The Dutch in New York
New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Life on the Edges
To begin, we'll just pop across the Atlantic to London, England, and visit the shop of J. Sellar and C. Price. They've just published "A Chart of ye Coast of New England, New York and Long Island" and are happy to show it off. The first thing we notice is that it shows coastline, from New Jersey's Sandy Hook to northeastern Massachusetts. The latter, of course, included the New Hampshire lands which become a separate colony in 1741, and Maine, which will have to wait for 70 some years and a revolution, before becoming a separate state. Numerous settlements march along the coastline and a few more move up the Hudson River. Apart from that and a few fishing grounds off Cape Cod, the map shows nothing but a web of criss-crossing navigational lines. We'll start with some non-New York news off to the east.
Europe's wars have a way of spilling over into North America. Spain, England and France began mixing it up last year in what's known as The War of the Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne's War. This year the settlement of Wells, Maine, will be attacked in August by a force of 500 Abenaki Indians, lead by French officers, 39 New Englanders will be killed or captured. Looking to the north and east, New Yorkers will become a bit uneasy when the Iroquois sign a pact with the French in November. Pledging not to wage war with French client tribes. Like the Abenaki. The citizens of Schenectady are probably the uneasiest. As they complete construction of a replacement Dutch Church. The memory of the first, lost in a midwinter French and Indian massacre just 13 years ago, along with most of the village and 87 residents killed or taken captive, is still fresh in most minds. We can judge priorities by noting that it will be another two years before a new fort is completed.
The seeds of future settlements are being planted near this region where the Mohawk river tumbles and spills down to the Hudson. Lands are purchased from the Mohawk Indians around Saratoga; other lands to the west of Schenectady are being granted to settlers in what will become Montgomery County. Similar grants are being made along the lower Hudson. In Ulster County the town of Rochester, named for England's Earl of Rochester, is incorporated by patent. It will be another hundred years before a rival, way off to the west, usurps the name. A little farther down river, the Wawayanda Patent in Rockland and Orange Counties is awarded to Chief Justice John Bridges and others. Out on Long Island trustees of the Town of Southampton pay the Shinnecocks $20 for their land and then give them a 1,000-year lease on 3,600 acres of it. (Land in the Hamptons is a bit pricier in our times).
Up until now Long Islanders have been isolated from the former New Amsterdam, now called New York City, off to the west. This year things will change for those closer in, as the General Assembly of New York appoints highway commissioners in Kings, Queens and Suffolk Counties (the latter encompassing everything east of Brooklyn and Queens) to build public highways, about 18 feet in width and constructed of dirt, from the ferry landing at Brooklyn, to Flatbush and Jamaica, eventually to reach as far as Hempstead. The Brooklyn segment of this "kings highway" will one day become Fulton Avenue. Road users will all be on foot, on horseback, or in wagons. The first
Wondering how all the empty spots on the early maps were gradually filled in? There are several web sites on the history of the early surveyors. "Backsights": http://www.survey history.org/ backsightsarticles.htm —the magazine of the Virtual Museum of Surveying, has a wide-ranging variety of articles on: "16th Century Surveyors," "Surveying for Robert E. Lee," " Distance Across a River," "Ellis Island Dispute," "Lewis and Clark's Encampment," "Hadrian's Wall," and a 1730 poem, "Songs of Surveyors." There are dozens more. A source for other, more-detailed articles is the archives site for Professional Surveyor with articles dating back to the March 1996 issue, at: http://www.profsurv.com/psarchiv.htm. Use the scroll-down window on the left to sample each issue or use the text search box provided. Each entire issue is on line. There are plenty of technical articles, if you really want to know the nitty-gritty; historical pieces are found in the History Corner feature of each issue. A few examples: "Joshua Fisher And His Chart of Delaware Bay"; "Bernard Romans, Engineer Adventurer"; "The Advent of the County Atlas"; and, for local subscribers, "Surveying the Holland Purchase." So log on and learn, in transit.
