What’s left of New York’s Dutch past?


New York City may be known as a great melting pot today, and the city was founded as Fort Amsterdam as early as 1611. Soon, the city that was located on the southern tip of Manhattan Island was a thriving prosperous city of traders known as New Amsterdam. Even though many New Yorkers are never aware of it, you can still find Dutch influences throughout New York City.

Located along the Queens-Brooklyn border, one such reminder of the Dutch history of New York City is the Vander-Ende Onderdonk House. The foundation of this home that was lovingly restored after a 1975 fire sits sandwiched between buildings holding Chinese businesses. This house that is on the National Register of Historic Places is the oldest Dutch stone house in New York City. The home which was constructed in 1709 and that has a foundation dating from 1660 is maintained by the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society and is open three days a week for tours.

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This home is a traditional Dutch colonial, and that style of architecture is one of only three created in the United States, but it is not the only Dutch-style home in New York City. You can find others in the Rockaway or Lindenwood neighborhoods of Queens.

Residents and visitors to New York City may stroll down streets today that were part of the original New Amsterdam street plan and not even know it. At least 10 streets in New York City are part of the original plan laid out by Peter Minuit Plaza whose plan is honored with a statue near the Staten Island Ferry. Visitors and residents can also walk along Broadway from the Museum of the American Indian to Wall Street and see many remnants of Fort Amsterdam that was located here. They can also visit Hanover Square, which originally served as a slip to New Amsterdam. Some streets were renamed very closely to their original Dutch names when the Europeans took over power in the area while others were completely renamed.

Not only is the Dutch influence seen in the city’s architecture, but it is also seen in many words spoken by Americans. Dutch words adopted into English include stoop which is stoep in Dutch, cookie which is koekje in Dutch and Santa Claus which is Sinterklass in Dutch.

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Compared to other communities, such as Boston, there was a great acceptance of people of different faiths and cultures in New Amsterdam. Many historians believe that the acceptance of residents of New York City of people who are not like themselves can be traced to this early acceptance. Some even say that Thanksgiving Day is actually a Dutch tradition that started as Drie Oktober when the Dutch celebrate their victory over Spanish conquerors.

People who have studied New Amsterdam’s history say that once residents and visitors of New York City begin to understand the Dutch influences in the city, they will start to find them everywhere in the city.