The Dutch Stadt Huys was the first City Hall in New York City. Today, sadly, it is just underground remnants.
The Dutch settled New Amsterdam at the mouth of the Hudson River both to protect this trade from European competitors and to serve as a port for the ocean-going vessels that would take the furs to the Netherlands. Its site was one of the finest natural ports in North America for ships in use from the seventeenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, the port was located on the East River, which rarely froze over in winter, and the mass of Manhattan Island protected the smaller wooden ships from the harsh westerly winds that threatened them.
To serve the population, a City Hall or "Stadt Huys" was needed.
The Stadt Huys was the high-rise of its time at five stories. Built as a tavern in 1642, Peter Stuyvesant converted it into a city hall in 1653. A cupola was added, and its entrance, which had faced Fort Amsterdam, was changed to face the East River. It served as the seat of government until 1699.
In 1979, excavations revealed the foundations, only 42 feet by 52 feet, of the old Stadt Huys. Archaeologists found many historical artifacts, including fragments of Duth and English pottery and even some Native American wampum.
Stadt Huys/Lovelace Tavern
Locted on Pearl Street at Coenties Alley, you will see a series of brass railings, marking off areas of the sidewalk. As the bronze plaque near the curb indicates, this is the historic Stadt Huys block.
This area is notable for being the site of the first large-scale archaeological excavation in New York City, conducted between 1979 and 1980. This project paved the way for future excavations in Lower Manhattan, by showing that the shallow basements of the city's older buildings had not necessarily destroyed archaeological sites, and important finds might still be made far beneath the modern urban maze.
Colonial governor William Kieft built the Stadt Huys, or City Hall, in 1641 because he was tired of entertaining visitors at his home and wanted an inn to send them to. Twelve years later, it became the first city hall of New York. Unfortunately, it is believed that later construction in the area destroyed the building's foundations. The excavators did not actually find any remains from the Stadt Huys, but they did recover evidence of a building that once stood next to it, the Lovelace Tavern. This tavern served as New York's second city hall, from 1670 to 1706, when it burned down. Inside the preserved foundation walls, excavators found thousands of pieces of clay pipes, wine bottles, and wine glasses.
The rectangular area of the sidewalk sectioned off by the railings will give you a glimpse of the Lovelace Tavern foundation walls that were unearthed. Under a nearby circular railing is a cistern, also unearthed through the digging, from a home of the Philipses, a family of wealthy merchants who had a residence built at 66 Pearl Street in 1689. The gray stone blocks in the sidewalk mark the limits of the Lovelace Tavern, while the lighter blocks mark the walls of the Stadt Huys, determined from seventeenth-century maps. The cream-colored blocks are supposed to represent yellow Dutch bricks, as can be seen on Fraunces Tavern. Now is a good time to take a look back at Pearl Street. Dutch maps indicate that this was the original boundary of the East River; the land that stretches beyond it to the water's edge today is landfill.
To log your find, you should post a picture of you, or your GPS unit, at this site.
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Map image: Egbert Viele's 1874 map of Manhattan shows the island's original shoreline, subsequent landfill, and natural waterways, now paved over or filled in. The map is still indispensable for the city's structural engineers today. (Library of Congress)
Lithograph Source: New York Historical Society. Public Domain.
Description source: Archeology.org, Before the Big Apple 2006-09-28 Link
New York Times Magazine, Digging up our Urban Past 1981-04-12 Link
Explore NYC website Link
Anthropology in Practice, Finding Traces of New York City's Dutch Heritage 2009-11-24 Link
Ephemeral New York, A colonial tavern is unearthed on Broad Street 2013-01-31 Link