A Birthday Neglected
Our sail-powered ferry (it is 1703) has just left the Brooklyn pier and the city that now grows larger in our vision could be a good-sized Dutch city. At least judging by its architecture. Fact is, it hasn't been Dutch for nearly three decades. The accents we hear as we land are largely English. Dutch residents still comprise nearly 60% of the white population, but it's necessary to go a few blocks inland to find them; the English, and the French live mostly here, in fancier homes, in the South, Dock, and East wards lining the East River and rounding the southern tip of the island. Throughout most of the city there's not much differentiation between business and residential areas. Most buildings have a store or workshop on the ground floor, with the owners living upstairs. Businesses and trades include mariners, tailors, carpenters, brick makers, bakers, barrel makers, cordwainers (they make ropes for ships) and car men, who move goods through the streets by wagon. There are 4,375 inhabitants, 40% of the households have a slave or two. Life's not too bad. If you don't drink the water. It'll be well over a century before the city has decent drinking water. In the meantime, there's always rum.
Most people come here on business, but there are a few sites for the 18th century version of tourists to enjoy. Passing south by the fish market, then the exchange and custom house, Fort George is encountered, sitting on the southern tip of Manhattan. Inside the walls the governor's mansion is quite imposing. It's currently home to Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, who arrived from England last year. Not a very effectual governor it will turn out, but those rumors about his predilection for wearing women's clothing while strolling along the top of the fort's walls will one day be exploded as an early urban legend, spread by his enemies. Running past the fort off to the north is the street that's become known as Broadway. Where it ends, north of the city, this year's new road legislation has called for an extension. It will be named for the area on the outskirts called Bloomingdale, where a few small farms raise tobacco. Eventually Bloomingdale Road will just be called Broadway.
Closer in along Broadway travelers can ogle the Lutheran Church and Trinity Church just beyond. Others might be interested in the synagogue on Mill Street, or the Old Dutch Church a block below Wall Street. The Quakers have a meeting house up on Maiden Lane, a short few blocks away from the Presbyterian meeting house, the French Church and the New Dutch Church. Out on Staten Island, Queen Anne had an English Church chartered this year. If your interests are more in the mundane rather than the religious you won't want to miss the new City Hall. It's taken a few years to complete but it's fairly imposing. In October the city government will move its offices here from the former Dutch Stadt Huys (or state house) on Pearly Street. It will then serve as the colony's supreme court. Troublesome printer John Peter Zenger will go on trial here in 1734, Later on it will serve as home to the Stamp Act Congress and the Continental Congress. After it's remodeled, George Washington will take his presidential oath of office from its steps.
There may have been several reasons for an event that happened fifty years ago to be pretty much ignored. Early February can be quite cold and windy around here. And Lord Cornbury and one-term mayor Philip French, being English won't be too interested in something the Dutch did. But it was on February 2nd, 1653, that Peter Stuyvesant incorporated the city of New Amsterdam.
"New York, New York, It's a helluva town, The Bronx is up and the Battery's down." Those song lyrics may have been true by the time the musical "On the Town" was written. But back in the late 17th and early 18th century, the Battery was 'down' and there wasn't too much 'up.' Wall Street was the northern edge of Manhattan. Beyond were a few farms and estates. A good way to acquaint yourself with that world is the RootsWeb site at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~blkyn/Map/Maps.Main.html You'll find an index to all kinds of online maps of the New York City area, from the 1600s up to the 1920s. Towards the bottom there's also a street locator index for anyone who wants to pinpoint specific addresses. As for lower Manhattan, scroll down a page or two until you find links colored red, beginning with "New Amsterdam"; nearly thirty Manhattan maps follow. The 1695 map will locate the Old Dock, the State House, the slaughterhouses, the city gates and a lot more. All of the maps are large format and you'll have to scroll around to see every part of them. Have courage; you don't get to know a 350-year-old city in 15 minutes.
