Tag Archives: New Amsterdam

Happy Birthday Washington Irving!

Erastus Dow Palmer, Washington Irving (1783-1859), 1865. Gift of Mrs. Anna T. E. Kirtland, as a memorial to Mr. Jared T. Kirtland, 1865.4On April 3, 1783 Writer and satirist Washington Irving was born in New York City. He best known for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” but I will always love him best for coining the name of New York’s basketball team!

In 1809, Irving published his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker. Through the Knickerbocker pseudonym, Irving poked fun at the city’s self-important Dutch elite, in which Knickerbocker was a fairly common last name. He also pulled an elaborate prank in anticipation of the book’s release, posting “missing person” adverts in city newspapers, claiming Knickerbocker, a Dutch historian, had gone missing from his hotel room. Continue reading

What Was New York City Like in 1670?

Daniel Denton, A Brief Description of NEW-YORK: Formerly Called New-Netherlands, 1670. Book. New-York Historical Society Library, LIB.Y.1670.DenIn 1670, New York had been New York for just six years—the name changed to honor the Duke of York when English forces seized control of the Dutch colony.  But the city was open for business, and many back in Europe were curious about this center of trade across the Atlantic, open in the midst of the Age of Exploration.

Daniel Denton was a town clerk in Jamaica, Long Island, and from 1665-1666 served as justice of the peace for New York. He returned to England briefly in 1670, where he composed this pamphlet, “A Brief Description of New-York,” aimed at encouraging English settlers to come to the New World. Continue reading

New Guide: Exploring Historic Dutch New York

Exploring Historic Dutch New York has been co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Dover Publications (2012). The easy-to-read guide is filled with hundreds of historic facts and anecdotes about the greater New York area. Exploring Historic Dutch New York is the only travel guide and reference book currently in print that encompasses the historic Dutch elements of the former New Netherland colony in present-day New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Edited by Gajus Scheltema and Heleen Westerhuijs with an introduction by Russell Shorto, this guide tours important sites and also serves as a cultural and historical reference. Seventeen international scholars explore topics such as Dutch art and architecture, Dutch cooking, immigration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, furniture and antiques, and more. Color photographs and maps are included throughout the guide. Continue reading

1st Jewish Congregation Torah Scroll Exhibition

Rare and centuries-old liturgical objects, manuscripts, maps and other historic artifacts—including a Torah scroll rescued from the hands of British troops during the American Revolution — will be on loan to the New-York Historical Society beginning November 11, 2011, for the installations The Resilient City and Treasures of Shearith Israel.

The presentations of Treasures of Shearith Israel and The Resilient City at the renovated and transformed New-York Historical highlight the history of religious freedom in New York City and honor the first Jewish congregation to have been established in North America—a congregation that remains vibrant and active today, and is a neighbor of New-York Historical.

Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in 1654 by the first Jews to settle in North America: a group of 23 immigrants who came to New Amsterdam from their previous place of residence in Recife, Brazil. From 1654 through 1825, Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City. The congregation met in rented quarters until 1730, when it constructed its first building, which was located in downtown Manhattan on Mill Street (now known as South William Street). Many of the furnishings from the 1730 building are now installed in an intimate chapel, called the Little Synagogue, in Shearith Israel’s current home, consecrated in 1897, on the Upper West Side.

The Torah Scroll will be on display in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court in the Rotunda of the New-York Historical Society, where it will be surrounded by four late-20th-century views of the New York cityscape by artist Richard Haas. This installation will establish a dialogue between the city’s past and present and help reinforce the underlying themes of diversity, tolerance and resilience that are also addressed in inaugural installations presented in New-York Historical’s new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, where visitors may explore the history of the United States as seen through the lens of New York. The many other significant objects on loan to New-York Historical from Shearith Israel will be displayed in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture.

These loans have been facilitated Norman S. Benzaquen.

