a "chapel of ease" connected to the more upscale Trinity just six blocks south on Broadway. The area around the church was known as "Holy Ground," a double entendre: it was owned by the church, but it was also where Manhattan's prostitutes plied their trade. The best surviving example of Georgian ecclesiastical architecture in the city, the plumes above the pulpit may represent the Prince of Wales. George Washington worshipped here and his pew is preserved, along with that of Governor George Clinton.

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Manhattan: Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

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Built ca. 1784

A wonderful reminder of when northern Manhattan was rural farmland, the Dyckman farmhouse was built around 1784 by William Dyckman to replace an earlier family home destroyed during the Revolution. The house remained in the family through the 1870s, when it was sold to become a rental property. Neglected for years, the house was purchased by by Alice Dyckman Dean and Fannie Fredericka Dyckman Welch, who had the home sympathetically restored as closely as possible to its 1784 appearance and opened for visitation. It’s open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Manhattan: Fraunces Tavern

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Honorable mention: Fraunces Tavern is primarily a 1907 reconstruction of the famous inn, but a few fragments of the original 1719 building on this spot, built by Stephen Delancey, were used in the new building.

A large apartment building. The building has red bricks and on the lower level is a historic tavern with a large entryway. Library of Congress

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Brooklyn: Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum

Built ca. 1652, with additions

In 1652, the Flatlands section of Brooklyn was centered around the Dutch village of New Amersfoort. That year, Pieter Claesen Wyckoff—a former indentured servant from Rensselaerswyck, near Albany—and his wife Grietje moved to Brooklyn and likely built this one-room farmhouse where they raised their 11 children. After many years of additions, that original room is the kitchen of the house-museum, and it gives remarkable insight into the lives of Dutch farmers on what was then frontier. (Note that the museum can only be visited on a guided tour, and that tours are offered between 1 and 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only.)

A large brown house in the middle of an expansive green lawn surrounded by trees. James Nevius

Brooklyn: Jan Martense Schenck House

Built ca. 1675

Brooklyn's second-oldest home stood for 275 years in the Mill Basin section of Flatlands (at 2133 East 63rd Street), about a 45-minute walk from the Wyckoffs' farm. For generations it was owned by the Schenck family, but in 1952, facing demolition, it was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum. In the 1960s, many of the later additions to the home were stripped away and it was installed in the museum's period rooms as a typical Dutch house. In 2005, the museum painstakingly dismantled the house, removed anachronistic flourishes from the earlier installation, and repainted the house red (based on 17th-century paint samples).

The interior of a historic house. There is a dining table with chairs and other kitchenware along the wall. There are exposed wooden beams on the ceiling and walls. Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn: Hendrick I. Lott House

Built ca. 1720, with additions

In 1719, Johannes Lott acquired a farm in Flatlands, and built a one-room home very similar to the Wyckoff house. In the 1790s, Johannes's grandson, Hendrick, expanded the farmhouse, moving his grandfather's original building to the other side of the property to serve as the kitchen. Eventually expanding the farm to 200 acres, the Lott family continued to work the land well into the 20th century and the last Lott to own the home died there in 1989. Now owned by the city's Parks Department, the house is undergoing a restoration.

Brooklyn: Old Stone House

Honorable mention: The Old Stone House in Park Slope was built in 1699 and demolished in 1897. This reconstruction, using some original material, dates to 1933.

Queens: The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead

Built ca. 1654, with additions

The oldest home in Queens is also the oldest in the city that is still used as a private dwelling. It was likely built in 1654 as a one-room farmhouse by Abraham Riker. Over time, the Rikers (whose nearby island holds the infamous prison) eventually came to be known as the Lents, after their hometown in the Netherlands. The home has been owned by Michael and Marion Duckworth Smith since 1975, who have painstakingly restored the property. Though not generally open to the public, group tours can be booked.

