The site of the Schuyler family farm at the Flats is located along the Hudson River near the northern border of what is today the village of Menands. The land originally was part of Rensselaerswyck. By the time of the American Revolution, a town called Watervliet had been carved out of Van Rensselaer manor - although title to land in it still resided with the Van Rensselaer family and to those who had obtained titles from them.
Family patriarch Philip Pieterse Schuyler may have purchased the farm site from the Van Rensselaers as early as 1672. By 1690, a farm house had been built on the property and was used by the widow of Philip Pieterse who left it to her son, Mayor Pieter Schuyler.Following his death, custody of the property went to his son, Phillipus Schuyler, and his wife and cousin, Margarita Schuyler. They added another large section about 1735. A childless widow, "Madam Schuyler" lived there and shared her home with a number of nieces, nephews, and guests including the young Scottish-born author Anne Grant, lived there during the 1760s and later recalled her time at "the flats." On Margarita Schuyler's death in 1782, the property appears to have passed to Peter Schuyler - a nephew.
Several times during the eighteenth century (and more recently for military re-enactments), the flat plain of the overall property was used by wartime armies as encampments. In 1764, Albany resident Cornelius Cadmus was identified as the "tavernkeeper for Schuyler at the Flatts".
The building burned in either 1759 or 1763 but quickly was rebuilt for Madam Schuyler. At that time, a large wing was added facing the river and obscuring the view of the older structures from the east. A half century later, the Erie Canal cut through the property on the western side of the structures. Undergoing several additions and alterations, Schuyler family members lived there until 1910. The image shown on the left documents standing features during the 1870s. The property passed out of the Schuyler family in 1929. Falling into disrepair, the site was vandalized and became a notorious haunt for young people. It burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances in 1962.
The property is owned by the Town of Colonie - which purchased an initial 2.5 acres there in 1975. In 1990, the town was deeded an additional 9.3 acres by Albany County. A portion of the Schuyler Flats site was excavated by archeologists in 1971. The "Schuyler Flats Archeological District" was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
At its largest, the "Schuyler Flats" encompasses what the Times Union has called "34 acres of overgrown fields in one of the grittiest sections off Broadway in Menands." In 2002, the town of Colonie made this resource accessible when it opened the Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park!
The most extensive published source on the Schuyler house at the Flats is found in Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley before 1776 (New York, 1929; reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1965), pp. 94-96. See also, Eberlein, in Historic Houses.
The Flats online: Begin with the Wikipedia article; Presently (2015), two online resources are most notable further illuminating the early history but most importantly bring the story up to the present. They are presented by Brian Abbott and Paula Lemire. A growing number of Internet-based expositions follow from this gateway link.
Photograph taken during the 1870s by Augustus Pruyn, Augustus Pruyn Collection, New York State Library. The section in the foreground represents the earlier incarnation of the farmhouse. The adjoining structure with the gambrel roof in the rear was added after the fire of 1759.
Article by Jane Gottlieb, published in the Times Union on September 21, 1998. Does not seem to be reachable online today!
Detail showing houses north of Albany in 1767 from an engraved print of the "Map of the Manor Renselaerswick" surveyed by John R. Bleecker in 1767. Print in the Graphic Archive of the Colonial Albany Project. From left to right along the River Road (roughly Broadway/Route 4) are #18 - the Patroon's at Water vliet (Van Rensselaer Manor House); #19 -late Jeremiah Schuyler's place; #20 - Peter Schuyler; #21 - late Col. Phillip Schuyler's place (the Flats).
first posted: 2000; last updated 1/27/13