The obsessive reading-up I’ve been doing about the New York area’s Dutch roots has me in high anticipation of Robbie Bosnak’s January 30 talk on “New Amsterdam and the Dream of the Golden Age: An Alchemical Perspective.” (Download a printable PDF of the flyer for the talk.) I’ll be getting a lot more out of his talk from this preparation—and
from out of the 2011 annual conferece of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) in June in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, if I get to go to it.
Whether you’re planning to attend either of those or not, you may find a browse through this post and its links helpful in understanding the mindset of this area’s first European settlers and the lasting Dutch influence on New York’s character. (See the St. Mark’s Church item in the Self-Guided Tours section for a particularly convenient adjunct to the Bosnak talk.)
You can also easily get to all this blog’s Dutch-related posts, past and future, by going to the navigation panel at the right side of the blog. In the Topics drop-down list, choose “Dutch.”
The Dutch Golden Age
__ Wikipedia has a succinct but enlightening description.
__ The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, by Simon Schama
I bought this book soon after it was published in 1987; I started reading it last week! Already it’s given me a lot of insight, and I’m only in the introduction…but it’s 720 pages, and I was glad for an assist from a New York Times book review.
By “vividness” I mean a few things that have broken through what I find to be the near-impossibility of truly imagining Manhattan as a mountainous wilderness with a European and African population of just 500 people, and the long-time summer home of the Lenape tribe of Native Americans. (For additional vividness, see the Peter Stuyvesant’s Ghost entry in the Self-Guided Tours section of this post.)
__ The dramatically atmospheric historic art of Len Tantillo
…appears on many sites relating to Dutch colonial history, as well as the artist’s own.
__ The City of Dreams, a novel by Beverly Swerling
This was conveniently, synchronistically lying face-up on the top of one of the Strand Bookstore’s outdoor carts last week when I walked by. I’m not far into it yet, but vivid it certainly is. Swerling also has several other “City of” novels, about other periods in New York’s history.
__ Dutch New York, a Thirteen (Channel 13) production
…with architectural historian Barry Lewis. You can watch it online. Lots of other great stuff at this site, too, some of which I’m listing separately below.
__ The Island at the Center of the World, by Russell Shorto
I haven’t bought this book yet, but it’s highly praised, and the excerpt I’m linking to suggests that’s with good reason. A New-York Historical Society news release about an event with Shorto and Charles Gehring, director of the New Netherland Project (see links under Self-Guided Tours and Documents) says this: “[Gehring] has spent over thirty years translating 12,000 pages of court cases, council minutes, and correspondence discovered in the late 1960s by Peter Christoph, the curator of historical manuscripts at the New York State Library in Albany, materials Shorto used in writing the first full-length history of New Amsterdam to draw on this astonishing resource.”
Self-guided walking and virtual tours
From Battery Park through Pearl Street to Wall & Nassau. “Print the map of the New Amsterdam Trail, put the auditour on your MP3 player, iPod or other handheld device and you’re ready to take the walk!” Said to take 10 minutes; I haven’t done it yet.
This church is on the site at which the last governor of Nieuw Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, established his personal chapel…and it’s just two blocks east and two south of the venue for Robbie Bosnak’s talk. There’s a downloadable guide for touring the site. The iron fence along Second Avenue also has interpretive signs, but you’ll need to go during daylight to read them, and, if there’s been snow recently, you might need to wipe the rock salt off the signs. I also suspect there are a couple of signs missing.
Take these downloads along on your MP3 player for the walking tours, and you’ll boost the vividness quotient. “Using sound as the medium of performance, PSG hopes to tap into the visceral response that hearing, like smell, tends to generate. Guided walks and specifically created maps explore the contemporary topography of the East Village while making palpable the pre-urban terrain of Peter Stuyvesant’s seventeenth century farm.” One of the participating artists, Saskia Janssen, has some info on her site about her contribution. She notes: “Peter Stuyvesant was the largest private slave owner in New Amsterdam. He owned 40 slaves.”
__ New Netherlands tour by The New Netherland Institute
It’s not just New York City that has Dutch roots, but parts of what are now the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and Delaware. This strictly online tour covers them all.