One Man's Shadow
If you go to lower Manhattan today and seek out the 31-story Goldman, Sachs Building at 85 Broad Street, look up. A typical office tower of medium height, completed in 1984. Now look down. You'll notice a round metal plaque near the entrance, diagramming the layout of the local streets in the distant past. There are also lines of colored paving blocks outlining the site of two buildings, as well as transparent panels laid in the sidewalk, beneath which a good-sized excavation drops away, with sections of very old foundations at the bottom and sides. Now look back at that plaque. One of the most obvious changes is that the You-Are-Here spot is at the edge of the East River. These days it's several good-sized blocks away. You're standing at Manhattan's first archeological dig, completed in 1980, even as construction equipment tore into the surrounding earth.
To see how it all began we'll have to go back to the year 1641. Eighteen years before that, the first Dutch settlers arrived and began farming on today's Governors Island, moving to Manhattan the following year. This year the colony is on its fourth governor-general, the crusty Willem Kieft. There are problems. The Indian situation has subsided a bit after last year's military action against the Raritan on Staten Island, that left a handful of both settlers and Indians dead. It will flare up again next year. The colony's slaves are also getting restless, perhaps because they're now being used to haul dead hogs out of the streets. A revolt is put down. One slave, considered the ringleader, is hanged, but the rope snaps and he's pardoned, along with the others involved. All of this is enough to make even the non-crusty take a drink. Perhaps that's why construction on the Stadt Herbergh, or city Tavern, was begun where Coentes Street came down to Pearl Street on what was then the waterfront. This Broad Street building on the corner will be completed next year, in 1642.
More years pass, years filled with wars (Indians sometimes against Europeans, sometimes against other tribes), the arrival of a new governor-general best known for his wooden leg, a souvenir of other wars, and the dumping of earth and debris into the river to begin stretching overcrowded real estate. And now it's 1653, Governor-general Petrus Stuyvesant has ruled here for the past six years, proving he can be just as ornery as Willem (the Crusty) Kieft. When not feuding with the Board of Nine Men (his annually appointed city council), he's had the city's first pier built, established the village called Beverwyck up the Hudson (late re-named Albany), issued patents for several villages on Long Island, and opened the city's first school, in the city Tavern building. This year he will erect a wall across the northern end of town. It's meant primarily as a defense against the Indians, especially now that England's Oliver Cromwell has declared war against the Dutch Republic. The wall will never be put to the test, but in future years the site will become a hangout for bulls and bears. Two-legged-ones with buy and sell orders, that is. With all of this activity Stuyvesant's quarters in the fort are proving inadequate for the necessary conferences and planning sessions, so offices are opened over at the East River in the city Tavern, which is converted into a Stadt Huys, or State House. New Amsterdam officialdom now has an official home. It's not known if Stuyvesant or the citizens of New Amsterdam paid attention to their shadows on February 2nd (the groundhog legend was centuries old even then), but they had other things on their minds. On that day, 350 years ago, 1653, the village was officially incorporated. Happy birthday, Big Apple!
Home is the Soldier
The young veteran returned home to the Netherlands in December of 1644. Petrus Stuyvesant had sailed from Fort Amsterdam in Curacao back in September, after a failed attempt to take the Caribbean island of St. Martin from the Spanish. From the ensuing nightmare of having a leg shattered by a cannon ball and then amputated, he'd hobbled straight into a nightmare voyage. Continually raging seas, scurvy, nearly depleted water, contrary winds. All these factors had forced a decision to land on the Irish coast. Then it was an exhausting overland trip, and a voyage across the North Sea. He finally arrived in his sister's home near Rotterdam in December. Petrus Stuyvesant may have been a minister's son (others would one day claim more of a canine matrilineal ancestry for him) had never been one to settle down for long. When he was twenty his father had enrolled him in the severely Calvinistic provincial university, obviously with the idea of making the boy a strict, god-fearing copy of himself.
