The Greatest Street in the World - Stephen Jenkins - ebook

The Greatest Street in the World ebook

Stephen Jenkins



When all its phases are taken in the aggregate, Broadway holds a position that is unique and pre-eminent among the great avenues of the world. In this book Mr. Jenkins has presented the whole history of Broadway, old and new, through all the miles of its long course from the Bowling Green to Albany; its historic associations from pre-Revolutionary times to the present, its theatres and the actors that made them famous, its literary incidents and personalities, the busy hum of city life that rises heavenward between its towering buildings, and all the abundant energy that flows through it ceaselessly.

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The Greatest Street In The World


The Story of Broadway, Old and New, from the Bowling Green to Albany







The Greatest Street in the World, S. Jenkins

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9



ISBN: 9783849651572

[email protected]


























DURING the past ten or more years I have been delivering a lecture in New York and elsewhere, which I have called "Broadway, Old and New, from New York to Albany." In this volume, I have expanded the lecture to book size.

Broadway is the longest of the modern streets of the world, though it is surpassed in length by two of ancient Roman construction: the Appian Way from Rome to Brundusium, 350 miles, and Watling Street in England, from Dover via London to Chester and York, thence in two branches to Carlisle and the Wall near Newcastle. These have, however, fallen from their high estate; and of the latter road traces only are found in some parts of its course of over three hundred miles; remains of the former are sometimes unearthed, though a more modern road, built by Pope Pius VI. in 1789 parallels the ancient roadway from Rome to Albano, nineteen miles northeast of the Eternal City.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century Broadway has been the main artery of the city, and its growth has been an indication of that of the old city upon the island of Manhattan. It has become the Mecca toward which the eyes of exiled Manhattanites are always turned, and they long for a sight of "dear old Broadway." It represents to them New York — it is the epitome of the life of the great metropolis, with its various activities, mercantile, social, political, and theatrical. The outsider must also see Broadway, if he should visit New York; though it is greatly to be feared that the gaiety of the thoroughfare is its most potent attraction to him. If you are a New Yorker, let me ask you if you have ever been away from the city for a few weeks? When you return and your footsteps carry you along Broadway, does not every face you see — whether man, woman or child — have for you so marked a familiarity that you feel as if you knew personally each individual, and you have an almost overmastering inclination to nod or to say "How d' ye do?" to each one you pass? In other words, you feel at home, or like Micawber, that "your foot is on your native heath." I sometimes wonder if the naturalized New Yorker ever experiences the same feeling. I do not believe he does.

I think I am right in calling it "the greatest street in the world. " There are famous streets in the other great cities of the world, but none that shows such wealth for so great a distance. It is said that when the famous Field Marshal Blücher rode in triumphal procession through the streets of London after the battle of Waterloo he gazed about him in astonishment, and, true to his upbringing as a soldier of Frederick the Great and the military canons of the time, exclaimed: ''Gott in Himmel! Vot a magnificent city to sack!" If we could suppose the doughty old warrior transported to New York and driven over her great thoroughfare, we can readily believe that words would fail him.

The question is often asked whether New York will ever be finished. It does not seem so, for there is such continual tearing down and building up. This has been a marked feature of Broadway since the days of the Dutch. It is, perhaps, a sign of financial progress and wealth — the desire to have something better than there was before. But it has its unpleasant side if we judge from the sentimental point of view; for old and historic landmarks have disappeared. Of course, if some of these had been preserved, it would have been expensive toll to pay for sentiment, and we are a practical people and inclined to say with Sir Peter Teazle: "D—— sentiment." Then again, our population is so mixed with foreign elements that historic associations have played but little part when utility has required change or demolition.

In writing this volume, I have tried to be as accurate as possible, and where there has been doubt to give that statement which has the greatest authority. A bibliography will be found at the end of the volume; and I wish here to acknowledge the obligations I am under to the Lenox, Astor, Society, Mechanics, New York Historical Society and Mount Vernon public libraries, and especially to the private library of District Superintendent of Schools, John W. Davis; also to many individuals, both in public positions and private life, to whom I have addressed inquiries which have always been courteously answered.

Stephen Jenkins.

Mount Vernon, New York, January, 1911.



IN the fourth of October, 1609, Henry Hudson, having finished the exploration of the river which bears his name, set sail for Europe and wintered in the port of Dartmouth, England. From this point, he sent accounts of his voyage to his employers, in which he named the newly explored river the Mauritius, in honor of Prince Maurice of Orange. Several merchants at once began the fitting out of a vessel to take advantage of Hudson's discoveries. This vessel sailed in the following year (1610), and it is said that it was commanded by Juet, Hudson's mate on the Half-Moon.

This voyage must have been of advantage to its backers, for we find that the United Netherlands Company was formed for the purposes of trade with this new land. From this time forth, a succession of voyages followed under such commanders as Christiensen, May, Block, De Witt, and Volckertsen. While these expeditions ascended the river as far as the influx of the Mohawk — the heart of the fur trade with the Indians — Manhattan Island was made the chief depot of the trade, and Christiensen was made the agent of the Company for the traffic in furs. A small fort was built on Castle Island in the river near Albany, and another on Manhattan Island with a few rough, bark huts near it. This fort was a small block-house surrounded by a stockade. It stood at the junction of Tuym, or Garden Street (Exchange Place) and the present Broadway — approximately, at 39 Broadway.

In the fall of 1613, Adrian Block lost one of his vessels, the Tiger, by fire; and he and Christiensen built several huts for the accommodation of their crews and spent the winter of 1613-14 upon the island of Manhattan. The site of these huts is marked by a tablet erected by the Holland Society upon the front of the building occupied by the Hamburg-American Line at 41-45 Broadway, These habitations are said to have been the first erected by Europeans upon the island of Manhattan, and the date is that usually given for the first settlement of New York. They were probably the huts of 1612 repaired for winter use, being contiguous to the small fort, or block-house, mentioned above. The crews were engaged during the winter in building a vessel to replace the one lost by fire. The new vessel was called the Onrest, or Restless. In it Block made explorations through Long Island Sound as far as the island which bears his name, whence he crossed to the northern shore and explored Narragansett Bay.

