A Tour of New Netherland

Albany

The Trading House by L.F. Tantillo ©

Fort Nassau


In 1614 or 1615, only a few years after Henry Hudson’s exploration of the area, Dutch traders constructed a fort at what they knew to be the crucial fur-trading nexus on the North (i.e., Hudson) River. They built it on an island, just a stone’s throw from the western shore, within easy reach of the Indians who, as an early report put it, “come to this river to trade from the interior.” The named it Fort Nassau, after the leading noble family of the Netherlands, the house of Orange-Nassau. Its dimensions—58 feet on each side—suggest that the consortium of traders had hopes of serious trade with the natives. But in their desire to be right among the river traffic, the traders were too eager: the island (later called Castle Island, which has long since been attached to the mainland) flooded every spring, and the traders were forced to abandon it in 1618. It would be three years before commercial interests in the Netherlands had organized themselves into a more cohesive enterprise that could exploit the North American territory. Soon after, the West India Company would renew the quest for a permanent settlement in the area.

While Fort Nassau was shortlived, it has an important role in history. By erecting it on the site of the future city of Albany six years before the Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Colony to the north, the Dutch signaled their claim to the area and their intention to establish a presence. While a footnote to history, then, Fort Nassau would also be the harbinger of all that was to come in the Dutch colony.


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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