The effort was doomed. The son was asked to leave after several years; rumor had it that his landlord's daughter had taken an enthusiastic part in his disgrace. Well, if education was a lost cause, perhaps the world of business would take some of the wind out of his sails, so to speak. Amsterdam proved more to Stuyvesant's liking and he soon settled into a post obtained by his father as a clerk for the West India company. Life in the coastal city appealed to the young dropout and he buckled down to learning the workings of far-flung mercantile ventures. In 1635 he was rewarded for his efforts with a posting as a supercargo, or commercial agent, on the New World island of Fernando de Noranha, about 300 miles east of the Brazilian coast. Three years later he was recalled by the Company, then reassigned to Curacao, along with John Farret, a close friend. Answerable only to their chief, company director Jacob Pieters Tolck, the two young men spent their workday cataloguing the various shipments that passed through the island and their leisure time writing poetry, a popular amusement of the day. Stuyvesant also enjoyed improving his swordsmanship. Life was good, if not overly exciting.
Farret was recalled the following year; then Tolck in 1643, leaving a newly promoted Stuyvesant behind as acting chief. Back in the Netherlands, the West India Company now decided to establish their Caribbean headquarters in Puerto Rico. It should be easy enough to push the Spanish off that island. Turned out, the fleet, under Stuyvesant, couldn't even dislodge them from the planned Dutch staging area of St. Martin. So now Stuyvesant, leg-shattered, military fame unachieved, recuperates back in the mother country, has a decent wooden leg, banded with silver, made for him, marries Judith Bayard and probably wonders what fate has in store for him. We'll leave him there until next time.
And what of St. Martins? The political map of this 37-square-mile island, about a hundred miles east of Puerto Rico, has been redrawn over and over. The Spanish left four years after the Dutch defeat. Between 1648 and 1815 ownership would change hands 16 times. Finally the Treaty of Paris established joint Dutch-French ownership. One story has the two sides starting out from the eastern end and walking in opposite directions along the coast, the French fortified with wine and the Dutch with gin. At the point when they met it was quite obvious that the gin had been more potent than the wine, leaving the French with the larger share of St. Martin.
The island of Curacao has changed a bit since Peter Stuyvesant and John Farret labored there for the Dutch West India Company and practiced their poetry and swordsmanship. For an illustrated history of the island and its role in the commercial development of the New World, from 1499 - 1990, visit the CaribSeek site at http://books.caribseek.com/Curacao/ Commercial_HistoryofCuracao/ It's actually an online book, Roots of Our Future, by Linda M. Rupert. There are chapters on Peter Stuyvesant and New Amsterdam as well as a chronology, profiles of the primary movers and doers, and a photo gallery of the illustrations. Only in thumbnail format I'm afraid, but of fairly decent size.
For color action panoramas of Curacao (try not to drool if you've been shoveling out from under two feet of new snow this past weekend) have a look at http://www.curacao-travelguide.com/virtualview/index.shtml# To quote this site, "The panoramas on this site use a java applet to display the images. Once the image has loaded the panorama will start spinning slowly and will continue to do so until you click on the image."
Fasten Your Seat Belts, New Amsterdam
If an archaeological dig were done today at Manhattan's St. Mark's-in-the-Bouwerie Church, archaeologists would encounter the burial vault of Petrus Stuyvesant, built for the chapel that previously stood on the spot. Stuyvesant died on his farm here in February 1672. It's possible that in his final days he remembered his arrival in the colony 25 years before, when he took over as director-general for Willem Kieft. It was a bit of a miracle that he'd actually arrived.
