The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow sits on a knoll above the Pocantico River.
Places & Landmarks

The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow

Nestled amidst the enchanting landscape of Sleepy Hollow, New York, lies a structure steeped in both history and folklore—the Old Dutch Church. As one of the oldest churches in the state, its weathered stones and stoic architecture have witnessed centuries of change, yet it remains an enduring symbol of the region’s rich cultural heritage. More to the point, this is the church and churchyard that appear in Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Early History of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow

The precise age of the building is unknown, but it seems likely to place it between 1685 when the church ball was cast in Holland and 1697 when the congregation was formally recognized by the synod of the Reformed Church. The small bell in the belfry today is still the original and it bears the Latin inscription from Paul’s epistle to the Romans, “Si Deus Pro Nobis, Quit Contra Nos?” Translated into English this reads “If God is with us, who can be against us.”

Architecture and Design

The church is a prime example of Dutch Colonial architecture, characterized by its modest size, thick stone walls, and gambrel roof. Its design reflects the practical and religious needs of the early settlers, providing a place for worship, community gatherings, and fortification during times of conflict.

Evolution and Preservation of the Old Dutch Church

Over the centuries, the church has undergone several renovations and while retaining much of its original character. In 1837, the church underwent significant remodeling, expanding its capacity and updating its interior. Despite these changes, efforts have been made to preserve its historical integrity, maintaining its status as a National Historic Landmark since 1961.

This is a post card titled "Old Dutch Church, showing site of Washingtons' Headless Horseman Bridge, Tarrytown, N.Y." Card was published by Barton & Spooner, Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y.
The Olmsted vault set into the hillside at the rear of the Old Dutch Church is visible in this post card. The first entombment in that vault was in 1873 so we can be confident this photo was taken sometime after that year.

Community and Legacy

The Old Dutch Church remains an active place of worship and a cultural hub for the Sleepy Hollow community. Its burial ground is a resting place for generations of local families, including prominent figures from colonial times to the present day.

Legends and Lore

Beyond its historical significance, the Old Dutch Church is intertwined with local folklore that has captivated imaginations for centuries. Washington Irving, the celebrated author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” immortalized the church in his tale of Katrina Van Tassel, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. According to legend, the ghostly specter of the Headless Horseman is said to roam the churchyard, adding an eerie yet irresistible allure to the church grounds, especially during crisp autumn days.

Due to its association with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the church attracts visitors from around the world, drawn by the allure of Irving’s ghostly tale and the chance to explore a piece of early American history. The church and its burial ground have been featured in numerous adaptations of Irving’s story, cementing its place in popular culture.

Visiting the Old Dutch Church

This is a consecrated building of an active congregation, be respectful of worship services, weddings, and funerals. Outside of October the church is seldom open for viewing, though visitors are welcome at Easter, Christmas Eve, and summer services.

The church and its burial ground are located on North Broadway in Sleepy Hollow. It is often confused with the adjacent but separate Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. This is a 17th century building, there are no restrooms and no parking on site. There is limited parking inside the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Cemetery from which you can access the churchyard. All vehicles and pedestrians must exit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery no later than 4:30 pm.

To make the most of your visit, take a guided tour of the church and churchyard or purchase a copy of Tales of the Old Dutch Burying Ground. A fold-out map at the center of the book guides you through the churchyard.

Jim is superintendent of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where he has researched the cemetery’s history for more than 20 years. He draws on an extensive collection of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown historical resources for the material on Sleepy Hollow Country.

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