Tag Archives: New Netherland

Len Tantillo: The Edge of New Netherland


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A uniquely illustrated history of New Netherland, New Sweden, early North American fortification design, and the construction of Fort Cashmir (New Castle, Delaware) has been published for the New Netherland Institute. The Edge of New Netherland by L. F. Tantillo explores life in the Dutch colony and competition between European powers by focusing on the construction of regional forts, and the trade they engendered.

Tantillo provides readers with new insight into life on “the edge of New Netherland,” where two small groups of colonists – one Dutch, the other Swedish ­– fought to control access to the Delaware River and thus the trade in Indian furs, and later, English tobacco. Decades before British forces captured this territory in a power grab that remade colonial North America, fortifications were built and re-built, deals made and settlements established.

While The Edge of New Netherland (L.F. Tantillo, 2011) examines, in beautifully illustrated detail, the broader aspects of daily life on the Dutch, Swedish, English and Indian borderlands of North America, it focuses on the history of one wood and dirt fortress. Built in 1651 by the Dutch and destroyed in 1664 by the British, Fort Casimir largely failed as a defensive bulwark, but it helped anchor the growing settlement of New Amstel, now New Castle, Delaware.

The Edge of New Netherland includes more than 100 drawings accompanied by explanatory text, a historical overview of the Delaware River by Charles T. Gehring, and commentary by Peter A. Douglas.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

New Netherland: Kenney Award Applications Due


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The New Netherland Institute is the recipient of an annual grant from the Alice P. Kenney Memorial Trust Fund. This grant enables the Institute to award an annual prize of $1,000 to an individual or group which has made a significant contribution to colonial Dutch studies and/or has encouraged understanding of the significance of the Dutch colonial experience in North America by research, teaching, writing, speaking, or in other ways. Reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed. Persons or groups to be considered for this award can be involved in any pursuit of any aspect of Dutch colonial life in North America. Emphasis is on those activities which reach a broad, popular audience in the same way that Alice P. Kenney’s activities did.

Criteria for Nominations:

* Candidates for the award can be nominated by members of the New Netherland Institute, by historical organizations, or by the general public.

* Nominations should be in the form of a nominating letter or statement (1-2 pages long)detailing how the nominator became aware of the nominee, which of the nominee’s activities led to the nomination, how those activities qualify for the award, and what the perceived impact is of the nominee’s activities.

* Nominations may also include illustrative materials which demonstrate the nominee’s activities such as maps, brochures, photographs of exhibits.

* Nominations may also include up to three one-page letters of support from other persons.

* Three copies of all material must be submitted.

Selection Criteria:

* The winner shall be selected by a four-person committee consisting of the Director of the New Netherland Project, two members of the New Netherland Institute and a representative of the Alice P. Kenney Memorial Trust Fund.

* The committee shall consider (1) if the nominee qualifies for the award, (2) how significant the nominee’s contributions are, (3) how large the audience is, (4) how great the chances are for continued influence, and (5) whether the materials are historically accurate and based on the most recent primary and secondary research.

Send nominations by April 4, 2012 to:

The Alice P. Kenney Award Selection Committee
New Netherland Institute
P.O.Box 2536, Empire State Plaza Station
Albany, NY 12220-0536

E-mail: nyslfnn@mail.nysed.gov

New Netherland: Hendricks Award Submissions


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The Annual Hendricks Award is given to the best book or book-length manuscript relating to any aspect of the Dutch colonial experience in North America until the American Revolution. The Award carries a prize of $5,000 as well as a framed print of a painting by Len Tantillo entitled Fort Orange and the Patroon’s House. The prize-winner, chosen by a five-member panel of scholars, is selected in May or June. The Award is given at a ceremony in conjunction with the annual New Netherland Seminar, held in September. Reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed.

Two categories of submissions will be considered in alternate years:

(1) recently completed dissertations and unpublished book-length manuscripts (2012), and (2) recently published books (2013). If there is no suitable winner in the designated category in any particular year, submissions from the alternate category will be considered. In addition, submissions from the previous year will be reconsidered for the Award.

Criteria: Entries must be based on research completed or published within two years prior to submission. Manuscripts may deal with any aspect of the Dutch colonial experience as defined above. Biographies of individuals whose careers illuminate aspects of the history of New Netherland and its aftermath are eligible, as are manuscripts dealing with literature and the arts, provided that the methodology is historical. Co-authored books are eligible, but edited collections of articles are not, nor are works of fiction or works of article length. An entry may be a self-nomination, an outside nomination, or in response to invitations to submit from Hendricks Award readers.

Submissions will be judged on their contribution to the scholarly understanding of the Dutch colonial experience in North America and the quality of their research and writing.

Three copies of a published book or three clear, readable photocopies of the manuscript must be submitted on or before March 15, with a letter of intent to enter the contest. Copies cannot be returned. Alternatively, submissions may be in pdf format.

Address entries to:

The Annual Hendricks Award Committee
New Netherland Institute
Cultural Education Center, Room 10D45
Albany, NY 12230

Send PDF submissions to nyslfnn@mail.nysed.gov; use ‘Hendricks award’ in the subject line.

