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

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Broadway, From Duane Street To Canal Street Pages: 572-604

This section of Broadway is not the less interesting from its association with what has been supposed with some reason to have been the site of an Indian village at some distant period of the past. This supposition arises principally from the name originally bestowed by the Christian settlers upon the hilly promontory extending into the surrounding meadows, viz.: "The Kalckhook," or lime shell point, a name which would hardly have been applied without a local signification.

The fact is generally conceded that an extensive cretaceous deposit indicates the site of an aboriginal settlement; and this, in connection with the vicinity of the hill to an inviting sheet of water, well supplied with fish, which stretched along its eastern boundary, has added probability to the conjecture. It is to be observed, however, that no record exists indicating a settlement of the Indians in this locality, in the times of the early Christian colonists; nor had this vicinity as had some others on the island (Sapokanican, Mereckawich, and a few others), any distinct native title, which has been handed down to us and we are thus thrown back in our speculations on this subject to the remote times where the history of our island is hidden within the darkness surrounding the nomadic and untraditional ages of the aborigines.

The Kalckhook commenced at a vale near the present line of Duane street, and rose gradually to an elevation of forty to fifty feet above the surrounding meadows; on its summit, a little pond of an acre or more in size appears indicated on some of the early maps. Its extent embraces about forty acres, the whole of which as granted by Governor Kieft to Jan Damen, in the year 1646. Some forty years subsequently it came to be the property of four owners, who made partition of it, though it still laid in common and the public pound was established on its summit. One of these portions was assigned to Jacobus Van Cortland, the most of which remained in the family of that name for over a century, as will be noticed in tracing its subsequent history. The westerly half, another portion, came into the possession of Anthony Rutgers, a leading citizen of New York, who, about the year 1730, erected there a handsome residence, and occupied the premises until his death, some twenty years afterwards. He surrounded his habitation with elegant shrubbery in the geometrical style of rural gardening of those days. Long walks bordered with box-wood, and shaded and perfumed with flowering shrubs, extended in various directions in the parterre, fronting the house. The favorite orchard extended along the southerly side of the mansion, while the pasture lands and cultivated fields extended toward the north. It was a charming rural residence, and even in after years, when its quiet and domestic characteristics had given place tot he festive incidents attached to a public resort, the advertisement of the proprietor expressed it as judged to be the most rural and pleasing retreat near the city.

The fashion of the last century led idlers and pleasure-seekers to suburban places of amusement, where music, dancing, and feasting contributed their share in the amusements of the hour. The names of Ranelagh and Vauxhall, near London, are familiar even to the modern American reader, as the literature of the last century popularized those resorts of the idle and gay of London society. Their glories found imitators throughout all parts of the British dominions, and new York had both a Vauxhall, and Ranelagh; the latter of which was the former residence and garden of Col. Rutgers. This establishment was conducted under the auspices of Mr. John Jones for some years immediately previous to the revolutionary war. His advertisements describe the place as being laid out at great expense, with all conveniences for breakfasting, and every entertainment for ladies and gentlemen. A complete band was in attendance every Monday and Thursday evening during the summer, in a large dancing hall, which had been erected in the garden. The Rutgers' estate was brought into the market for sale in 1770, and the first sale was to an association organized for the establishment of a hospital, an institution until then unknown in New York. It was at first proposed to erect the building in the Park, but, as has been elsewhere stated, that project was abandoned, and the site fixed upon was Rutgers' orchard. The hospital was chartered in 1769. Funds were subscribed in 1771, and the city corporation added L1,000 to the contribution in lieu of the land which had been previously set apart for this edifice. Five acres were purchased in 1772, and the building was commenced September 2, 1773. The cost of the building was about $18,000. In 1775 it was partly destroyed by an accidental fire; it was, however, sufficiently repaired to serve as barracks for the British soldiers during the war. Some years after the return of peace it was reopened as a hospital. The inadequate funds arising from private subscription were from time to time aided by legislative action, and the institution still remains, with some additions to the original structure, and is distinguished as one of the most beneficent as well as the most ancient of the benevolent enterprises organized by the citizens of New York.

The principal historical incident connected with the New York Hospital was the "Doctors' riot," in 1788, which originated from the violent prejudices then existing against the practice of exhuming bodies for dissection. In Great Britain a class of persons had grown up profanely called resurrectionists, who supplied the medical schools with bodies, often it was said those of respectable persons recently interred. The stories, perhaps exaggerated, occasioned great popular prejudice against the medical colleges, which in New York was exasperated by the indiscretion of students who wantonly exposed the legs and arms of their subjects dangling from the hospital windows. The populace took fire at this inhuman exhibition, and a riot occurred in which several lives were lost.

The erection of a reservoir for supplying the city with pure water was the next event of historical importance in connection with this portion of the city. The subject had long been agitated, and the necessity of some relief was becoming more manifest as the city increased and prospered. The public wells in the streets of the city supplied water of brackish taste, which horses, unless accustomed to it, would not touch. This was ascribed to the narrow width of the island at the lower portion, which did not permit sufficient filtration of the salt water of the rivers; but several of the wells in the vicinity of the Kalckhook pond supplied excellent water, and thence the inhabitants of the city were daily furnished with their "tea water." From this arose the project of sinking large wells and pumping the water into an extensive reservoir whence it might be carried through the city in wooden pipes. The elevated hill through which Broadway (then Great George street) was designed to run was fixed upon for the purpose, and in 1774 the city authorities purchased lands of A. & F. Van Cortland at L600 per acre. The work was commenced under the supervision of Christopher Colles, one of the earliest professional engineers established in the city, good water reported as being found in the wells. The reservoir was completed and wooden pipes were laid through the streets. The first contract for the latter being for 60,000 feet, at a cost of L1,250. The work was completed about April, 1776. The reservoir stood on the east side of Broadway, near the southeasterly corner of the present White street and Broadway. It is to be remembered, however, that this was many years before streets were cut through in that vicinity.

As to the history of the reservoir during the occupancy by the British, which took place a few months after its completion, and continued till 1783, we have no positive knowledge, but it is believed that it was not used during that period, and probably proved to be inadequate to its objects, as we find the Manhattan company, which was subsequently organized for the purpose of supplying the city with pure and wholesome water, petitioning the city in 1799 for permission to occupy the former reservoir until it could be ascertained if the water should prove to be of sufficient quality and quantity to supply the city. Their petition was granted, but from the fact that the company soon after established their works in another locality, it is inferred that the original site was not approved. The property of the Corporation at the reservoir, Broadway and White streets, was sold in lots in 1810; those on Broadway selling as high as an average of $3,000 each. The total sale amounted to $25,500.

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Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: D.T. Valentine's History of Broadway Pre: 1865 Part IV
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
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