2009 marks the 400th anniversary of New York’s “discovery” by a Dutch expedition led by explorer Henry Hudson. Way back in 1609, Hudson (who was actually British) and a small crew of Dutch sailors steered their vessel through the small gap between Staten Island and Long Island and into New York Harbor.
Before them laid a vast wilderness, thick with old-growth forests and teeming with wildlife like beaver, oysters and bears – just the spot to found a new colony that would come to be known as New Amsterdam. From 1625 until 1674, when the colony was turned over to the English, the Dutch ruled over the harbor and islands that would one day become the great city of New York.
More than 400 years later, little evidence of this once thriving Dutch presence remains. You would expect at least a few windmills or some tulips, right? Yet if you know where to look, the signs of New York’s historic Dutch presence are all around you. Whether you’re hanging out at the swanky Gansevoort Hotel, meeting up with a friend near Stuyvesant Town, or dunking a doughnut in your morning coffee, Dutch influence on American history is stronger than you might expect.
Ever wanted to discover the secrets of New York’s surprisingly rich Dutch history? And what about visiting The Netherlands today? We’ll get a “taste of Amsterdam” without ever leaving New York City. This week at Undiscovered New York, we’re going Dutch. Click below to see why.
The New Amsterdam Trail
Just in time for the 400th Anniversary of Hudson’s famous voyage, The National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy has released a self-guided walking tour documenting the history of Dutch New Amsterdam. Using a free map and downloaded audio, visitors can experience the legacy of personalities and places that define New York’s Dutch legacy.
Starting at Battery Park, visitors make their way north stopping to learn about the (in)famous Dutch purchase of Manhattan from the Native Americans, Dutch architecture and the defensive fortifications that gave Wall Street its name. Starting this July, a guided tour will also be led by National Park Rangers.
Though it may seem that Dutch influence over New York vanished in the 17th Century, it remains very much alive in New York to this day. This is particularly true of our favorite foods like cookies and doughnuts, which are strongly influenced by the cooking techniques of early Dutch settlers. If you’re looking to get taste of contemporary Dutch cuisine, check out Manhattan’s Danku restaurant. The eatery serves a variety of Dutch specialties including Kroket pastries as well a variety of specialties like Nasi Goreng from Indonesia, another former Dutch colony. For a slightly more authentic taste of Netherlands-style Indonesian cuisine, check out Java Indonesian Rijsttafel in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood.
Dutch Arts & Culture
Not only can you take a tour of Dutch History in New York, you can also experience it firsthand through the city’s wide range of Dutch-themed art exhibits, events and cultural celebrations. Art lovers in particular have a wealth of options. The Museum of the City of New York is offering a range of Dutch exhibitions this summer, including a show of contemporary Dutch photography and a closer look at the life of explorer Henry Hudson. Visitors hungry for more Dutch art should head to The Met to check out their vast collections of European Paintings including those by Dutch experts like Van Gogh and Vermeer.
Dutch culture doesn’t stop at New York City – further upstate in New York is Kingston, among the earliest Dutch settlements in the state. The city is celebrating this year’s 400th Anniversary with a range of activities, including expert lectures on Dutch gardening and displays of historic Dutch weapons. If you need further motivation to head upstate, check out Undiscovered New York’s tour of the Hudson River Valley from last year.