‘Girl With a Pearl Earing’ Coming to the Frick


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The Frick Collection has announced that in the fall of 2013, it will be the final venue of an American tour of paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. This prestigious Dutch museum, which has not lent a large body of works from its holdings in nearly thirty years, is undergoing an extensive two-year renovation that makes this opportunity possible. Between January 2013 and January 2014, the Mauritshuis will send thirty-five paintings to the United States, following two stops at Japanese institutions.

The American exhibition opens next winter at de Young/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, traveling on to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for the summer of 2013. A smaller selection of ten masterpieces will be on view at The Frick Collection in New York from October 22, 2013, through January 12, 2014. Among the works going on tour are the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, neither of which will have been seen by American audiences in ten years.

Illustration: Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, oil on canvas, 44.5 x 39 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Hendrick Vrooman Family Being Celebrated


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The Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave., Schenectady), will hold a celebrate the life and legacy of Hendrick Meese Vrooman, a Dutch settler who came to Schenectady in 1664 and was ultimately killed in the 1690 Massacre. Vrooman was the father of Adam and Jan Vrooman, who came with their father from Holland and many of whose descendants still live in the Schenectady and Schoharie County area.

A letter written by Vrooman in 1664, along with many other letters, were seized by the English from Dutch ships during the 17th-century Anglo–Dutch wars. These seized letters were recently discovered in the archives in Kew, England. In Vrooman’s letter, he comments on the changing rule in the colonies from Dutch to English, and describes his life in Schenectady: “It has been a good summer there. Very fine corn has grown there and the cultivation was good and the land still pleases me. At snechtendeel [Schenectady and the surrounding area] the land is more beautiful than I have ever seen in Holland.”

The Dutch national television station KRO will be filming this event for its program “Brieven Boven Water” (roughly translated as “Surfacing Letters”). The program attempts to make contact with living descendants of people who wrote the seized letters.

Descendants of Hendrick Meese Vrooman are especially encouraged to attend this event; the Grems-Doolittle Library staff and volunteers can help trace lineages back to the Vroomans. Please contact the Librarian for assistance.

The event will be held at the Historical Society on Thursday, February 9, at 2:00 p.m. The cost is $5.00 for the general public; Free for Schenectady County Historical Society members. For more information, please contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian, 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at librarian@schist.org.

Illustration: Map of Schenectady in 1690, courtesy Brown and Wheeler Family History.

Albany Institute ‘Lives of Abraham Staats’ Sunday


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This Sunday, January 29 at 2 PM the Albany Institute of History & Art will host Dr. Eric Ruijssenaars as he tells the life story of Abraham Staats, a Dutch founding father of Albany. Ruijssenaars is a Senior Scholar in Residence at the New Netherland Institute, and operates the research firm Dutch Archives. The event will be FREE with museum admission.

The lecture will examine Abraham Staats’ varied roles in the Capital Region, beginning with Staats’ 1642 emigration from Amsterdam to Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s vast estate, Rensselaerswijck (now part of Albany and Rensselaer counties). As a surgeon, Staats not only treated ailing residents, but also acted as advisor to the Patroon. He served as a magistrate of the court; and outside the court, he was often called on to resolve disputes between his neighbors. Well-respected within Rensselaerswijck, Staats was also something of a diplomat. Entitled to trade in beavers, he learned the Algonquin Indian language and was therefore able to act as an intermediary between colonists and Native Americans. The sloop Staats purchased to further his commercial interests placed him in contact with leaders in New Amsterdam and allowed him to develop a personal relationship with Peter Stuyvesant.

Following the talk, guests are invited to explore Albany’s Dutch colonial history by visiting the permanent exhibition Traders and Culture: Colonial Albany and the Formation of American Identity, located on the third floor of the museum. The Albany Institute of History & Art is located at 125 Washington Avenue, Albany. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with a valid ID, $6 for children 6-12, and FREE for members and children under 6.

Photo: The Abraham Staats house, which he built, is currently the oldest home in Columbia County.

Mabee Farm to Host 1700s Colonial Festival Dinner


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The Mabee Farm’s in Rotterdam Junction will play host to prominent 18th century citizens of the Schenectady area during a Colonial Festival Dinner, the featured event of the Schenectady Heritage Area’s Annual Schenectady Colonial Festival.

Participants are likely to meet General Schuyler, soldiers on campaign, a Sachem of the Mohawk Wolf Clan, merchants or land speculators working for the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, and several members of the Mabee Family and their household. Part of the Mabee’s farm in Rotterdam Junction, the inn was frequented by military leaders, Native American traders, bateau men and many others traveling the Mohawk River. Continue reading

Books: Selected Rensselaerwijck Papers


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Papers from the New Netherland Institute’s annual Rensselaerswijck Seminar has long served as a platform for local historians to present their latest research on the only successful patroonship in New Netherland.

A Beautiful and Fruitful Place: Selected Rensselaerswijck Papers, vol. 2 (SUNY Press, 2011) includes papers delivered at the seminar from 1988 to 1997 and features New Netherland’s distinctive regional history as well as the colony’s many relationships with Europe, the seventeenth-century Atlantic world, and New England, these cogent and informative papers are an indispensable source toward a better understanding of New Netherland life and legacy.

