Dutch Street

Dutch Street: A Piece in the Evolution of New York, A Global City

by Jessica Kordsmeier

December 14, 2011

Upon first glance, a street as short as Dutch Street in Lower Manhattan would seem insignificant and forlorn, a single block stuck between the hustling and bustling horizontal thoroughfares of Fulton and John Streets. But being a documented part of New York City since the 18th century, the street has seen the city grow and settle in and around it thereby contributing to this place’s story.

Like an alleyway serves as a physical and psychological fissure within a composition of streets, Dutch Street acts as a crevice in which deposits of the city’s culture, history, economy, memory, and progress fall. As described by Michel de Certeau, “[New York City] invents itself, from hour to hour, in the act of throwing away its previous accomplishments and challenging the future” (91). As each era passes through the city like a wave, Dutch Street has become part of a space, a neighborhood, a borough, a people, and a place so unique. Through the city’s evolution, various bits of New York have accumulated and concentrated there both visibly and invisibly, defining the street as a piece in the fascinating puzzle that is the globalized city of New York.

Throughout the course of this semester, entitled “Media History of New York,” I have been dissecting Dutch Street through its many representational facets and intricate incarnations. Fiction, film, maps, censuses, newspapers, and other forms of research have been utilized, and I finally find myself able to pull together what defines Dutch Street as a core example of the New York City that I have come to know as a student here. I am continually surprised by what I find here, and Dutch Street is no exception.

In this context, Dutch Street has become for me an illustration of the historical composition of New York as written by media sources such as newspapers, illustrated by street maps, and explained by metropolitan theorists. New York is a global city, and as such, it is defined by its commerce, industry, culture, and overall representation of power. As the leading media capital of the world today, the city and its entities have served to supply me with a never-ending stream of resources for understanding everything from Dutch Street’s sociological complexities to its economic and industrial contributions. Currently, we are living in a unique moment within the age of information whereby technology is both looking backward and looking forward. With the rise of new media, new business, and new systems for archiving, we can take a look through the Dutch Street’s history to understand how it contributes to the story of New York City.

Dutch Street was originally named, according to Sanna Feirstein’s Naming New York: Manhattan Places and How They Got Their Names, “from the street’s proximity to the Old North Dutch Church which stood on the west side of William Street between Ann and Fulton Streets from 1769 to 1875”(26). Additionally, the street was part of the massive claim of land that the Reformed Dutch Church owned since the sect settled in New York, which they only began to sell off in the early 1900s (“First New Buildings”).

Echoing New York’s development as a center for trade and commerce, Dutch Street in the 19th century was characterized by a wide variety of shops and factories catering to an incredible amount of industrialization made possible by the street’s proximity to East River piers. Using New York Times archives, I have traced the continuous waves of arriving new businesses established on Dutch Street that recall the incredible amount of diversity that the city was quickly attaining through immigration.

One of the first major establishments was William Colgate’s soap shop—which grew into what we know today as the Colgate-Palmolive Company—at 6 Dutch Street, which he opened in 1806 and retained until moving to Jersey City in 1910 (“Company’s History Traced”).

“6 Dutch St. Celebrates Its Soap Centenary.” New York Times. 21 Jan 1906: 5. ProQuest. Web. 12 Sep 2011.

Coffee manufacturers arrived in the 1810s:

“Coffee Men in Bankruptcy.” New York Times. 24 Jan 1903: 10. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web.

By the 1850s, a variety of factories were mainstays along the street: for paint, the Devoe & Raynolds Company, Inc. (“Paint Firm”); for printing materials, Vanderburg, Wells & Co (“A Difficult Fire”); for publishing and engraving, H.W. Hewet’s (“Article 2”); and for clocks, Shepherd & Co (“Fires”).

“Paint Firm Returns to 110 Fulton Street.” New York Times. 3 Nov 1937: 39. ProQuest Historial Newspapers. Web.

Last but not least, Dutch Street was also privy to the jewelry district and had an outdoor gem market by the 1870s.

Reinitz, Bertram. “‘Diamond Curb’ is Still Active: New York’s Unique Outdoor Gem Market on Dutch.” New York Times. 30 Sep 1928: 138. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Oct 2011.

Due to the presence of jewelers in and around Dutch Street, it then became the perfect place to construct an insurance district. Creating a major architectural remodel of Dutch Street at the turn of the century, new buildings were constructed at the southern end of the block to create space for expanding businesses. In 1908, the construction of the twelve-story Frankel Building on the northwest corner of John and Dutch streets was announced (“First of New Buildings”) followed by the construction of a sixteen-story building (later the Zurich building and now a Pace University dormitory) on the northeast corner in 1910 (“Old John Street Houses”).

Frankel Building Sketch, 1908

John St Building Sketch, 1910

Interestingly enough, according to the article “‘Diamond Curb’ is Still Active: New York’s Unique Outdoor Gem Market on Dutch,” the top five floors of the Frankel Building successfully created “a direct north light…arranged especially for diamond cutters and manufacturing jewelers.”  Property values with the new buildings and the booming luxury industries rose substantially and contributed to Dutch Street’s arrival into New York City’s era of modernization. Outside of newspaper articles, a fascinating way of noting this progress is through Sanborn maps marked with the years 1894 and 1948, which clearly show a significant change in Dutch Street lots.

