New York City in the 17th Century


Maps of NYC 17th CenturyIn the early 16th century, Manhattan was inhabited by the Lenape people. They occupied the lower Hudson River Valley and the Delaware Valley. The Lenape were skilled hunters. Many species of game and cultivated fields of vegetation served as food for them who lived in circular huts with grass-thatched roofs. About 5,000 Lenapes lived in about 80 settlements around the region.

The first contact of the Lenape people with Europeans was in 1524, when Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528), in the service of the King Francis I of France, explored North America. The canoeing Lenape encountered Verrazzano’s ship, La Dauphine, in Lower New York Bay. While investigating the Bay, Verrazzano documented what he believed to be a lake, which was actually the entrance to the Hudson River.

In 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson was sailing on behalf of the Dutch East India Company, looking for easterly passage to India, on his ship Halve Maen (Half Moon), and spent ten days ascending the River that now bears his name. Hudson failed of his main objective, but the Dutch merchants recognized the importance of fur trade and strategic importance of the river. His voyage was used to establish Dutch claims to the region.

In 1613, Dutch explorer and private trader Adrian Block (1567-1627), built huts on Manhattan Island on the site of today's 45 Broadway Atrium, after the burning of his vessel, the "Tiger", and he lived there while building his new ship, the Onrust. In September 1890 a bronze tablet was installed by the Holland Society of New York, on the façade of 41-45 Broadway (then Aldrich Court Building), with an inscription commemorating the event.

In 1624 the Dutch West India Company sent some 30 families to live and work in New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw Amsterdam). They first set up camp in "Noten Eylandt" (today’s Governors Island), where they constructed a fort and sawmill. New Amsterdam was part of the Dutch colonial province of New Netherland.

In 1626, the Dutch settlement’s governor, Peter Minuit, bought Manhattan Island from the natives, so the settlement, fewer than 300 people, moved to Manhattan. It was then a land covered with green forests, berry patches and babbling brooks.

Most streets in lower Manhattan was developed organically as the colony of New Amsterdam grew. The roads were a mixture of country lanes, short streets and Native American and animal trails. During the Dutch rule, New Amsterdam was governed by the Directors-General of New Netherland. On February 2, 1653, New Amsterdam was chartered as a city, under Dutch control.

In September of 1664, English forces took control of New Amsterdam, which was ill-equipped to defend itself. The Dutch surrendered without a fight. In the same year, Charles II gave this land to his brother Duke of York (later James II). The colony and city were renamed New York in his honor.

The City of New York was run by the British military governor, Richard Nicolls. The office of Mayor of the City of New York was established in 1665. Before 1680, mayors served one-year terms. From 1680, they served two-year terms. In 1665, Thomas Willett (c.1607 - 1674) became the first Mayor of the City of New York. In 1666, Thomas Delavall (1620-1682) was appointed to the post, replaced by Willett, again, in 1667 and then by Cornelius Van Steenwyk, in 1668.

On August 24, 1673, began a brief Dutch reoccupation, but, in 1674, the Treaty of Westminster was signed, giving the official ownership of Manhattan to the English.

In December, 1683, six wards were established for the City of New York by the Dongan Charter (officially approved by the province on April 27, 1686). Five of the these wards (West, North, East, South and Dock) were located in what is now the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, while the Out Ward covered the rest of Manhattan. The Dongan Charter established the City of New York as self-governing corporation. By this Charter, some public, unpatented lands became property of the City, including the Common, now City Hall Park.

By the late 17th century, Manhattan was rapidly growing into a leading colonial port. Dutch and later English taverns were the usual place used as accommodation for travelers in Manhattan. Taverns were also places to drink, to eat, to meet and to discuss political or social issues. Sometimes, taverns were also used as courtrooms, trading posts, post offices, and convenience stores. In 1693, the construction of the King's Bridge to the Bronx, connected Manhattan to the mainland and it became part of the Boston Post Road. In 1700 the city had nearly 5,000 residents. More: Maps of NYC - 17th Century


17th Century NYC


Old City of New York



More: Maps of NYC - 17th Century


Nieuw Amsterdam


Novum Amsterodamum New Amsterdam



New Amsterdam in the early years, between 1626 and 1628. Drawing from the 17th century known as the Hartgers View.


Castelo Plan


New Amsterdam


Stadt Huys


17th century NY


City New York


Copyright © Geographic Guide - Historical Maps and Images of NYC.

New York 1673


The Strand NYC


Map New York


Eyland Manatus


English conquest


Governors Island NY


NYC 17th Century


New Amsterdam



Heere Gracht



Peter Stuyvesant, in 1664, standing on shore among residents of New Amsterdam who are pleading with him not to open fire on the British who have arrived in warships waiting in the harbor to claim the territory for England. Oil painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930).


New York 18th century


New York in 1673, showing the Fort with present Broad Street with its old canal, on the right.


Antique photographs


Stone Street NY


Abraham de Peyster







New York City in the 17th Century


17th Century NYC