Leading scholars from both sides of the Atlantic critique and offer research on a dynamic range of topics: the age of exploration, domestic life in New Netherland, the history and significance of the West India Company, the complex era of Jacob Leisler, the southern frontier lands of the colony, relations with New England, Hudson Valley foodways and Dutch beer production, the endurance of the Dutch legacy into nineteenth-century New York, and contemporary genealogical research on colonial Dutch ancestors.

Edited by Elisabeth Paling Funk and Martha Dickinson Shattuck, the newest volume of papers includes chapters from Rensselaerswijck Seminars on domestic life in New Netherland, the Age of Leisler, New Netherland and the Frontier, The Persistence of the Dutch after 1664, The Dutch in the Age of Exploration, Manor Life and Culture in the Hudson Valley, Family History, Relations between New Netherland and New England, The West India Company and the Atlantic World, and more.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Shirley Dunn: Early Dutch House Rediscovered


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What follows is a guest essay by Shirley Dunn, a historian of Rensselaerwijck and the Mohican.

A surprise “Dutch” house dating to about 1700 (or just before), located on Route 9J near the Teller Crossing, is for sale. The bricks have been covered with siding and the roof slope has been changed so you would not know it is that old. The original walls, cellar fireplace support, and beams in the cellar, as well as vlechtingen at roofline in the attic, remain in place. All bricks used to build the house were of the thin pre -1703 size.

The house appears on mid-1700 maps and belonged to the farm called “Cost Verlooren” leased by the Abraham Van Deusen family in the late 1600s and passed down through daughter Jannetje into the Witbeck family. Although it is probably the oldest house in the East Greenbush area, excepting for Staats house, it was hidden by early 20th century siding and missed by the Historic American Buildings Survey of the 1930s.

In the early 1900s or before, the slope of the roof of this old Dutch-style house on the river road below the present City of Rensselaer was raised so a second floor could be developed. The newly built second floor portion was covered with white siding on the outside and the bricks on the south gable and the first floor were painted white. This is apparently why the house was bypassed by the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s. Since then, the brick house was completely covered with modern siding late in the 20th century, to preserve the brick.

In the 17th century, the managers of Rensselaerswyck, which was a colony begun by Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, leased out farms along the river below the present City of Rensselaer. A valuable farm near the present-day Hayes Road intersection was leased to Teunis Dirckse Van Vechten. His son, Gerrit Teunis Van Vechten, sold the lease to Claes Van Petten. In 1696, the Claes Van Petten-Teunis Dirckse farm was obtained by speculators Samuel Staats, Barent Rynders, and Joachim Staats. In May, 1699, these men sold the farm lease back to Gerrit Teunis Van Vechten and Jonas Douw, the brother-in-law of Gerrit.

North of the Van Vechten property, another farm had been established in 1639. In 1640 its combination barn-with-residence attached burned down. Later leased by Cornelis Van Nes, who had little success, the farm earned the nickname Kost Verloren, or “Money Thrown Away.” (For details, see Dunn, “Settlement Patterns in Rensselaerswijck,” de Halve Maen Magazine (Holland Society, Lxvii, Fall 1994).

Despite this history, in 1687, a lease for this Kost Verloren farm was obtained by Melgert Abrahamse Van Deusen, a carpenter. Van Deusen had been working in the area as a farmer on rented land which was no longer available at Fort Crailo (Correspondence MVR 181-182). In the nineteenth century, part of the Kost Verloren farm was owned by the Teller family. On this latter site, immediately beside a railroad crossing still known as Teller’s Crossing, a gambrel-roofed brick house survived until the 1920s. It was known as the Teller Farmhouse. The gambrel-roofed houses of our area were generally built in the decades after the late 1750s, after the French War wound down. The farmhouse, of which a photograph exists, was probably built in the 1760s. This date is based on a map of the 1750s, which showed only one house in the area. (For photo, see Reynolds, Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley before 1776 (1928) pages 84-85, photo 143). The gambrel-roofed Teller farmhouse therefore was not the earliest house on the Kost Verloren farm. Maps indicate it appeared between 1757 and 1767.

An earlier existing house on this farm was mentioned in the renewed lease of 1709 given to Melgert Abrahamse Van Vechten. According to Reynolds, in Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley, page 84, Melgert Abrahamse Van Deusen, (First Settlers p. 124) conveyed part of his farm to his daughter, Widow Jannetje Van Deusen Witbeck in 1733. As the stated north boundary line of the land of Johannes Van Vechten, a son of Gerrit Teunis Van Vechten, adjoined Jannetje Van Deusen’s land, we know that Jannetje’s portion was the south part of the Kost Verloren farm. She was his daughter, although not listed in Pearson’s First Settlers. Jannetje was the widow of Thomas Janse Witbeck who had been buried two years earlier on Papscanee Island in 1731.

