(The following appears in: "A History of the County of Westchester, from Its Present Time." By Robert Bolton Jr., Volume I, 1848, pgs 190-196.)
About two miles south of Tarrytown, a winding lane leads to Sunny Side, the residence of the Hon. Washington Irving. "There is scarcely (observes Mr. Downing,) a building or place more replete with interest in America than the cottage of Washington Irving, near Tarrytown. The legend of Sleepy Hollow, so delightfully told in the sketch book, has made every one acquainted with his neighborhood, and especially with the site of the present building there celebrated as the 'Van Tassel House,' one of the most secluded and delightful nooks on the banks of the Hudson. With characteristic taste, Mr. Irving has chosen this spot, the haunt of his early days, since rendered classic ground by his elegant pen, and made it his permanent residence. The house of 'Baltus Van Tassel' has been altered and rebuilt in a quaint style, partaking somewhat of the English cottage mode, but retaining old weathercocks and finials, the crow-stepped gables and the hall paved with Dutch tiles, are among the ancient and venerable ornaments of the houses of the original settlers of Manhattan, now almost extinct among us. There is also a quaint keeping in the cottage, and grounds around it, that assists in making up the chain of the whole; the gently swelling slope reaching down to the water's edge, bordered by prettily wooded ravines, through which a brook meanders pleasantly, and threaded by foot paths, ingeniously contrived, so as sometimes to afford secluded walks, and at others to allow fine vistas of the broad expanse of river scenery."1
Over the porch, is the following inscription:
Rebuilt by Washington Irving,
Geo. Harvey, Architect
Above the peaked turret of the portal, glitters a horse in full gallop, once the weathercock of the great Van der Hyden palace at Albany; the other upon the eastern gable formerly surmounted the Stadt House of New Amsterdam.
The interior is in perfect harmony with the exterior design of this quaint and venerable edifice. In the library are preserved the elbow chair and writing desk of Diedrich Knickerbocker.
"Van Tassel House" occupies the site of "Wolfert's Roost," which was built by Wolfert Ecker, an ancient Dutch burgher of this town.
In 1697, we find recorded the name of Jan Ecker, first accepted deacon of the Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow, which office he appears to have held for several years. By his wife, Magdalentje, Jan Ecker, left issue Wolfert, Cornelis and others.
The will of Wolfert Ecker bears date 1753, "wherein he bequeaths to his son, Stephen, a cow, or the worth thereof, more than the others, for his birth right, and to the child of his grandson, Wolfert Ecker, son of Sybout, twenty shillings, beside other bequests to the remainder of his children, viz. Sybout, Abram and Maretje." 2 A branch of this family still resides in the neighborhood. From the Eckers, this property passed by marriage to the gallant family of the Van Tassels, who figure so conspicuously in the writings of Diedrich Knickerbocker.
During the stormy period of the revolution, it belonged to "Jacob Van Tassel, or Van Texel, as the name was originally spelt, after the place in Holland, which gave birth to this heroic line." The following graphic sketch of the exploits of this redoubtable hero, is taken from the chronicle of the Roost: (See Van Tassels in the Revolution page).
1Downing's Rural Architecture, 335.
2Rec. Surrogate's Office, N. Y. lib. xix. 29.
Sunnyside is now a historic site of the Hudson Valley Organization and is open to the public.