Sanborn map of Dutch St, 1894

Sanborn Map of Dutch St, 1948

These industries, along with a few others, continued their production well into the early to mid-1900s, supplying goods and services necessary for characterizing New York as modern global city. Throughout the 20th century, however, evidence of the industrialized Dutch Street slowly began to ebb as production was moved outside of the city. It seems that the buildings once used for housing machinery and workers were eventually replaced by offices and apartments typical of more residential areas. In 1945, the Wall Street Synagogue actually moved to 12 Dutch Street after purchasing the building from the Dutch Reformed Church, which was reportedly “carried out in the spirit of traditional friendship” (“Synagogue”). Additionally, a health club sprung up in 1959 when Vic Tanny Enterprises leased out the basement spaces of 9 to 15 Dutch Street to construct a gym and indoor pool (“Health Club”). In 1971, Pace University’s Little School opened as a preschool for 3 and 4 year olds at 15 Dutch Street as a laboratory for Pace’s education student teaching (Stamler). Though it shut down in that capacity in 1998, it was expanded and revived as the Downtown Little School, which is the only major facility present on the street today.

Though it retains proximity to Wall Street, City Hall, Ground Zero, and the South Street Seaport, Dutch Street today is incredibly still when ones compares it to what the site must have been like in the 19th century. When every industry associated with the area moved uptown or out-of-town, Dutch Street began to quiet and thereby take on the new characteristics of the New York economy as it entered the information age and accepted the technology associated with digitization. As Crang writes in “Envisioning Urban histories: Bristol as Palimpsest, Postcards, and Snapshots”: “each era forms a landscape according to its own artefacts and uses, so each succeeding era takes that landscape and overwrites it, and is in turn overwritten” (430).

With this step in the evolution of Dutch Street and New York City, we come to the present day where the existence of this blog itself is made possible. New York’s machines and blue collar workers have been traded in for the modern economy and its white-collared businessmen. Through ubiquitous computing of Internet programs and the digital technology afforded by its services, we have moved “beyond the machine—render[ed] it invisible—and privilege[d] the social and material worlds” (Galloway 387). Cracking the case of a seemingly ambiguous place like Dutch Street has been made easier by digital archives, online research databases, and e-commerce.

Though I agree with de Certeau, who saw places as “fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state” (108), I have found that perhaps this is part of the evolution and revolution of New York City; as I have said, Dutch Street is like a crevice that has accumulated the deposits created by a continually developing global city. Though the street itself isn’t meant to be dissected and understood, the significance of it to the literal and symbolic representation of New York City is crucial.

As New York City has progressed from a commercial city, to an industrial city, to a modern city, and now into a multi-media city, its culture has been defined and thereby enveloped Dutch Street as a tool in its representational efforts. The theme of New York’s history through media which has run through this course and this blog is one that is virtually never-ending; my research is only scratching the surface and I have undoubtedly missed some crucial pieces of Dutch Street’s persona. History is being made every second, you know, and with that I leave you with a final quote from de Certeau:

“The memorable is that which can be dreamed about a place…subjectivity is already linked to the absence that structures it as existence and makes it ‘be there.’” (108)

Works Cited

“A Difficult Fire to Reach.” New York Times. 29 Feb 1888: 2. ProQuest. Web.

“Article 2–No Title.” New York Daily Times. 29 Sep 1855: 4. ProQuest. Web.

Crang, M. “Envisioning Urban Histories: Bristol as Palimpsest, Postcards, and Snapshots.” Environment and Planning. 28 (1996): 429-452. Print.

“Company’s History Traced.” Rochester Evening Journal. 8 Oct 1931: 20. Web. 10 Sep 2011.

de Certeau, Michel. “Walking in the City.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 91-110. Print.

Feirstein, Sanna. Naming New York: Manhattan Places and How They Got Their Names. New New York: York University Press, 2001. Print.

“Fires: In Dutch Street; In Monroe Street.” New York Times. 20 Jan 1860: 5. ProQuest. Web.

“First of New Buildings on Dutch Church Holdings.” New York Times. 19 Jan 1908. Web.

Galloway, Anne. “Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City.” Cultural Studies. 18.2/3 (2004): 384-407. Print.

“Health Club Gets Downtown Space: Basement Areas Leased in Dutch and Nassau Sts.” New York Times. 2 April 1959: 52. ProQuest. Web.

“Old John Street Houses to Go for Big Insurance Building.” New York Times. 20 March 1910. Web.

“Paint Firm Returns to 110 Fulton Street.” New York Times. 3 Nov 1937: 39. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web.

Stamler, Bernard. “Neighborhood Report: Lower Manhattan; Afer 27 Years, the Little School Is Told to Say Bye-Bye.” NewYorkTimes.com. 20 Dec 1998. Web.

“Synagogue Moves in Downtown Area.” New York Times. 21 March 1945: 14. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web.

Welcome to Dutch Street by Jessica Kordsmeier

September 14, 2011

A name like that of “Dutch Street” has a certain connotation to it, doesn’t it? Upon hearing such a name, one can quite confidently assume that the name must have a Dutch association, and thereby, a Dutch history. In this case, I am happy to report, our assumption is correct.

Map of Dutch St, Manhattan, and surrounding area. (http://gis.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/)

Dutch Street—now a short, one-way lane in the Financial District of the New York City borough of Manhattan—is one of many streets established and used by the Dutch during their colonization of the area, which they named New Amsterdam. Appropriately enough, walking down this narrow, quiet street really does remind me of a weekend I spent in Amsterdam, exploring its cobbled roads and discovering its many hidden gems. Dutch Street, as part of New Amsterdam some four centuries ago, marks a place where some of the first memories and histories of New York City as we know it today were being created.

So, what exactly is the history of a name like Dutch Street? According to a small section devoted to Dutch Street in Sanna Feirstein’s Naming New York: Manhattan Places and How They Got Their Names:

Though the street existed earlier, its name first appeared on a map of 1789. The name may derive from the street’s proximity to the Old North Dutch Church which stood on the west side of William Street between Ann and Fulton Streets from 1769 to 1875. (26)

By looking at the map above, one can see that Dutch Street rightly does lie in close proximity to William Street. This manner of naming streets echoes that of other streets in the surrounding area: take for example Stone Street and Wall Street, which were named, respectively, for being one of the first Dutch roads to be “paved with blocks of stone” and for representing a wall that stood in the 17th century “to protect against attack from the British New Englanders” (Feirstein 30). Many other streets in Lower Manhattan have similar origins to their namesakes.