Jannetje Van Deusen had married Thomas Janse Witbeck at the house of her brother, Rutger Van Deusen, in 1702. Since Rutger Van Deusen was a son of Melgert Abrahamse Van Deusen, we know that Jannetje was his sister.. Rutger had married Wyntje Harmense in 1692 (Pearson, First Settlers of Albany Co.) Rutger is identified as a linen weaver. Can I speculate? Possibly Widow Jannetje agreed to take care of her father in his declining years, in exchange for title to the land she already lived on. Melgert Abrahamse Van Deusen was buried on Papscanee Island in 1742.

A map of 1757 shows one house in the area of Kost Verloren. This house is most likely today’s surviving Hurley house obliquely opposite the former Teller Crossing and Teller Farmhouse (now gone). According to evidence remaining in the Hurley house attic and cellar, it was a one-and-a half story steep-roofed Van Rensselaer-style tenant house, possibly built at the time of Jannetje’s 1702 marriage. Alternately, this could be her father’s house from before 1700, or an unidentified early house on Kost Verloren. It is unlikely it is her brother, Rutger’s house, since he may have lived in Albany (1702 list).

Jannetje Van Deusen Witbeck’s house and farm passed to an Abraham Witbeck, probably her son, who passed it to his daughter, Jannetje, married to James Cole. He is most likely the Abraham Witbeck who appears at number 45 on the 1767 Bleeker map of house sites. A Melgert Abramse Witbeck is listed on the 1767 map at number 44. He appears to be a son of Lucas Janse Witbeck who in 1692 married Catrina, another daughter of Melgert Abrahamse Van Deusen. (Pearson, First Settlers, page 153). By the time of the 1767 map, apparently his gambrel-roofed house known as the Teller farmhouse had been erected, probably number 44 on the map. The two houses were not far apart on Kost Verloren.

According to Reynolds’ research, Jannetje Witbeck’s farm later belonged to Coles, Nortons and Tellers (Dutch Houses, page 84). However, her research related to the gambrel–roofed Teller Farmhouse of the 1760s, which she thought was an older house, possibly Jannetje’s. Thus, this ownership research might apply only until the two properties were separated.

Deeds to the property could be checked at Troy. Earliest deeds might be at the Albany County Hall of Records. In the 20th century, the still standing older house on Kost Verloren belonged to the Hurley family beginning about 1950.

In a landscaped setting, the Hurley house hides its age under white siding and a changed roofline. It has a one-story frame rear kitchen addition. The old interior has been modernized. Stairs lead to the added second floor. However, the house’s age quickly appears. A wall of early bricks lines the steps to the cellar (bricks about 7.5 inches long x 1 ½ high by 3 ½ to 4 across, in various shades of red). Hewn chamfered beams cross the cellar in the Dutch style from wall to wall. The present owner has supported the old beams with jack posts.

The cellar holds proof the house had jambless fireplaces. At the south end of the cellar is a well-preserved, 89 inch long brick arch which once had trimmers at each end. The arch is constructed of the same thin bricks noted above, the arch resting on a row of flat stones protruding a few inches from the cellar wall. The arch extends 33 inches into the cellar to the first beam. This arch once supported the hearth which was above on the first floor. At the north end of the cellar, one projecting support stone remains in the cellar wall, enough to indicate there once was a similar arch there. The other support stones apparently were broken or removed from the north cellar wall to make room for a modern heating unit. An added outside entrance into to the cellar, located beside the south arch, is trimmed with larger bricks from a later date. That there was an earlier rear wing before the present kitchen wing is suggested by the foundation.

The outline of the former tapering chimney (above the former first floor jambless fireplace and the existing cellar arch) is visible on the south gable wall of the attic. A rebuilt chimney (made of thin old bricks) rises to the ridge. The original gable end roof framing, showing the steep slope of the former roof, is visible in this south end of the attic. Along the top of the former gable end wall are vlechtingen (inverted brick triangles) in the Dutch style. They once were part of a standing gable which projected above the roof. The inside of the visible original south gable wall is laid in the thin, early bricks, (now covered on the outside), which remain within the old framing. Above the old wall, 20th century brick laid to fill space under the new roofline can be seen in the gable. A fire in the north gable, which gable has been rebuilt, has removed early attic evidence at that end.

The impression is that this two-room house when built was constructed with early small bricks and had jambless fireplaces at each end. The bricks suggest the house very likely dates to c.1700, give or take a few years. If so, this Van Deusen-Hurley house is a remarkable previously unrecognized survivor of the late seventeenth century or very early eighteenth century.

The existing house with large lot is in good shape is for sale, the asking price $229,900. Those interested in purchasing the home should contact Carla Bakerian of Heartland Properties at (518) 479-5434.

Photos courtesy Shirley Dunn: Above, the Hurley-Van Deusen house in the 1950s (note the beam anchors in the gable); Middle, the hearth support, a brick arch under the original first floor hearth of a jambless fireplace, remains in the south end of the cellar. Note the small size of the early bricks, which are similar to those used throughout the house. Below, the old, small bricks of the Hurley-Van Deusen House at present are covered with siding to protect them. Note the beam anchors, now used for decoration.

Schenectady Reformed Church Archives Talk


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Dirk Mouw, winner of the New Netherland Institute’s (NNI) 2010 Annual Hendricks Award and featured speaker at NNI’s 24th Annual Meeting, will return to the northernmost part of New Netherland Sunday, November 13, 2011.

