Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Map of New Amsterdam
with view of Fort Amsterdam.

Fort Amsterdam

Birth place of the city of New York, its location on the southern tip of Manhattan made it the logical administrative headquarters of the city for the original Dutch colonizers and then the British. The fort was in continual use form1625 until being torn down in 1790 after the American Revolution.

In 1625 Willem Verhulst, second director of the New Netherland colony began the construction of the fort, under the supervision of Cryn Fredericksz chief engineer of the project. The following year Fredericksz returned to the Netherlands and the building project was temporarily abandoned.

The danger of an English or French attack pushed propelled the Dutch authorities to complete the building of the Fort albeit no longer with stones but rather lumber.

In 1665 relations between Holland and England became bellicose. War—the second Anglo-Dutch war broke out. As a consequence on August 27, 1664 the Duke of York, the Lord High Admiral of England, sailed into what is today the Harbor of New York and without firing a single shot captured both Fort Amsterdam and the City of New Amsterdam. Both the fort and the city were renamed, the first becoming Fort James in honor of the Duke’s brother, James II King of England, and the latter the City of New York.

In August of 1673 the Dutch returned with a fleet of 21 ships under the control of the very qualified admiral Cornelis Evertsen the Youngest. Manhattan was retaken and the City of New York renamed New Orange. Fort James also was renamed. This time it was rechristened Fort Willem Hendrick in honor of the Prince of Orange who would in time become himself King of England and rule together with Queen Mary II daughter of Charles Duke of York. The Fort, the city of New Orange and the whole of the New Netherlands were consequently returned into English rule one year after, as a consequence of the ratification of the 1674 treaty of Westminster which brought to an end the third Anglo-Dutch war. Both city and fort reverted to their English names.

In October 1683 Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, a Catholic, and royal governor of New York opened the first legislature of New York, which met in Fort James.

After the so-called “Glorious Revolution” During the regime of Mary and William, Fort James was renamed, this time to Fort William, the anglicized version of Fort Willem. After the rule of William and Mary and the ascension to the throne of Queen Ann, the fort once again changed names, this time to Fort Ann, and again after the extinction of the Protestant Stuart line, and the rice of the Hanovians, at which time it became Fort George.

During the Battle of Brooklyn at the time of the American War of Independence, George Washington managed to seize the fort and turn its guns on the English forces on Governors Island, He eventually abandon the fort to the Royal forces.

On November 25th 1783, commonly referred to as “Evacuation Day”—the day when the last vestige of British military authority abandoned the territory of the new American Republic, Fort George fell into the hands of the new Americans government. By 1790 the fort was demolished, and the area around it turned into a promenade.

Today the site of what was once Fort Amsterdam is occupied by the elegant U.S. Customs House across the way from Battery Park, at 1 Bowling Green.

U.S. Customs House

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