Lot 247

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Peter Stuyvesant Deed For Part of Manhattan's Financial District Near Famous Canal Built by Slave Labor, Steps Away from Wall St. & NYSE.

A 1p manuscript document in Dutch signed by Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672), the last Dutch Director-General of the New Netherland colony, as "p stuyvesant" at lower right. April 16, 1654 (written as "xvi april @ d: [Anno Domini] 1654.") Fort Amsterdam, New Netherland [New York, New York]. The document is neatly secretarially inscribed on vellum and consists of approximately 575 words front and back. Co-signed by land grantee and secretary of the New Netherland Council Cornelis van Ruijven (also spelled van Ruyven) (1630, Amsterdam - ?). With several dockets and endorsements verso dated April 25, 1654, May 27, 1656, and January 27, 1663. A narrow strip of braided vellum, with a red waxy residue, extends from a cut-out near the center. Expected wear including folds and wrinkles. Two small holes located near the center, and a neat isolated closed tear and sheared off corner at lower right. Even toning and scattered stains. Else near fine and quite legible considering its age. 11.25" x 11.5."

Ex-Charles Sigety; ex-Parke Bernet Galleries, "Historical, Musical & Literary Autograph Letters, MSS and Documents From Various Owners Including Property of George C. Richards, Jr. and Mrs. Alice Grailcourt," March 1-2, 1960, Lot 336. Accompanied by extensive background research including summaries translated from the Dutch.

The value of this document cannot be overstated, both because Peter Stuyvesant signatures are rare, but also because the land in question corresponds to real estate found in the present-day Financial District of lower Manhattan. The allotment of land measured over 10,000 square feet (in modern English conversions from Dutch rods) and is situated somewhere near present-day 55 Beaver Street. 

Land was at a premium in seventeenth-century New Amsterdam since safe living space was restricted below Wall Street, located just one block to the north of our land site. The "City Wall," as it was sometimes referred to, was a protective barrier erected by the Dutch after 1653 to deter raids, but it also physically hemmed in the flourishing colony. Real estate being finite, it was extremely valuable then; indeed, it is just as dear today, being only steps away from one of the world's financial epicenters: the New York Stock Exchange. Other modern-day landmarks close to our land site include Delmonico's, one block to the south; Trinity Church, three blocks to the northwest; and the Fraunces Tavern, three blocks to the south.

A document summary provided by the Parke-Bernet Galleries March 1-2, 1960 catalog listing describes this document in part: "The deed conveys a tract of land bounded by the present-day Broad Street to William Street, and Beaver Street to Exchange Plac'" A glossary of the same document retrieved from Charles T. Gehring, trans. and ed., "New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, Volumes GG, HH, & II, Land Papers" (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1980, p. 67) provides us with more detailed information. In part: "Petrus Stuyvesant, on behalf of their High Mightinesses, etc' has given and granted unto Cornelis van Ruyven a lot lying on the island of Manhattan in the Sheep Pasture; on the south side along the division line of Albert Pietersz Trompeter its breadth is 7 rods; on the north side its breadth extends into the Sheep Pasture 7 rods; in length on the east side along the division line of Mr. La Montaigne's land it is 10 rods, 1/2 foot; in length on the west side it is 10 rods, 1/2 foot; but if there should be a bulwark or street laid out along the said lot, then the same shall serve as a boundary, with the express conditions, etc'" We had a professional translator review key portions of the text of our document, and we can confirm that it is the same one summarized above.

How much land was granted to Cornelis van Ruijven in this land deed? A Dutch colonial-era rod was smaller than the traditional English rod, and varied from place to place according to usage. In general, it ranged between 11 feet and 18 feet during this era, and can be safely calculated at 12 feet on average per one Dutch rod. With these parameters, then, we know that Cornelius van Ruijven's new freehold was an area of sheep pasture measuring 7 Dutch rods by 10 Dutch rods and 1/2 feet, or a square area of 84' x 120' or 10,080 square feet.

