Posts Tagged ‘Dutch colonial New York’

Lower Manhattan’s homes and windmill in 1637

August 22, 2013

Windmills? Hills? Red-roofed houses?

If you sailed into the Battery and happened upon Manhattan island about 400 years ago, this is the modest fort and settlement that would have greeted you.


That’s according to this postcard, stamped 1910, that depicts “Fort Amsterdam ‘Now the Battery’ in Kieft’s Days,” as the back states.

“In 1632, Governor Minuet was recalled and succeeded by Von Twiller, who again was succeeded by Wm. Kieft in 1637,” the postcard reads. “Kieft was recalled for cruelty in 1646.”

Kieft was the fifth governor of New Netherlands. Considered spiteful and ignorant, he ordered the massacre of local Native Americans, which only served to unite various tribes against the Dutch.

A 1660 map depicts New York’s humble start

May 6, 2013

Is this village-like settlement really the humble beginning of the bustling New York City of today?

Hard to believe, but that’s what the map says. It’s officially known as the Castello Plan, and the New York Public Library calls it the “earliest known plan of New Amsterdam and the only one dating from the Dutch period.”


It looks tidy and sweet, but don’t be fooled. New Amsterdam in in the middle of the 17th century was “a thinly populated, uncomfortable and muddy place with few creature comforts and much lawlessness,” writes Eric Homberger in The Historic Atlas of New York City.

Four main roads took travelers northward: Heere Straet (Broadway) is on the left, followed by today’s Broad Street, William Street, and Pearl Street alongside the East River.

CastelloplanredraftThat fortified street crossing the island from east to west? Wall Street, of course, then 12 feet high and the northern boundary of the city.

There’s a very cool tool on Channel Thirteen’s website that includes a georeferenced version of the Castello Plan—letting users know the names of each street and who owned each house, building, and plot of land depicted.

 At left is more colorful redraft of the original map, done in 1916.