He will speak at the First Reformed Church of Schenectady’s weekly Forum, following the 10:00am worship service. The Forum is held in the Poling Chapel, 11:15am – noon. Mouw will speak about Archives of the First Reformed Church: Stories they Illuminate, Facts they Reveal, and Mysteries they Still Hold. Original 17th and 18th century church records, written by founders of Schenectady and the Church, will be shown.

After the Forum there will be a Brunch at the Stockade Inn – 12:15pm, $20/person, across the street from the church. An afternoon Workshop will follow at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue – a block’s walk around the corner from the Inn. Dr. Mouw invites anyone having early colonial documents, especially any in Dutch, to bring them for a “Show, Translate & Tell” session. Documents in the historical society’s collection will also be part of the program.

Mouw is translator of the De Hooges Memorandum Book for the New Netherland Institute, and he is an authority on the history of the Dutch Reformed Church. Currently a Fellow of the Reformed Church Center, he received the 2002 Albert A Smith Fellowship for Research in Reformed Church History. He is the author of a short biography of Schenectady’s first minister, Petrus Tesschenmaecker, who was killed in the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. Mouw is co-editor with two Dutch historians of Transatlantic Pieties: Dutch Clergy in Colonial America, which includes his Tesschenmaecker biography and will be in print by early 2012.

Mouw’s writing that won the Hendricks Award, Moederkerk and Vaderland: Religion and Ethnic Identity in the Middle Colonies, 1690-1772, rejects the myth prevalent in histories of the Middle Colonies, that the inhabitants of what had been New Netherland and their descendents quickly abandoned their churches and cultural identity, melting into the society and ways of English or American rule. Records in the Archives of Schenectady Reformed shed light on the people of the northernmost part of New Netherland Colony, showing how they remained faithful to their heritage and churches despite the changing colonial linguistic, governmental and religious environment around them.

Mouw earned his doctorate at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, following a master’s degree in history at the University of Iowa and a bachelor of arts in history and philosophy from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mouw’s work involving Schenectady is of special interest this year as it is the 350th anniversary of Arendt van Curler’s 1661 founding of Schenectady. As Mouw rejects certain historical accounts, scholars, historians, archaeologists and artists in this area have been making discoveries that are leading to new interpretations of Schenectady’s history.

The Forum is open to the public. First Reformed Church of Schenectady, 8 North Church Street in the Historic Stockade, Schenectady, NY 12305 Two church parking lots, Stockade Inn parking lot, and street parking; one block from Bus Station.

1st Jewish Congregation Torah Scroll Exhibition


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Rare and centuries-old liturgical objects, manuscripts, maps and other historic artifacts—including a Torah scroll rescued from the hands of British troops during the American Revolution — will be on loan to the New-York Historical Society beginning November 11, 2011, for the installations The Resilient City and Treasures of Shearith Israel.

The presentations of Treasures of Shearith Israel and The Resilient City at the renovated and transformed New-York Historical highlight the history of religious freedom in New York City and honor the first Jewish congregation to have been established in North America—a congregation that remains vibrant and active today, and is a neighbor of New-York Historical.

Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in 1654 by the first Jews to settle in North America: a group of 23 immigrants who came to New Amsterdam from their previous place of residence in Recife, Brazil. From 1654 through 1825, Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City. The congregation met in rented quarters until 1730, when it constructed its first building, which was located in downtown Manhattan on Mill Street (now known as South William Street). Many of the furnishings from the 1730 building are now installed in an intimate chapel, called the Little Synagogue, in Shearith Israel’s current home, consecrated in 1897, on the Upper West Side.

The Torah Scroll will be on display in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court in the Rotunda of the New-York Historical Society, where it will be surrounded by four late-20th-century views of the New York cityscape by artist Richard Haas. This installation will establish a dialogue between the city’s past and present and help reinforce the underlying themes of diversity, tolerance and resilience that are also addressed in inaugural installations presented in New-York Historical’s new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, where visitors may explore the history of the United States as seen through the lens of New York. The many other significant objects on loan to New-York Historical from Shearith Israel will be displayed in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture.

These loans have been facilitated Norman S. Benzaquen.

Photo: Congregation Shearith Israel, (founded 1655) New York, 1897 building. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Killaen van Rensselaer: Designing a New World


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A biography by New Netherland scholar Janny Venema of one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and a leading figure in the establishment of the New Netherland colony Kiliaen van Rensselaer has been published by SUNY Press.

As one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company, he was instrumental in the establishment of the New Netherland colony on the East Coast of North America, becoming one of its first patroons. Although he never actually set foot in the New World, his patroonship, Rensselaerswyck, encompassed much of what is now New York State’s Capital District and survived as a legal entity up until the 1840s.

During the early 1600s, as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was locked in a war with Spain that would last for eighty years, thousands of immigrants came to Amsterdam and greatly influenced the development of the Republic. Among them was Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a young man from a small eastern town on the war front.

Young Kiliaen quickly became part of the culture of the rapidly developing city, where he was trained as a jeweler and merchant by wealthy relatives. He would work within this family network for the rest of his life, to great success.