Fascinatingly enough, Dutch Street was also home to the first soap shop opened by William Colgate, the founder of what we know today as the Colgate Toothpaste Company. Archived news articles I uncovered from the New York Times and the Rochester Evening Journal reveal that Colgate set up shop at 6 Dutch Street in 1806. The New York Times article, “6 Dutch St. Celebrates Its Soap Centenary,” says that in 1906 the company was honoring its 100th anniversary. Indeed, The Rochester Evening Journal reported on October 8, 1931 in an article titled “Company’s History Traced” that the brand was then “celebrated by the druggists of [New York City].” By that time, the “House of Colgate” had grown beyond its Dutch Street origins, for “in 1910 all manufacturing was transferred to Jersey City” (“Company’s History Traced”).

Today, of course, the shop is no longer there, nor are there any other remnants of the company that is now a national brand. Instead, the street is filled with small commercial and residential developments. The area is still thriving, however, due to its proximity to Fulton St, Broadway, and New York Downtown Hospital. There is even a small preschool located now at 15 Dutch Street appropriately called Downtown Little School. This, along with other physical presences along the street, is something that I really am looking forward to exploring over the course of the semester. I have my own personal attachments to a project of this kind; not only is New York City a place that I should identify with as a resident and, moreover, as an American, but I also wish to learn more about my Dutch roots and the kind of influence my ancestors have had on the city I now call home.

Works Cited

Feirstein, Sanna. Naming New York: Manhattan Places and How They Got Their Names. New York University Press. New York. 2001. Print.

“Company’s History Traced.” Rochester Evening Journal. 8 Oct 1931: 20. Web. 10 Sep 2011.

“6 Dutch St. Celebrates Its Soap Centenary.” New York Times. 21 Jan 1906: 5. ProQuest. Web. 12 Sep 2011.

A Sign of Dutch Street by Jessica Kordsmeier

September 21, 2011

At #7 Dutch Street, there stands a gorgeous five-story red brick building. Easily the most architecturally beautiful building on the entire street, I recently found myself smiling ear-to-ear while attempting to take as many pictures of the exterior as possible. The red brick façade is broken by two large windows and the front door, which are all framed by dark paneling and decorative iron bars.

Being the investigative street surveyor that I am, I was curious enough to peek through the glass into the building’s entryway after I watched a woman and her son enter. There I beheld a large plaque sealed by the Mutual Life Insurance Company detailing the building’s history, and my heart skipped a beat:

Plaque sealed by the Mutual Life Insurance Company detailing the history of 7 Dutch Street

Due to my camera’s lack of variable and appropriate settings, the picture above is not of the highest quality. So I have noted what the plaque reads here:












Upon returning home from my little adventure on Dutch Street, I decided to do more investigating to confirm the timeline embedded into the surface of that amazing plaque. Having the Middledutch Church located on this street would be a very good reason to name the street Dutch Street, wouldn’t it? However, I haven’t been successful thus far of finding other historical records that match the notes made by Mutual Life.

For instance, the Mutual Life Insurance Company (as evidenced by the picture below) itself was located at 32 Nassau Street on the corner of Liberty Street in 1905, which is a couple of blocks South of Dutch Street. The photo’s engraving states that this building was the “Site of the Middle Dutch Church.” Is it possible that the church was moved or renamed?

Mutual Life Insurance Co. building, 32 Nassau St, 1905 (NYPL Digital Gallery

Additional research I have conducted seems to suggest that 7 Dutch Street may not have been the former site of the Middledutch (or Middle Dutch) Church, but rather the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. In a 2006 article from the New York Times, Josh Barbanel reports on a small tenant revolt occurring at 7 Dutch Street by stating that the building owner had filed to have his tenants evicted in order to demolish the building and rebuild. Barbanel notes the historical background of the site, writing that the building was “constructed in the 1880’s on land owned for close to 200 years by the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of New York.” This would place ownership of the building to the Church back to at least 1700.

[The building has obviously not been torn down and replaced. In a later publication of the New York Times, sadly an obituary ran for one of the tenants, Burt Hasen, who led the protest against his landlord to keep their rents. They were ultimately successful, for this 2007 article concludes, “They subsequently had their leases renewed.”]

My own personal jury is out as to the presence of sufficient evidence to support the rest of the plaque’s historical claims. I seem to be having a knack in finding what I am not looking for as opposed to what I would like to find. Case in point: I am still trying to track the history of a British military prison (which would be incredible to find information about, especially considering that it was stated to have been instated during the very important year of 1776) and a United States Post Office on the site. However, I did find some interesting information about the presence of a booming coffee industry in the area that is now the Financial District.

In All About Coffee, William Ukers writes of a fellow named Elijah Withington, who moved to New York from Boston in 1814. He opened his first coffee roaster in the city “in an alley behind the City Hall,” but later moved his “pioneer roasting enterprise” to 7 Dutch Street in 1829 (Ukers). The account of the book then goes on to describe the era as one in which New York City became a huge market for coffee. Having a coffee roaster located at 7 Dutch Street in the early 1800s would make sense with the plaque, which alludes to a gap in time between the restoration of the building in 1790 (post-war, assumingly) and the site’s use as a post office from 1845 to 1875.

Works Cited

Barbanel, Josh. “A New Chapter in the Face-Off Between Tenants and Landlords.” New York Times. 2 April 2006. NYTimes.com. Web. 20 Sep 2011.

