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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? City Hall ParkDutch Name:
? Buyten de Landtpoort (Beyond the Land Gate)
One of the most familiar features of the Dutch landscape that colonists brought with them was the windmill. One such mill, built by carpenters near this spot in 1663-64, replaced an earlier one first erected before 1628 along the Beaver's Path at Manhattan's tip. The windmill here, on the "common lands" outside the city limits, continued to grind flour after the English took Nieuw Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664.
Windmills were highly functional structures, turning wheat and rye grown by Dutch settlers into flour for bread, cakes, and the sweets known as koeckjes - a word that later entered New Yorkers' vocabulary as "cookies." Mills also ground the grain used to brew beer, one of Nieuw Amsterdam's favorite beverages. Mills thus became important in the local economy, as farmers who had settled in the countryside of upper Manhattan and Long Island brought their crops for milling.