An old church in Cortlandt is getting a renovation:
Just in time for its formal recognition as a key point along a new national trail marking a major campaign during the Revolutionary War, Old Saint Peter’s Church in the Van Cortlandtville section of Cortlandt Manor, is receiving an “inside-out” makeover this spring.
Work is currently underway on the exterior of the 18th century Cortlandt church which stands prominently on the hillside in the midst of Old Saint Peter’s Cemetery at Oregon Road and Locust Avenue. The restoration is being done in two phases: The first, focusing on the exterior, includes long-needed siding repair, painting and work on the entrance and windows. The second phase will include interior painting, pew and floor refinishing and plaster restoration.
The forerunner of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in downtown Peekskill, Old Saint Peter’s in Van Cortlandtville was erected in 1767 and is on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. General George Washington is reported to have led morning prayer at the church when he was in the area during the Revolutionary War (1775-83). The church served as a military hospital for French troops who were in the Cortlandt-Peekskill area in 1781 and again in 1782 under the command of General Rochambeau. Eight of the French soldiers died there and seven are buried in unmarked graves in the Old Cemetery, which surrounds the church. A large memorial stone in front of the church and a nearby line of commemorative crosses were dedicated on July 3, 1999.
The French troops were en route to and from Yorktown, Virginia, where they helped compel the surrender of British forces under General Charles Cornwallis in October 1781, effectively deciding the war in favor of independence for the United States.
The French presence in Van Cortlandtville has led to Old Saint Peter’s being designated as one of about a dozen sites in New York to be highlighted along the new National Historic Trail known as the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R). When complete, the trail will lead travelers through sites in nine states that are significant in the collaboration of the French (led by Count Rochambeau) and Americans (led by General Washington) who were allies. The trail will run from Rhode Island, where the French arrived in 1780, through New York, where they crossed the Hudson between Verplanck and Stony Point in 1781 and back in 1782, then down to Virginia to eventually end at Boston, where they sailed away at the end of 1782.
The National Park Service, which is in charge of the trail project, plans to erect W3R signage outside Old Saint Peter’s and at other New York sites this year. Also targeted for trail markers are the waterfront in Verplanck (site of the river crossings) and the Peekskill Museum, which stands on a portion of Camp 37, based on Drum Hill. New York is the first state to have the signs erected.
President of Renovation Alliance Inc., Mike Corrao, is handling the exterior work at the church under the direction of the Friends of Old Saint Peter’s Committee for Restoration and Recognition. A celebration is planned to mark the restoration and the installation of the signage.
Donations for the restoration may be sent to: Saint Peter’s Church, 137 North Division Street, Peekskill, NY 10566. Please specify that the donations are for Old Saint Peter’s.