Smith, Roberta. “Burt Hasen, Artists Inspired by Maps, Dies at 85.” New York Times. 13 Sep 2001. NYTimes.com. Web. 20 Sep 2011.

Ukers, William H. All About Coffee. web-books.com. Web. 20 Sep 2011.

Walking Dutch Street by Jessica Kordsmeier

September 28, 2011

When one thinks of taking a pleasant stroll through a New York City neighborhood, what will most likely come to mind will be the more popular and picturesque of choices like Fifth Avenue, Hudson Street, or even Wall Street on the weekends. These city streets have a name, an identity, a story, and a purpose to those who frequent them or know of them.

The diminutive stretch of Dutch Street—the focus of this research page—would sadly and understandably not be one of these New York City walking destinations. Though walking along it is much more manageable than driving it (for it is in no shape or form designed as a major thoroughfare) it certainly isn’t entirely exciting. If anything, it could be characterized as more of an alleyway for deliverymen or a detour-like shortcut for those in the area wishing to avoid busier streets. Take, for instance, the intense amalgamation of directional signs found along the one-way, one block length of street:



It’s very clear from these signs that this short route should only be a place of quick, succinct, and purposeful comings and goings. As evidenced by the “No Standing Anytime” signs posted along the length of the street in front of every delivery entrance by the Department of Transportation, cars should not park or stall (“stand”) unless they have authorization to do so by the businesses to whom they wish to deliver. This is also due to the heavy presence of fire hydrants along the street, which should never be blocked by vehicles in case of emergencies. Additionally, speeding or reckless driving is discouraged due to the presence of children attending the preschool at 15 Dutch Street.

It’s quite obvious that those who built their businesses along the street specifically planned for it to be used as a place of business, most likely intolerable of nonsense. During my last Saturday visit there, I spent about half an hour walking it myself and taking pictures of what I found interesting; I can attest that no more than five cars or ten people entered or used the street during that length of time and none of them remained on the street like me.

Though as a person I am allowed to “stand,” there wasn’t any place on the street that encouraged it. There were no coffee shops, sidewalk cafes, benches, or even stoops. There is not a single public entrance (except the side entrance to Five Guys Burgers on Fulton Street). Instead, I had fire hydrants, metal stumps, and curbs to enjoy. The others who I saw walking the street were clearly going somewhere else, perhaps to the Starbucks on Fulton or the Pace University dormitory on John. Dutch Street was merely a conveyor belt to their ultimate destination. I was the odd one out.

According to de Certeau, this is how walkers negotiate urban cities such as New York. We are given a designed street environment, like a language, and use it as we wish (creating our own written stories) despite authorized traffic routes and rules. Dutch Street, in a way, is a name that de Certeau would call a “worn coin” that has “become available to the diverse meanings given [it] by passers-by; they detach themselves from the places they were supposed to define and serve as imaginary meeting-points on itineraries…” (104). This proper name or place becomes just a name or a place as time goes on and its meaning changes depending on those who use it and the pathways they create. In turn, de Certeau writes:

“Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body.” (108)

This phenomenon is obviously quite fascinating and incredibly verified by the Dutch Street we know today. Digging through the “enigmatic state” of it now in order to find its history and its intentional past is proving to be difficult for a reason. But alas, what is an adventure without a touch of difficulty?

Works Cited

de Certeau, Michel. “Walking in the City.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 91-110. Print.

Discovering Dutch Street in the New York Times Archives

by Jessica Kordsmeier

October 5, 2011

So far on this page, I have transcribed my findings on the various entities that have been a part of Dutch Street in the past and in the present. I’ve discovered the first shop opened by William Colgate in 1806 as well as a company that once prospered in the coffee industry in the latter half of the 19th century.

To bring us into the 20th century, I have continued since my last post to dig through the ever-enigmatic history of Dutch Street (as noted above) and have quite literally found a diamond in the rough: the center of New York’s jewelry industry.

According to an article published by the New York Times in 1928, Dutch Street was playing home to a “sidewalk gem market” on the southern end of the street. Though the jewelry trade at the time was reportedly moving uptown, the outdoor market still remained in business on Dutch Street after 50 years. The article elaborates that this was strictly a “commercial forum” for any “wholesaler of known integrity” could buy goods bought “from the jewelry auction salesrooms centring about the Bowery and Canal Street.” The writer of the article, Bertram Reinitz, even details the market’s busiest hours and the variety in fashion of the jewelry offered, making special note to “exercise [one’s] own careful discrimination in matters of style.”

If the location of this outdoor market is to be discerned, I would point to two other archived New York Times articles describing the building developments on the southern end of Dutch Street where it meets John Street. The first, published in 1908, describes the newly completed Frankel Building on the northwest corner of John and Dutch as the first in a series of improvements to the neighborhood (“First”). Apparently large institutions and wealthy entrepreneurs were in the process of buying and leasing up old buildings in the area followed the “steady increase in values in this district” for:

“John Street still retain[ed] much of its popularity as an annex to the jewelry centre in Maiden Lane, while the recent invasion of the district by the insurance business also added materially to its ground values” (“First”).

The article also designated the top five floors of the Frankel Building as having “a direct north light…arranged especially for diamond cutters and manufacturing jewelers.”

Moving into the second article from this period of development, published in 1910, I found that another building was being erected directly across Dutch Street from the Frankel Building at the northeast corner of John Street (see map below). Called “an important addition to the new insurance centre of New York,” this 16-story building marks a key shift in the direction of the type of industry occurring on Dutch Street (“Old”).

