Dutch Place Names in new York City

The Dutch colonial legacy is alive and well in New York City. You can find it in the numerous Dutch place names, such as: Harlem, a neighborhood in Manhattan, (its namesake is Haarlem, a city in the Netherlands), and Coney Island, (Conyne Eylandt), named after its original inhabitants, rabbits, which were known as “coneys”.

Dutch settlement of what is now New York began with the voyage of Henry Hudson, sponsored by the Dutch East India Company, when he sailed up the river that now bears his name.

The Dutch surveyed the territory around the Hudson (which they called the North River) and found it rich in natural resources. The fur trade, especially in beaver pelts, used for making waterproof hats, became especially profitable.

The area that was to become New York City became a settlement in 1624, and given the name New Amsterdam. The Dutch colonized the lower portion of Manhattan, south of what is now Wall Street. 

They built a fortification, (wal), to protect the colony from the Native Americans who inhabited the northern part of the island, and that is how Wall Street got its name. Nassau Street in Manhattan got its name from the royal house of Orange-Nassau.

The Bowery, (Dutch, bouwerij) is a street named after a farmstead owned by Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Director-General of New Amsterdam.   

Three of the five boroughs of New York City have names of Dutch origin.  One of them was named after Jonas Bronck, who, with his family, settled a piece of land across the Harlem River from Manhattan.  Bronck, originally from Sweden, had worked on Dutch ships, married a Dutch woman, and later made his way to the New World. 

The place where he and his family settled was called “Bronck’s Land”, which became the borough of the Bronx. Van Cortlandt Park, in the northwest Bronx, was originally an estate owned by the Van Cortlandt family, who came from the Netherlands, and the house, now a museum, is the oldest building in the Bronx.

Staten Island was originally Staaten Eylandt, named after the Dutch Parliament, the Staaten-General. A neighborhood in Staten Island, New Dorp, derives its name from the Dutch ‘Nieuw Dorp” (New Village).

Brooklyn, the fourth largest city in the United States, as well as a borough of New York City, got its name from the town of Breuekelen in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands.  

A number of Brooklyn neighborhoods derived their names from Dutch settlements:  Vlacke Bos (Flatbush), Gravesent (Gravesend), and Roede Hoek (Red Hook).

A settlement in Queens, Vlissenden, named after a city in the Netherlands, was later anglicized to Flushing. 

The Dutch colonists named the waterways of New York as well. The Oost Rivier later became the East River, and Hellegat became Hellgate, a very treacherous body of water that separates Manhattan from Queens.

Although Dutch rule lasted only 40 years, until the arrival of the British in 1664, they had a very strong influence in New York, which lives on to this day.




Dutch Place Names in new York City