We know where Cornelis van Ruijven's new land was located by consulting antique maps. Record-keeping, map-making, and surveying in New Netherland was exceptionally accurate, and there are copious amounts of information available to the interested twenty-first-century researcher. The Castello Plan, a map of New Amsterdam recorded by West India Company surveyor Jacques Cortelyou around 1660, shows the seventeenth-century boundaries of lower Manhattan in incredible street-level detail. The "tract of land bounded by the present-day Broad Street to William Street, and Beaver Street to Exchange Place" is a triangular-shaped apportionment of land known as Block L on the Castello Plan. Block L consisted of about a dozen buildings on land mostly used as pasturage, orchards, or gardens. For more information, consult the New Castle, Delaware Community History and Archaeology Program, which hosts an incredible interface with zoomable views of the Castello Plan; an identification key of early Dutch residents; and a detailed historical description of these landholders cross-referenced by Isaac Newton Phelps' history, "The Iconography of Manhattan Island." Using this site, one can zoom in to Section L and see the exact layout of property owned and leased by Cornelis van Ruijven and his new neighbors.

We are told in the "New York Historical Manuscripts' Land Papers" summary that van Ruijven's new property adjoined holdings owned by "Albert Pietersz Trompeter" to the south; and "Mr. La Montaigne" to the east. Albert Pietersen (Swart) the Trumpeter served as a bugler in the West India Company. An immigrant from Hamburg, Albert the Trumpeter married a Danish woman, and in 1654, the Pietersens requested and received permission to sell alcoholic spirits; it is speculated that they also became merchants of butter, pork, and fish. Albert the Trumpeter's property is identified as No. 4 in Block L of the Castello Plan.

"Mr. La Montaigne" referred to Jean Mousnier de la Montagne (Dutch: Joannes de la Montagne) (ca. 1596-1670), a French Huguenot who emigrated to New Netherland in 1636. De la Montagne, who had been educated in Leiden and Holland, settled down in Manhattan to practice medicine, and also manage investments in several business holdings including a tobacco plantation and the Red Lion Brewery. De la Montagne became highly respected in the Dutch community. A member of the New Netherland Council, de la Montagne served as First Councillor to Peter Stuyvesant, and Vice-Director of New Netherland after 1656; he also commanded troops and commissioned fortifications on the island of Manhattan. The Red Lion Brewery partly owned by Joannes de la Montagne is number 3 in Block L of the Castello Plan.

Cornelius van Ruijven's new property in Block L was very centrally located. Fort Amsterdam, the administrative and military center of New Amsterdam, was located just a few blocks to the southwest. The property also adjoined a strip of Beaver Street, whose western terminus was then waterfront overlooking the Broad Canal. The Dutch had created a canal network in lower Manhattan by widening and reinforcing a natural creek extending inland from the East River. The "Heere Gracht" or "Broad Canal," along with several other tributary canals, were operated over a 30-year-long period, from ca. 1646-1676. Canal construction entailed widening the canal to accommodate boat traffic, and reinforcing its banks, bottoms, and bridges. Infrastructure work was probably undertaken by a mixture of Dutch laborers including free and enslaved peoples. Wall Street, for example, had been worked on by white Dutch colonists who were servants or soldiers of the West India Company, as well as free blacks and enslaved Africans. Fort Amsterdam and Broadway were built similarly. The canals, which had permitted a thriving maritime trade of Dutch and indigenous traders to sail directly up to wharves on present-day Broad Street, became obstructed with refuse over the decades. The English ordered the Broad Canal and its adjacent waterways covered up in 1676. Please see the attached catalog photos for further information.

Cornelis van Ruijven served as the Secretary of the New Netherland Council from 1653-1664, and as the Receiver-General of the New Netherland Council from 1656-1663. He served as a fully invested member of the New Netherland Council from 1659-1664. Van Ruijven took the loyalty oath to the English in 1664, and enjoyed similar political standing in the new regime; he served as the Receiver-General of Customs and sat on the English Colonial Council from 1669-1673.

Peter Stuyvesant served as the last Dutch Director-General of New Netherland Colony (comprised of parts of present-day New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Pennsylvania) from 1647-1664. He surrendered the colony to the English in 1664.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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