Building Plan--Dutch Street and surrounding area (1910)

Looking back to the 1908 article, this building was planned to be named the Underwriters Building for the organizations that convened there, but noted that this structure was “designed for occupancy by insurance interests.” Of additional interest, the Underwriters Building plot, as chronicled by the 1910 article, was a “historic section” for being “in the immediate vicinity [of] the battle of Golden Hill…fought in 1776.” This is, no doubt, the reasoning behind the naming of the 6-story building to the east on John Street as the Golden Hill Building.

Works Cited

“First of New Buildings on Dutch Church Holdings.” New York Times. 19 Jan 1908. Web. 26 Sep 2011.

“Old John Street Houses to Go for Big Insurance Building.” New York Times. 20 March 1910. Web. 26 Sep 2011.

Reinitz, Bertram. “‘Diamond Curb’ is Still Active: New York’s Unique Outdoor Gem Market on Dutch.” New York Times. 30 Sep 1928: 138. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Oct 2011.

Sanborn Maps and Census Stats by Jessica Kordsmeier

October 17, 2011

When attempting to go back in time, there are some things that written media sources simply cannot tell you. Though we have yet to explore the various forms of documentation afforded by the developed technology of various forms of visual media that have arisen over the past two centuries, one should first take a look into the processed and transcribed records of a place as it was known to those recording it at the time.

In this segment of my research, I have explored maps and census reports in an attempt to better understand Dutch Street in an era I haven’t seen yet. My original intent for this post was to collect and post a slew of Sanborn maps in chronological order depicting the building development and neighborhood organization on and around Dutch Street over the course of the passing decades. However, I found that what I wanted to see wasn’t always available. Dutch Street was absolutely included in the historical maps I uncovered of Lower Manhattan—like those made in 1894 and 1919 for example—but they lacked details that enhanced my understanding of the street.

That is, until I found a collection of maps dated to 1948. I instantly recovered from my previous disappointment and thought this discovery was brilliant, for I hadn’t reached that period of time in my research yet and the map I found is an incredibly meticulous account of the structural makeup of Dutch Street. I have presented the map below in three parts (going South to North) in order to showcase as much detail as possible:

Digital Sanborn Map -- 1948 (Clip 1 of 3)

Digital Sanborn Map -- 1948 (Clip 2 of 3)

Digital Sanborn Map -- 1948 (Clip 3 of 3)

One can note the presence of the Frankel Building, as discussed in the last post, as well as the building across the street—which isn’t noted here as the Underwriters’ Building, but rather the Zurich Building as erected in 1910. Down the street is the F.W. Woolworth Building, built 1936, a Methodist Church on John Street, and if I am reading it correctly—is that a synagogue at #12 Dutch Street? All of these finds definitely warrant more research for me!

Additional mention should be made of the various symbols placed on the map as well. According to a key accompanying this volume, an “E” within a square denotes an elevator; a dark dot on the street denotes fire hydrants (which there are plenty of on the street to this day!); rectangles with a cross-hatch denote a skylight while those with cross-hatches and a dark center denote a brick chimney; and “SF” stands for a building used as a store and factory. (I could go on, or post the map, but neither would fit in this space!) Based on the lack of “SD” or “store and dwelling” symbols on the map, I found it safe to conclude that Dutch Street was still functioning as a space for business in 1948.

To support my conclusion, I looked to neighborhood statistics obtained through the 1950 Census. According to the following census tract map for the island of Manhattan in 1950, Dutch Street (as highlighted in red in the second map below depicting modern-day Lower Manhattan) falls into sector 17.

New York Census Tracts in Manhattan Borough -- 1950 Census

Modern-day Map of Manhattan with Division Lines for Tract 17 -- 1950 Census

The blue lines in the second map demarcate the streets used as dividing lines for the 1950 map, with Dutch Street being enclosed by Broadway to the west, Maiden Lane to the south, Gold Street to the east, and Spruce Street to the north.

According to the data I compiled from the 1950 Census, tract 17 was home to only 96 inhabitants in 21 households, which follows the theory that the area was in use as a commercial hub. When compared to tract 44 which included the area of 14th to 20th streets east of First Avenue with a population of 24,648 in 8,687 households, the difference is quite significant.

Works Cited

“Census 1950 Tracts.” U.S. Census Bureau. Social Explorer. Web. 16 Oct 2011.

Uncovering a Sense of the Past in Fiction by Jessica Kordsmeier

October 19, 2011

Set in New York after the conclusion of the Civil War, Elizabeth Gaffney’s heady novel Metropolis chronicles the exploits of an unnamed German immigrant on his journey for freedom and justice through the underbelly of the rough urban social atmosphere. After committing a crime in his native country, he takes on the name of Georg Geiermeier to cover his indiscretions and travels by ship to the so-called Land of Opportunity.

Map of Manhattan with Points of Interest from the Metropolis Storyline

Though this gentleman does not reside, work, or specifically frequent the urban alleyway of Dutch Street, he certainly does venture to the area consistently throughout the entire course of the story (see map above taken from the novel plotting the various places mentioned in the story) . At the tale’s beginning, he is working as a stableman caring for exotic creatures at P.T. Barnum’s famed American Museum. He is awakened in the night by the building going up in flames and he barely survives. [On a historical note: if the novel is following actual events, this was the second of two fires that occurred on Barnum’s museums, obliterating this particular one in 1868 (“City and Suburban News”).] A roguish co-worker, Luther Undertoe, turns Geiermeier’s name into the police as the arsonist and he spends the next couple of weeks in jail despite his innocence.

Geiermeier had changed his ways since the mysterious events that occurred in Germany, and the omniscient narrator continuously notes his frequent dreams of happier, colorful memories of his past which seem to motivate him. Once he is released from prison, he goes directly onto the job hunt and after days of sitting in an employment office, he is given a position as a foreman over a team of men shoveling streets in the night to clear the heavy amounts of snow that could derail transportation the next day.

