A Brief History of Manhattan's Beginning

One day, a British explorer on a mission to find a faster way to India happened upon a peaceful bay and a small island teeming with plant, animal, and Native American life. Sadly for him, he did not know that the woodland area that he arrived at would one day be the financial capital of the world. The explorer was Henry Hudson and the day was September 2, 1609. 

15 years later, New Amsterdam became an official Dutch colony, and it consisted of the most southern tip of Manhattan, the rest of the island remained woodland. The establishment of this colony was very unique, compared to other colonies established on the coast around the same time. While most colonies were founded by visionaries who wanted to create a better life, New Amsterdam was purely money fueled. It was a prime area to trap beavers, collect their pelts, and ship them over the Atlantic. People moved to this colony to make money, not to escape persecution or start a better society. Because of the island's opportunities, it was soon owned and operated by the Dutch East India Company, and all 110 of the inhabitants were DEIC employees.

The settlers built streets as they needed them, which is why lower manhattan's geography is so disorganized. The first street to be established outside of the village was a Native American walkway that went northward on the island. It was named Broadway. 

After a few years, the population had not increased much because the beaver trade was second rate and most Dutch people preferred their dignity. This made the island lonely and boring, and the inhabitants turned to drinking and carousing. There were a huge number of bars and taverns, (20 men to a tavern) and the colony itself was filthy and unkempt. 

The Dutch decided to send Peter Stuyvesant to govern the area. Stuyvesant had lost a leg to a cannonball in a previous battle on the island of Saint Martin and is rumored to have been called "Old Silver Leg".  Stuyvesant was not well liked by the colonists because he was very strict, but he really fixed the place up and turned it into a slave port which made the colony successful financially. 

Because the colony was almost completely a business, it accepted residents of all nationalities and religions. Stuyvesant's philosophy was that if a person was willing and able to work, he was allowed to live and work in the colony, regardless of his background. This was the beginning of creating an extremely diverse environment as well as the beginning of separating church and state.

In the 1640's, Stuyvesant ordered the construction of a strong wall that stretched from Pearl Street to Trinity Place, to keep out Native Americans and possible British attacks. In 1685, the wall was taken down, and Wall Street was built instead.  

As the colony became more and more successful, the British began to take notice. They arrived in the New Amsterdam bay and had to do practically no fighting. Stuyvesant surrendered almost immediately, because he realized that since the colony was just a business, the inhabitants would not battle to keep their boss; they did not care who ran the colony as long as they got paid. On September 24, 1664, New Amsterdam was renamed New York, as a birthday present to the Duke of York.

The British ruled the colony for 119 years. They quickly wiped out the entire Native American population on the island. New York became the missing link between all of the other British colonies along the coast. Eventually New York became the second largest port in the British Empire (the first being London) and home to protestants, catholics, free black people, slave owners, and slaves, until the Revolutionary War.

Lower Manhattan