In the Shadow of Slavery

Chapter IV.
Town Life.

THE earlier towns in New Netherland gathered usually closely around a fort, both for protection and companionship. In New Amsterdam, as in Albany, this fort was an intended refuge against possible Indian attacks, and also in New Amsterdam the established quarters in the new world of the Dutch West India Company. As the settlement increased, roads were laid out in the little settlement leading from the fort to any other desired point on the lower part of the island. Thus Heere Straat, the Breede Weg, or Broadway, led from the fort of New Amsterdam to the common pasture-lands. Hoogh Straat, now Stone Street, was evolved from part of the road which led down to the much-used Ferry to Long Island, at what is now Peck Slip. Whitehall Street was the shortest way to the East River. In front of the fort was the Bowling Green. Other streets were laid out, or rather grew, as needs increased. They were irregular in width and wandering in direction. They were not paved nor kept in good order, and at night were scarcely lighted.

In December, 1697, city lamps were ordered in New York “in the dark time of the moon, for the ease of the inhabitants.” Every seventh house was to cause a lanthorn and candle to be hung out on a pole, the expense to be equally shared by the seven neighbors, and a penalty of ninepence was decreed for every default. And perhaps the watch called out in New York, as did the watch in Old York, in London and other English cities, “Lanthorne, and a whole candell-light! Hang out your lights here.” An old chap-book has a watchman’s rhyme beginning,—

              “A light here! maids, hang out your light,
              And see your horns be clear and bright
              That so your candle clear may shine,” etc.

Broad Street was in early days a canal or inlet of the sea, and was called De Heere Graft, and extended from the East River to Wall Street.


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