Monday, December 22, 2014

The Lost 1641 Stadt Huys, Broad and Pearl Streets

from Popular History of the United States, 1876

On June 22, 1920 The New York Times reported on the sale of an old, six-story building at 73 Pearl Street at the northwest corner of Coenties Alley.   The reporter paused to mention “The structure occupies one of the most interesting historic sites on Manhattan Island.”

It was on that site, in 1641, that Governor Willem Kieft erected the Stadt Herberg, or “City Tavern.”   A substantial structure, it rose five stories tall—the skyscraper of mid-17th century New Amsterdam.    As much a community center as tavern and inn, its entrance faced Fort Amsterdam, the administrative headquarters for the Dutch. 

Kieft’s governorship came hand-in-hand with his position as director-general of the West India Company.   Historian Mary Louise Booth in her 1860 History of the City of New York explained “As yet, no tavern had been erected within the settlement for the accommodation of strangers, and the numerous visitors from the New England colonies as well as from the interior were compelled to avail themselves of the hospitalities of the director.”  Kieft understandably grew impatient with strangers coming and going in his house; and so had the stone tavern erected at the Company’s expense.

from Annals of Old Manhattan 1609-1664, in the collection of the New York Public Library

His problems started when he tried to tax the local Native Americans.  When that failed, he attempted to expulse them.   He ordered military attacks on villages on February 25, 1643 which resulted in the massacre of 120 Native Americans, including women and children.   It did not end there.

A two-year war ensued, called Kieft’s War, that resulted in heavy loss of life on both sides.  The Board of Directors fired Kieft in 1647, replacing him with Peter Stuyvesant.  The new governor seized Kieft’s tavern and renovated it as his City Hall, the Stadt Huys.  A cupola with an all-important bell was added to the tiled roof and the entrance relocated to face the East River.  The bell was rung at 9:00 on the mornings of “court days.”

A turn of the century postcard included the stocks (right) and public well.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

Lawrens Duyts was on the wrong side of the law at least twice here.  Records showed that Anneke Jans Bogardus sued him for the rent of a tract of land near where Trinity Church now stands.  Duyts’s defense was that Mrs. Bogardus had released him from the rent—two hogs—and that he had already paid one hog.  The magistrates ordered him to pay the other hog.

Things were a little more serious for Duyts when he was found guilty of “selling his wife to one Jansen.”  There was no jail in New Amsterdam and justice was served physically.  Lawrens Duyts was sentenced to a flogging and the cutting off of his right ear.

In 1652 the surgeons of the colony petitioned for a law prohibiting that no one could shave people but them.   The magistrates wisely decided “That no man can be prevented from operating herein upon himself, or doing another this friendly act, provided that it be through courtesy, and that he do not receive any money for it.”

One trial record included a remarkable description of the courtroom.  “Over the bench of the Justices are interweaved the orange and blue and white colors of the West India Company, with the tricolor of Faderland.  Around the room hang the leather fire-buckets ready for use.  On the magisterial seat are placed the stuffed red cushions, which are carried to the church on Sundays, and which are to hold the weight and judicial wisdom of New Amsterdam.  Behind is the painted coat of arms of the City, sent over by the Directors from Holland in 1634…Against the wall is the nut-wood chest, where are kept under massive clasps and bands the records and archives of the court.”

Trials here settled complaints large and small.  Jan Haeckins and Jacob Van Couwenhoven came to court with a somewhat subjective problem.  Couwenhoven brewed beer and sold a quantity to Haeckins.  Haeckins then refused to pay for the beer.  “The defendant says the beer is bad,” said court documents, according to historian James W. Gerard in his 1874 book The Old Streets of New York Under the Dutch.

Couwenhoven protested, saying that if his beer were bad, why would other people keep buying it?  “He further insists that the beer is of good quality, and such as is made for exportation.”  After much such bantering the magistrates arrived at a Solomon-worthy decision.  They adjourned court and went off to try the beer for themselves.

The Stadt Huys served the Dutch until 1664 when English forces seized Manhattan and overtook New Amsterdam.   The colony was renamed New York on September 8 of that year, in honor of the Duke of York, later James II.   On October 14 the Dutch magistrates and some of the higher ranking residents were assembled in the Stadt Huys by order of the English Governor Nichols.  They were read the oath of allegiance to Great Britain which they were expected to take.

They refused.  Only after significant amendments were made did the Dutch citizens agree to the oath.

The Stadt Huys would be the scene not only of government meetings, trials (under Governor Nichols the only trial for witchcraft in Manhattan’s history was held here) and civic decisions; it was the place of ceremonies and tributes. 

By 1679 the Stadt Huys, now called City Hall, was in disrepair.  Supreme Court records documented appropriation for studs and planks to shore up the walls.  It survived another two decades before the city abandoned it in 1699. 

Stuyvesant moved the entrance to the building facing the East River.  watercolor by Louis Oram, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

City documents recorded “On the 25th day of May 1699, Johannes Depeyster, being mayor, James Graham, recorder, Messrs. Boelen, Lewis, Walters, Wenham, and Cortlandt, aldermen, present.  The board taking into consideration the necessity of building a new citty hall, doo unanimously resolve, (Alderman Cortlandt only dissenting,) that a new citty hall shall be built with all convenient expedition, and that the same be erected and built at the upper end of the Broad street within the said citty.”

The aldermen also agreed to sell the old building for its materials and lease the ground “to farme for the terme of ninety-nine years.”  Merchant John Rodman purchased City Hall for 900 pounds on August 17, 1699.

Long before construction of the new City Hall on Broad Street was started in November 1700, the old Stadt Huys had been demolished.

In 1979, 279 years later, ground was about to be broken for the Goldman Sachs Building at 85 Broad Street at the corner of Pearl Street.  Archeologists studied maps and documents and concluded this was the site of the Stadt Huys.   Dollar Savings Bank owned the property and backed a $155,000 dig.  Nearly two dozen archeologists spent 11 months carefully working down from street level.

More than four tons of artifacts were unearthed—pottery, buttons, coins, delftware plates and tiles, and other fascinating relics.    On April 12, 1981 The New York Times reported “They uncovered what they believe to be the remains of the Stadt Huys.”   Later investigation revealed that the walls were more likely those of the Lovelace Tavern which was built next door to it in 1670.  Today the outline of Stadt Huys is marked by light-colored paving stones on the plaza outside of 85 Broad Street.   Visitors can view the Lovelace Tavern foundations from a section of sidewalk left open and protected by brass railings.


1 comment:

  1. Now this is old school. It's fun to see some very old architecture.