Photo: Congregation Shearith Israel, (founded 1655) New York, 1897 building. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Manhattan Grid System Focus of Exhibit

The first comprehensive exhibition to trace one of the most defining achievements in New York City’s history—the vision, planning, and implementation of Manhattan’s iconic grid system—will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York from December 5, 2011, through April 15, 2012.

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan for Manhattan, 1811—2011 will document the development of the “Commissioners’ Plan,” which in 1811 specified numbered streets and avenues outlining equal rectangular blocks ranging from (today’s) Houston Street to 155th Street and from First Avenue to Twelfth Avenue.

The exhibition, which is organized on the occasion of the bicentennial of the plan, will elucidate, through maps, photographs, and other historic documents, this monumental infrastructure project—the city’s first such civic endeavor—which transformed New York throughout the 19th century and laid the foundation for its distinctive character.

Some 225 artifacts will be on view in the exhibition, which is organized chronologically and geographically, leading visitors from 17th-century, pre-grid New York through the planning process and the explicit 1811 Commissioners’ Plan, and from the massive and elaborate implementation of the plan to contemporary reflections on New York and visions for its future.

“The 1811 grid was a bold expression of optimism and ambition,” Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum said. “City commissioners anticipated New York’s propulsive growth and projected that the city—still relatively small at the time and concentrated in what is now Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village—would extend to the heights of Harlem. The 1811 plan has demonstrated remarkable longevity as well as the flexibility to adapt to two centuries of unforeseeable change, including modifications such as Broadway and Central Park. The real miracle of the plan was that it was enforced.”

The exhibition will showcase the illustrious—most notably, John Randel, Jr., who measured the grid with obsessive care. Randel was an apprentice to Simeon DeWitt, the surveyor general of New York State from 1784 to 1834. Between 1808 and 1810 Randel measured the lines of streets and avenues at right angles to each other, and recorded distances and details about the island, its features, and its inhabitants. This resulted in a manuscript map of the grid plan, which he completed by March 1811. Randel continued surveying the island from 1811 to 1817, setting marble monuments (one of which will be on view in the exhibition- there were to have been 1,800) to mark the intersections of the coming grid. Between 1818 and 1820 Randel drafted a series of 91 large-scale maps of the island, now known as the Randel Farm Maps (ten of which will be on view). An article written in the 1850s cited Randel as “one of our most accurate engineers,” further stating that his survey of New York City was done “with such a mathematical exactness as to defy an error of half an inch in ten miles.”

The commissioners’ detailed notes about the grid will also be on view in the exhibition, explaining the plan and expressing their intent to “lay out streets, roads, and public squares, of such width, extent, and direction, as to them shall seem most conducive to public good…-” (From “An Act relative to Improvements, touching the laying out of Streets and roads in the City of New-York, and for other purposes. Passed April 3, 1807.” )

Other colorful figures will be highlighted, including William M. “Boss” Tweed, who implemented high-quality improvements, advanced services, and pushed forward many amenities while at the same time benefitting his associates.

Other rare and exquisitely detailed maps dating from 1776 to the present will be on view, alongside stunning archival photographs portraying the island of Manhattan throughout various stages of excavation. An extraordinary street-by-street explanation of the plan in the words of the commissioners—Gouverneur Morris, Simeon De Witt, and John Rutherfurd—will be on view as will other historic documents, plans, prints, and more.

The merits of the grid will be debated. Historians have viewed it as the emblem of democracy, with blocks that are equal and no inherently privileged sites. Historians have also praised its utility, its neat subdivisions that support real estate development. The rectangular lots of Manhattan’s grid parallel Thomas Jefferson’s national survey, which organized land sales in square-mile townships. The grid manifests Cartesian ideals of order, with streets and avenues that are numbered rather than named for trees, people, or places. Frederick Law Olmsted bemoaned its dumb utility and lack of monuments and other features. Jane Jacobs credited city streets with creating New York’s public realm. And Rem Koolhaas called the grid “the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization: the land it divides, unoccupied- the population it describes, conjectural- the buildings it locates, phantoms- the activities it frames, nonexistent.”

