The New York Transit Museum is opening an exhibit featuring many Dutch artifacts dating back to the 1600s. The exhibit entitled “Where New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal” will be on public display in the museum’s Annex in Grand Central Terminal from March 18, 2010 through July 5, 2010.
“This exhibition is an exciting opportunity for the Museum to bring the early city alive through small fragments illustrating color and textures of the New Amsterdam”, says Mrs. Amash, curator of the museum. “It is especially interesting during the period after the Dutch had lost control of the city to the British, but New York’s ‘Dutchness’ remained evident physically and culturally.”
Before constructing the new South Ferry subway station an extensive archeological dig was conducted on the site, and two 18th century city landmarks - four sections of the Battery Wall and portions of Whitehall Slip - were uncovered, along with 65,000 artifacts. This exhibit in mid-town Manhattan will feature over 100 artifacts, documents and images of these discoveries, including many with a Dutch history.
“A big exhibit for us”
Ms. Robertson, Director, Special Projects of the museum: “This is a big exhibit for us. Very rarely do we get to experience or present exhibits with a strong international tie-in.” Among the most important finds of the excavation were pieces of two 18th century landmarks— the Battery Wall and Whitehall Slip. Stones from the Wall are on view, as are photographs of a section of the Wall that was reinstalled in the new South Ferry station.
Pipes from Amsterdam and Gouda
Many of the 17th century pipes found on the site can be traced to manufacturers in Amsterdam and Gouda based on their makers’ marks. Three lettered initials were common marks used on early Dutch pipes. Research from other New York digs suggests that “MTS” was owned by English-born Matthias Stafford working in Amsterdam. Some marks were passed down through generations of a family, such as the “hand” mark on a pipe here that was passed down through various De Vriendt family members for 63 years. Other marks were bought and sold or rented by local pipemakers, such as the three-leaf clover mark exchanged between dozens of pipemakers between 1660 and 1840.
More than 1,470 fragments of clay tobacco pipes were found on the project site. Though pipes are utilitarian objects, their design, decoration, and makers’ marks can be seen as icons for the brief period of time in which each was manufactured and used. Many of the pipes uncovered at South Ferry were English or Dutch made and showed signs of use. These often intricately decorated pieces are very small, making their discovery during a large dig all the more remarkable.
Scattered among the thousands of objects in the landfill deposits are a handful that are clearly personal. A small glass bottle seal with the (possible) arms of Governor Benjamin Fletcher (circa 1690-1700) is the only object that can be attributed to a specific individual. The wine bottle seal’s motif suggests it belonged to Fletcher, New York’s governor from 1692-1697. A medal commemorating the taking of the Fortress of Louisbourg by the British in 1758 is a shoddily made copy of one commemorating the July 1758 British capture of the French Fortress of Louisbourg on Nova Scotia. Shoe buckles made of copper alloy from the 1700s, buttons from Revolutionary War-era uniforms, and the inner and outer layers of 18th century shoe soles are also on view.
Where New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal
March 18, 2010 through July 5, 2010.
New York Transit Museum’s Annex, Grand Central Terminal, NYC