Part of the children’s work in social studies this year is to project their imaginations across time and space. This includes being able to interpret and extrapolate from 2-dimensional maps, and integrating what we see on a flat map with our experiences in the real world. Today was an exercise in map-reading and imagination! We traveled to lower Manhattan for an Alex-guided walking tour. We wanted the children to walk the perimeter of New Amsterdam so they would have a sense of how teeny the original city was. We also wanted the kids to discover that there are still some clues telling the story of New Amsterdam, if you know where to look.
We started our walking tour at the former site of Fort Amsterdam. This was the administrative quarters for the Dutch in New Netherland. For Amsterdam looks an awful lot like other Dutch forts from the 1600’s, because they all followed a similar design. Even the Dutch slave-warehousing castles in West Africa resembled Fort Amsterdam in structure.
Once New York became a city, a Customs House was built on this site (and now houses the National Museum of the American Indian).
Today’s Pearl Street was New Amsterdam’s Paerl Straet, and during that time it overlooked the water. We walked up Pearl Street, noticing how much landfill has been used to allow the construction of whole city blocks where water once was.
We passed the juncture of Coenties Slip and Pearl Street. Coenties Slip was where the boats “slipped in” to deliver their wares to New Amsterdam. Now it’s a road with a view of the harbor. We couldn’t believe this was once the spot where water met land!
Next we walked up Stone Street. The kids know this one by heart because it was the only “paved” street in New Amsterdam!
In class we recently looked at images of all the different kinds of gables that are found in “Old” Amsterdam. We went up a side street and spotted a step gable like the ones we have been studying! This was the most popular gable style during the 1600′s.
It was hard to imagine that 300-something years ago, these would have been the tallest buildings in New Amsterdam.
In no time at all, we realized that we had traversed the Western side of New Amsterdam and reached “the wall.” This wall was originally built to keep out the English, whom the Dutch (rightly) believed would try to take over the territory. It’s easy to find, because it would have been directly below present-day Wall Street!
From one corner of the wall, where the Water Gate would have been, we found we could see all the way to the Land Gate on the other “side” of New Amsterdam, on the spot now occupied by Trinity Church.
Back in Battery Park for lunch, we found some monuments to old New Amsterdam. And last but not least, we visited the three-dimensional bronze Costello Plan in front of the Whitehall station.
Thank you to all the parents who gamely joined us for this time-travel adventure!