__ Anthropology in Practice blog
Not a tour, but some of the photos in the latter half of the post “Finding Traces of New York City’s Dutch Heritage” could help you spot the sites you’re looking for on the New Amsterdam Trail (above). And I’m sure the AIP blog is going to be lots of fun to follow. Written by a young New Yorker anthropologist named Krystal D’Costa, whose “interests include identities, technology, immigrants, history, and the relationships that make up daily life,” the blog focuses on New York City and Long Island.
Some of these are strictly online; some are the remains of actual exhibitions that have ended.
A series of photos on the Web page of Barnard anthropology professor Nan Rothschild.
From the New York Public Library’s 2009–2010 exhibition.
Household items from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection, plus a wealth of timelines and essays.
“She arrived in New York in 1686 with her husband, a Dutch Reformed minister, and set up a textile shop, bringing with her an astonishing array of objects from the Far East and Europe. Her shop goods, along with her household furnishings, were meticulously recorded in an estate inventory made after her death in 1695. / The inventory lay forgotten for more than 200 years but was rediscovered in the 20th century, pointing the way to new research into the histories of New York City, the Dutch overseas trading empire, women, and material culture.”
This is for those who really appreciate detail, or just enjoy the possibilities of technology. If you open the User Guide to On-Line Exhibition (a PDF file), you’ll find instructions on pages 2 to 3 for how to get to, and navigate, a model of Nieuw Amsterdam that combines data about individual property owners, their occupations, and more. “You can roam freely among the 310 building sites that have digitally re-created descriptions,” and you can change the perspective to get different views of the physical colony. Requires the Google Earth browser plug-in, which didn’t work for me in Firefox; I used Internet Explorer. The 3D takes a lot of memory, so don’t have too many programs running at once.
An idiosyncratic (but very cool!) collection of images of New York, colonial times into the 1940s, from the national archives of the Netherlands. Brief English-language captions are sandwiched among the Dutch-language captions.
Dutch historic sites
I’ve been to only the Dyckman Farmhouse (and Governors Island, but not for its Dutch appeal).
__ Dyckman Farmhouse, Washington Heights, Manhattan
__ Old Stone House, Park Slope, Brooklyn
__ Lefferts House, Prospect Park, Brooklyn
__ Onderdonk House, Ridgewood, Queens
__ Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, Brooklyn
__ Alice Austen House, Rosebank, Staten Island
See my post “Warning dream of a Dutch settler’s slave.”
__ Philipse Manor House, Yonkers
A local newspaper said it closed last year because of state budget cuts, but the state parks department site still lists hours…so call to check before visiting
There was a Dutch settlement on Governors Island before there was one on Manhattan. A Dutch historian has made an impassioned effort to establish a Tolerance Park there, in recognition of the Dutch influence on America’s core values.
__ 2011 is Staten Island’s 350th anniversary, thanks to the Dutch and others
Although the room is dated to 1751, “the style is characteristic of the earliest Dutch settlements in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Albany region, in particular, which continued to be favored until the mid-eighteenth century.”
Operates a replica of the de Halve Maen, the ship on which Henry Hudson sailed from the Netherlands to the New World in 1609.
These are books I haven’t read or even significantly sampled yet.
__ New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-Century America, by Jaap Jacobs
Jacobs, from the University of Leiden, was the first visiting professor through a grant related to the New Netherlands Institute, teaching at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania.
__ Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, edited by Roger Panetta
According to the product description on Amazon.com, the essays in this collection, “written by a superb team of distinguished scholars, are grouped into five chronological frames—1609, 1709, 1809, 1909, and 2009—each marking a key point in the history of the Dutch in the valley.”
__ New York, New Amsterdam. The Dutch Origins of Manhattan, by Martine Gosselink
Commissioned by the Nationaal Archief, the national archive of the Netherlands.
__ Fulfilling God’s Mission: The Two Worlds of Dominie Everardus Bogardus, 1607–1647, by Willem Frijhoff
In looking at the Margrieta van Varick exhibition site, I saw another past event listed: a talk about Bogardus calling him a “Dutch mystic.” I’ve been able to gather that Bogardus had a mystical experience at age 15, later became a minister in Nieuw Amsterdam, and died in protests against war being waged by the colony’s Governor Willem Klieft. Short of reading the whole book on Google Books ($144 on Amazon), I’m not likely to learn more…but it sounds intriguing. Oh, and Bogardus’s wife was Anneke Jans, whose modern descendents sued (unsuccessfully) to recover Jans’s land from Trinity Church, lower Manhattan’s largest real estate owner.
