Brooklyn History Photo of the Week: New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church

New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church, ca. 1910; v1981.15.103, Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides; Brooklyn Historical Society.

From the desk of Cassie Mey, Project CHART intern: I am currently scanning the Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides of Brooklyn, 1890-1910. Many of the images in this collection reflect the end of an era when townships like New Utrecht, made up of old Dutch farmlands, were annexed into Brooklyn. Several weeks ago I came across this slide of the New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church and was positively puzzled by the white pole in front of the church. I couldn’t believe that this was a pre-World War I image. I wondered how a radio antenna was present before there was radio.

As my research revealed, the original New Utrecht liberty pole was first erected on November, 25, 1783 – a New York holiday known as “Evacuation Day” –   to celebrate the British evacuation of Long Island. In the late eighteenth century, liberty poles – long, wooden poles, sometimes topped with a red “liberty cap,” –  were erected in protest of monarchial tyranny. They became popular during the American Revolution but were used around the world, most notably during the French Revolution.

The New Utrecht liberty pole reminds us of how happy many citizens of New Utrecht were to see the British set sail for home in 1783. After the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776, the British army took control of Long Island, often commandeering the supplies and even some of the homes of residents in towns like New Utrecht. Though more than a few Kings County residents were loyalists at the start of the Revolutionary War, by its end most had come to resent their British occupiers. Liberty poles like the one in New Utrecht marked the joyous celebration of the departure of the British after a protracted and difficult war.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. To search our entire collection of images visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Fri, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

About Cassie Mey

Cassie is a Brooklynite of 10 years, a Project CHART intern at BHS and a Pratt Institute Master of Library and Information Science student. Alongside her work in archives, Cassie is a modern dancer and choreographer, and she continues to perform with dance companies in the US and abroad.
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One Response to Brooklyn History Photo of the Week: New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church

  1. Walter Greenspan says:

    Now almost forgotten, Evacuation Day, especially in the NYC area, was celebrated as a holiday long before the Fourth of July:

    On November 25, 1783, the British Army boarded their naval vessels and evacuated New York City (then only coterminous with New York County), their wartime headquarters and their last military position* in the United States during the Revolutionary War.

    As the British sailed away south in retreat through the Narrows separating Staten Island on the west and Long Island on the east, the last thing they saw, as their ships sunk below the horizon, was the Flag of the United States of America flying atop the Liberty Pole (an extended flag pole) in the frontyard of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Hamlet of New Utrecht, Town of New Utrecht, in the south-central part of Kings County. Today this location is at Christopher Columbus Boulevard (18th Avenue) and Liberty Pole Boulevard (84th Street) in the Bensonhurst neighborhood in the south-central part of the New York City Borough of Brooklyn. (The NYC Borough of Brooklyn is coterminous with the NYS Kings County).

    Replaced six times over the years, the 106′ Liberty Pole is the last remaining Liberty Pole in the original thirteen United States. On top of the Pole is the original eagle and weathervane. The eagle is made of wood and has a 5′ wingspan. After two hundred and twenty-seven years, the weather has weakened it considerably and it has been reinforced with iron bands.

    The eagle has looked over the bay and seen many sailing vessels, steamships and war ships. It has been said that the eyes of this golden eagle has looked upon more change in the world’s history than occurred from the days of Nebuchadnezzar to the day when the eagle was raised.

    Here’s the URL for the New Utrecht Liberty Pole Association:

    Here’s the URL for the Dutch Reformed Church (celebrated its 334th anniversary on Tuesday, October 27, 2011):

    New Yorkers celebrated November 25 as Evacuation Day for well over a century. But, with the warming of relations with England immediately preceding World War I and R. H. Macy’s publicity campaigns for a parade celebrating another late November festival, Evacuation Day celebrations faded away.

    I hope this information is useful or, at least, interesting.

    * Although the Treaty of Paris of 1783 said that Britain would evacuate all posts within the new United States, they did not. Scattered posts from present-day Vermont to present-day Michigan remained in British hands until Jay’s Treaty of 1795. Niagara was one of these British held forts on U. S. soil.

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