Dwindling reminders of New York’s Colonial days (1914)

Thirty-two buildings all that are left to remind New York City of colonial times

There are in New York City thirty-two buildings which have weathered more than a century of sunshine, snow and rain. They are all the remain of Colonial New York.

Hidden away in obscure spots in the 327 square miles is the greatest city they have escaped builders and developers who, spurred on by a demand which they themselves have created, have robbed the city in the last twenty years of many fine examples of Colonial buildings, relics which cannot be replaced at any cost.

The obscure locations of many of the thirty-two buildings remaining are their safeguard. Were they in sections where the demand for building sites is keen they would soon be brought up and removed to make way for more productive buildings.

Sentiment is a characteristic that few builders or developers or real estate operators have. That a house should have been the home of one of the great men of early history has no consideration for them. Its strategical value is what is considered. If well-located, the owner is tempted to sell by a big offer which is usually effective in bringing about a sale. That means the end of the old building. It is tumbled down and a loft building, tenement, factory or a row of homogeneous houses erected.

Such desecration has gone on so long that a pang is no longer felt when the removal of some cherished building or property is announced. That thirty-two buildings have escaped will be a surprise to many, as it is generally believed New York has fewer landmarks to take pride in than any other large city in the East.

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Some years ago, every section had a landmark to venerate. Around it were woven stories of fact and fancy which made people respect it as a local institution. It was possible then to show a country cousin the birthplace of men who had by arms or diplomacy made this a great country. Builders came and landmarks along business highways not protected by the funds of historical societies were bought and their sites improved with money-making buildings.

 

Top photo: Homestead of Hans Hansen Bergen, one of the earliest settlers of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, built c1656

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