The Greatest Grid will reframe ideas about New York, revealing the plan to be much more than a layout of streets and avenues. The grid provided a framework that balanced public order with private initiative. It predetermined the placement of the city’s infrastructure, including transportation services, the delivery of electricity and water, and most other interactions. Manhattan’s grid has provided a remarkably flexible framework for growth and change.

Visitors will have the opportunity to consider New York’s preparation for the future and whether or not the grid will enable the city to face 21st-century challenges. New proposals for the city, the results of a competition, will be on view in a separate, related exhibition co-sponsored by the Architectural League. The Greatest Grid will also feature “12 x 155,” a conceptual art video by artist Neil Goldberg along with other artistic responses, such as original drawings from the graphic novel City of Glass (Picador, 2004) by Paul Auster, illustrated by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

The Greatest Grid is co-sponsored by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

The exhibition is accompanied by a companion book of the same title, co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Columbia University Press. Dr. Hilary Ballon, University Professor of Urban Studies & Architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, conceived of the exhibition, is its curator, and is the editor of the companion book.

A related exhibition, on view concurrently at the Museum, will feature the results of a competition in which architects and planners were asked for submissions using the Manhattan street grid as a catalyst for thinking about the present and future of New York- this exhibition is co-sponsored by the Architectural League of New York.

First Manhattans: The Indians of Greater New York

The Indian sale of Manhattan is one of the world’s most cherished legends. Few people know that the Indians who made the fabled sale were Munsees whose ancestral homeland lay between the lower Hudson and upper Delaware river valleys. The story of the Munsee people has long lain unnoticed in broader histories of the Delaware Nation.

First Manhattans, a concise distillation of the author’s more comprehensive The Munsee Indians, resurrects the lost history of this forgotten people, from their earliest contacts with Europeans to their final expulsion just before the American Revolution.

Anthropologist Robert S. Grumet rescues from obscurity Mattano, Tackapousha, Mamanuchqua, and other Munsee sachems whose influence on Dutch and British settlers helped shape the course of early American history in the mid-Atlantic heartland. He looks past the legendary sale of Manhattan to show for the first time how Munsee leaders forestalled land-hungry colonists by selling small tracts whose vaguely worded and bounded titles kept courts busy—and settlers out—for more than 150 years.

Ravaged by disease and war, the Munsees finally emigrated to reservations in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Ontario, where most of their descendants still live today. This book shows how Indians and settlers struggled, through land deals and other transactions, to reconcile cultural ideals with political realities. It offers a wide audience access to the most authoritative treatment of the Munsee experience—one that restores this people to their place in history.

Robert S. Grumet, anthropologist and retired National Park Service archeologist, is a Senior Research Associate with the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His numerous publications include The Lenapes and The Munsee Indians: A History.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

33rd Annual New Netherland Seminar

Many people know that Pieter Stuyvesant surrendered the Dutch colony of New Netherland to the English in 1664. Fewer know that the Dutch regained control of their former possessionalmost as easily as it had been lost nine years earlier. “The Colony Strikes Back: the 1673 Recovery of New Netherland” is the theme of the 33rd Annual New Netherland Seminar, Saturday, Sept. 25, presented by the New Netherland Institute (NNI). Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., in the Carole Huxley Theatre at the Cultural Education Center in Albany.

How could the Restoration of government by New Netherland take place against the world power of England? The seminarwill explain such themes as what was happening in the nations of Europe, the daring exploits of the Dutch fleet, the administration of Governor Anthony Colve and then the changes when New Netherland went back to being New York.

Eminent scholars will give presentations throughout the day. They are drawn from the roster of research fellows of the New Netherland Project, which continues under its expanded identity as the New Netherland Research Center to translate original 17th-century Dutch colonial documents.