In this biography, Venema examines the time in which Kiliaen van Rensselaer lived, his surroundings, the rapidly expanding city of Amsterdam, the great trading companies, the jewelry business, and the people in his network. Along the way, she explores his motivations and the powerful role he played in helping to establish a Dutch presence in the New World.

Janny Venema is Assistant Director of the New Netherland Research Center, which is responsible for translating the official records of the Dutch colony and promoting awareness of the Dutch role in American history. She is the author of Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652–1664, also published by SUNY Press in cooperation with Uitgeverij Verloren.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Rensselaerswijck: Life on the Hudson’s East Bank


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) and the New Netherland Research Center (NNRC) are partnering to present a day of lectures and a tour of a private home to highlight the history of Rensselaerswijck, the colonial estate owned by the van Rensselaer family that was located in what is now mainly the Capital District.

The program will be held on Saturday November 5, 2011. Lectures will take place at the RCHS, 57 Second Street, Troy NY. Cost is $25 for the day, $23 for RCHS and NNRC members. For more information or to make your reservation, call 518-244-6853 or email ilenefrank@rchsonline.org. Space is limited for the house tour.

Highlights of the day include an address by Dr. Eric Ruijssenaars and a chance to tour one of the oldest homes in Rensselaer County, Hoogebergh. Dr. Ruijssenaars, the New Netherland Research Center’s first Senior Scholar in Residence, is the founder of Dutch Archives, a historical research firm in Leiden, the Netherlands. Although a specialist in the history of Russia and the Netherlands, he is also a scholar of the Brontë sisters in Brussels and has published two books on the subject. Currently he is researching the life of Abraham Staats. Hoogebergh is a private, family owned property in which eleven generations of the Staats family have lived. The earliest sections of the home date to the 1690s.

SCHEDULE

9:00am – Coffee and Registration at RCHS, 57 Second Street, Troy NY

9:30 am – Welcome
Ilene Frank, Executive Director, RCHS & Charly Gehring, Director, NNRC

9:45 am – Native Americans Along the Hudson
Andy Krievs, Project Director, Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc.

Through the years, Hartgen Archeological Associates has conducted several excavations that include Native American sites. Mr. Krievs will talk about several sites found along the Hudson River that date back to the Woodland time period and even earlier.

10:30am – A Dutch Founding Father: Abraham Staats
Dr. Eric Ruijssenaars, Senior Scholar in Residence, NNRC

In 1642, surgeon Abraham Staats and his wife emigrated from Amsterdam to Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s estate, Rensselaerswijck. Staats’s not only treated ailing residents but he also advised the Patroon and served as a magistrate of the court, resolving disputes both inside and outside of court. Well respected, Staats was also something of a diplomat. Entitled to trade in beavers, he learned the Algonquian Indian language and acted as an intermediary between colonists and Native Americans. His commercial interests placed him in contact with New Amsterdam’s leaders, such as Peter Stuyvesant.

11:30am – Going Dutch: The Influence of Dutch Culture in the Upper Hudson Valley
John Scherer, Historian Emeritus, New York State Museum

New York’s unique Dutch heritage was reflected in its material culture long after the colony was taken by the English in 1664. By that time New York, formerly known as New Netherland had been heavily settled by the Dutch and new settlers continued to arrive from the Netherlands. These early settlers and their descendants attempted to replicate their native land in the new world. This Dutch influence continued to exist in the Upper Hudson Valley well in to the nineteenth century.

1:00pm – Tour Hoogebergh
Join us for a special tour of Hoogebergh, a private, family owned property that has remained in the Staats family for eleven generations. The stone house was begun in the 1690s or before and lengthened in 1722. Other additions have been made, but the older parts are little changed. Space is limited, book early.

Illustration: The Hudson River Valley c 1635.

Why 17th Century New Amsterdam Matters Today


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Dennis J. Maika will present a talk entitled “New York Was Always a Global City: Why Seventeenth-Century New Amsterdam Matters Today” at 1:30 p.m. on November 19, 2011 (Saturday) at 3 West 29th Street, NYC (at Marble Church). The talk will be followed by a preview of the Center’s new website.

The driving force behind America’s founding was the expansion of trade and commerce. In those formative years of the 17th century Atlantic World, New Amsterdam was at the center of that trade. Dr. Maika will identify key elements that made early New Amsterdam (New York) a global city and offer observations about its economy, government and society that made New York City’s early history especially relevant today.

Dennis J. Maika is the 2102 Senior Scholar in Residence at the New Netherland Research Center in Albany. He received his Ph.D. in History from New York University; his dissertation was awarded the Hendricks Manuscript Prize. He is a Fellow of the Holland Society of New York, the New Netherland Institute, and the New York Academy of History. Dr. Maika participated in the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World at Harvard University. As a historian of colonial New York, he has served as a consultant for local history and education projects and has written numerous articles and papers. Dr. Maika is currently working on a book about Dutch and English merchants in seventeenth-century Manhattan.

The event is free, but reservations are required. For reservations, please email kchase@westendchurch.org or call (212) 799-4203. Leave your name, phone number or email and the number of reservations you require.

