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.
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.