Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church

The Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church is a Dutch Reformed congregation in Manhattan, New York City, which has had a variety of church buildings and now exists in the form of four component bodies: the Marble, Middle, West End and Fort Washington Collegiate Church, all part of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Churches of New York. The original congregation was established in 1628.[1]

Church in Manhattan, New York
Marble Collegiate Church, on Fifth Avenue at 29th Street

. . . Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church . . .

Peter Minuit “had Kryn Frederick, the Company’s engineer, build a solid fort … called Fort Amsterdam. It was surrounded by cedar palisades, and was large enough to shelter all the people of the little colony in case of danger. Inside this fort there was a house for the Governor, and outside the walls was a warehouse for furs, and a mill which was run by horse-power, with a large room on the second floor to be used as a church.”[2]

The congregation’s first church building, built on what is now Pearl Street in New York City facing the East River, to replace services held in lofts, was a simple timber structure with a gambrel roof and no spire.[1] The lofts described probably indicate the premises provided by Kryn Frederick.

Other sources claim a “second church” was built was located just outside the fort. In those sources, this claimed as the church that Governor Van Twiller built, which was described as “little better than a barn”. This is probably describing the Pearl Street premises of 1633. “By this time negro slaves were being brought to the colony from Africa. They did the household work, while the colonists cultivated the fields. These slaves did most of the work on a new wooden church which was set up just outside the fort, for the new minister.”[3]

By 1638, when Willem Kieft became director, “The fort was almost in ruins from neglect. The church was in little better condition. The mills were so out of repair that even if the wind could have reached them they could not have been made to do their work properly.”[4]

The second church was located within Fort Amsterdam’s walls. The stone church had a spire with weathercock, and was the tallest structure in the city. After the fall of New Amsterdam to the British, the structure was reused as a military garrison church for the Anglican faith.[1]

The church that Walter Van Twiller had built was little better than a barn. The minister wanted a new one, and so did his congregation. Governor Kieft decided that there should be one of stone, and that it should be built inside the fort. There was a question as how to secure the money to build it. Kieft gave a small amount, as did other colonists, but there was not enough. Fortunately, just at this time, a daughter of Bogardus, the minister, was married. At the wedding, when the guests were in good humor, a subscription-list was handed out. The guests tried to outdo one another in subscribing money for the new church. Next day some of the subscribers were sorry they had agreed to give so much, but the Governor accepted no excuses and insisted on the money. It was collected, and the church was built.[4]

This church was the site where the Rev. Everardus Bogardus denounced Director-General of New Netherland Willem Kieft’s administration during Kieft’s War[5] which was probably the reason the church was moved into the fort in the first place and where the banished shipwreck survivor Cornelis Melyn returned and caused a writ from the States General to be presented to Petrus Stuyvesant on March 8, 1649. As Burton describes the confrontation:[6]

Melyn appeared at this meeting and demanded that Their High Mightinesses’ Letter and the mandamus be read and explained to the people. In the midst of considerable excitement, Melyn handed the mandamus to Arnoldus van Hardenbergh to be read aloud. Stuyvesant in a rage snatched the mandamus from van Hardenbergh’s hands, and in the confusion the seal was torn off. Melyn then offered Stuyvesant a copy of the mandamus, whereupon the latter was induced by some of the bystanders to return the original, which was read, including of course the summons commanding Stuyvesant to enter appearance without delay at the Hague to defend the judgment. Stuyvesant replied: “I honor the States General, and their commission and will obey their commands, and will send an agent to maintain the judgment as it was well and legally pronounced.” Melyn demanded a written reply, but this neither Stuyvesant nor his Secretary would give.

The 1731 Middle Dutch Church as it appeared in 1830

. . . Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church . . .

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