At the Foundation of New Amsterdam, a New York History Tale
NUMBER ONE BROADWAY. The sign over the door read clearly. A road used by native Americans as a hunting trail, later by the Dutch named the ‘Brede Weg’, literally Broad Way. For once, the Dutch did not put together two words as one, but the British did.
I couldn’t believed the length of this road, nor that this was the site where it all started. Battery Park, the foundation of New Amsterdam. It was here where my ancestors created their New World. It was here where they changed the face of the planet. Who would know what the world would look like if the Dutch didn’t lost the early New York to the English. Perhaps we’d all be speaking Dutch would my family jokingly say.
The First House in Manhattan
I went to New York but recognized Holland nowhere in it’s vast skyline. Instead of farms and canals, New York represented a modern world. Build to aim for the skies. A place where people can climb to the top but fall harder on rat infested street-corners. The proper Dutch seemed nowhere to be found. No farms, no vast suburbia and definitely no mills. Most churches looked British and the architecture that remains from the colonial era seems to bear no resemblance to Dutch architecture at all. Yet it was different once.
The Dutch founded a new world in what the native Americans called Mannahatta. A world of farms, prosperity and a place where the New World helped you start a new life. But it was also a place of war, famine and slavery. The history of New York is a big one, and a lot has changed since the postcard below.
A Dutch postcard of a painting by Johannes Vingboons made in 1665. Above it says in Dutch ‘Groeten uit New York’, meaning Greetings from New York. Architecture back then seemed a lot more Dutch than today.
Yet some things remain. Would it not be for Broadway, Harlem still comes from Haarlem. The Harlem Meer in Central Park is named after the Dutch Haarlemmermeer (Harlem’s Lake). In Holland a lake dried for agriculture, now home to one of the biggest airports in Europe. In New York, a small lake in one of the biggest parks in the world.
Brooklyn, coming from the Dutch Breukelen, a small village more people tend to avoid. And what about the mill that stands on the seal of New York? Definitely something Dutch as well. Dutch Street, Wall Street, it all resembles a little iconic history from my home country. It’s funny to see the roots somewhere far away. Try to look for Dutch things and they are all around you in New York. Still, even though New York seems to be one of the greatest cities in the world, it’s connection with ‘York’ seems a lot less grand than connecting it with a city such as ‘Amsterdam’. New Amsterdam kind of has a nice ring to it. I wonder if there ever was a New Rotterdam. Would have been fun.
Battery Park, where the Dutch founded New Amsterdam