__ $24 for Manhattan: The Schaghen Letter
You’ve heard about the (in)famous purchase of Manhattan from the Indians for $24. Here’s the earliest known mention of the purchase. It was 60 guilders, actually, and that’s worth more in 2011 than when the $24 currency conversion estimate was made.
__ The Holland Society’s list of the journals in its library (some have content online)
They were formerly known as the Dutch Reformed Church.
__ New Netherlands Project list of links
New Netherland: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, 1621–1664
Before the Europeans
__ The Welikia Project: an extension of the Mannahatta Project
This thing is just incredible. Landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo decided to use spatial analysis, as the site explains, “to recreate, in digital form using mapping software, each and every hill, valley, stream, spring, beach, forest, cave, wetland, and pond that existed” on Manhattan before the Europeans arrived. That little feat accomplished, the project has been extended to the other four boroughs. (“Mannahatta” and “Welikia” are Lenape Indian words.) As a sample of the results, here’s the analysis of what mammals would have been living where the venue for Robbie Bosnak’s talk is located. Imagine!! Click the image to get to the interactive analysis.
Mannahatta, from which “Manhattan” derives, means “Island of Many Hills.” Wilikia means “good home.”
__ The Day Before America, by William MacLeish
Another book I’ve had on my shelf for years and look forward to reading…someday. In the spirit of the Mannahatta Project, but long before the software.
Modern Dutch culture in NYC
__ The Dutch Consulate’s cultural blogs
These listings aren’t just for the New York area.
__ Vandaag Dutch and Danish restaurant
It was previewed by the New York Times and gets high marks on Yelp, and it’s a couple blocks farther south on Second Avenue from St. Mark’s Church. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds good for a late lunch / early dinner before Robbie Bosnak’s talk. Just go easy on the genever (Dutch gin), please!
__ Time Out New York’s roundup of Dutch things to do in NYC (added 1/24)
The article is from January 2009, so the art exhibitions are over and Danku has closed…but you can count on Zabar’s and Prada to still be around.
__ Dutch In America (added 1/23)
An all-volunteer staff of first- and second-generation Dutch-Americans puts together this news-and-events Web site for the entire U.S., the New York region included. Says its About Us page, “We’re independent and not associated with government or private groups.” A map shows the location of all Dutch restaurants and bakeries in this country, and there’s a page describing Dutch ingredients (the stores mentioned are in North Carolina, but the descriptions can guide you in searching for groceries here).
__ Dreamwork in Netherlands (added 1/23)
Okay, it’s not NYC, but of you’re letting New York’s Dutch history seep into your dreams, this page on the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) site will make interesting reading.
Dutch language learning (added 2/6)
You might not be able to afford Rosetta Stone and a trip to the Netherlands in the same year. You might not be able to afford Rosetta Stone and a trip anywhere in the same year. I bought a somewhat primitive version of the Danish Rosetta Stone on eBay before IASD’s Copenhagen conference in 2004, and it was fun, to the extent that I used it, flush with enthusiasm from the trip. (It arrived the night before I left for Copenhagen, which rather limited its effectiveness for me.)
__ Mango Languages via libraries
Free from some libraries, such as the New York Public Library. If you have a library card for a library that provides Mango, you can use this learning service online from home. If not, you have to go to the library and use it there. I’ve looked at Mango briefly, and it’s kind of fun—it starts, at least, with the simple conversations you may have learned in a junior high school language class. They’re written out in English, and each line translates into the language you’ve chosen as the recording speaks it. You can also hover the cursor over a line to see its phonetic spelling. I find the phonetics particularly helpful.
__ Learn Dutch
A poor man’s Rosetta Stone. Homemade-looking, kind of kitschy, and I’m not sure how useful it can be for conversational Dutch, but there are photos of everyday things and the spoken words to go with them, so at least you can get the pronunciation of a number of common words. (My favorite word learned here is that kitchen matches [or perhaps matches in general] are called lucifers.) Looks like there’s also a CD for sale.
In addition to regular courses, there are Dutch conversation hours. I enjoyed an introductory class during 5 Dutch Days 5 Boroughs in November.
__ A few Dutch flash cards at the Queensborough Library site
Other Dutch resources (added 2/18)
504,316 images from 94 collections of 84 institutions.