One of my favorite things in this urban jungle I call home is the Park Avenue chickens.
You heard me. I’m talking about the chickens that live on Park Avenue. Just a few blocks north of “$1.5 million for a one-bedroom ‘co-op,’” there are actual “coops” with chickens in them, which you can purchase for your urban farm!
116th and Park is home to one of my favorite nursery/garden suppliers. They used to be located on Second Avenue between 102nd and 103rd, in the fabled site where Lou Gehrig lived (or something like that). But they sold out, moved, and are now housed under the elevated Metro-North tracks — which would drive me mad.
The chickens don’t seem to mind.
But are chickens really so strange in this urban wilderness? Perhaps in 2015, but they were de rigueur in this city not so very long ago. Farming life was once the lifeblood of the isle of Manhatus, when this place was New Amsterdam and Dutch doors were all the rage. While business and government and trade were being staged at the southern tip of the island, the northern regions were truly rural; and up at that northern tip, Park Avenue chickens are not the only vestige of Manhattan’s farming past. Enter The Dyckman Farmhouse.
Nestled in the small neighborhood at the foot of Fort Tryon Park, under the medieval tower at The Cloisters, the Dutch Colonial-style farmhouse was built circa 1784 and opened as a museum in 1916. Today the historic farmhouse is surrounded by a small, lush garden in the midst of an otherwise very old-school New York landscape. Gas station to the east, bodega to the south. If you turn your head too fast on 204th Street and Broadway you just might miss it. But you shouldn’t.
I don’t want to become the crazy lady of New York Natives that only rambles on about historic homes in NYC — but this place is unique; it stands alone amongst the very few, but otherwise grand and/or distinctly urban historic buildings that the City has not yet destroyed to build new co-ops or rentals. It is the only remaining farmhouse in the City. And that’s pretty amazing.
It has a stone foundation, but the building is made of wood, with the low ceilings and small rooms that distinguish a cold-climate farm. The current collection features some small treasures from the era, and bits and pieces of the areas past; but the magic in this place is the structure itself and the simple dignity it preserves at it faces the City in all of its fire-escaped glory.
New York to me has always been about juxtapositions; the high, the low, the beautiful, and the horribly ugly…all together, right beside each other, making this city happen. That is what inspired New York Natives in the very first place.
The Dyckman Farmhouse is a lovely little reminder of New York’s not-so-distant past, right in the midst of the urban mayhem. I love it for its perseverance, its irreverent will to look as it always has, and its ability to “hold out” and hold on in a city that makes us all exhausted with its incessant change. It is the definition of a true New York Native.