These earlier voyages were conducted by traders, who, having bartered with the Indians for furs and pelts, returned each year to Holland; unless through some accident, as with Block and Christiensen, they were obliged to stay through the winter.

The charter of the United Netherlands Company expired January 1, 1618; but special licenses to trade were granted by the States-General until the formation of the West India Company, June 3, 1621. This company was formed principally through the efforts of Willem Usselinx, a far-sighted patriot and statesman, who had been urging the colonization of the newly explored lands ever since Hudson's report of his voyage had reached Holland, with its description of the richness and productiveness of the country. The formation of the West India Company had three objects primarily in view: first, an immediate source of revenue to the State to aid in supporting the war then waging with Spain; second, to colonize the lands which held out so many prospective rewards to the colonizers; third, to establish a permanent colony in America as an offset to the Spanish colonies, and as a base at which the Dutch vessels could fit out and from which they could sail to pounce upon the richly laden galleons of Spain on their homeward voyages from Mexico, South America, and the West Indies.

In pursuance of these plans, a number of colonists, provided with tools, cattle, and other requisites, were sent out in several vessels and settled near the site of Albany in the first half of May, 1624. It was not until the spring of 1626 that a permanent, agricultural colony under Director Peter Minuits was established upon Manhattan Island; though it must not be forgotten that the island had been occupied as a trading post for several years before this.

In 1841, Dr. Brodhead visited Holland on behalf of the State of New York for the purpose of examining and codifying the ancient records relating to the Dutch occupation of New Netherland. He found that a great mass of the earliest documents and archives had been sold at auction as worthless lumber twenty years before his visit; and these priceless papers have probably disappeared forever. From the year 1638 onwards, however, there are pretty full records, as the correspondence between the West India Company and its agents was very voluminous; and the reports of the directors-general and the petitions of the inhabitants of New Netherland against the tyranny and exactions of the company's representatives to their "Illustrious High-Mightinesses," the States-General, and other matters relating to the colony had been preserved. All of these, as well as similar papers in the possession of the State of New York, have been translated and codified by Brodhead, O'Callaghan, and their successors in the offices of state archivist and state historian; and the work is still in progress. The very earliest history of Manhattan is, therefore, largely traditional and conjectural.

The Company built a fort at the lower end of the island, and about this clustered the houses of the first settlers; these were rude affairs of bark. Later, there was expansion along the shore of the East River as the settlers began to cultivate their bouweries, or farms. When Director-General Kieft massacred Indians at Pavonia and on Long Island and brought about the Indian wars of 1641, and later, the people were obliged to flee from the outlying farms to the protection of the fort in order to escape death or bondage at the hands of the redskins. As it was, their cattle were killed, and their houses destroyed, while many of the men were tomahawked, and the women and children carried into captivity. The annals of these Indian wars teem with horrors — of the two belligerents, it appears that the Dutch were the more savage.

There was at first no order in which the houses were built. Each settler "squatted" wherever he pleased, his one desire being to get as close to the fort as possible. He built his house and cultivated his garden; and after a period of occupancy, usually six years, received from the Company the grond brief, or patent, for his land. The first grant of land was probably that made in 1636 or 1637 to Roelof Jansen of a tract of sixty-two acres on the west side of Broadway, extending from Warren Street to Christopher. It was not until 1642 that any grants were made of town lots; and it was not until the following year that such grants were made on the Heere Straat. These were principally on the east side, as the west side was taken up with the burying -ground (Morris Street), the garden, and the orchard of the Company, the Company's bouwerie, and the country places of Vandergrift and Van Dyke. In 1631, a windmill for the use of the town was erected on the Heere Straat between the present Liberty and Cortlandt streets.

On account of this "squatting" of the first settlers, there grew up that irregularity of streets which distinguishes today the lower parts of the city of New York. Streets were unknown in those early days; but about the time of the first grants two streets leading from the fort seem to have formed themselves by common consent; one, the Heere Straat, which followed a ridge of land northward through the Company's farms and fields, the other, a street leading along the shore of the East River, which became the Great Queen Street of the English and the Pearl Street of the present. It was along this latter street that the settlement grew away from the fort, having its greatest density of houses and population in Blommaert's Vly, through which flowed a sluggish stream that drained the swamp near the Heere Straat. As early as 1638, it appears that measures were taken to drain this marsh, but it was not until 1643 that an artificial ditch was constructed to carry off the swamp water. At first, a roadway twenty-five or thirty feet wide was left on the west side only; but in 1657-59, arrangements were made with the landholders on the eastern side, and a similar width of roadway was secured on that side also.

At the same time, the ditch was deepened and widened and its sides sheathed with planks, so that it became a canal through which the tide ebbed and flowed almost to Beaver Street. Here were conditions and surroundings with which the Dutchman was familiar; he was reminded of home, and this section became the most desirable and thickly settled on the island. The street was called De Heere Graft; in English days and our own. Broad Street. By 1676 the ditch had become so unsanitary that Governor Andros ordered that the street be filled up, and the ditch became a covered sewer as far south as the bridge (Bridge Street).

From the very beginning of the Dutch occupation, differences arose between them and the English as to the ownership of the land. It is stated that as early as 1614, Captain Argall, while returning from his eastern explorations, stopped at Manhattan Island, and made the traders whom he found there acknowledge the supremacy of Virginia and pay quit-rent for the privilege of trading in the valley of the Hudson; and Captain Thomas Dermer, the first Englishman to sail through Long Island Sound is known to have stopped at the Manhadoes in 1619. There were constant disputes with Connecticut over the boundary line between the two colonies — a dispute that was handed down to our own time, for it was not until 1879 that the two States interested finally came to an agreement which was ratified by the Congress of 1880-81.

