The Nieuw Amsterdam of “Mad Men”

11 Apr

Returning for a moment to my Dutch fascination because of the upcoming International Association for the Study of Dreams’ 2011 conference in the Netherlands…a small synchronicity:

Back in January, when I was in the midst of sending out emails announcing Robbie Bosnak’s “Nieuw Amsterdam and the Golden Age” talk, I watched episode 4 of Mad Men‘s first season (on DVD). The episode title is “New Amsterdam.” It emerges in the story line that Pete Campbell, the obnoxious junior account executive trying alternately to suck up to creative director Don Draper or to show him up, is a descendant of the Dyckmans.

The Dyckmans were a Dutch (some sources say Westphalian) family that owned much of the land across northern Manhattan. Dyckman Street extends from the north end of Harlem River Drive, heading northwest to the other side of the island to cross Broadway in Inwood. I was puzzled why the writers of Mad Men would bother with such a reference. I guess it’s one more piece of evidence that Pete Campbell comes from Old Money, whereas Don Draper (although no one knows, including the audience for a long time) comes from no such thing.

Dyckman Farmhouse, 204th Street & Broadway

Dyckman Farmhouse, 204th Street & Broadway

During Five Dutch Days Five Boroughs last November, I visited the Dyckman Farmhouse at 204th Street and Broadway, built around 1784. Dutch architect Floris Buisman guided a tour there based on his study of how efficiency of energy production and consumption were accounted for in the farmhouse’s design, and how those issues have changed since. The tour was part two of an event that started at the Trespa Design Centre in Soho—the New York location of a Netherlands manufacturer of panels for building facades.

Picture this as farmland—looking south on Broadway from Dyckman Farmhouse

Picture this as farmland—looking south on Broadway from Dyckman Farmhouse

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