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

 
 
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Broadway, From Vesey Street to Duane Street Pages: 544-572

This part of Broadway was first surveyed in 1760, by Mr. Marschalk, a city surveyor, who then produced to the city authorities "a draft of a road he had lately laid out by order of the Corporation, beginning at the Spring Garden House, where the street is eighty-two feet six inches wide, and extending thence north, east 30m., until it comes to the ground of the late widow Rutgers, leaving the street there of fifty feet wide," which is approved and ordered to be recorded. The street was called Great George street, which it retained about thirty years.

On the west side of the street lay the Church farm, and on the east the Commons and the negroes' burial-ground.

The Church farm extended in length from Fulton street to near Duane street, and in width from the street, as now established, to the North river shore. It was originally set apart by the Dutch West India Company to be tilled for the uses of their public officers and the garrison in the fort. On the conquest by the English, it was held as the property of the conquerors, and called the King's Farm. In 1705, Lord Cornbury, then Governor, in his zeal for the encouragement of the Established Church, granted this valuable estate to the corporation of Trinity Church.

At about the same time with the opening of Broadway, the Church had the farm divided off into streets and lots, and made cession of the former to the city authorities. These side streets still remain nor, except in the instance of Park place, which was originally called Robinson street, have their names been altered.

The old farm house, attached to the King's farm, stood upon the site of the present Astor House. The various tenants, so far as we have been able to discover them, were, successively, John Ryerson, Francis Ryerson, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Balm, Cornelius Cozine, and Adam Vandenberg. The house was long kept as a tavern by Adam Vandenberg, and known as the Drovers' Inn. In connection with the tavern business, were also a public garden and place of amusement. In 1752, Mr. Dugee advertises that he performs on the wire and slack-rope, at a new house built for that purpose, in Mr. Adam Vandenberg's garden. In December 6, 1747, Cornelius Vandenberg notified the public that he designed to set out as Albany post, for the first time in that winter, on the Thursday following. All letters to go by him to be sent to the Post-office, or to his house near the Spring Garden. Vandenberg was still in the occupation of these premises at a period close on the time of the Revolution, as we find from a liberty pole being erected opposite his house, "where the two roads meet."

The first lease from Trinity Church of property along Broadway which is found recorded, bears date in 1760, and was for four lots on the southwest corner of Murray street; the lessees were Bell & Brookman, carpenters; the term, twenty-one years, and the rental eight pounds per annum.

The principal feature of Broadway opposite the Fields (as the Park was called), during many years, were several public gardens, established soon after the opening of the street. Among these are that of Mr. Montagnie, near the northerly corner of Murray street, and that of Mr. Cox, on the block above, near Warren street.

Montagnie's garden became notable in the political history of the times immediately preceding the war, as having for a time been the headquarters of the Liberty Boys. It was opposite his premises in the Fields, upon a spot where the Bridewell was afterward built, that the Sons of Liberty raised their successive liberty poles, which were as often demolished by the soldiers and the Tory faction. In 1770, a party of soldiers, after vainly endeavoring to demolish the pole, attacked the citizens standing in front of Montagnie's, and forced them into the house at the point of the bayonet, following up the outrage by demolishing the doors and windows of the building. Montagnie himself, however much he sympathized with the children of liberty, was still a landlord, and was not loath to let his rooms to the other faction when an opportunity offered some time afterward, whereupon the Liberty Boys removed their headquarters to a building they had purchased opposite the lower end of the Park, which has been previously mentioned as Hampden Hall Montagnie appears to have been in occupation of these premises subsequent to the Revolution, the place being then known as the United States Garden. In 1802, John H. Contoit, previously a confectioner in the lower part of Greenwich street, took this garden, and conducted it until 1805, being succeeded by Augustus Parise. In after years a building called the Parthenon was erected upon these premises, and was in 1825 occupied as a museum, under the auspices of Reuben Peale.

New York Garden, to which Contoit removed in 1805, was situated near Park place, and was conducted by him until his removal in 1809 to No. 355 Broadway, to which he transferred the name of the New York Garden, the site of the latter being about that time built upon, as private residences.

The establishment of peace in 1783, found the portion of Broadway now under consideration with little other improvements than the gardens referred to and a few scattered small buildings. But a general impetus to improvement followed that event, and as may be supposed was not wanting in its effects upon a locality which began to be viewed as one of the most desirable in the city. The more especially as the future of the Commons or Fields was established, in 1785, by its enclosure and establishment as a Park. In 1790 sidewalks were laid between Vesey and Murray streets. In 1793 the street was paved for the same distance. Measures were about the same time taken to extend the street form its terminus at Rutgers' farm, near Duane Street, tot he distance of more than a mile further; and in 1794 the name of the street was changed, for its entire distance north of Vesey street, from Great George street to Broadway.

About this time the march of private improvement began by the erection of residences of the first class on the block between Vesey street and Barclay street, which were owned and occupied y leading citizens, among whom may be named Walter Rutherford, Rufus King, Cornelius Roosevelt, Richard Harrison, and Abijah Hammond. The premises (then No. 221) next tot he corner of Vesey street was owned by the State of New York, and was occupied in 1802 by Aaron Burr, as the official residence of the Vice-President of the United States. Edward Livingston, then Mayor of the city, occupied the adjoining premises (No. 223) which were owned by John Jacob Astor.

At the time of the erection of these fine residences opposite the lower portion of the Park, and for some years afterward, the part of the street lying north was occupied by buildings of an inferior class, though there was little unoccupied ground below Duane street. But advancing through the intervening years, until 1815, we find that at the latter period great improvements had been made, and many of the old buildings had given place to fine residences. Among the residents at the latter period, between Vesey and Barclay streets, were John Jacob Astor, Alexander L. Stewart, and John G. Costar; between Barclay street and Park place, John C. Vanderheuvel and Mrs. Starten; between Park place and Murray street, Samuel Hicks, Daniel Boardman, William Rhinelander, John Haggerty, and Henry Laverty. Between Murray and Chambers streets new buildings had been erected, and between Chambers and Reade streets was the fine residence of Matthias Bruen.

More recent changes and events than those adverted to so crowd upon each other that to attempt to particularize them would involve more space than can be afforded in this essay. It may, however, be justifiable to refer to some of the more prominent public buildings, as the erection of the Astor House in 1838, of Mechanics' Hall, corner of Park Place; of Peale's Museum; the Irving House, corner of Chambers street, and of the American Hotel on north corner of Barclay street, originally erected as a private residence.

Recurring to the east side of Broadway, within the limits under review, we have to relate some brief details concerning the Park, known in the Dutch time as the Vlacte or Flat, at a later period as the Commons, at a still later period as the Fields, and finally, after its enclosure, called the Park. These few acres have a history full of local interest to the New Yorker.

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

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