In 1654, some English from Connecticut, probably in furtherance of that colony's claim to all the land as far as the ocean, settled on Westchester Creek, in what is now the Borough of the Bronx. Director Stuyvesant, and his council, fearing further encroachments by the English upon the land of New Netherland, and even upon New Amsterdam itself, sent an expedition to arrest the audacious intruders, and also during the same year, caused a palisade to be built from the East River to the Hudson. This palisade, or wall, was regularly patrolled by the soldiers of the Company, and several falcons were distributed along its length. Two gates gave egress and ingress; one being located at the upper end of the Heere Straat, called De Landt Poorte, or land gate; the other, the more important of the two, called the water gate, at the shore of the East River. The land gate was opposite where Trinity Church now stands and gave access to the Vlacte, or pasture; the water gate gave access to the ferry to Brooklyn, to Allerton's warehouse, and to the other houses along the river road. In the morning men went through the streets blowing horns, and the cattle of the different inhabitants were put in their charge to be driven through the two gates to the common for pasture; at night the cattle were driven back again through the gates, but distributed themselves to their own quarters.

This palisade, or wall, gave its name to the street which was afterwards laid out along its length and which has become the financial center of New York — Wall Street. The wall was, therefore, the upper limit of the town of New Amsterdam. If we measure the extent of the town from north to south by the scale on the " Duke's Plan " of 1664, we shall find that it did not exceed five hundred and fifty yards from the southern extremity to the wall. The palisade was allowed to decay, but was repaired from time to time as the danger of invasion arose during both Dutch and English days. In 1692, during the alarm of King William's War with the French, fears were entertained of an invasion from Canada, and two stone bastions were erected, one of which, called "Zealandia," stood at the land gate. The wall was finally demolished in 1699. When the workmen were digging up Broadway in 1799 to lay the water pipes of the Manhattan Company, they came upon the foundations and posts of the old city gate at Wall Street.

In 1652, upon petition of the inhabitants, the Company granted them a burgher government; — this constituted the first incorporation of the city. In 1656, the first map of the city was drawn, showing seventeen streets, "to remain from this time forward, without alteration." In 1657, the average price of the best city lots was fifty dollars, and these were not on the Heere Straat. The rent of an average good house was fourteen dollars a year. In 1658, contracts were awarded to some of the city shoemakers to make leather fire-buckets; and a few months later, these buckets were distributed to several houses in the town, eleven being assigned to Heer Paulus Leendersen Vandergrift, whose house was on the Heere Straat nearly opposite Exchange Place.

In 1664, at the time of the surrender of the province to the English under Colonel Nicolls, in addition to the tracts of land on the west side of the street already mentioned, were the farms of Nicholas William Stuyvesant and Balthasar Stuyvesant, sons of the governor. Outside the city gate, the Heere Straat did not extend as far as Fulton Street. This section had been granted in 1644 to Jan Jansen Damen, whose property extended, with some slight variations, from river to river, and was now rented by his heirs to five tenants.

On the east side of the street, was a grant taken in 1643 by Govert Loockermans and Isaac Allerton, an Englishman who had come over in the Mayflower to Plymouth. The property extended one hundred feet above Beaver Street on the Heere Straat, and two hundred and fifty feet back to the swamp on Broad Street. Above this, was another farm of Jan Jansen Damen, which had been used formerly by the negro slaves of the Company to cultivate for their own use. Damen cultivated part of it, and used part of it for a sheep pasture. The next property was that belonging to Secretary Cornelis Van Tienhoven, which he had acquired in 1644. The few houses on the east side of the road were of a mean character, little better than hovels, with one room and a fireplace, being occupied by mechanics and laborers. This was due to the fact that the Heere Straat was remote from the business parts of the town.



THE fort at Garden Street (1612) was a block-house surrounded by palisades, or, in the language of the times, "stockadoes." The fort erected by the West India Company under Kieft at the lower end of the island was of similar description; but it was the first building intended to be permanent. It was called Fort Amsterdam, and the settlement which grew up about it, New Amsterdam. In 1633, a more pretentious fortification was begun by Van Twiller. This was planned to be three hundred feet long and two hundred and fifty feet wide, with four corner bastions built of stone, the ramparts between being of earth. It was finished in 1635 at an expense of $1688, and contained the governor's house, barracks for the garrison, secretary's office, etc. The stone church, seventy-two feet long, fifty-two feet wide, and sixteen feet over the ground, was begun by Kieft in 1641 and finished the following year. The roof was of split shingles; and upon the front was placed a tablet stating in Dutch: "Anno Domini, 1642, Wilhelm Kieft, Director-General, hath the Commonalty caused to build this Temple." The cost of the church, one thousand dollars, was raised by subscription, advantage being taken of a wedding party to get the merry guests to subscribe sums at which in the "cold, gray light of the morning after," they opened their eyes. The church was named Saint Nicholas in honor of the patron saint of Holland; but later it was also known as "The Dutch Church within the Fort." The contractors were John and Richard Ogden of Stamford, in Connecticut.

During colonial and provincial times, the fort was the center of political action, and, to a great extent, owing to its being the official residence of the governor, of the social life as well. Its site was on the plot of ground bounded by Whitehall, Bridge, and State streets, and the Bowling Green. The last named was on a hill outside the fort — it is there that Broadway begins. Whitehall Street was so called because it led down to a white building erected by Governor Stuyvesant, afterwards used by the English Governor Dongan, and later as a custom-house. J. H. Innes suggests that it may have been so called by the English in derision, as the building was not an imposing one and may have recalled to them the dilapidated appearance of their own Whitehall Palace in London. Bridge Street led to the "long bridge" across the canal in Broad Street. State Street, afterwards the locality of some of the finest mansions in the city, was named in honor of the State.

The Bowling Green was the open space north of the fort, originally called 't Marckveldt (the Marketfield) or "The Plaine." A lane led to it from Broad Street, called 't Marckveldt steegie, popularly known in English days as Petticoat Lane. A portion of the ancient lane is still hidden away between the Produce Exchange and the American Bank Note Company's building at Broad and Beaver streets. Beaver Street also led into the Marketfield; and on the west, leading to the Hudson, and the landing-place of the Jersey farmers, was the Beaver path, an extension of Beaver Street, but closed as a highway and granted to private parties before 1650.

In 1641, Director Kieft ordered that an annual fair for the sale of hogs should be held in the Marketfield on the first of November. In 1658, a meat market, the first in the city, was established in the same place, and a shed was erected for the purpose. In the following year (1659) a great, annual, cattle fair was established in front of the fort between October twentieth and the last week in November, during which time no one could be arrested for debt. This, no doubt, added materially to its popularity, for it lasted for thirty years. The cattle to be sold were ranged along the west side of Broadway and fastened to stakes driven for the purpose in front of the burying-ground (Morris Street).

The open place served not only as a market, but also as a parade for the soldiers, for a common out-door meeting-place of the inhabitants, and for bonfires, Maypole dances, and similar celebrations. The old parade also saw the departure and return of many a warlike expedition. In 1691 a shambles was established on the Marketfield, where meat only was to be sold.

The first Indian war of Kieft's administration was ended here on August 30, 1645, when the chiefs and sachems of the hostile tribes assembled on "The Plaine," smoked the peace pipe, and buried the tomahawk in sign of amity, at the same time marking their totems in sign of acquiescence upon the treaty which the Dutch had prepared for them. In 1655, Stuyvesant marshalled his army in front of the fort before starting on his successful expedition against the Fort Christina of the usurping Swedes upon the Delaware; and "The Plaine" also beheld the triumphant return of his (according to Diedrich Knickerbocker) motley army. For the last time Stuyvesant marched his little army out of the fort with the honors of war, August 26, 1664, while the tri-colored flag of Holland fluttered to the ground and the standard of Great Britain rose in its place.

Under Colonel Nicolls, New Amsterdam became New York, and the fort became Fort James in honor of the lord-proprietor, James, Duke of York and Albany (afterwards King James 11.). For nine years, the English remained undisturbed; then, England and Holland being at war, a Dutch fleet of five vessels under command of Admirals Benckes and Evertsen appeared off New York, and the province became once more Dutch, with Captain Colve, commanding one of the vessels, as governor. The city was called New Orange, and the fort. Fort William Hendrick, August, 1673. In November, 1674, the Dutch, by the treaty of Westminster, ceded the colony to the English, and the fort and city became again English, to remain so until the Revolution.

As stated above, the fort was the center of the political and social life of the city. Here the governors resided, here the taxes and quit-rents for land grants were payable, and here was quartered the garrison, consisting usually of a regiment of foot and a company of artillery. It is not necessary to give a list of these governors, most of them bad, some indifferent and a few, good. Probably the worst from a moral point of view was my Lord Cornbury, a dissolute profligate, who amused himself and shocked the worthy citizens by parading about the fort dressed in women's clothes — his only title to consideration being that he was a cousin of Queen Anne and that he needed all the money that he could force or beguile from the inhabitants.

When, in August, 1689, the news of the abdication of James 11. reached the city, the great mass of the citizens determined to get rid of the obnoxious Governor Nicholson and declared for William and Mary; but there was far from being unanimity of opinion. A committee of safety was formed, and Jacob Leisler, one of the wealthiest merchants of the city and a captain of the militia, was declared commander-in-chief until such time as instructions could be received from England. The five trainbands of the city and one from Eastchester paraded in front of the fort and refused to obey the orders of their colonel, Nicholas Bayard, but declared instead for Leisler, who then took possession of the fort and became the actual governor. When on March 19, 1691, Governor Sloughter arrived under appointment of William and Mary, the fort was, after some delay, surrendered, and Leisler was arrested and accused of high treason, A court of eight judges was appointed by Sloughter, and Leisler and his son-in-law, Jacob Milborne, were convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

Sloughter, who appears to have been a well-meaning man when not under the influence of drink, would not sign the death warrant, probably believing that, while Leisler might be technically guilty, he had, in fact, saved the colony from anarchy and been loyal to the king, under whose orders he claimed, and rightly, always to have acted. There was also fear on the governor's part that he might incur the displeasure of the king by summarily executing the man who had been the first to raise the standard of William and Mary in New York. However, Leisler's enemies were determined upon his death and took advantage of the governor's weakness to accomplish their purpose. They invited Sloughter to a banquet, got him drunk, and, while he was in that condition, induced him to sign the death warrant. Before he became sober, Leisler and Milborne had been executed. On July 23, 1691, two months afterwards, Sloughter died suddenly while in a drunken state. It is to be hoped that remorse helped him on to his untimely end. Four years later, Parliament reversed the attainder, the confiscated property of the two victims was restored to their heirs, and the bodies of Leisler and Milborne were disinterred and buried with high honors in the Dutch church in Garden Street. For a quarter of a century afterwards, the politics of the city were swayed by the Leislerians and the anti-Leislerians.

In 1691, Abraham De Peyster, captain of one of the train-bands and a friend of Leisler, became mayor of the city, which office he held for three years. His statue is in the Bowling Green, facing the custom-house.

South of the fort was a point of land, anciently called Schreyers' Hoek, or Weepers' Point, after a similar point in old Amsterdam, where people saw the last of departing vessels, carrying away those who were near and dear to them. A number of rocks, called Capske, projected their heads above the water. In 1693, during the progress of a war between France and England, the governor, fearing an attack by the French fleet, caused the edge of the point to be filled in and erected a platform upon which was placed a number of guns to command both rivers. The works extended from the present Whitehall Street westward about three hundred feet and were commonly known as the Whitehall Battery. This was the beginning of the present Battery; but much more land was subsequently filled in, making here one of the most delightful spots in the city. When fashion ruled in this neighborhood, the Battery park was the favorite resort of the citizens. No disfiguring railroad structure then intercepted the view, nor was conversation interrupted by the thunder of passing trains. Even now, one can travel to many places before he will see a view equal to that he gets from the Battery of the beautiful harbor of New York, with Bartholdi's grand statue of Liberty, and the constantly passing vessels lending animation to the scene.

In 1732, the city council:

"Resolved, that this corporation will lease a piece of land lying at the lower end of Broadway, fronting the fort, to some of the inhabitants of the said Broadway, in order to be enclosed to make a Bowling-Green thereof, with walks therein, for the beauty and ornament of said street, as well as for the recreation and delight of the inhabitants of the city, leaving the street on each side thereof fifty feet in breadth."

By this act, the first, and oldest, public park in New York city came into being. The section adjacent to the Marketfield had become the wealthy and fashionable quarter of the city, and the residents did not like the open market in front of the fort and so near to their own habitations. The lessees under the act were John Chambers, Peter Bayard, and Peter Jay; the rent was one peppercorn a year, and the lease was for eleven years. There was no golf in those days and the sport of bowling was popular; for at the expiration of the first lease, it was renewed for eleven years more at a rental of twenty shillings a year to John Chambers, Colonel Frederick Philipse, and John Roosevelt.

In the year 1746, a party of Oneidas and Mohawks with their squaws and papooses, amounting in all to several hundred, came in canoes down the Hudson River to hold a conference with the British Governor Clinton. They encamped upon the shore of the river where the N. Y. C. & H. R. R. R. freight house is now located in the former St. John's Park, and marched down Broadway to Fort George in single file carrying long poles ornamented with French scalps. The conference was held in the fort; and the whole proceeding was of great interest to the inhabitants, as subsequently all such conferences were held in Albany.

The German, Professor Kalm, in a visit to the city in 1748 describes the fort as "a square with four bastions," situated upon the southwest point of the city and containing the governor's residence, three stories in height. This house, which was called the Province House, was destroyed by fire during Governor Tryon's time, December 17, 1773, with the loss of one life, that of his daughter's maid. Kalm states also that the chapel within the fort was destroyed by fire during the negro plot of 1741; and further, "According to Governor Burnet's observation, this fort stands in the latitude of 42° 12' north."

On the first of January, 1672, Governor Lovelace started a post-rider from the fort to carry the mails to Boston; but only a few trips were made. The Boston post was successfully established a few years later. In 1753 there appeared the following in the New York Gazette: "The Post-Office, at the Bowling Green, Broadway, will be open every day, save Saturday afternoons and Sundays, from 8 to 12 A.M., and from 2 to 4 P.M., except on post nights, when attendance will be given until ten at night, by A. Golden, deputy postmaster. N. B. No credit in future." From this it would appear that the Saturday half-holiday was one of the early institutions of the city. In 1772 it was enacted by the provincial assembly that: "The mail be sent weekly from New York to Albany, up one side of the River and down the other, for which an extra one hundred pounds be allowed." The mail was carried on horseback, and the post-rider would sometimes carry a woman passenger on a pillion behind him.

In 1765, the British Parliament enacted the Stamp Act. A meeting of the merchants of the city was called at Burns' s Coffee House on Broadway, and the first nonimportation agreement was signed, October 31, 1765. On the evening of the next day, two companies of the Sons of Liberty appeared on the streets. One company marched to the Commons where they hanged in effigy Lieutenant-Governor Cadwalader Golden; the other company broke into Colden's stable and took out his chariot, in which they placed a copy of the obnoxious act and an effigy of the lieutenant-governor. Both companies then united and marched in silence to the Bowling Green, where they found the soldiers drawn up on the ramparts of the fort ready to receive them. General Gage, the British commander, thought it prudent not to fire upon the rioters; and, as they were refused admission to the fort, they turned their attention to the wooden railing which surrounded the little park. This they tore down for fuel; and, having burnt railing, carriage, act, and effigy, they dispersed to their homes.

The Stamp Act stirred up a hornet's nest from Georgia to Massachusetts; and in order to allay the excitement. Parliament, on February 20, 1766, repealed the hateful act. "When the news of the repeal reached New York, the inhabitants went wild with delight, the city was illuminated, and special bonfires were lighted in the Bowling Green. In a burst of loyalty, the citizens determined to erect an equestrian statue of George III. in the Bowling Green, and one of Pitt in Wall Street. The gilt statue of the king was erected August 21, 1770, amid the roar of artillery and the plaudits of the enthusiastic and loyal people.

The wooden fence was replaced temporarily in November of the same year; but the general assembly of the province feared: "That unless the said Green be fenced in, the same will soon become a receptacle for all the filth and dirt of the neighborhood, in order to prevent which, it is ordered that the same be fenced with iron rails, at an expense of £800." It is generally stated that this fence and the original stones still surround the park; but the royal crowns and the leaden balls which ornamented the pillars were broken off, to be used as missiles to be fired at the Asia man-of-war, in case she bombarded the town.

On the tenth of July, 1776, the news reached the city from Philadelphia that the Congress had declared that "these Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States." The enthusiastic populace tore the picture of George III. from its frame in the city hall in Wall Street, and then proceeded to the Bowling Green, where willing hands soon had ropes around the figures of the king and his horse. "With a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether," the leaden horse and his leaden rider came tumbling to the earth. At the same time the railing was stripped of its royal ornaments. The pedestal was left standing until after the Revolution. The lead figures were broken up and sent to Litchfield in Connecticut, the home of Oliver Wolcott, later governor of the State, by whose wife and daughter they were melted and run into 42,000 bullets, which the American patriots used later against the royal troops.

