A Tour of New Netherland

Manhattan

View in Wall Street from the Corner of Broad

Wall Street


In July of 1652, war broke out between England and the Netherlands. As battle commenced in Europe and on the high seas, it also affected relations between the two nations’ respective North American colonies. Many New Englanders thought the time was right to overrun the Dutch colony to the south. In New Amsterdam, meanwhile, Director-General Petrus Stuyvesant, hunkered down within the walls of Fort Amsterdam, read dispatches from his superiors in the Netherlands telling him of recent events and instructing him to prepare for the worst.

It happened that the citizens of New Amsterdam had finally won from Stuyvesant and the government in the Netherlands a city charter. At last, after thirty years, New Amsterdam was a true city. As such, its first municipal governing body—the burgomasters and schepens—sat in February 1653. A few weeks later, on March 13, Stuyvesant called an extraordinary meeting consisting of his own council as well as the burgomasters and schepens—in effect, every political representative in the city and surrounding areas. The matter was simple: the English to their north were strong, and the Dutch defenses were weak. How could they protect themselves in the event of an invasion?

They quickly agreed to repair the fort, and to begin round-the-clock guards. But this wasn’t enough to ensure defense. They decided they needed to wall themselves in. The city was clustered at the southern tip of the island, and they decided that they would create a wall across the northern reaches of town. Thomas Baxter was charged with the task of producing logs for palisades. They were to be twelve feet high and eighteen inches thick. However, when the job was put up for bid no one came close to the construction committee’s offer of ƒ25 a rod. The committee then decided to downsize the project by using planks instead of palisades. The wall would stretch from the East River straight across to the North (or Hudson) River. There would be a gate at de Heere Straat (later, Broadway).

Of course, that wall would last in history not for its defensive uses (the English didn’t invade, and the war ended the following year) but because the street that ran along it took its name from it. Wall Street was just a street until the summer of 1791, when semi-official brokers began trading shares of stock beneath a sycamore tree on it.

Early the next year, the first Stock Exchange Office opened, at 22 Wall Street. And so began a new legacy.

Located just off Wall Street, the Museum of American Financial History is so steeped in its subject it is housed in what was once Alexander Hamilton’s law offices. It also offers walking tours of the financial district.


About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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