Monday, June 23, 2014

Wall Street --- of pigs and patroons

Location:   Northernmost New Amsterdam
Year:   1653

In 1653, the Dutch patroons of the New Amsterdam colony decided to increase the safety of their settlement by building a defensive barrier across the northern boundary of the colony. It began as a picket fence, and was eventually developed into a twelve-foot wooden palisade. Ostensibly developed as a first line of defense against marauding Lenape Indians (who never marauded), the palisade faced greater danger from the settlers' livestock. The colonists' animals were allowed free range north of the barrier. While cattle and horses posed no problem, rooting hogs seeking out fresh roots and grass succeeded in unearthing the base of the posts that supported the barrier. 

The Director General of the colony, Peter Stuyvesant urged the government to take precautions against the pigs. He detailed with “great grief the damages, done to the walls of the fort by hogs, especially now again the spring when the grass comes out.”

The burghers appropriated additional funds to strengthen the fence, and hired a herdsman to keep the pigs from digging up the posts. They also built a service road that ran parallel to the barrier and allowed for easier, quicker repairs to the fence. With the usual pragmatism that marked Dutch activity in the New World they called the service road simply, "Wall Street."  

New Amsterdam. The wide north-south running street is Broadway. The street crossing the island from east to west is Wall Street. The hatches represent fortifications

The rut running alongside the picket fence is Wall Street, circa 1653.

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