The following passage finds Geiermeier and his crew the morning after their full night of shoveling:

“The sky had brightened when he made his last round of the crews. They’d done a lot more than the night manager had dreamed. Broadway was clear from the Battery all the way to Reade, and so were all the major side streets to the east: Wall Street, Whitehall, Fulton and Chambers—the ones that led to ferry piers.” (55)

Fulton Ferry Slip (NYPL Digital Library, 1925)

Fulton Street Ferry House and Piers (NYPL Digital Library, 1923)

As you may recall, the northern end of Dutch Street meets Fulton Street, which runs west to east from Broadway to the East River. The Fulton Ferry still docks there to this day as it did back then: going back and forth to Brooklyn to the other Fulton Street in Brooklyn Heights which now is called Old Fulton Street. The pier there—along with the tens of piers that were busy and thriving at the time of the novel’s setting—was undoubtedly a space for commerce both in the novel and in history. These piers were sites of every type of transaction necessary for supporting the manufacturing and selling of goods like those present in the industries on and surrounding Dutch Street.

Personally, I find this era to be one of incredible significance to the development of Dutch Street within its neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. The 19th and early 20th centuries were a period of tremendous growth for New York, whereby industrialization and commercialization transformed the city into the global entity it has became. Consider the businessmen who have previously been mentioned in my posts; people like William Colgate and Elijah Withington both came to America and created opportunities for themselves based on their trade. Geiermeier (who adopts the name Will Williams for his foreman position) also works to carry out his dreams, hoping to land a job in masonry for which he apprenticed back in Germany.

By researching Metropolis and flipping ahead through the book, I know that the novel’s protagonist is going to encounter gangs and various plots against him while he witnesses and takes part in the building of structures for the city, such as the Brooklyn Bridge. His story isn’t pretty whatsoever, and it reveals the secret and dangerous world that occurs behind the closed doors of what historical research, censuses, photographs, and maps cannot tell you of a place such as Dutch Street.

Works Cited

“City and Suburban News.” New York Times. 26 Oct 1885. Web. 18 Oct 2011.

Gaffney, Elizabeth. Metropolis. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.

Filming the Action in Downtown Subways by Jessica Kordsmeier

October 26, 2011

While the adventures of last post’s protagonist took us back in time to New York City’s bustling piers and ferry networks, today’s post brings us back to a more contemporary setting within the city’s underground subway system. In the 1995 film Money Train, actors Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson compose a dynamic duo of adopted brothers who both work as cops for the Transit Police. Through alternating the role of the decoy, Snipes and Harrelson lure subway thieves into robbing them in order to stifle pass-by crime. Through their work, they execute their missions across various subway stations within their unit, which happens to place them in Lower Manhattan near Dutch Street.

After the film’s opening credits, the first action sequence begins as Harrelson’s character Charles crosses the intersection of Wall Street and William Street with the Trinity Wall Street Church in the distance and enters the Wall Street Broadway station for the 4-5-6 on the corner of William Street, pretending to be drunk as part of his disguise (see screenshots below). Though it is hard to see in the Google image below of the intersection today, this station is actually no longer for the 4-5-6 but rather for the 2-3.

Harrelson crossing William Street near Wall St Station

William St and Wall St intersection today

Harrelson entering the Wall St Broadway subway station

From there, Charles proceeds to sit on a bench on the platform and allow two young men to rob him.

Harrelson sitting on the Wall Street subway platform

Once he gives a signal, the boys start running and his partner, named John, leaves his hidden watch post and the two then chase the boys through the station. Though they stop one effectively, the other continues to run thereby beginning a chase sequence. The boy then jumps off of the platform and runs along the tracks to the next Downtown station at Bowling Green.

Harrelson and Snipes on a theif chase at Bowling Green station

One he arrives at the station, he is gunned down and killed by cops securing the money train that is stopped at Bowling Green. Charles and John are immediately upset considering that this was just a petty thief that didn’t require such treatment. The money train cops see it differently; to them, the money train—which was transporting hundreds of thousands of dollars from fare collection—had to be protected.

The next day, the two men are taken into a meeting with MTA Chief Patterson at the subway control center, and he threatens them not to mess with “his” money train.

Chief Patterson in the control center

The rest of the film consists of more decoy missions, unnecessary romantic plotlines, and Charles’ scheme to rob the money train in order to cover his debt due to bad gambling. The film itself is pretty terrible, but of chief importance to us is ignoring that and understanding it as a cultural document of New York City in the mid-1990s.

As I described earlier, the trains that run through the station seen in the opening sequence no longer run there though the station still exists. Later in the film, a decoy mission takes place at Fulton Street station which is just a block away from Dutch Street. Further stops along the way often bring the men to the Transit Police department at the E station on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street. The film’s conclusion sees a drawn-out runaway train sequence (with the money train Charles had intended to rob) pass through stations at 42nd and Grand Avenue before they derail the train at Prospect Park.

What is really important for us with this film, I believe, is two-fold: one, to see a division of the NYPD and how it operated at the time; and two, to see how different parts of the city are connected together through the subway network. Personally, I am also highly interested in knowing if a control center such as the one seen in the film actually exists! (It was very reminiscent of what I imagine the NASA control room to be like. The center actually had a wall covered in the subway lines with a light board monitoring their location.) Though one has to consider “movie magic” and how they piece different parts of the city together, the necessary immediate connection between different neighborhoods is a real phenomenon that people use daily to get from place to place. I even take the 6 down to Fulton Street station from Union Square whenever I need to visit Dutch Street.

It’s imperative to consider the role of subways today in the pace of the city and its people. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what other people who get off at Fulton Street or Wall Street are doing there? Where they are going? Why? The hundreds of station that make up this network service millions of people every day and they each have a starting point, destination, and ultimate goal in getting there. The question is, where are they going next?

