There are many questions that remain open around the construction of Philipse Manor Hall. Archaeological and architectural reports give us a rough timeframe, but exact details from historic records are missing. Where exactly did all the materials come from? Do we know the names of the laborers who did the work? Who ordered the wood carvings used for the overmantels?
Relying on what is known about the colony and the heavy importation of most items needed for daily life and colony expansion, as well as taking into account archeological discoveries, we can surmise many things. Some things, however, may always remain a mystery.
Stone: Except for the brick façade on the Manor Hall’s east side, the main building material is local coursed rubble. This stone has been matched on the new wing added in 2022.
Wood: The wood probably came from native trees milled at the sawmill originally constructed by Adrian van der Donck, and later improved by Frederick Philipse. Lumber was a leading export of the colony.
Glass: The glass for the windows was probably imported as most was throughout the colonies. Glass was very costly. The first glass factory in the colonies was erected in Jamestown about 1608, but it was not successful and did not remain open long. The first glass factory in New York was not established until 1732. Another in southern New Jersey was opened in 1739. Much of the glass in place today, both flat plate glass and "wavy" blown glass, was installed in the 20th century. A notable exception is the fanlight window in the transom above the south door.
Bricks: The bricks that level both the door frames and the windows would have been imported, probably from Holland. Records from earlier archaeologic digs describe a Dutch yellow brick, dating from the seventeenth century, in the foundation of the east façade of the north wing. Bricks were used as ballast on ships from Holland, then used in construction in the colony. Shipping records from the later voyages under Frederick Philipse I show bricks as part of the cargo, which strongly suggest that all the bricks used in the Manor’s expansion were imported.
Dutch Door: Margaret Hardenbroek was working as a trader when the original structure was built. Legend has it that she imported the large front door from Holland. Shipping information from some of her fleet’s voyages do exist; however, none mention a door.
Tile: An excavation in the basement of the oldest section of the house unearthed a piece of green glazed tile. It was common for basements in homes in Holland to have tiled floors. If the space was used for storage, as historic records indicate, having a tiled floor would have kept the room both cleaner and dryer.
Shipping records from some of the Philipse vessels show materials linked to the building industry among the numerous goods imported. Examples from 1686:
· 2 doz Compasses for Carpenters
· 7 reames Coppy paper
· 7 hhds qt 14 Barrll small nayles
· 18 Barres 20 bundles Iron
· 27 Barres Wisp Steel
· 1 doz Shovells
· 60000 Bricks
· 4000 paving Tyles
· 3 cases--385 foote Gally Tyles
Frederick Philipse arrived in New Netherland as the carpenter for the Dutch West India company. The term “carpenter,” however, is misleading. His knowledge would have been comparable to an architectural engineer as well as a hands-on carpenter, brick layer, and surveyor. One of his earliest assignments was to work on the building of the fort in New Amsterdam, where he led a team of workers made up of both enslaved Africans owned by the Dutch West India Company and soldiers. Throughout his career as the company carpenter, records indicate he routinely worked with a mixed crew of enslaved and free men. Since the work was being done on Philipse’s own property, it is probable that the workers were mainly enslaved men he owned and free men hired as needed.
Besides the Manor Hall and Castle Philipse at the Upper Mills, Philipse also had several other houses in Manhattan on choice pieces of property. It is probable that he drew the plans for all of them and oversaw their construction. Although we know the names of the streets they were on, no records remain of what they looked like.
The expansion of Frederick Philipse II’s political career, family, and the Manor Hall seem to go hand in hand. After attaining majority at the age of 21, he was elected to the New York Assembly and began building his political career. Following his marriage in 1756, he and his wife Joanna Brockholls began spending more time at their country home in Yonkers. The first renovation expanded the existing building left by his grandfather. As Frederick Philipse II took on more political responsibilities for Westchester, he was required by law to live in the county for longer periods of time. The Manor Hall may have originally been their summer retreat, but following the Slave Insurrection of 1741, the family spent more time there, and it gradually became their primary residence.
Currently, we have no historical records linking the exterior expansion to the interior enhancements. Nor do we have any records relating to the gardens which graced the east side lawn. As more historic records are located, we hope to learn more about the details of the Manor Hall’s construction.