D.T. Valentine's History of Broadway Pre: 1865 Part I

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Broadway Below Wall Street Pages: 509-514

The Broadway of modern times may justly be regarded as the representative thoroughfare of the city of New York, presenting its finest features of architecture among its most attractive marts of merchandise; its finest displays of equipage and style of the fashionable part of the population; its busiest throngs of pedestrians, whether in pursuit of business, show, or pleasure; and forming altogether a scene which can hardly be rivaled elsewhere, in any part of the world.

It is a subject, therefore, which has a historical interest, not less among our own people than among those strangers to whom the wonderful advances so characteristic of our thriving cities on this western continent, furnish a theme of admiration.

In presenting the subject, the compiler has not thought it judicious to enter minutely into the modern history of the street. Its whole character has been changed within the last quarter of a century. Previously, it was a favorite locality for fashionable residence; but it is now for the most part a business thoroughfare. Following the march of population, the retail stores which formerly centered near the Park have moved northwardly, and wholesale jobbing houses characterize the lower part of the street. The architectural changes consequent upon this new characteristic of the street have been so numerous, that to attempt to follow them would involve a mass of minutiae, for which space could scarcely be provided in this volume; and, therefore, for the purpose of illustrating the present condition of the street, panoramic views embracing both sides of the street from the Bowling green to Union square, a distance of between two and three miles have been given. This embraces that portion of the street more especially devoted to large business establishments.

It being therefore the principal object of the compiler to confine his written history to the bygone rather than to recent events in the progress of the street, he has interspersed in the text such illustrations of its former condition as are entitled to reliability. He has devoted his attention mainly to its physical history, touching as lightly as possible upon the many personal as well as public events with which it is identified, but which, if allowed to enter into the subject-matter, would too greatly amplify it for the extent of this work.

It has been found convenient in arranging the plan of illustrating the progress of the street, to take up various sections separately, and carry through their history without reference to other parts; one reason for which is, that the original opening of the street was in such sections, which it is remarked, vary little from half a mile at each successive stage of its advancement. Thus, in the times of the Dutch, the street was laid out as far north as Wall street. It was next extended to the Park, to which extent it took near a century to build up. Its next development was up to Duane Street, which was about the time of the Revolutionary War. Thence toward the commencement of the present century it was opened as far as the meadows, or Canal street. Its next stride was to the present Astor place. Thence to to the Tulip Tree, above the present Union square, and afterward by rapid strides, according to the general plan of the city as established in 1807.

Broadway Below Wall Street

In the times of the Dutch, that part of Broadway which faces the Bowling green from the west, was already a popular part of New Amsterdam, and no doubt presented the most agreeable features of any in the town. The Parade in front, which was also the market place, and the fort on one side, with its busy scenes of civil and military affairs, combined to make this locality the court end of the town; and accordingly, we there find two of the leading popular taverns, a fashionable store, the residence of the provincial secretary, and that of the Domine Megapolensis, the latter building being situated on he present southerly corner of Morris street. These were all buildings of a good substantial class for those times, and it is known that some of them, built of brick, were standing for the best part of a century afterward. Of their form and size we have no account, except that which may be inferred from the number of chimneys which the fire inspectors returned for them, which ranged from two to four in each house.

On the same (westerly) side of Broadway, north of the Parade, there were near the present Morris street, three or four small buildings adjoining each other, occupied by persons following mechanical pursuits. These buildings were also still standing a great many years afterward. Attached to an order made in the course of the last century for the straightening of Broadway at that point, was a sketch of these "old buildings," showing that the proposed straightening involved their demolition, and also giving a rough view of the front of those buildings, which was as follows:

On the eminence above and adjoining to these buildings was the first burial-ground established in the city, ranging along Broadway between one hundred and two hundred feet, and already, when the Dutch rule terminated, quite full of graves of the early settlers and later inhabitants. But it seems probable that but few monumental memorials marked the resting-places of the dead of New Amsterdam, and certain it is that the people of those times cherished but little reverence for their places of interment, as they did not hesitate to sell off their burial-ground as building lots, without removing those buried there, and that, too, at a period not remote from the time of burial. In excavations for building upon the same spot in after times, hundreds of bones were thrown up.

North of the church-yard were several good residences in the time of the Dutch, with large gardens and orchards attached, which extended to the shore of the river. The principal of these was that of Burgomaster Vandiegrist, which was a substantial stone house, and endured a full century. It is deserving of a further historical notice as having been in after times the residence of other chief magistrates of the city, viz.: Francis Rombouts, Mayor in 1679, and Dr. John Johnston, Mayor in 1715. These premises extended in front along Broadway, between one and two hundred feet. Two or three other residences, having extensive grounds attached, were also built along the west side of Broadway before the Dutch rule terminated, one of which was that of the Schout-Fiscal Van Dyck.

Further on lay an orchard, formerly public property, but which had, before the end of the Dutch rule, been granted to individual owners. This was as yet unimproved. Beyond it still was the garden, in which vegetables were raised for the use of the public officials, which was also public property, and was afterward used as a burial place. The city wall, or palisades, erected in 1653, crossed the garden diagonally toward the river shore.

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Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: D.T. Valentine's History of Broadway Pre: 1865 Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York by D.T. Valentine 1865
Time & Date Stamp: