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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Postcard Thursday: The Stadt Huis

If you read James's piece on Curbed last week about looking for traces of Dutch New Amsterdam, you saw that one of the illustrations was this postcard from our collection of New Amsterdam's City Hall (or Stadt Huis in Dutch).*

The Stadt Huis was originally built as the city tavern, which served as as both a pub and a hotel. Tiny New Amsterdam was crammed with watering holes (as many as 25% of the buildings were equipped to with beer taps), but this was the only one run under the auspices of the city, which for most of New Amsterdam's history meant the Dutch West India Company.

When the company was forced to cede some control of the city to its citizens in 1653, the city tavern was the natural choice to become the seat of the new city government. After the English takeover in 1664, the Stadt Huis remained the seat of New York City government until the English could build a bigger building on Wall Street. This British City Hall ultimately was converted into Federal Hall, where Washington became president in 1789.

All of these old city halls are gone. Today, the site of the original Stadt Huis is commemorated with a yellow rectangle of bricks on the Pearl Street sidewalk of 85 Broad Street. Archaeological excavations in 1979-80 of the Stadt Huis block turned up all sorts of fascinating finds from the Dutch and English periods, but no trace of the old city hall.

If you read Footprints in New York, this spot comes into play in the first chapter. This is where James's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents lived in 1650s and 1660s, when his ancestor, Johannes Nevius, was city secretary. Who knows -- maybe that's him strolling with Peter Stuyvesant in this postcard?

* Oddly, this postcard is labelled "New York City Hall When Occupied by the English," despite the fact that it clearly depicts a Dutch scene.

* * * *
Read more about the Dutch and English colonial eras in
Footprints in New York: Tracing the Lives of Four Centuries of New Yorkers


And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

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