Returned from a military defeat in the Caribbean minus a leg and recently married, he concentrated on recuperating and waited for the West India Company directors to reassign him. The nineteen men, or Heeren XIX, had been receiving a steady barrage of complaints from New Amsterdam over Kieft's management of the trading colony, and had decided to recall him and send out a replacement. They concluded that there was one obvious choice for this frontier: Libbertus Van Dincklage, a former sheriff. The Heeren had decided they would send out the 35-year-old Stuyvesant as Van Dincklage's assistant. Learning of this, he set out on a campaign; political this time, rather than military, to change their minds. Something, whatever it was, worked. In May the decision was reversed, as were the roles of the two men. Stuyvesant would be the new governor; Van Dincklage his assistant. But first the directors were faced with a change in national priorities. Should trade through New Amsterdam be a West India Company monopoly or should all nations have use of the port? The States General, or national government, wanted the latter and the directors naturally didn't, and delayed a decision as long as possible. Stuyvesant set out by barge for the province of Zeeland, to lobby the influential Company directors there. They agreed to provide a ship for Stuyvesant, his family, and his staff. He returned to Amsterdam only to learn that plan had been suddenly canceled. So the wait dragged on.
Four months later the government informed the company that it was time to "fish or cut bait," or some equivalent, pithier, expression, and arrangements were finalized. On July 28, 1646, Stuyvesant was sworn in as director-general of New Netherland, as well as the islands of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba. There were a slew of arrangements to be made before departure, so it wasn't until Christmas Day that the fleet's four ships, loaded with the new colonial government, traders, immigrants and a detachment of soldiers, finally set off across the North Atlantic. Once at sea Stuyvesant announced they were not going directly to New Amsterdam; he wanted to visit his other outposts first. No one else was in the mood for a Caribbean cruise. The settlers were seasick and extremely uncomfortable below decks as the fleet entered the subtropics. The traders were losing business. The soldiers were bored out of their skulls. One day the colony's future sheriff Hendrick Van Dyck, sloshed to the gills (probably literally as well as figuratively) barged into his chief's cabin to lodge a protest. Stuyvesant, a teetotaler, angrily tossed him out and slammed the door. It was going to be a bumpy ride. As was his future stewardship of the colony. The fleet poked northward out of the Caribbean. The pregnancy of Stuyvesant's wife finally lent some urgency to matters. On May 11, 1647, after nearly five months, the four small vessels entered the harbor below New Amsterdam. The colony had a new governor and the fun and games began. Meanwhile, former governor Kieft looked forward to giving his bosses an earful when he reached Amsterdam, it didn't happen. He was lost at sea on his homeward voyage, just off the Welsh coast.
Going Dutch (Pardon the expression. Or not.) From Fort Nassau to Fort Amsterdam (Albany to lower Manhattan), you'll find answers to many of your questions about Dutch New York at the site of the New Netherland Project- http://www.hollandsociety.com . Besides links, a timeline, and a bibliography, you'll also find a whole treasure trove (many beaver pelts worth) of information at this site sponsored by the Holland Society and the New York State Library. There are online issues of the De Nieu Nederlanse Marcurius newsletter dating back to February 1998 (hot links included, first pages for even earlier issues), the full text of "A Beautiful & Fruitful Place" containing chapters on topics such as "Merchants and Traders of New Netherland and Early New York" and "Historical Archeology," and the newest addition to the site, a Virtual Tour of New Netherland (from the Delaware River to the Connecticut River, follow the orange arrows to proceed through the text). On the tour you'll view a c.1655 map of New England, numerous paintings, a list of place names on Long Island (think Breuckelen Dodgers), and dozens of links to related articles and sites. If you really get into the subject, $35 a year gets you a membership in the Friends of New Netherland (Marcurius subscription, online gift shop discounts, a map poster, and access to an e-discussion group).
