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I promised you, in my blog about the neighborhoods and interior shopping in Manhattan, a weekend tip for a New Amsterdam Walk. I think most of you know that before it became New York City this area was known as New Amsterdam. The oldest roots are Dutch. The former pride in the colonial past is now often a feeling of shame about what happened. But history is history, and seeing so much of those early days in the city is worth a “New Amsterdam Walk.”
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The Dutch settled in the 17th century at the southern tip of Manhattan. The land was “purchased” for 60 guilders from the native Americans. As a province extension of the Dutch Republic, New Amsterdam became the capital of that province in 1625. They traded furs (especially Beaver skins) by the “West-indische Compagnie.” Henry Hudson arrived in 1609 on the southern tip of Manhattan and saw suitable sandy beaches for a harbor. He travelled for a Dutch company and years later (1624) the first Dutch families settled in New Amsterdam. The original settlers called their land Mannahatta or Island of hills. It was from the start a multi-ethnic, free, and diverse city. Join me on my New Amsterdam walk!
Firstly, where to start. The meeting point for a (guided) walking tour or starting point for your own tour is often Bowling Green. A small historic parc in New York. It is the oldest park and the only piece of land from the “New Amsterdam era” that has never been built on. It is located close to the bull on the south side of Broadway. Fort Amsterdam was built on the place where you now find the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. In those days it was called “the Plain” and used as a meeting place and cattle market. Secondly, if you plan your own tour you can start at the Battery. The place where you can imagine the first ships arrived.
The Castello Plan Monument
The Castello Plan is an early map of New Amsterdam, now covering the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. The map, an original of 1660, was found in an Italian Castle “Villa Castellum” in 1900. You can admire the map in the Public Library of New York. On Peter Minuit Plaza you can find the Castello Plan Monument.
The Netherland Monument
Meanwhile we were walking to our next Stop the Netherlands Monument in State Street, on the northeast corner of Battery Park. To commemorate the Dutch establishment of New Amsterdam and gifted by the people of the Netherlands is 1926 (on Sint Nicolas Day).
Information from the New York City Government Parks “The monument was rededicated by the Honorable Pieter van Vollenhoven, Parks Commissioner Stern, and other dignitaries in a ceremony held on November 16, 2000. The date marks Dutch American Heritage Day, which commemorates the Dutch people’s first salute in 1776 of the United States flag on the Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius. The restored monument remains a symbol of the longstanding Dutch presence in American life”.
Suddenly it feels like Amsterdam, cobble stones in the streets, brick walled buildings and lots of cafes and terraces. We arrived in Stone Street. The first cobbled street in New Amsterdam was built around 1658. After that we had our guided tour, we returned to have a lovely meal in this street. (Not Dutch but Mexican!)
By Pearl Street, named after the many oysters (with pearls) found along the shore, we continue our walk to Wall Street. There was an actual wall in the days of New Amsterdam, to protect the Dutch from an English invasion. Now the New York Stock Exchange is an important landmark but look in the streets. Between the cobble stones you can find a replica of the wooden palisade to give an idea of the place where the wall was built.
- Guided Tour: The remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam
- Free downloadable one hour walking tour: The New Amsterdam trail
- Wear comfortable shoes. It will be difficult to walk in high heels in the streets with cobble stones.
- When you are in The Battery, have a look at the beautiful Battery Park Garden, designed by Piet Oudolf. More about a garden inspired by Piet Oudolf here
- You find more about Lower Manhattan here
- And more about New York in general here
To sum up: You walk through this New Amsterdam heritage site without noticing it, but once you are aware of it you will find even more interesting historical marks.
Enjoy your New Amsterdam Walk