The Other New York

Chapter V.
Dutch Town Homes.

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.

THE first log houses of the settlers, with their “reeden roofs,” were soon supplanted by a more substantial form of edifice, Dutch, naturally, in outline. They were set with the gable-end to the street and were often built of Dutch brick, or, at any rate, the gable-ends were of brick.

Madam Knights’ description of the city of New York and the houses is wonderfully clear, as is every account from her graphic pen, but very short:—

“The Buildings are Brick Generaly, very stately and high though not altogether like ours in Boston. The Bricks in some of the Houses are of divers Coullers and laid in Checkers, being glazed, look very agreable. The inside of them is neat to admiration; the wooden work, for only the walls are plaster’d, and the Sumers and Gist are planed and kept very white scour’d as so is all the partitions if made of Bords.”

Albany long preserved its Dutch appearance and Dutch houses. Peter Kalm’s description of the city of Albany is a good one, and would well answer for other New York towns:—

“The houses in this town are very neat, and partly built with stones covered with shingles of the White Pine. Some are slated with tiles from Holland, because the clay of this neighborhood is not reckoned fit for tiles. Most of the houses are built in the old way, with the gable-end towards the street; the gable-end of brick and all the other walls of planks. The gutters on the roofs reach almost to the middle of the street. This preserves the walls from being damaged by the rain, but it is extremely disagreeable in rainy weather for the people in the streets, there being hardly any means of avoiding the water from the gutters.
“The street doors are generally in the middle of the houses and on both sides are seats, on which, during fair weather the people spend almost the whole day, especially on those which are in the shadow of the houses. In the evening these seats are covered with people of both sexes, but this is rather troublesome, as those who pass by are obliged to greet everybody unless they will shock the politeness of the inhabitants of this town. The streets are broad and some of them are paved; in some parts they are lined with trees. The long streets are almost parallel to the river, and the others intersect them at right angles.”


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