Posted in time travel

Dilan’s house

Posted in field trip, time travel

Nearby but long ago: our New Amsterdam walking trip


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.


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Do you see the outline of New Amsterdam in the map of present-day lower Manhattan?

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.

 Birds-eye view of Fort Amsterdam
National Museum of the American Indian







Once New York became a city, a Customs House was built on this site (and now houses the National Museum of the American Indian).


Shanti uses a Costello Plan overlay to try and get her bearings in modern-day Manhattan
X marks the spot?

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!

An eighteenth-century well preserved under glass, visible from the sidewalk!
Ruins of a colonial tavern
The original foundation

Next we walked up Stone Street. The kids know this one by heart because it was the only “paved” street in New Amsterdam!

Famous in our minds — Stone Street

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′IMG_1833s.

It was hard to imagine that 300-something years ago, these would have been the tallest buildings in New Amsterdam. IMG_1827


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.

What a skinny island Manhattan used to be!

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.

Tucked away for those who know where to look – the Costello Plan, cast in bronze!
Hands on New Amsterdam
Lots of farmland when seen from above!
Pointing out places they recognize
Close-up of a bowerie (farm) right outside the wall
The master navigator retraces our steps on the 3-d map

Thank you to all the parents who gamely joined us for this time-travel adventure!