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July 6, 2018

History Lesson: Step Inside the Netherland Monument

It’s common knowledge that Dutch settlers founded New York, but did you know a monument exists to commemorate the occasion? Just a quick walk from Wagner Battery Park, the Netherland Monument is a simple flagstaff memorial honoring the Dutch establishment of New Amsterdam and the European settlement that launched our modern metropolis. Let’s check it out.

The Netherland Monument was designed by H.A.van den Eijnde, a sculptor who hailed from Haarlem in the Netherlands. It was dedicated in 1926 to mark Dutch settlement as well as the purchase of Manhattan from Native Americans. If you need a history refresh, the idea of New Amsterdam dates back to 1609, when the Dutch East India Company ship, De Halve Maen entered the harbor. The river still carries the name of the ship’s commander, Henry Hudson. Subsequent trading missions led to the formation of the New Netherland Company, which stretched from Delaware to Connecticut. In 1621, the States General of the Netherlands established the Dutch West India Company. Dutch families then formed a small community at the southern end of the island. New Amsterdam grew in size and prosperity over the next few decades and became its own municipality in 1653.

Though most of the original Dutch community left New York, the cultural group had great influence on local New York culture. Two boroughs, the Bronx and Brooklyn (Breuckelen), as well as numerous streets take their names from the Dutch. Old Dutch-style houses include the Dyckman Farmhouse in northern Manhattan and the Wyckoff House in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Monuments to Dutch legacy line our city, like the statue of Dutch director general Peter Stuyvesant, commissioned for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

On December 6, 1926 the Netherland Monument was declared a gift by the people of Holland. At that time it stood south of Castle Clinton, then the site of the New York Aquarium. In 1939 the monument underwent restoration and was relocated to its present site at Castle Clinton’s northeast entrance. It serves as a constant reminder of Dutch pride and the group’s impact on developing the city.