The Great Riots of New York

Town Life,
page 2 of 14

Its waters, as far as Exchange Place, rose and fell with the tide. It was crossed by several foot-bridges and a broader bridge at Hoogh Straat, or Stone Street, which bridge became a general meeting-place, a centre of trade. And when the burghers and merchants decided to meet regularly at this bridge every Friday morning, they thus and then and there established the first Exchange in New York City. It is pleasant to note, in spite of the many miles of city growth, how closely the exchange centres have remained near their first home. In 1660 the walks on the banks of the Graft were paved, and soon it was bordered by the dwellings of good citizens; much favored on account of the homelikeness, so Mr. Janvier suggests, of having a good, strong-smelling canal constantly under one’s nose, and ever-present the pleasant familiar sight of squat sailor-men and squat craft before one’s eyes. In 1676, when simple and primitive ways of trade were vanishing and the watercourse was no longer useful or needful, the Heere Graft was filled in — reluctantly, we can believe — and became Broad Street.

The first mention of street-cleaning was in 1695, when Mr. Vanderspiegle undertook the job for thirty pounds a year. By 1701 considerable pains was taken to clean the city, and to remove obstructions in the public ways. Every Friday dirt was swept by each citizen in a heap in front of his or her house, and afterwards carted away by public cart-men, who had threepence a load if the citizen shovelled the dirt into the cart, sixpence if the cartman loaded his cart himself. Broad Street was cleaned by a public scavenger at a salary of $40 per annum paid by the city; for the dirt from other streets was constantly washed into it by rains, and it was felt that Broad Street residents should not be held responsible for other people’s dirt. Dumping-places were established. Regard was paid from an early date to preserving “the Commons.” It was ordered that lime should not be burnt thereon; that no hoopsticks or saplings growing thereon should be cut; no timber taken to make into charcoal; no turfs or sods carried away therefrom; no holes dug therein; no rubbish be deposited thereon.

Within the city walls all was orderly and quiet. “All persons who enter ye gates of ye citty with slees, carts and horses, horseback, not to ride faster than foot-tap.”


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