New York Before the Europeans


“I strive to link your ordinary experience – what you see, hear and feel – with the history and culture of New York.”

Peter Laskowich: Historian, Lecturer and Guide

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New York Before the Europeans

The resources that made New York great

New York represents history’s greatest collection of money, drive, and know-how. Why New York?

European settlers made New York a base of operations because of a combination of resources found nowhere else. A vast harbor, an ice-free port, hills and valleys offering both protection from enemies and access to the interior…. Nature itself prepared New York for its eventual role as global center, as “capital of the world.”

In the 1660s, when Manhattan was populated mostly by elk, bear, and wolves, a British officer wrote, “It is as though God intends the trade of the world to locate here.” In the 1780s, when it was home to a mere 25,000 people, George Washington said that New York was destined to become the great city of the hemisphere. This prediction was understated. 

An oddly-situated graveyard tells of the capacity of this little island to support skyscrapers. The only building that faces away from Broadway explains New York’s perpetual growth seaward, and points to the drama of 9/11. Two sloping roadways show how New York was perfectly suited for both great ages of shipping.

Remnants of Manhattan in its natural state – a land of hills, streams and forests, “a very Eden” – suggest the influence of pristine New York on the development of the city, the region and the nation.

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