The initial American Lefferts in the family was a first namer, Leffert Pietersen Van Haughwout. He arrived here on the Spotted Cow ship in 1660. The journey took seventy days across the Atlantic. Thank goodness he made it and then proceeded to marry and have 14 children. Brooklyn’s better off thanks to them.
There’s an audio version of this piece here:
The prominent Lefferts family continue to influence Brooklyn today. That’s thanks to their family storyteller, Gertrude. Her books and stories give us a better picture of Brooklyn history. It’s not just Gertrude’s writing that helped the borough. There’s the incredible Lefferts family farmhouse, a gem within Prospect Park. It sits on the park’s edge. So, you can see it passing by on Flatbush Avenue. But this landmark house still technically lies within the park.
Beginning in Brooklyn
It all started in Brooklyn when a guy with the first name Leffert got a 250 acre land grant. Two generations later the family designated their surname Lefferts. This nameshift was a common move among Dutch-Americans at the time. Slavery was also the norm in those days. In fact, the Lefferts family farm grew to its largest size in the days of American slavery. So much, in fact, that when the US abolished documented slavery the farm had reached 500 acres. That’s only about 80 acres fewer than modern day Prospect Park. It was tremendous by any measure.
A popular way to expand in those days was to marry your neighbor. Thus your fences came down and acres combined. One Lefferts gentleman did just that. He married into their equally enormous neighboring farm family. These two families thus became one influential and prosperous Lefferts entity. Powerful moves like this have created dynasties for centuries. Turns out it works in Brooklyn too.
Then the slaves were emancipated and it was decision time for the family. Lefferts farm had always been self-sustaining up to that point. They didn’t sell their harvest. It was mainly subsistence farming for flax linen and family food. So, the Lefferts decided to parcel off and rent their land rather than farm it anymore. This was the first of many prosperous Lefferts family choices.
In fact, even when they made improvements for Brooklyn, the Lefferts profited. As a prime example, they paved the first road in the borough, Flatbush Avenue. Turns out those six miles paid off. That’s because the Lefferts installed tolls along the road. A major throughway, everybody wanted to travel across Flatbush. Thus, all travelers had to pay. The family recouped their investment quickly and went on to far greater enterprises.
Lefferts Family Fun Today
Thanks to the Lefferts’ incredible impact on Brooklyn, their home remains special. Gertrude’s stories kept the family relevant and alive no matter how much time passed. She’s a big part of keeping the Lefferts family farmhouse thriving. But there’s also the Prospect Park Alliance. They support the house and all its events as part of their park. It’s these engaging events that keep the Lefferts family farmhouse a vital part of Brooklyn. Many families with kids visit the farmhouse for cool activities and year-round festivities.
They keep history alive at Lefferts family farmhouse by stimulating the five senses. The house hosts exciting and family friendly sensory experience events. That means hands-on engagement – like making scented soaps. In fact, every month of the year Lefferts celebrates a new theme. They connect each event with intriguing stories from history. So, the whole family revisits the past in a tangible way during their visit. Making that connection to the senses helps people remember the experience. The process grounds bits of history for us. It makes them real. This leaves a profound impression in the mind that’s more likely to last.
Extra Special Family Events
Many of these events draw up to a thousand visitors. So, Lefferts offers an early opening time for children with special needs. Some kids with autism (for instance) get overwhelmed in large crowds. An hour of pre-event time gives them the opportunity to get comfortable. That way more children can appreciate the fun. It’s thoughtful details like this that make Lefferts so special. They consider the impact and experience of every activity from start to finish. It’s why they let visitors choose their scent when hand-crafting candles and soaps. Specifics like this can make all the difference. They plant powerful memories in each guest’s mind.
There are many reasons the Brooklyn community loves Prospect Park. It grants glorious outdoor space to multifarious indoor city lifestyles. Lefferts family farmhouse takes this to the next level. For instance, many Brooklynites have never toasted marshmallows at an outdoor campfire before. It’s a rare apartment in NYC with that much backyard. But thanks to Lefferts Campfire Conversations, rustic fun like this awaits right around the corner. All you need to do is arrive at the scheduled time. Anyone can come to share in this beloved American tradition. Campfire chats are open to many topics and as diverse as the Brooklyn crowd gathered.
Learn about the Lefferts Fall Feast event in the video above. Funny thing is, it starts in the Spring. That’s because visitors plant root vegetable bulbs and seeds in the Lefferts Garden. In May of 2019 about 500 people attended this Spring planting event. Then to follow up in the Fall, 1000 people came to the Lefferts Harvest Festival. After all, feasting just about doubles the fun when digging in dirt. Costumed interpreters guide guests through the entire process with stories and assistance.
History lessons abound as everybody digs for veggies. After that collection, they wash and weigh the harvest. Leaders then record the yield for posterity. At last, everybody joins together to clean, chop, and cook stew. Of course, Lefferts family recipes help make it the most delicious event possible. Their Fall feast is just one of many festivities. Check out the Lefferts family farmhouse schedule here to find the perfect occasion for your visit.
Historic Houses Trust Rocks
Thanks to my partnership with Historic House Trust of NYC, I get to see living history up close and personal. Lefferts Family Farmhouse is just one of their 23 historic sites across NYC’s 5 boroughs. Travel 367 years of history right along with me! Check ‘em out on Instagram and at their website. I’d love to see you at one of their fantastic sites. Each visit brings new experiences and gripping stories that stay with you. I’m so grateful to HHTC for all the incredible work they do keeping history alive. They make it such fun!