Manhattan Grid System Focus of Exhibit


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The first comprehensive exhibition to trace one of the most defining achievements in New York City’s history—the vision, planning, and implementation of Manhattan’s iconic grid system—will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York from December 5, 2011, through April 15, 2012.

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan for Manhattan, 1811—2011 will document the development of the “Commissioners’ Plan,” which in 1811 specified numbered streets and avenues outlining equal rectangular blocks ranging from (today’s) Houston Street to 155th Street and from First Avenue to Twelfth Avenue.

The exhibition, which is organized on the occasion of the bicentennial of the plan, will elucidate, through maps, photographs, and other historic documents, this monumental infrastructure project—the city’s first such civic endeavor—which transformed New York throughout the 19th century and laid the foundation for its distinctive character.

Some 225 artifacts will be on view in the exhibition, which is organized chronologically and geographically, leading visitors from 17th-century, pre-grid New York through the planning process and the explicit 1811 Commissioners’ Plan, and from the massive and elaborate implementation of the plan to contemporary reflections on New York and visions for its future.

“The 1811 grid was a bold expression of optimism and ambition,” Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum said. “City commissioners anticipated New York’s propulsive growth and projected that the city—still relatively small at the time and concentrated in what is now Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village—would extend to the heights of Harlem. The 1811 plan has demonstrated remarkable longevity as well as the flexibility to adapt to two centuries of unforeseeable change, including modifications such as Broadway and Central Park. The real miracle of the plan was that it was enforced.”

The exhibition will showcase the illustrious—most notably, John Randel, Jr., who measured the grid with obsessive care. Randel was an apprentice to Simeon DeWitt, the surveyor general of New York State from 1784 to 1834. Between 1808 and 1810 Randel measured the lines of streets and avenues at right angles to each other, and recorded distances and details about the island, its features, and its inhabitants. This resulted in a manuscript map of the grid plan, which he completed by March 1811. Randel continued surveying the island from 1811 to 1817, setting marble monuments (one of which will be on view in the exhibition; there were to have been 1,800) to mark the intersections of the coming grid. Between 1818 and 1820 Randel drafted a series of 91 large-scale maps of the island, now known as the Randel Farm Maps (ten of which will be on view). An article written in the 1850s cited Randel as “one of our most accurate engineers,” further stating that his survey of New York City was done “with such a mathematical exactness as to defy an error of half an inch in ten miles.”

The commissioners’ detailed notes about the grid will also be on view in the exhibition, explaining the plan and expressing their intent to “lay out streets, roads, and public squares, of such width, extent, and direction, as to them shall seem most conducive to public good…” (From “An Act relative to Improvements, touching the laying out of Streets and roads in the City of New-York, and for other purposes. Passed April 3, 1807.” )

Other colorful figures will be highlighted, including William M. “Boss” Tweed, who implemented high-quality improvements, advanced services, and pushed forward many amenities while at the same time benefitting his associates.

Other rare and exquisitely detailed maps dating from 1776 to the present will be on view, alongside stunning archival photographs portraying the island of Manhattan throughout various stages of excavation. An extraordinary street-by-street explanation of the plan in the words of the commissioners—Gouverneur Morris, Simeon De Witt, and John Rutherfurd—will be on view as will other historic documents, plans, prints, and more.

The merits of the grid will be debated. Historians have viewed it as the emblem of democracy, with blocks that are equal and no inherently privileged sites. Historians have also praised its utility, its neat subdivisions that support real estate development. The rectangular lots of Manhattan’s grid parallel Thomas Jefferson’s national survey, which organized land sales in square-mile townships. The grid manifests Cartesian ideals of order, with streets and avenues that are numbered rather than named for trees, people, or places. Frederick Law Olmsted bemoaned its dumb utility and lack of monuments and other features. Jane Jacobs credited city streets with creating New York’s public realm. And Rem Koolhaas called the grid “the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization: the land it divides, unoccupied; the population it describes, conjectural; the buildings it locates, phantoms; the activities it frames, nonexistent.”

The Greatest Grid will reframe ideas about New York, revealing the plan to be much more than a layout of streets and avenues. The grid provided a framework that balanced public order with private initiative. It predetermined the placement of the city’s infrastructure, including transportation services, the delivery of electricity and water, and most other interactions. Manhattan’s grid has provided a remarkably flexible framework for growth and change.

Visitors will have the opportunity to consider New York’s preparation for the future and whether or not the grid will enable the city to face 21st-century challenges. New proposals for the city, the results of a competition, will be on view in a separate, related exhibition co-sponsored by the Architectural League. The Greatest Grid will also feature “12 x 155,” a conceptual art video by artist Neil Goldberg along with other artistic responses, such as original drawings from the graphic novel City of Glass (Picador, 2004) by Paul Auster, illustrated by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

The Greatest Grid is co-sponsored by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

The exhibition is accompanied by a companion book of the same title, co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Columbia University Press. Dr. Hilary Ballon, University Professor of Urban Studies & Architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, conceived of the exhibition, is its curator, and is the editor of the companion book.