The exterior of a house. The facade is yellow and the roof is red. There are trees surrounding the house. There is a path outside the house leading to the entrance. Max Touhey

Queens: The Bowne House

Built ca. 1661

The story of John Bowne is familiar to anyone who has studied religious freedom in America: The Flushing Remonstrance, drawn up in 1657, was a plea from the Society of Friends (Quakers) and their supporters in Queens for a measure of religious tolerance in a colony that was notably intolerant. The Remonstrance had little immediate effect, so when Bowne began inviting Quakers to worship in his home, he was arrested and banished to the Netherlands, where he was able to plead his case directly to the Dutch authorities. Much to the surprise of Dutch director-general Peter Stuyvesant, his bosses in Europe sided with Bowne, sending him home in 1664 and admonishing Stuyvesant that "the consciences of men ought to be free and unshackled." The home is undergoing a multi-year renovation and is currently open to anyone on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m., and by appointment.

The exterior of a historic old house. There is weathered white siding on the facade and a green roof. There is a stone fence outside of the house. Wikipedia

Queens: Friends Meeting House

Built in 1694

After John Bowne's return to America in 1664, the Quakers of Flushing continued to meet on his property for many years, even welcoming George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, in 1672. In 1676, Bowne donated a portion of his land for a Quaker graveyard and in 1692 the Friends acquired the lot next door for a proper meeting house—which, today, is the oldest house of worship in New York City. Tours are available at noon on Sundays after the weekly meeting.

The exterior of a large house with siding. This is a historic image which is in black and white. There is shrubbery on the side of the house. Library of Congress

Queens: Queens County Farm Museum

Honorable mention: The Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park dates back to 1697 and is the city's oldest working farm.

Shutterstock

Staten Island: Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House

Building ca. 1662, with additions

Staten Island's oldest home was built by Pierre Billiou, one of the founders of Oude Dorp (today's South Beach), who'd arrived from France in 1661. Sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century, Billiou's son-in-law, Thomas Stillwell, moved another house to the property from elsewhere in Oude Dorp, connecting it to Billiou's home. Three more additions in the 18th and 19th centuries brought the structure to its current size. In the 1920s, photographer Alice Austen (whose house is an honorable mention, below) operated the Box Tree Tea Room out of the house. Now part of Historic Richmond Town (but not relocated to its main site), the home is sometimes open for visitors.

The exterior of a house. There is white siding and a thatched roof. There is a wooden fence, lawn, and trees that surround the house. NYPL

Staten Island: Britton Cottage

Built ca. 1670, with additions

The single greatest collection of colonial buildings in New York, Historic Richmond Town has splendid examples of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century houses, many of which were relocated to the site to escape demolition. Once such house is the Britton Cottage, a hybrid fieldstone/wood structure, the oldest section of which dates to about 1670. The home originally stood in New Dorp, where it was built by Obadiah Holmes, a judicial clerk. The small house may have also served court and governmental functions. Slated for renovation, the home is not currently open for visitors.

A historic image of the exterior of a house. The house is made of stone and there are plants and greenery growing along one side of the house. The house is surrounded by trees. Staten Island Museum

Staten Island: Conference House Park

Built ca. 1680

If things had gone differently on this spot on September 11, 1776, the course of the Revolutionary War would have been very different. On that day, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge, and John Adams led a delegation to discuss peace with Lord Richard Howe, Admiral of the British Fleet. However, since the first item on Britain's agenda was the revocation of the Declaration of Independence, the talks soon fizzled out, and 10 days later, George Washington's troops were being chased out of Manhattan, which would remain the British headquarters throughout the war. The house in which the peace conference took place had been built around 1680 by Christopher Billopp, a ship's captain, and has been altered little in the intervening centuries. The house is open April to mid-December on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

The exterior of a stone house with a grey roof. The house has multiple windows. Wikipedia

Staten Island: Alice Austen House

Honorable mention: The Alice Austen House not only dates back to 1690, but is filled with photographs by this pioneering woman in the field.