Since Gotham was in Knee Pants
A mental picture of Peter Stuyvesant's New Amsterdam is likely to include men with dark pantaloons, fastened above the knee, on stockinged legs, inserted in buckled shoes, the pantaloons not unlike what our parents' generation would have called knickerbockers. That world's association with New Amsterdam has been carried down through the years. Root for the Knicks and you're cheering for the New York Knickerbockers. And what, or who, were the Knickerbockers? Descendants of Hermen Jansen, who arrived on North American shores in the late 1600s, have only unproven theories as to why their forbearer added the van Wyekycback(e), or from Wye, to his name, or how it came to later be interpreted as Knickerbacker, then as Knickerbocker. A series of clerical errors may be the most logical explanation.
However it happened, the name came to represent the older families of both Manhattan and Upstate's Rensselaer County. So around the year 1809, when young author Washington Irving decided to write a mock history of the New World Dutch, he chose to name his mythical historian Diedrich Knickerbocker. Read Irving's "history" and you'll be transported to New York as it maybe ought to have been, back when the region's myths were born. You'll hear why the mountain across the Hudson River from Bear Mountain is known as Anthony's Nose; Spuyten Duyvil's connection to that same Anthony; and the background of the old salute, simplified and debased in our own time, made then by putting your thumb to your nose and wriggling your fingers in the air.
Thanks mainly to Mr. Irving the name Knickerbocker has become a handy shorthand for old Dutch New Amsterdam and for old money. It has been assumed since by a club for descendants of the early Dutch who got tired of being on the waiting list for the older Union Club, an apartment building, a base ball club, a literary journal, a canoe club, a casualty insurance company, a fire insurance firm, a trust company, a beer, a yacht club complete with Knickerbocker Cup, a sailing association for gay and lesbian sailors (the sound you hear from below ground is countless deceased Astors, Rhinelanders and Schermerhorns rapidly rotating) and, of course, a basketball team. For many years the Hearst newspapers carried a celebrity column authored by a series of scribes under the name "Cholly Knickerbocker."
A series of hotels have also taken the name, the best-known built by a bonafide member of the Knickerbocker class himself. John Jacob Astor IV, nicknamed the Colonel, is best known for building the Astoria Hotel at the site of the future Empire State Building. It eventually merged with the Waldorf Hotel, run by feuding cousin William Waldorf Astor, a great grandson of the first John Jacob Astor. The complex lasted until 1929, when the wrecking ball began its work, and a new Waldorf-Astoria was opened farther up the Avenue. But Colonel Astor, like his ancestor, enjoyed keeping many revenue-producing icons sizzling and decided that one hotel was not enough. Shortly after the turn of the last century he began casting his gaze towards the up-and-coming Times Square area. The family owned the land on the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street, at that time occupied by the St. Cloud Hotel, but Astor had something a bit grander in mind.
I say knickerbocker. You say knickerbacker. Anyone who does genealogy can appreciate and commiserate with the Knickerbocker family of Holland and New York State. If you're unaware of the pitfalls of ancestor tracking you can learn from their experiences at "History and Traditions of The Knickerbocker Family" at http://www.knic.com/traditin.htm You'll find a December 1876 article from Harper's Monthly Magazine that apparently got it all wrong. There's an article by webmaster Howard Knickerbocker that attempts to sort it all out. You'll also find "The Family Coat of Arms—Authentic or Fabrication?" "The Ancestry of Harme Janse Knickerbocker" by Paul Knickerbocker and, for Civil War fans, a photo from the late 1870s showing the sons of Alvin Knickerbocker posing at Little Round Top. A click on the "Home" button will lead you to further doings of the Knickerbocker Historical Society in Rensselaer County's Schaghticoke, NY, including news and photos of the ongoing restoration of the family mansion. There's even news of Knickerbocker collectibles for all you e-Bay fans.
Opera Stars and Other Primates
It's commercial space now, the northernmost outpost of Manhattan's garment industry, a building full of clothing showrooms.
Before that it was residential lofts; even earlier the headquarters of Newsweek Magazine. But look at its upper stories and it's obvious that the structure at the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street once saw grander days. Office buildings in 1906 were obviously more ornate than they are today, but most didn't have a three-story copper mansard roof crowning 12 stories of terra cotta and limestone in French Renaissance style.