Upon two occasions, one as late as the spring of 1909, pieces of the statue have been found in Litchfield while excavating for foundations for new buildings. It is supposed that these pieces fell into the hands of Tories, who had buried them for safe keeping; but who were compelled to leave the relics when they, themselves, were obliged to flee from the wrath of their neighbors. The pedestal upon which the horse stood and a portion of the mane have for many years been in the possession of the New York Historical Society.

On August 27, 1776, was fought the battle of Long Island; and on the twelfth of September, a council of war was called by Washington which decided that the city was untenable and should be evacuated. The fort was dismantled, and on the fifteenth, the British occupied the city. Once more the banner of Great Britain flew over the ramparts of the fort, while the Parade was trodden by men in the red coats of the English, the kilts of the Highlanders, and the green coats of the German yagers. They all departed forever on November 25, 1783, when the American army of occupation resumed possession of the city and fort and flung the starry banner to the breeze amid the roar of cannon and the cheers of the multitude.

In the year 1786, Daniel Ludlow and Chancellor Livingston asked individually and separately permission to have "the care and use of the Bowling Green," which they agreed to beautify and keep in order without expense to the corporation. The chancellor had the bigger "pull" with the city authorities, and his request was granted on the terms first proposed by Mr. Ludlow.

On July 23, 1788, three days before the State convention ratified the Federal Constitution, the New York merchants, mechanics, and others all friends and admirers of Alexander Hamilton — arranged a great procession in his honor, the first thing of its kind in the city. There were several floats manned by artisans of the various trades; but the most striking feature of the parade was a float drawn by six horses, carrying the replica of a 32-gun frigate, named the Federal Ship Hamilton, twenty-seven feet long, manned by Commodore Nicholson and thirty sailors and marines. The procession started from the Bowling Green and went to Bayard's farm in the vicinity of Grand Street, where a plentiful dinner was served to over four thousand persons. The ship must have been returned to the starting point and left there, as in the records of 1789, there appears the appointment of a committee "to remove the Federal Ship out of the Bowling Green, to have the fence repaired, and to let out the Bowling Green."

When the fort was demolished in 1787 and 1788 to make way for the Government House to be erected on its site, a number of interesting objects was disclosed; among others, the stone tablet of 1642, which had been placed upon the front of the church to commemorate its building by Director-General Kieft, and the vault containing the leaden coffins of Lord Bellomont, and his wife, which were identified by the silver plates. The bodies were removed to unmarked graves in St. Paul's churchyard, while the silver plates, at first intended for exhibition in a museum, went at last into the melting-pot, and were converted into spoons. (From the grave to the gravy, as it were.) The stone from the fort was used for the foundations of the Government House, while the earth was used for filling in the adjoining Battery Park.

It was intended that the Government House should be the residence of President Washington, but it was not ready for his occupancy before the removal of the seat of government to Philadelphia. It was occupied by Governors Clinton and Jay; and later, when the State capital was removed to Albany in 1799, it was used as a customhouse. It is described as being two stories high with a portico before it covered by a pediment upon which were carved the arms of the State — the pediment being supported by four white Ionic columns. The house stood upon an elevation fronting Broadway, "having before it an elegant, elliptical approach, around an area of near an acre of ground, enclosed by an iron railing."

In 1791, the street committee reported that the Bowling Green should be preserved and "that the fence should be raised in proportion to the regulating of Broadway." In 1795, the park was set aside for the garden of the governor for the time being. On July eighteenth of the same year, its sanctity was invaded by a howling mob of indignant citizens, who there burned, to the strains of The Carmagnole the treaty with England, and the effigy of its negotiator, John Jay. Our people were at that time very French in their sympathies. In 1798, John Rogers was granted the use of the Bowling Green " on condition that he keep it in order and suffer no creatures to ruin it." It seems, therefore, that for some reasons the park was not a success as a garden for the governor's private use.

The State legislature of 1812 authorized the comptroller of the State to sell in fee simple the Government House and the adjoining grounds to the city of New York for not less than fifty thousand dollars. There was a proviso that the grounds should not be sold for the erection of private buildings or for other individual purposes; but the proviso was repealed, and the city's option to buy was limited to November 1, 1813. How and when the State obtained possession of this city property are not known; except, perhaps, as the inheritor of the province and by claiming that the fort and its appurtenances were provincial property, and not municipal. However, the city received a deed from the state on August 2, 1813, subject to a lease of the property to DeWitt Clinton and others, expiring on May 1, 1815. Sometime during 1815, the Government House is said to have burned down.

The city divided the property into seven parcels, or lots, and these were sold on June 19, 1815. The purchasers probably bought on speculation, as all but one of the lots did not long remain in their possession but were transferred to others. This section was then the most fashionable in the city; and as the lots, with one exception, were thirty feet wide, and one hundred and thirty feet deep, it was not long before a row of elegant mansions occupied the site. The grandmother of one of the author's friends used to live in one of these houses, and she used to tell how as a girl she went with the rest of her family to their summer house near Broadway and Fourteenth Street, and of the preparations made for weeks ahead for this summer flitting into the country.

When the Croton water was introduced into the city, the occupants of the houses fronting on the Bowling Green erected a fountain, consisting of a rough stone structure, over which the water was conducted by means of a pipe. The design was not one of beauty and called forth considerable adverse criticism from visitors from abroad.

And now Mr. Brown

Was fairly in town,

In that part of the city they used to call "down,"

Not far from the spot of ancient renown

As being the scene

Of the Bowling Green, A fountain that looked like a huge tureen

Piled up with rocks, and a squirt be ween.

And he stopped at an Inn that's known very well,

" Delmonico's" once — now "Steven's Hotel";

And to venture a pun which I think rather witty.

There's no better Inn in this Inn-famous city!)

John Godfrey Saxe.