The exterior of a house. The house is white with a brown roof. There is a green lawn and trees surrounding the house. The Alive Austen House official website

The Bronx: Van Cortlandt House Museum

Built ca. 1748

Not only did George Washington sleep here, this large estate was also where Patriots hid important city documents after the British takeover of Manhattan during the Revolutionary War. The Van Cortlandts were among New Amsterdam's earliest and wealthiest colonists. Oloff Stevenson Van Cortlandt ran the colony's first brewery; his son, Stephanus, was mayor; his granddaughter Anne married Stephen Delancey, one of the most powerful figures in English Colonial New York. The Van Cortlandt House was built as the country seat of Frederick Van Cortlandt, and the property originally housed a farm, brewery, and timber mill. A self-guided tour walks visitors through the house and garden.

The exterior of a house. The facade is brown brick and there is a painted white door. There are multiple windows. There is a path leading up to the entrance of the house. Wikimedia Commons

The Bronx: The Valentine Varian House

Built ca. 1758

When blacksmith Isaac Valentine built this two-story farmhouse, it would have been a stone's throw from the Boston Post Road, the main artery in and out of New York, ensuring Valentine plenty of work in his shop. Donated to the Bronx Historical Society in 1965, the building now houses the Museum of Bronx History.

The outside of a house. The house is red brick with a large white door. There are trees surrounding the house. Wikipedia

The Bronx: Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

Built in 1816

According the Bronx County Historical Society, Poe Cottage is the borough's third oldest building. Built in what was then the village of Fordham in 1816, the Poes—Edgar Allan, his consumptive wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law—moved in around May 1846. It was here Virginia died in her tiny bed, every warm article of clothing she owned piled on top of her. Edgar Allan Poe was still technically a resident when he died, but that was under strange circumstances in Baltimore two years later. The cottage was moved to its current site in 1913 and has a new visitor center and gallery.

The Bronx: Lorillard Snuff Mill

Honorable mention: The Lorillard Snuff Mill from 1840, now on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden, is the oldest factory building in New York City and the oldest tobacco plant in the country. (It's also sometimes called, simply, The Stone Mill.)

The exterior of a house. The house facade is multicolor brick and there are trees surrounding the house. One side of the house has green ivy growing on the outer wall. Wikipedia

Manhattan: Morris Jumel Mansion

Built in 1765

Not surprisingly, the oldest buildings in Manhattan are the youngest on this list, with Manhattan's oldest home constructed more than a century later than the Wyckoff home in Brooklyn. This Palladian mansion, built by British Loyalist Roger Morris, remains one of the finest homes in the city. In 1776, George Washington used the house as his headquarters before the Americans fled the city entirely. Later purchased by Stephen Jumel, his widow, Eliza, married former Vice President Aaron Burr in the parlor here in 1833. In addition to tours of the house, the mansion also hosts temporary exhibitions.

Shutterstock

Manhattan: St. Paul's Chapel

Built in 1766

The oldest church in Manhattan, St. Paul's was built as a "chapel of ease" connected to the more upscale Trinity just six blocks south on Broadway. The area around the church was known as "Holy Ground," a double entendre: it was owned by the church, but it was also where Manhattan's prostitutes plied their trade. The best surviving example of Georgian ecclesiastical architecture in the city, the plumes above the pulpit may represent the Prince of Wales. George Washington worshipped here and his pew is preserved, along with that of Governor George Clinton.

Shutterstock

Manhattan: Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

Built ca. 1784

A wonderful reminder of when northern Manhattan was rural farmland, the Dyckman farmhouse was built around 1784 by William Dyckman to replace an earlier family home destroyed during the Revolution. The house remained in the family through the 1870s, when it was sold to become a rental property. Neglected for years, the house was purchased by by Alice Dyckman Dean and Fannie Fredericka Dyckman Welch, who had the home sympathetically restored as closely as possible to its 1784 appearance and opened for visitation. It’s open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shutterstock

Manhattan: Fraunces Tavern

Honorable mention: Fraunces Tavern is primarily a 1907 reconstruction of the famous inn, but a few fragments of the original 1719 building on this spot, built by Stephen Delancey, were used in the new building.

A large apartment building. The building has red bricks and on the lower level is a historic tavern with a large entryway. Library of Congress