(Can't see the video embedded above? Go to http://youtu.be/QQWyPf5kGKM.)
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On February 2, 1653, New Amsterdam officially became the first legally chartered city in America. [Peter Stuyvesant] would be advised by a council of five schepens (aldermen), two burgomasters (chief magistrates), and a schout-fiscal (sheriff and district attorney)—all appointed by him. This body served as a civil court, ruling on everything from petty grievances to capital crimes. Lacking a proper place to meet, Stuyvesant granted them the use of the city-run tavern on Pearl Street, which was renamed the stadt huis (city hall). In 1656, a special bell was added, which rang to signal the beginning of the court’s sessions.Notice, however, that in the postcard above it doesn't say that it is the Dutch city hall, but instead is labelled "New York City Hall When Occupied by the English" (even though that is clearly Peter Stuyvesant and his peg-leg in the foreground). While the caption might seem strange at first, it's not wrong. When the English first took over New Amsterdam, they used old city hall as their own. In October 1664—350 years ago this month—every Dutch citizen was forced to take an oath of allegiance to Charles II, including Stuyvesant, who had no intention of repatriating to the Netherlands. Maybe this is postcard of Stuyvesant moments after he'd become and English citizen.
is a historically convoluted re-creation. Having served after the war as everything from a Treasury Department building to a boardinghouse, the building by the turn of the twentieth century bore little resemblance to the house that Stephen and Anne DeLancey built.
In 1904, to save the structure from demolition, it was purchased by the Sons of the Revolution, who hired William Mersereau to restore the building back to what it would have been like when Washington had his farewell dinner. Despite Mersereau’s best intentions, the restoration could at best only be conjectural. He had no pictures to work from and too much of the original building had been altered over time.In The New York Times, Ada Louise Huxtable noted:
This “landmark” was built in 1907 virtually from scratch. It gives school-children a fair idea of what a Georgian building looked like and it gives local businessmen a fair lunch. But it is not old, it is not authentic, and under no circumstances is this kind of thing preservation.If you want to find out the full story of Fraunces Tavern, Stephen Delancey, and the British colonial era, join us on Sunday, October 12, at 4pm for our walking tour in honor of the 350th anniversary of New Amsterdam becoming New York.
|Collection of the authors.|
|This rare, embossed postcard emphasizes the improvements in navigation over three centuries.|
Collection of the authors.
A glance at the book-shelves of any great public library will show how industrious the historians of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and Virginia have been in recording the annals of which they are justly proud and how comparatively indifferent our own writers have been in this field. And this disparity has resulted in a very general ignorance of the full part played by our Colony and State in our national history.
|courtesy of Hudson River Valley Heritage.|
|A print of the Kennedy Mansion from NYPL.org|
"[I] spied as I peeped out the Bay something resembling a wood of pine trees trimmed.... I declare I thought all of London was afloat."
an architectural folly built by Vaux and Mould in 1867. It was designed to do nothing more than provide the optical illusion for viewers at Bethesda Terrace that somewhere deep in the park was a giant castle. It was the pinnacle—excuse the pun—of Olmsted’s picturesque vision for the park.
When the Central Park commissioners first saw the map of the Greensward Plan, I’m sure many of them didn’t realize how far-reaching Vaux and Olmsted’s design would be. The designers understood that in contrast to the monotony of the city...the park would embrace the natural topography. This would immediately mean that no two places in the park would be the same. On top of that, the tens of thousands of trees they would plant would provide “the broadest effects of light and shade . . . [producing] the impression of great space and freedom.” What an “exhilarating contrast” this would be, the designers wrote, from “the walled-in floor or pavements to which they are ordinarily confined by their business.”
The greatest amounts of the park were to balance the principles of the picturesque—thick woods, painterly contrasts of light and shadow, and the occasional castle—with the pastoral: sweeping vistas, sloping greensward, open meadows, and an actual pasture.... To contrast with these open green spaces, Vaux and Olmsted and their chief gardener, Ignaz Pilat, planted wooded areas such as the Ramble and the North Woods, forty acres in the northwestern corner of the park that were landscaped to mimic an Adirondack forest, complete with ravines, rustic wooden bridges, and a “loch,” all straight out of an Asher Durand painting.
Lastly, Olmsted and Vaux realized the importance of also including a formal centerpiece to the park. The Mall, one of the first areas of the park to open to the public, is not just a straight path, it runs exactly north- south and is lined with four rows of American elms. Pedestrians, led due north along the promenade, come to Bethesda Terrace, the artistic jewel of the park.
The shock of this overt formality reminds viewers just how informal the rest of the park seems. Similarly, the picturesque touches—a wooden gazebo here, a fake castle there—create views that are almost too much like postcards. And so the mind says: Ah, well if these views are fake, everything else must be real.
Born Elizabeth Ann Bayley, Seton was the daughter of Columbia College’s renowned professor of anatomy, Richard Bayley, and a member of the de rigeur Episcopal parish, Trinity. In 1794, the Episcopal Bishop of New York officiated at her marriage to merchant William Seton and in 1801, the Setons moved into a waterfront house on State Street near the Battery. However, William Seton’s health was failing and just two years later the family moved out, embarking on what they hoped would be a restorative trip to Italy.
Sadly, William died in Pisa shortly after their arrival. Rather than turn right around (for what was an exceptionally long sea voyage), Elizabeth stayed in Italy for a few months grieving—and discovering the Catholic Church. After returning to New York the next year, she began seriously considering conversion and in 1805 she was received into the Catholic faith—much to the chagrin and embarrassment of her friends and relatives.
Had Elizabeth contented herself to be privately Catholic, it perhaps wouldn’t have mattered so much, but soon her sister-in-law came to her with an interest in conversion. When that happened, Elizabeth’s family began threatening to have powerful allies in the state legislature kick her out of New York for proselytizing. (Or so the story goes—they never followed through.) Elizabeth didn’t give them the satisfaction; instead, she moved to Baltimore in 1808 to open a school and then founded America’s first convent, the Sisters of Charity, the next year. She died at the convent in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1821. In 1963, she was beatified by Pope John XXIII, and in 1975, she was elevated to sainthood for her posthumous miracles, making her the first American-born saint.