Joyce Goodfriend, Ph.D., of the University of Denver, will give an overview of theconditions before and after the Restoration.

DennisMaika, Ph.D., will analyze the economic climate. His focus is on Dutch merchants in English New York City. Donald G. Shomette will describe the Dutch naval campaign of the combined fleets of the Zeeland and Amsterdamsquadrons.

David Voorhees, Ph.D., will talk about the Dutch Administration of
Governor Anthony Colve.

Daniel Richter, Ph.D., will draw connections between the Restoration
of New Netherland and the Restoration of the Stuarts in England.

Len Tantillo, history artist, will use his own paintings and drawing to illustrate images of New York 1660-1720. A framed original pencil portrait of Admiral Cornelis Evertsen of the Zeelander Squadron by Tantillo will be sold in a silent auction at the dinner Saturday evening to benefit the New Netherland Institute. In addition, a print of a painting commissioned by Dr.Andrew A. Hendricks will be raffled. The painting, which shows the land owned by Hendricks’ early Dutchancestors, is “The Mesier Mill, Manhattan, c. 1695.” The settlement clustered around a landmark windmill, is on the land now known as Ground Zero in Manhattan.

Following the box lunch, the annual Hendricks Award will be presented to Dirk Mouw for his dissertation “Moederkerk and Vaderland: Religion and Ethnic Identity in the Middle Colonies, 1690-1772.” Dr.Hendricks endows the award of $5,000 for the best book-length manuscript relating to the Dutch colonial experience in North America.

“Re-visiting Wampum, and Other 17th Century Shell Games” will be the topic ofJames Bradley, Ph.D., speaker at the dinner meeting at the University Club. Dr. Bradley is the 2009 winner of the Hendricks Manuscript Award.

The NNI is a membership organization with the responsibility of support for the New Netherland Research Center (NNRC), located in the New York State Library inAlbany. The NNI raises funds and administers grants such as the matching gift of €200,000 presented in Albany in 2009 by Crown Prince Willem Alexander and the Crown Princess Maxima of the Netherlands.

The NNRC is based on the New Netherland Project of translating 17th-century Dutchdocuments as its core, with Charles Th. Gehring, Ph.D. as its director.

Registration for the daylong seminar is $50 or $25 for students with ID. Box lunches may be ordered in advancefor $10. Tickets for the welcome reception and dinner at the University Club are $65.

As an added incentive, participants in the Sept. 25 New Netherland Seminar should know that the Replica Ship Half Moon will be docked in Albany that weekend (at the OGS pumping station at the south end of the Corning Preserve) and will be open for tours from 10 AM to 4 PM on both Saturday and Sunday.

More information is available at the website www.newnetherlandinstitute.org. Questions may be directed to nyslfnn@mail.nysed.gov.

Illustration: Mesier Mill by Len Tantillo. The mill was located at the site of today’s Ground Zero.

Lecture: Sex and the City: The Early Years

In 1633, Griet Reyniers invented the role of the Manhattan woman on the prowl, personifying the bawdy world the Dutch created when they settled in the Hudson Valley and surrounding region. On May 14th, Bill Greer explores this world in his talk “Sex and the City: The Early Years” as part of the New York State Library’s noontime programs.

Using art, literature and folklore, Bill will discuss the Dutch culture of the era and the libertine characters like Griet who transplanted it to the Hudson Valley. The wanton ways of these early settlers helped fuel a conflict between the people and their rulers, a conflict many historians argue laid the foundation for the freedom-loving society that America became.

Bill is the author of The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan, a novel of New Amsterdam. De Halve Maen, Journal of the Holland Society, describes the book as a “romp through the history of New Netherland that would surely have Petrus Stuyvesant complaining about the riot transpiring between its pages.” He is a trustee and the Treasurer of the New Netherland Institute, a nonprofit organization supporting research and education in Dutch-American history. The Institute currently is working with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center in Albany.

