Classes, Lectures & Tours
Early New York
What did our first Europeans find? What did they do with it and how does it matter?
Among history’s great commercial powers are the 17th Century Dutch, New York’s first European residents. The Dutch left the area 350 years ago but their physical imprint remains an active influence in lower Manhattan, their world-view an indelible part of New York City. Would Ellis Island ever have existed if New York had been settled by the British, the French or the Spanish? Unlikely.
Traces of a protective barrier help us understand their place in a wilderness and their apprehension over other Europeans nearby. An expansive roadway suggests homesickness; another, fear. Still-evident narrow, winding paths speak at once to the settlement’s tiny population and to the accessway that would take New York to greatness. A simple sign reminds us that the Dutch fell, and hard, to their major rivals.
And then there remain Manhattan island’s commitment to making the most of limited space, its perpetual reclaiming of land from the sea, and always its devotion to the fullest possible exploitation of assets. . . all characteristic of the Dutch and handed down following their four-decade presence in this place they knew as New Amsterdam.
Dutch treatment of the resources that made New York’s rise a certainty affects and even determines our actions to the present day.