Posts Tagged ‘Nieuw Haarlem’

The man who became the “father of Harlem”

February 9, 2011

Founded by Dutch settlers in 1658, the little community of Nieuw Haarlem consisted mostly of farmland estates for the next two centuries.

Then the elevated railroads arrived in the latter half of the 19th century, and speculators got greedy.

They urbanized Harlem, putting up blocks of apartments and townhouses in anticipation of a horde of white middle- and upper-class residents.

But white Harlem didn’t last. A real-estate crash in 1904 meant that developers could not find enough white tenants.

That’s when Philip A. Payton, Jr., stepped in. From New York: An Illustrated History, by Ric Burns and James Sanders:

“That year, as the boom went bust, Payton approached Harlem’s landlords with a daring proposition. His firm, the Afro-American Realty Company, would rent empty apartments to select black tenants—above market value and with a monthly guarantee.

“Though Payton’s clients paid a premium—at least $5 more per month than white families paid for equivalent dwellings—after nearly three centuries on Manhattan Island, African Americans could finally enjoy well-built, well-maintained homes in a stable, established community.”

By 1930, 70 percent of Central Harlem’s residents were African American. And Payton’s own townhouse (in the photo above) at 13 West 131st Street still stands.

“View at New Amsterdam,” 1665

September 5, 2009

If you were sailing up the East River in the mid-1660s and catching your first glimpse of New Amsterdam, this is what you could expect to see. 

Painter Johannes Vingboon depicts the colony as a tidy little Dutch hamlet, complete with row houses, a windmill, and, eerily enough, a gallows right on the shoreline. 

In the 1660s, Peter Stuyvesant was Director-General of New Amsterdam. Life wasn’t easy for the 1,500 souls living here: There were just a handful of muddy main streets and constant skirmishes with the Lenape Indians. But the City Tavern, built in the 1640s, probably made things bearable.

This painting is part of the National Archives of the Netherlands. It’ll be on display—along with other New Amsterdam artwork, maps, and plans—at the South Street Seaport Museum starting September 12.

It’s all part of NY400, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage along the river that now bears his name.