The talk will be in the Huxley Theater on the first floor of the Cultural Education Center, home of the New York State Library, Museum and Archives, at 310 Madison Avenue, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY. It will run from 12:15 to 1:15 on Friday, May 14th. The program is free and attendees are invited to bring lunch.

NYCs Trinity Wall Church Offers New Blog, Online Resources

Trinity Wall Street, the Episcopal Church in Lower Manhattan founded in 1697, has started a new blog. The Archivist’s Mailbag is an effort to publicize the archives and attract scholarly researchers interested in the church’s long and complex history. Multimedia Producer Leah Reddy says that “We like to say that the archives are ‘-the history of New York that nobody knows’, as they only recently became fully accessible and they stretch back to the earliest days of New York City history.”

Trinity Wall Street’s archives go back to 1695, making them an excellent resource for students of history–as well as those who want to shape the future. Trinity’s Archive was made fully accessible for the first time in 2003. In addition to its own history and the history of the city, Trinity’s records shed light on the development of the Episcopal Church and the Dioceses of New York. As landowner since 1705, its archives detail the stories of the New York neighborhoods now known as Tribeca and the West Village. Trinity’s congregants have included Alexander Hamilton and John Jay- among its tenants were Aaron Burr and John Jacob Astor.

Information about the scope of the archives can be found online as well as a guide to the holdings.

There is also an interactive timeline and an interactive search-the-churchyard feature.

Ships, Explorers, And The World Trade Center

In 1916 the burnt timbers of what some believe is a 17th-century ship’s keel (the remains of Adriaen Block’s Tiger, forerunner of the Onrust) were discovered at the site of the future World Trade Center. You can read about that at one of my favorite blogs, The Old Salt Blog. Later, an ancient anchor and a Dutch cannon were recovered there in 1967. These maritime relics will be exhibited together in February 2-28, 2010, along with a model of a new ship that commemorates the World Trade Center and honors America’s maritime heritage.

The exhibit will be kicked off with an Exhibition Preview, Luncheon and Fundraiser on February 3, 2010. The preview event will feature preservationists Peter Stanford and Kent Barwick, an exhibition preview, the dedication of World Trade Center Steel, cocktails and a luncheon, followed by a guided tour of the exhibition.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

* the charred remains of a ship’s bow excavated in 1916, long thought to be the ship’s keel of Dutch explorer Adrian Block’s Ship TIJGER, which burned off Manhattan in 1613, and a bronze cannon marked “VOC,” property of the Dutch East India Company (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)-

* an ancient, 11-foot iron anchor hoisted from the construction site of the World Trade Center in 1967, where it had been buried for more than 300 years (Courtesy National Maritime Historical Society)-

* a model and film of the USS NEW YORK, the Navy’s newly commissioned (7 November 2009) Landing Platform, Dock Warship, made with 7.5 tons of World Trade Center Steel forged into its bow (Courtesy USS NEW YORK Commissioning Committee)-

* documentary film footage from 1916 of the discovery of the Ship TIJGER Keel and a section of Manhattan Company Water Pipe (1804) found during excavation for the IRT subway tunnel at the future World Trade Center site (Courtesy Brooklyn College Archives)- and

* at the entrance to The India House: a steel artifact recovered from the World Trade Center. This will be a permanent reminder of the World Trade Center, the innocent victims, and the bravery of those who responded on September 11, 2001.

The exhibit, curated by Margaret Stocker, is being hosted by India House (One Hanover Square, NYC) and is being presented by the India House Foundation.

Exhibit Hours: Weekdays 11 – 3:30 and group tours by appointment
Suggested Donation: $10
For Group tours contact info@indiahousefoundation.org or telephone Maria Dering at 212-873-6715

Exhibition Preview, Luncheon and Fundraiser February 3, 2010
To Reserve Tickets: info@indiahousefoundation.org
Skippers: $250 Explorers: $350 Masters of the Universe: $500
or email stockermargaret@mac.com