By 1850, fashion had left this neighborhood and business had crept in; and these mansions became the offices of several of the foreign consulates and of the great steamship companies, so that they became popularly known as "Steamship Row." These are within the recollection of some of our younger citizens. The national government bought the site for a custom-house, and held it for several years before beginning the work of demolition of the old mansions. The corner-stone of the building was laid October 2, 1902, and the building was opened for business in November, 1907. This beautiful and imposing building, designed by Cass Gilbert, cost the government about seven millions of dollars. Its front is ornamented by a number of statues of famous individuals, and by four symbolic groups, the work of Daniel French, representing in marble, Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.



FOLLOWING the custom of renaming which was introduced by the English, the Heere Straat of the Dutch became Broadway, even the Dutch calling it in their own tongue, Breedeweg. Many of the grantees of lots on both sides of the street were imbued by the spirit of land speculation which has distinguished the city ever since, and the constant changes in ownership of the lots show this speculative spirit. The authorities tried in 1676 to increase the occupancy of the vacant lots of the city by directing all owners of vacant lots or ruinous buildings to build upon the lots or improve them under penalty of seeing them sold at public auction. This was an exercise of the right of eminent domain which would have satisfied Henry George two centuries later.

At the time of the English occupation in 1664, the highway extended only as far as the wall; it took nearly a century more before it was extended to the Commons, and this upper section was called Great George Street. The surface of Manhattan was naturally rolling, and this early Broadway followed the inequalities of the surface at the top of the ridge which sloped to both rivers. The two principal streets of the Dutch already mentioned were in fact, nothing but cow-paths over which the cattle were driven to and from pasture; this was pre-eminently so with Pearl Street, which was called the Cowpath.


A cow-path only; yet in its birth,

It had the promise of its present worth:

For Nature had its course prescribed

Between the eastern and the western tide,

And man has learned, despite his bold persistence.

That Nature's law is best — "the line of least resistance."

In 1658, the inhabitants of Brower Street were directed to pave their street in order to facilitate traffic, as the street was almost impassable. This was the first street in the city that was paved, and in consequence it became known as Stone Street. Broadway was not paved until 1707, and then only from Trinity Church to the Bowling Green; at the same time the residents were permitted to plant trees in front of their lots. In 1709, the street was levelled as far as Maiden Lane. In 1691, an order was made concerning the paving of certain streets, among which we find: "Broadway, on both sides, ten feet, down to Mr. Smith's (opposite the Bowling Green) on the west side, and to Lucas Kiersted's on the other." Yet it is probable that the vicinity of the Bowling Green was not paved until 1747, when a committee was appointed to have so much of the street around the Bowling Green and the fence along the fort paved as they might see proper. The paving consisted of cobblestones, and extended only ten feet in front of the houses, the middle of the street serving as a gutter and probably being a quagmire in wet weather. The work fell upon the owners of the lots, and in case of default in complying with the ordinance there was a fine of twenty shillings to be levied upon the recalcitrant householder.

Anything in the way of sidewalks was at first voluntary on the part of the property owners; they were called strookes by the Dutch. Sidewalks did not come in until 1790, and then were made of brick. New York was far behind the Quaker City in this respect, as shown by a remark of Dr. Franklin to the effect that a New Yorker could be known by his gait, in shuffling over a Philadelphia fine pavement like a parrot upon a mahogany table. A Philadelphia visitor about 1835 remarks then that New York's large flagstones and wide foot pavements surpass Philadelphia even for ease of walking, and the unusual width of the flagstone footways across the pebbled streets at the corners is very superior. It must have been a pleasure to him to get away from the possibility of stepping on a loose brick on a rainy day.

There seems to have been some difficulty in getting rid of the water on Broadway after a heavy rain on account of the configuration of the land. An early engineer proposed a scheme for lowering Broadway and diverting the surplus water into Blommaert's Vly and the Broad Street ditch; but the project did not meet with approval. In 1712, Broadway was levelled between Maiden Lane and the Commons. It is probable that the street had been regulated in the vicinity of the Bowling Green before this, possibly by the ordinance of 1691, quoted above. That the street had been cut down some six or eight feet was shown by an ancient house which formerly stood at Beaver Street and Broadway, whose foundations were left standing above the street after the cutting down. In 1760, a committee was appointed to regulate and pave Broadway between Dey and Division (Fulton) streets; and after the Revolution, there were ordered surveys from Rector Street north preparatory to regulating and paving. In 1718 the first rope-walk in the city was established on the line of Great George Street, abreast of the Commons, between Park Place and Barclay Street; it is shown on the Montgomerie map of 1728.

In 1677, public wells, two of which were in the middle of Broadway, were established for the better protection of the city in case of fire. One of these wells, called "Mr. Rombout's Well," was situated near Exchange Place, the other, not far from it. The care of these wells was placed with a committee of the inhabitants of the vicinity, who were assessed for one half of their cost and maintenance. The water in the city was generally bad and scarce; though occasionally good sweet water was found, as at the famous "Tea Water Pump" at Pearl Street and the Bowery. Potable water from some of these good sources of supply was hawked about the streets, and sold to the inhabitants. The wells were abolished from Broadway in 1806.

The question of an adequate supply of good water arose as early as 1774, when Christopher Colles constructed a reservoir at public expense on the east side of Great George Street, between Pearl and White, then far out of town. Water was obtained from sunk wells and from the Collect, or Freshwater pond, on the site of the present city prison on Center Street. The water was distributed through wooden pipes in 1776, but the supply was insufficient and the quality poor. The British took possession of the city immediately afterward, the plant fell into disuse, and the people returned to the ancient pumps and wells. In 1798, the question of getting a supply of water from the mainland of Westchester County was agitated, but the corporation was deterred by the expense. Alexander Hamilton did not believe that the matter of water supply came within the province of the municipality so far as ownership and maintenance were concerned. Then the Manhattan Company was formed by Aaron Burr, whose charter gave the right of supplying the city with water and the further right to engage in the banking business. Colles's reservoir was utilized, and the old plan of wooden pipes was resumed; but water was both scarce and bad, and the company paid more attention to banking than it did to water and thus lost the confidence of the community, which soon voted the new plan a failure. When, in 1894, the excavations were in progress for the cable road of Jacob Sharp, some of the old wooden pipes were exhumed in Broadway. The great fire of 1835, entailing a loss upon the city of 648 houses and over eighteen millions of dollars, quickened the public interest in the water question upon which the citizens had voted "yes" at the previous spring election. Croton water was admitted into the city on July 4, 1842, and the event was celebrated on the fourteenth of October with the most imposing celebration which had yet graced the streets of the city.