A related exhibition, on view concurrently at the Museum, will feature the results of a competition in which architects and planners were asked for submissions using the Manhattan street grid as a catalyst for thinking about the present and future of New York; this exhibition is co-sponsored by the Architectural League of New York.

First Manhattans: The Indians of Greater New York


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The Indian sale of Manhattan is one of the world’s most cherished legends. Few people know that the Indians who made the fabled sale were Munsees whose ancestral homeland lay between the lower Hudson and upper Delaware river valleys. The story of the Munsee people has long lain unnoticed in broader histories of the Delaware Nation.

First Manhattans, a concise distillation of the author’s more comprehensive The Munsee Indians, resurrects the lost history of this forgotten people, from their earliest contacts with Europeans to their final expulsion just before the American Revolution.

Anthropologist Robert S. Grumet rescues from obscurity Mattano, Tackapousha, Mamanuchqua, and other Munsee sachems whose influence on Dutch and British settlers helped shape the course of early American history in the mid-Atlantic heartland. He looks past the legendary sale of Manhattan to show for the first time how Munsee leaders forestalled land-hungry colonists by selling small tracts whose vaguely worded and bounded titles kept courts busy—and settlers out—for more than 150 years.

Ravaged by disease and war, the Munsees finally emigrated to reservations in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Ontario, where most of their descendants still live today. This book shows how Indians and settlers struggled, through land deals and other transactions, to reconcile cultural ideals with political realities. It offers a wide audience access to the most authoritative treatment of the Munsee experience—one that restores this people to their place in history.

Robert S. Grumet, anthropologist and retired National Park Service archeologist, is a Senior Research Associate with the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His numerous publications include The Lenapes and The Munsee Indians: A History.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Meet New Netherland Center’s Resident Scholar


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Dr. Eric Ruijssenaars, the New Netherland Research Center’s first Senior Scholar in Residence and founder of Dutch Archives, a historical research firm in Leiden, will discuss his research at a luncheon on Wednesday, October 5 at the National Register-listed University Club of Albany, 141 Washington Avenue at Dove Street. The buffet lunch will begin at 12:00 noon, with the presentation commencing at 12:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer period.

Although a specialist in the history of Russia and the Netherlands, he is also a scholar of the Brontë sisters’ time in Brussels and has published two books on the subject.

He is currently researching the life of Abraham Staats. In 1642, Staats arrived in the Dutch colony of New Netherland to serve as a surgeon on patroon Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s vast estate, Rensselaerswijck, which is now part of Albany and Rensselaer counties. Over the course of his life, Staats became a magistrate of the court, a captain of the burgher guard, the owner of a sloop that made regular trips to New Amsterdam (New York City), and an Indian language translator. Something of an oddity in rough-and-tumble New Netherland, he remained a very respectable man and was, for that reason, regularly called on to mediate disputes between his less respectable and more litigious neighbors.

The New Netherland Research Center is a partnership of the New Netherland Institute and the New York State Office of Cultural Education. It continues and extends the work of the New York State Library’s New Netherland Project, which since 1974 has preserved, transcribed, translated, and published 17th century documents in order to make the history of the Dutch colonial presence in North America more broadly accessible for study.

The University Club of Albany Foundation, Inc. is presenting this event, and one need not be a member of the University Club to attend. The cost for the luncheon and lecture is $25. Reservations are required and may be made by calling the University Club at 518-463-1151.

Photo: The Abraham Staats House, one of the finest surviving buildings from the Dutch Settlement of the Raritan Valley in New Jersey.

Book: The Vandercook Family of Renssealer County


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A new book illuminates the life of Michael S. Vandercook, a prominent figure in the early history of Rensselaer County, New York. A Fine Commanding Presence: The Life and Legacy of Maj. Michael S. Vandercook (1774-1852) of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, New York by Vandercook’s great-great-great- grandson, Ronald D. Bachman features more than 400 pages, an in-depth bibliography and extensive genealogy and index.

A descendant of some of the earliest Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley, Vandercook was born on the eve of the Revolution and lived to see the emergence of the regional divisions that led to the Civil War. He spent his entire life in Pittstown, where he was a merchant, farmer, militia officer, county sheriff, justice of the peace, and father of twelve children by three wives.


During his relatively long life, he crossed paths with such luminaries as Daniel Tompkins,
Henry Dearborn, Henry K. and Solomon Van Rensselaer, Joseph Bloomfield, Herman Knickerbocker, Eliphalet Nott. His second father-in-law was General Gilbert Eddy. On five occasions the Council of Appointment in Albany awarded Maj. Vandercook civil positions in addition to several military promotions. Governor Tompkins repeatedly picked him for special assignments in the militia, including inspector of a detached brigade deployed to the northern front immediately following the declaration of war in 1812. Later that same year, Maj. Vandercook was selected as one of New York’s 29 presidential electors.

He had a remarkable life but more than his share of tragedy. The final third of the book traces the descendancy of the twelve Vandercook children, all but one of whom left New York to seek their fortunes in the West. Many of them enjoyed success in journalism and politics.

The price, including shipping, is $22.50. To purchase the book, contact the author at ron.bachman2@verizon.net