It’s hard to think of a more entertaining magazine story published thus far in 2023. With wit, style, and empathy, Reeves Wiedeman details the peculiar war that erupted between an IHOP kingpin named Domenic Broccoli and Revolutionary War history enthusiasts when a dead body was found on a plot of land in the Bronx:
On Memorial Day, Broccoli drove to his property in Fishkill, where a crowd was gathering to protest his planned development. These were the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the town’s Revolutionary War history and, in Broccoli’s view, to making his life hell. For more than a decade, the Friends have argued—based on some evidence, but not as much as they would like—that there are more Revolutionary War soldiers buried on Broccoli’s land than anywhere else in the United States. Broccoli argues that this is rubbish and accuses his foes—with some evidence, but not as much as he would like—of going so far as to plant human remains on his lot in their effort to make it seem more grave-stuffed than it actually is.
“Is Domenic Broccoli here?” Keith Reilly, a co-president of the Friends, asked the protesters through a microphone. “Mr. Broccoli, we dare you to be a profile in courage.” The crowd included a half-dozen Revolutionary War reenactors with muskets and several people Broccoli has sued, including Bill Sandy, the archaeologist who found the first dead body. The protesters marched up and down the edge of the property—careful not to trespass lest Broccoli call the police—while honks came in from passing cars.
Broccoli had told me that he had planned to crash the protest with “guns a-blazing” but ultimately thought better of it. “If I go there and then my Bronx comes out, it’s not gonna go well,” he said. His Bronx had come out plenty in his campaign to build the IHOP as part of a Colonial-themed strip mall he was calling Continental Commons. The Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot are a group of history buffs and retiree volunteers, and yet Broccoli claimed he had found it necessary to spend more than a million dollars battling them with archaeologists, lawyers, and the private investigators he hired as “spies” to infiltrate the Friends. As it happened, one of his spies was at the Memorial Day protest holding up a STOP CONTINENTAL COMMONS sign while surreptitiously recording the group in case anything might help the RICO case Broccoli was building.
Broccoli insists that he’s not anti-history. He doesn’t dispute the fact that people are buried on his land or that the area is steeped in Revolutionary significance; his vision for the IHOP involves a wait staff in tricorne hats and bonnets. But it was still a bit of a mystery exactly whose bones were buried on his property and who put them there. And, besides, if there really were hundreds of soldiers beneath the ground, Broccoli believed it to be self-evident that he was the one pursuing the vision of life, liberty, and happiness that George Washington’s troops had fought and died for: the right to sell pancakes where they were buried.