Posts Tagged ‘old maps New York City’

What remains of two downtown colonial streets

March 19, 2018

The financial firms of Lower Manhattan help fuel the global economy of the 21st century.

But in the middle of their cathedrals of commerce, the remains of some humble streets that were instrumental in powering the economy of the 17th century still linger.

Take Marketfield Street, for example. You can just make it out on the circa-1797 map below; “market” is on the far left and “field” picks up on the right.

This narrow stretch between today’s Beaver and Broad Streets is anglicized from its original colonial Dutch name, Markveldt (which loosely translates into “market field”).

Almost 400 years ago, here stood New Amsterdam’s cattle market, opened in the 1650s—and there’s still a cowpath-like bend in the middle of today’s Marketfield Street, harkening back to its livestock days.

Marketfield Street once extended farther west, as this colorful 1642 map below also shows. It’s unclear how long the cattle market survived the city takeover by the British in 1664.

By 1695 the street went by a racier name: Petticoat Lane: “for it was here that, at the western end of the street near the fort which guarded the harbor, New York City’s prostitutes gathered,” states a Landmarks Preservation Commission report from 1983.

Every country town has a Mill Lane, and Manhattan does too. This slender alley hides between South William and Stone Streets. (On the map at the top, it’s just a faint curvy footpath with what could be a mill illustrated beside it.)

“It was in existence by 1657; the present name dates from after 1664,” states the LPC report. “Mill Lane ran from a mill built in 1628 to grind bark used by tanners.”

Mill Lane today, thought to be one of the city’s shortest streets, is unfortunately covered by scaffolding. Lets hope it survives this latest wave of development in the oldest part of New York City.

[Second map: Keren Wang’s Personal Website; third map: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.]

What remains of the East River’s long-gone slips

March 16, 2015

 Slipold2015Old maps of Lower Manhattan (like the one below, from 1842) list them: the many slips created along the East River to facilitate ship transportation in a city dependent on maritime trade.

 From Gouverneur Street to Whitehall Street, 12 slips offered “access to the shoreline by small craft such as ferries and farmers’ market boats,” states oldstreets.com. “There were markets at most of the slips at one time or another.”

Slipsmap1842

Today, some exist in name only. Eleven were gone by the middle of the 19th century, early victims of the city’s valuable real estate. The last one disappeared by 1900.

Slipmarket2015“It was the need for additional land that caused the passing of New York’s historic slips,” states a 1924 New York Times article.

“Those alleyways of water were two blocks long and as many wide, flanked about by rocking wharves at which tied up the small boats belonging to mother vessels further out, or the mother vessels themselves if not too large.”

“And with the passing of these slips passed also the romance of the clippers, our country’s first sailing vessels.”

What wonderful names they had! Some were derived from prominent Dutch-born landowners, like Coenradt and Antjie Ten Eyck (Coentje—later Coenties—Slip).

Slipsnyt1924

Others were named for the businesses nearby, like Coffee House Slip, once at the end of Wall Street where several coffee houses had popped up in the late 18th century (above, in a New York Times sketch).

Slipburling2015

There was also Fly Market Slip, a corruption of the Dutch vly, meaning valley, according to oldstreets.com.

The rest were Gouverneur, Rutgers, Pike, Market, Catherine, James, Peck, Burling, and finally, Old Slip.

When skulls and bones washed ashore in Brooklyn

December 22, 2011

In the years after the Revolutionary War, Brooklynites living along Wallabout Bay off the East River were greeted almost daily by a macabre sight.

Human bones and skulls, bleached by the sun, would be unearthed by tides, washing ashore.

These were the remains of men who died aboard the prison ships—16 rotted, disease-ridden vessels docked near Wallabout Bay, where British soldiers held thousands of captive patriots in horrific conditions.

More than 11,500 prisoners perished on these ships, their bodies thrown overboard or hastily buried in waterside graves.

“For many years after the end of the war, the sandy beaches of Wallabout Bay remained littered with the bones of men who died in the prison ships—one resident of the area described skulls lying about as thick as pumpkins in an autumn cornfield. . . . ” wrote Edwin G. Burrows in his 2008 book Forgotten Patriots.

In 1808, residents collected the bones and built a small crypt for them on Front Street and Hudson and Hudson Avenue, in today’s Vinegar Hill.

As decades passed, city leaders called for a more heroic monument to the men known as the prison ship martyrs.

The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park was dedicated in 1908. Twenty-two boxes containing a fraction of the remains of the martyrs are still inside a vault there today.

[A prison ship anchored in the bay; Wallabout Bay, site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in 1851, 70 or so years after the ships occupied the bay]

Things to see and do in New York in 1960

October 28, 2010

According to a partly shredded Texaco street map of the city, that is.

Sure, most of the streets are the same. But there’s no Soho or Tribeca, and Battery Park City is at least a decade away; West Street is the western border of Manhattan, the map reveals.

Texaco put together a few paragraphs on what do in New York. Some interesting bits:

The map suggests visiting “a great univeristy”—Columbia. NYU was still a middling commuter school at the time.

“Greet airliners at Idlewilde Airport.” Guess President Kennedy is still alive.

“Ferry your car over and tour the farmlands of Staten Island.” No Verrazano-Narrows Bridge yet; that isn’t open until 1964. Farmland?