The next few several posts (final and exact number to be determined) initiate the first historical project here at Another Town on the Hudson. Over the next several weeks, Another Town on the Hudson will explore a fascinating but largely forgotten chapter of early American history: New Netherland. Specifically, the forthcoming writings will linger on the short-lived Dutch settlements in Jersey City in the seventeenth century.
Very few Americans are aware that Dutch colonies predated those of the British in New York City and New York state. Even fewer Americans know that the Dutch claimed a portion of New Jersey (not to mention Connecticut) for their global empire.
Physical remainders of Dutch heritage pepper the metropolitan region. If you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or even the Bronx, you might find a street sign (Bleecker Street), subway station (Hoyt-Schermerhorn), or waterway (Spuyten Duyvil Creek) bearing a Dutch name. A walk through certain neighborhoods of Jersey City reveals similar living artifacts.
Several years ago, I read The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto.
Based upon newly translated seventeenth-century documents, this book chronicles the Dutch founding of Manhattan and captures the stories of the early settlers and the pivotal figures in the New Netherland colony. I loved the book and I applaud Mr. Shorto in his effort to capture this moment in early American history.
Upon finishing this book, I began to notice old Dutch names and landmarks on my sojourns throughout my adopted hometown. My next post will remark upon several of these observations.
Going forward with this project, I profess no deep expertise on the subject and zero facility with the Dutch language. If I make any factual errors or neglect to include any interesting information, I apologize and welcome any corrections or additions from my knowledgeable readership.
Until next time …