When hotel tycoon John Jacob Astor IV acquired the property in 1900 it was the site of the deceased Hotel St. Cloud. The only revenue being generated was the rental of billboard space on the construction fences surrounding the property. Astor IV had just finished building the St. Regis Hotel up on Fifth Avenue and was looking for new challenges. He had leased the site to a Philadelphia firm to begin construction, but the firm eventually defaulted. The revamping and enlarging of the former structure was far from complete when Astor took the reins. He hired an interior designer with a fitting middle name, James Wall Finn, and took on a partner, hotel manager James B. Regan, who immediately shipped himself off to Europe to check out the latest innovations of international hostelries, then returned ready to roll up his sleeves. After all, he did own a third of the stock in the new venture, as well as receiving $300,000 a year.
Opening in 1906, the 556-room Hotel Knickerbocker billed itself as a Fifth Avenue hotel at Broadway prices ($3.25 a day for a single guest; $15-20 for a suite) it was soon dubbed the "42nd Street Country Club," and immediately became the place to stay. Opera singers Antonio Scotti and Enrico Caruso took up residence for lengthy periods of time. Caruso found it a much safer place to stay than San Francisco's Palace Hotel, where he was staying when the earthquake hit earlier that first year. And what wasn't there to love? Its nearly one thousand guests could stroll down hallways lined with framed copies of French portraits, enter one of the eleven elevators and descend to the dining areas, able to seat 2,000 patrons and visiting diners. Passing the two-story ball room on floors two and three (two also has a nurses' station). Caruso and other guests had the choice of two main dining areas, both presided over by chef Alexandre Gastaud, formerly of London's Hotel Carlton. They entered brilliantly decorated spaces, were seated at immaculately accoutred tables and received their meals from innovative heated serving carts that could be wheeled across white marble floors (most restaurants were carpeted) and parked right at one's elegantly clothed elbow.
There were feasts for the eyes as well as the ears. The café on the ground floor featured a mural of Old King Cole and His Court, painted by Maxfield Parrish (now at the St. Regis) the below-ground grill room featured a large Frederic Remington. If you preferred dining en suite there were pantries on every guest floor, connected by dumb waiter to the kitchen. Thousands of guests were drawn to the Knickerbocker, before rapidly rising neighborhood real estate values and the advent of Prohibition forced the hotel's closing in May of 1920 after only 14 years of operation. However one surprise guest had no comment after his brief visit. On February 17, 1918, an 11-year-old chimpanzee escaped from a nearby exhibit wearing miniature human clothes and found his way to the Knickerbocker lobby. The headline in the New York Times the next day reported, "Ape in Big Broadway Hotel." At least he was royalty. The story described the visitor, as "answering to the name Prince Charles."
A sidewalk Santa stands beside a cardboard chimney on Broadway in 1903, near a corner building with an ad for Presto on the second floor, as men in bowlers and a woman in fur and a street-length coat takes time out to have a look. You'll find a hundred pictures of New York City at the Library of Congress's American Memory site covering "Tourism Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880 - 1920." Just go to the search page at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ detrquery.html, feed in "New York City" as a search phrase and pick your subject from the menu grids.
There are photos of City Hall, the Hotel McAlpin, the city's original Metropolitan Opera House (c. 1905), Cleopatra's Needle, a birds' eye view of the first Pennsylvania Station, the interior of a tenement, a shot of the New York skyline showing the Singer Tower and the Woolworth Building. Each enlargeable thumbnail page also contains subject links and technical data, as well as reproduction rights information. And when you've spent a New York minute or two (or 37) you can return to the search page and visit hundreds of other locales.
© 2004, David Minor
The Eagles Byte New York City / State Timeline is from David Minor's radio scripts for Simon Pontin's Salmagundy radio program on WXXI-FM (91.5). David can be heard every Saturday morning at 10:15 talking about various aspects of world history.