Birth of a City: Nieuw Amsterdam & Old New York
In September 1609, Henry Hudson and some 20 seamen sailed their ship, the Halve Maen
(Half Moon), into what is today New York harbor. The Dutch East India Company expected Hudson to find a passage to Asia. Instead, his voyage allowed the Dutch to claim a territory they would call Nieuw Nederland - today parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut. In 1625-26, the new Dutch West India Company established an outpost here at Manhattan's tip to function as the colony's capital and trading center. They called the town Nieuw Amsterdam. It would become New York City.
Between 1625 and 1664, Nieuw Amsterdam became a thriving community of some 2,000 merchants, craftsmen, shopkeepers, farmers, laborers, slaves, and families. Walloon, Flemish, French, German, Bohemian, British, Scandinavian, and Jewish migrants joined Dutch settlers. The houses, canals, and windmills built here put a Dutch imprint on the land. In 1664, and English fleet conquered the colony in the name of the Duke of York. But Dutch cultural traditions, and the town's early ethnic and religious diversity, continued to shape New York's history and identity.
The Dutch legacy in New York was complex. The Dutch traded with Indians, but also fought them. They imported enslaved Africans to toil for them, but also allowed some to gain freedom and own land. Jewish refugees settled, but Director-General Petrus Stuyvesant granted them rights only after authorities in the Netherlands ordered him to do so. Through conflict and compromise, the Dutch established a community that over time would become one of the world's great cities.
In celebration of Hudson's voyage of discovery 400 years ago, this self guided walking tour will take you to 12 sites in lower Manhattan that were important in the daily life of Dutch Nieuw Amsterdam. The map shows the location of each of these sites, where you will find a sign explaining its history.
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Bowling Green between State & Whitehall StreetsDutch Name:
De Heere Wegh at Het Marckvelt
Fort Amsterdam was the focal point for the tiny community of settlers who crossed the Atlantic to make their homes in Nieuw Nederland in 1624, 15 years after Hudson's voyage. The Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam scattered its first colonists - 30 Walloon families - to outposts at Fort Orange (today's Albany), the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers, and Governors Island in New York harbor. But Company agents decided to establish headquarters on Manhattan. In 1625-26, a Dutch engineer supervised the planning of Fort Amsterdam at the island's tip. The town that grew up around the fort was named Nieuw Amsterdam.
Built of earth and maintained by European laborers and enslaved Africans, the fort's walls loomed over the town's dirt roads, houses, and harbor. A director appointed by the Company ran the colony from the fort. He also commanded a garrison of soldiers to repel possible attacks by Spain, France, England, or hostile native peoples.
The fort was the nerve center of Nieuw Amsterdam, and of the colony of Nieuw Nederland which stretched deep into the countryside. Here, in 1664, Director-General Petrus Stuyvesant reluctantly surrendered to an English fleet threatening to destroy the town. Nieuw Amsterdam became New York City, and the colony of Nieuw Nederland became New York and New Jersey.