The Street by Night by Jessica Kordsmeier

November 2, 2011

New York City at night is unquestionably a different city from that of the day. Dutch Street, by default, falls into this innuendo—but perhaps not in the way that one would expect. According to Joachim Schlör: “the night tells one how the city really is, how ‘the whole’ functions; and secondly, night, and only night, represents the presence of the past, of myth, in the city of the present” (242). These three eras indeed converge on the short expanse of Dutch Street, ultimately bringing to life the presence of an interesting continuum of social and commercial cycles in such an urban setting.

As I have previously stated, Dutch Street is not what anyone today would call a large, busy, residential street. It quite literally acts as a short, quiet alleyway between the shops and stops along Fulton and John Streets. Though I have never been able to visit it during a weekday, I can imagine that this must be when the street is at its busiest. I presume that with parents dropping off their children at the preschool and working people stopping by the Five Guys Burgers and the Starbucks around the corner on Fulton Street, Dutch Street sees its peak at the daylight hours which would correspond to school, work, lunch, etc.

How do I know? Well, because at 8 PM on a Tuesday night, Dutch Street was dark, quiet, and as empty as it has been on the weekends on which I have previously visited it. Quite frankly, it was creepy. Luckily, I brought my roommate along for the ride (so I wasn’t alone!) and she snapped some pictures of me to illustrate the night’s effect on Dutch Street:

Walking North on Dutch Street

Walking South on Dutch Street

The darkness and emptiness is no photographic illusion; the shops and restaurants along Fulton were already closed or in the process of closing and the only people I saw passing by were definitely not residents!

Corner of Fulton and Dutch

Given what I know now of Dutch Street and its past and present, I cannot say that I was surprised at what I discovered there at night. The area in which it lies is one that becomes flooded with business and trade professionals by day, but do not call it home by night. Understandably, the working population within Manhattan vastly increases the city’s overall population during the day, but that huge number disappears when the day’s work is done. The cyclical phases of a typical day in New York City switch at this point, making the shops and restaurants that workers visit during their lunch hour or while running errands unnecessary at night for a neighborhood that lives mainly during the work week. The street frankly becomes empty and quite eerie at night without a sense of purpose.

Following this strand of contemplation, it is impossible not to consider the many cycles of life and history that have passed through this street, effecting in ways that can only be read upon such consideration. Schlör puts it best, saying:

“From the appearance of the street only indirect conclusions can be drawn about the structure of urban society, and these conclusions become more questionable the more complex the social organization becomes.” (238-239).

I myself am only able to form “indirect conclusions” simply because I haven’t lived on Dutch Street or seen its progress throughout each era of its history within the complexity that is the urban city dynamic. I continue throughout the course of my research to really wonder how the street must have looked and felt every day and every night to those who have associated themselves with it since it was first built. I am trying so hard to put the pieces together in order to construct some sort of image of what Dutch Street is and has been as a social entity.

The street, though its empty appearance would suggest otherwise, actually does have its own soul and its own inner being that various streams of people and businesses have used and manipulated over the course of history. It saw some incredible commercial heights in the cycle of history through certain moments with the coffee, jewelry, and insurance industries, yet today it appears to have reached a period of decline. What has the street seen over the last few decades? What caused its contemporary composition? When will its moment come again? How will this cycle eventually play out?

Works Cited

Schlör, Joachim. “Night-Walking.” Nights in the Big City: Paris, Berlin, London 1840-1930. Trans. Pierre Gottfried Imhof and Dafydd Rees Robert. Reaktion Books, 1998.

Sounds from Dutch Street by Jessica Kordsmeier

November 16, 2011

Let’s go back to 2001. Imagine Dutch Street, which after Broadway and Nassau is the closest block meeting Fulton Street east of what was the World Trade Center. On that cataclysmic day of September 11, 2001, musician and composer David First was living with his painter wife Patricia Smith on …. According to Kyle Gann writing from The Village Voice a couple of weeks later, this is how First will forever remember that morning:

The composer living closest to the blast, as far as I can tell, was David First, only 1600 feet east of the south tower on Dutch Street. The first boom alerted him to a stream of papers floating into his courtyard. As the second plane hit, he says, “a huge gaseous ball of flame claimed our entire field of vision and threw us back onto our floor in horror.” The toppling of the first tower turned the sky pitch black, but luckily he closed his iron shutters before the rushing cloud of smoke and debris reached his window. He grabbed two cases of CDs of the projects he’s been working on for two years, plus an unfinished article for a new-music magazine, and went out into a street caked with what looked like two inches of gray snow. His wife, artist Patricia Smith, left behind years’ worth of paintings whose fate, as of this writing, is still uncertain. With wet towels around their faces, they walked over the bridge to Brooklyn and relocated with a relative there.

For two weeks, First and his wife stayed with family and friends in Brooklyn before they were finally able to return to the home they had made together on Dutch Street. Instead of wallowing in despair or shutting himself off from the world, First decided to write and record a song in his home studio with his wife entitled “Jump Back – an ode to the people of New York City.” (See link to song below.)

Jump Back

In writing “Jump Back,” First wanted to compose an uplifting ballad that would express how he felt about the unifying power in the diversity of New York City and its people in regards to the September 11th tragedy. The song also does an interesting job in contextualizing his story and showcasing how he really felt as a resident of the city during that time. Though somewhat corny, his lyrics do what he intended, as you can tell from the bridge of the song written below:

And I reside there myself

‘Cause I invited myself

And I invented myself

And I defy and I rebel

‘Cause it’s expensive as hell

And though my tears often well

Up when I hear of who fell

I feel so proud of ourselves

And I will call it home tonight (“Lyrics”)

After the song was recorded, First made 4,000 copies of it onto homemade CDs and passed them out to neighbors, visitors to the destruction site, and the civil workers who served the city on that tragic day and continued to help with the clean up. He sincerely meant the song to be one that could say “Thank you” to those who devoted their lives to the city and uplift them in a way by expressing the unity that the event created.

