Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. Sleepy Hollow Restorations, Inc., Tarrytown.
Significance. This stone manor house, along with its grounds and outbuildings, is the most authentic and significant survival of the 18th century Dutch-English manor house of the Hudson Valley. Its oldest portion was constructed between 1665 and 1681. Simplicity of line and detail set the house apart from more pretentious manor houses such as Philipsburg Manor, Upper Mills, at North Tarrytown, and Philipse Manor Hall, in Yonkers. Van Cortlandt Manor was remodeled in the mid-18th century, the period which is reflected in its recent restoration.
The Van Cortlandt family in America was founded by Oloffe Stevense Van Cortlandt, a soldier who in 1638 came from the Netherlands. In 1677, his son, Stephanus, started acquiring land in the lower Hudson Valley, on the Croton River. A few years later he began the construction of his country house, likely on the foundation of an earlier fort-trading post that may have been erected as early as 1665.
William III recognized Stephanus' semifeudal estate, amounting to 86,000 acres, as the Manor of Cortlandt on June 16, 1697. It was not until 1749, however, that the manor became a dwelling in fact as well as name. In that year, Pierre Van Cortlandt, Third Lord of the Manor, occupied it on a permanent year-round basis. Before moving his family to the manor, Pierre enlarged it; he added a second story and otherwise modified the earlier building to the extent seen by today's visitor.
Pierre added new lustre to the family name. A foremost leader of colonial New York, he was an active patriot in the War for Independence and became the first Lieutenant Governor of the State, 1777-95. During the war, the family abandoned the estate, which was damaged by passing troops and vandals. When it was safe for the family to return, the damage was repaired. Until 1940, the property was the home of succeeding generations of Van Cortlandts.
Present Appearance. The house and a small portion of the original manor lands were purchased in 1953 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the property is now a unit of Sleepy Hollow Restorations, Inc. Under these auspices, the house and 175 acres of the original estate have been expertly restored. In addition to the manor house, the restoration includes the estate office building built by the Third Lord; the Ferry House, an 18th-century tavern that served travelers on the old Albany Post Road; and the gardens, orchards, and outbuildings of the manor. The house is furnished largely with Van Cortlandt family items, which date from the 17th to the early 19th century. Excellent guide service is provided. 
NHL Designation: 11/05/61
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005