Liberty Weekend brings history to life in Bensonhurst

Musket shots and cheers for revolution could be heard earlier this month as Bensonhurst residents took a trip back in time to when Brooklyn was just farms and America was a newly formed dream come true.

The annual Liberty Weekend, a blast-from-the-past event sponsored by the Friends of Historic New Utrecht to bring attention to Brooklyn’s long history and the historical weight of the New Utrecht Reformed Church, returned to the grounds of the historical church on Saturday, June 3.

“History in my mind is fun. It’s fun that a lot happened here,” says Dave Elligers, president of the organization. “We have a lot of history and it’s interesting, and we hope people in the community will recognize and people outside will want to get involved.”

History was indeed made fun. Revolutionary War re-enactors roamed around the red, white and blue-covered grounds. Historical lectures and presentations were held, and a bake sale raised money for the church’s restoration.

The festivities also included exclusive tours of the historic 1828 church showing off the progress of its restorations that have been going on, as well as the Old New Utrecht Cemetery, which is only open to the public during special events.

Appearances were made by the Royal Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch, a group of British soldiers from the Revolutionary War. But they weren’t alone. More re-enactors representing American and British soldiers and even our founding father,George Washington, made appearances at the star-spangled event.

The weekend ended with a celebration of the 234th anniversary of the Liberty Pole, where the first American flag – at the time only with 13 stars – was raised in the colony to celebrate the departure of British soldiers in 1783.

The celebration of the country’s history and the Utrecht Reformed Church has been held since the founding of the Friends of Historic New Utrecht 20 years ago. The goal of the founder was to draw attention to “the historic significance of the church,” says Elligers.

The church has been around 1677. It lasted through and played a role in the Revolutionary War. In 1828 it was moved and rebuilt with some stones from the original church to accommodate the changing needs of the congregation. It was declared a landmark in 1966 and has been going through restorations since the early 2000s.

“I think it’s useful to know that this area has a long history,” says Elligers. It’s the 340th anniversary of the structure that was built by the original settlers.  To him, it’s important people know that “the congregation is the oldest continuing institution in the community” and recognize that history.

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