In an interview with The Village Voice published at the beginning of 2002, First described how he had dedicated his time to sharing the song over the rest of 2001 and the way that the process also helped him: “I sort of turned a corner. My denial went away. I’m trying to integrate [the destruction] into my life, where before it was my life” (Zimmer).

Though this song never saw a national audience or was played on the radio, it is excellent in that the intent was to simply support and encourage the people that First came into contact with around the area in which he lived. He saw and fully accepted New York City as his community and Dutch Street as his home. The song may be melodramatic and musically simple for an experienced composer who has been touted as quite experimental, but it definitely serves an honorable and memorable service to the city and its people.

Works Cited

Gann, Kyle. “Down But Not Out.” The Village Voice. 46. 39 (Oct 2, 2001): 102.

“Lyrics: ‘Jump Back’.” davidfirst.com. David First, 2001. 13 Nov. 2011.

Zimmer, Elizabeth. “The Money Trail: Arts Groups Large and Small Suffer After September 11; Special Foundation Grants Kick In.” The Village Voice. . 27. 5: 59 2002

Digital Dutch Street by Jessica Kordsmeier

November 30, 2011

Navigating New York City is like navigating through a mine field: the mixture of cars, buses, subways, trains, bicyclists, and pedestrians is enough to nauseate the average traveler, even though all we are considering are means of transportation. For me, visiting a place like Dutch Street means having to find a reliable source for directions that cleanly and clearly gets there from my apartment.

Thanks to the development of digital technology, I have a myriad of choices for mapping my way on my computer before I leave the house to make it that much easier to get from point A to point B. This is due, of course, to ubiquitous computation—which Anne Galloway discusses at length in “Intimations of Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City.” Through this technology, Galloway says, computers are “embed[ed] into our everyday lives” thereby making them a virtual tool to aid us in negotiating our physical reality in the city (384).

Galloway defines and critiques ubiquitous computing through what she recognizes as its various descriptive characteristics, with one of them being that it is context-aware. By this, she means that ubiquitous technology is characterized by how it makes “the ability of computers to be perceptive, interpretive and reactive. In other words, information infrastructures must be able to shift from periphery to centre, and to recognize and respond to actual contexts of use” (388-389). As an example, she cites GPS technology, which has allowed users to have their paths mapped out before them along with point-by-point directions or search for and navigate to destinations in a specific area.

A similar program, which I have used many times in navigating the city, is that of the online resource HopStop. Originally created for mapping New York City, the service has expanded vastly over the past few years to include major cities around the country and the world. What’s so great about it is that it continues to add more details and provide more information about the trip you need directions for, including details that you may have never known about before using it. What this adds up to is an amazingly detailed and helpful digital representation of the city along with the path that best fits your specific needs.

Alas, this is the technology that can easily map a path through the city for me from my apartment on West 13th Street to Dutch Street in Lower Manhattan. I simply plug in these addresses as my “From” and “To” destinations and get the best results. As you can see below, HopStop planned out my trip combining the quickest possible means of getting there, which includes a combination of walking and utilizing the 5 train.

HopStop directions to 15 Dutch Street

Additionally, however, I have the choice of modifying how I would like to get there, whether that be via bus only, walking only, or subway/train only. If I choose a combination of these, I can prefer less or more street walking or transfers. Once I get the directions that read the best to me, HopStop then allows me to text or email the final product to myself or a friend.

What is great about HopStop is that it has continued to evolve since I first used in three years ago. Now, I can even calculate how much a taxi traveling that distance would cost, how many calories I will have burned, and how much carbon emission I could save. Most important for first-time travelers to a location, or new visitors to the city who may use this service, is that HopStop represents the city (and in this case, the area in which Dutch Street is physically contained) in a simple, stream-lined, easy-to-read fashion.

HopStop trip map

One of the critiques posed by Galloway of such mapping technologies is the way in which they become commercialized for profit, sometimes (I imagine) perhaps even without awareness from the user. To explain, she writes:

“ubiquitous technologies…track the movements of people and objects, but also lead people directly to places of consumption. In the design of these types of technology, maps of the city need to be programmed and, presumably, businesses will be able to pay to have themselves included as points on the map.” (403)

This turns about to be completely true, for example, in the case of Google Maps. When you put in addresses for directions, the results are accompanied by a map that is filled with points of interest. Some of them are considerable, like City Hall or the former site of the World Trade Center, while others, like a hair salon or burger joint, are there because they are acting as a form of advertising. These destinations, wanting to warrant more traffic to their business, pay a fee to Google to have themselves represented larger on a map or come up first when “hair salon” or “burgers” are googled near a particular address.

Google Maps result for "Burgers near Dutch Street"

Google has gone more into detail than Hopstop as to what the actual street location looks like, allowing you to visualize the surrounding buildings and pre-conceptualize where you will be. In the Google Map above, Dutch Street’s name doesn’t even appear for the street is depicted accurately as a small, skinny lane between tall structures.With HopStop, as you see below, you don’t get as much detail, but you have the option of asking it to show nearby attractions, restaurants, hotels, etc.

Additional Map Options for HopStop

The helpfulness of services such as these is unquestionable: they provide a digital representation of an area you have never been to before in a way that breaks it down into an objective space. The view you get is one that you have asked for. Build it, and they will come. Or in this case, build it right, and they will use it.

Works Cited

Galloway, Anne. “Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City.” Cultural Studies. 18.2/3 (2004): 384-407. Print.

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