In the Dutch days, no attempt was made at lighting the streets of the town at night; but in 1679 every seventh house was obliged to hang out a pole with a lantern and lighted candle on the nights when there was no moon; and at the same time a night watch was formed. The expense of the lights was divided among the seven householders adjacent to the lantern. In 1762, an act of the assembly gave authority to provide means of lighting the city, and in that year the first lamps and posts were purchased. In 1774, sixteen lamplighters were employed. In 1823, the Manhattan Gaslight Company was incorporated and permitted to light the city below Canal Street. The gas pipes were laid on both sides of Broadway in 1825, and the lamps were lighted shortly afterward. This system still prevails throughout the city, though electric lighting has superseded gas in most of the important thoroughfares. Broadway, between Fourteenth and Twenty-sixth streets, was the first section of the city to be lighted with arc lights, December 20, 1880. About the same time, a high mast was erected in the middle of Union Square at the top of which was a cluster of electric lamps; but this plan of lighting the square was not a success.

The establishment of a meat market in the Bowling Green has already been described. It was still in use in 1702, as it was rented then for five years. About the end of the seventeenth century, a new plan was adopted by which the city was spared the expense of erecting the necessary market buildings. This was by the residents of a neighborhood petitioning for a market, for which they paid the cost of erection and maintenance and a rental to the city, which became the owner at the expiration of the lease.

In 1738, the inhabitants of the West Ward between Broadway and the Hudson petitioned for the erection of a market in Broadway, as they were so distant from the markets already established, and for the convenience of farmers and others who came from New Jersey and from up the Hudson. Upon permission being granted, they erected (1739) a market-house forty-two feet long and twenty-six feet wide in the middle of Broadway, "fronting the street in which the chief justice lives (probably Maiden Lane), and opposite to Crown (Liberty) Street." Mention is also made of a market having occupied this site in 1729. The market was called the "Oswego Market." In 1746, twenty-six feet were added to the south end of the building, and other additions were made later.

It enjoyed a prosperous existence for over thirty years, by which time Broadway had grown up and become one of the principal streets of the city. Many attempts were made to get the corporation to remove the market, taking up, as it did, so much of the highway that it interfered with traffic; but the corporation refused to act. At last the building was, in 1771, declared a public nuisance by the grand jury. They describe it as being one hundred and fifty-six feet long and twenty feet, three and one half inches wide.

The Common Council decided to defend the indictment and consulted two of the leading lawyers of the city, James Duane and Samuel Jones. The former declined to act as counsel and the latter gave it as his opinion that the city should submit. This the city at first declined to do, resolving to let the matter be decided by the court; but further reflection made them think differently, and they decided to move the market to another site. Several localities were suggested, — among others, the Commons, — and the Council finally settled upon the shore of the North River at the foot of Dey Street, where a new market-house was erected which subsequently became Washington Market (1812). At the time that the Oswego Market was removed from Broadway, the street was paved in that locality.

The market received its odd name from the fact that during the French and Indian War, Fort Oswego was considered the most important place within control of the English to withstand the encroachments of the French from Canada. The troops, provisions, and other supplies for the fort were all shipped from the river front near the foot of the present Cortlandt Street, a point which became known as the "Oswego Landing." The lane from the landing led up to the market, which thus adopted the name of Oswego. It was also called the "Broadway Market," and the "Crown Market" from being abreast of Crown Street. After the removal of the market from the middle of Broadway in 1771, the residents of the vicinity felt the inconvenience of having no market nearby, and so petitioned for the establishment of one on the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane; their petition was granted, and the market established shortly afterward. It took the name of Oswego, but is better known as "Old Swago." It stood until 1811, when it was removed by aldermanic resolution, adopted May 6th of the same year.

The first attempt to clean the streets was made in 1696, when a contract was made at thirty pounds sterling a year. Before this, every householder had been obliged to keep the street clean in front of his own residence. These ordinances failed of effect; and in 1702, all the inhabitants were required to sweep the dirt into heaps in front of their doors on Friday morning and to have it removed before Saturday night under penalty of a fine of six shillings. The cartmen were obliged to carry away the dirt at three cents a load, or, if they loaded their own carts, at six cents; in the event of a refusal, they were subject to heavy fines. As late as 1800, the chimneys were swept by small negro boys who went their rounds at daybreak, crying: "Sweep, ho! sweep, ho! from the bottom to the top, without a ladder or a rope, sweep, ho!" with numerous variations. It was not until the days of Colonel Waring subsequent to January, 1895, that New York learned that its streets could be cleaned thoroughly and economically.

From the Dutch days down to 1825, there were no methods employed for removing the refuse and garbage from the houses. All such matter was thrown into the streets where it was disposed of by the hogs, which were allowed to range the streets for that purpose, as the dogs used to do in Constantinople. It was estimated as late as 1820 that thirty thousand hogs roamed the streets of the city, and in Boston, Philadelphia, and other places, New York was a byword for filthiness. Notwithstanding the fatal visitations of the yellow fever and other diseases, — directly traceable to the festering masses of putrefying refuse in the city streets, — it was not until 1823 that the Common Council listened to the protests of the best citizens and directed that carts should be used to remove the garbage and that the swine should be captured and sent to the public pound. The men and boys of the streets offered such forcible resistance to the carts and to the attempt to arrest the hogs that the ordinance became a dead letter until several years later, when a proper public spirit of indignation against such antiquated methods was aroused, and the hogs were driven from the streets and the carts permitted to go unmolested.