Exploring Historic Dutch New York is a travel guide for the Dutch history of the wider New York area. The book was edited by Gajus Scheltema and Heleen Westerhuijs, and includes chapters by 16 internationally renowned scholars exploring such topics as Dutch art and architecture, Dutch cooking in America, furniture and antiques, and many more. The book will be officially released on June 23rd -- we received a preview copy and spoke with the editors.
Gajus and Heleen started working on the book in 2008. They share a strong enthusiasm for the Dutch heritage of the New York area. Gajus is Consul-General for the Netherlands in New York until the summer of 2011 after which he will become the Dutch ambassador to Pakistan; Heleen graduated in 17th century architecture in New Netherland. They took as their starting point the celebrations for NY 400, which commemorated Hudson's arrival in America in 1609.
"When I arrived in the US as Consul-General four years ago, we started organizing the festivities for NY 400", says Gajus. "These 2009 celebrations turned out very successfully, featuring for instance a large number of museum exhibitions and many other events. We donated a Pavilion designed by architect Ben Van Berkel, to the city; Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Máxima visited New York City a week long in September. It all met with great enthusiasm. Moreover, in 2009 more than 30 English language books on Dutch-American relationships were published, many of them of very high quality. However, none of those books would bring you to the Dutch legacy in a comprehensive way"
Heleen: "During NY 400 we met so many great people, many of whom are now contributors to the book -- Gehring, Jacobs, Shorto... The connections we made in 2009 during the festivities really culminated in this book. It's great to have so many specialists contributing articles about the Dutch cuisine in America, Dutch family names, Dutch art in the Metropolitan Museum, etc." Gajus adds: "The experts contributed to the main text, as well as to various inserts in the book, such as on topics like Dutch architecture or the Holland Mania of the 19th century."
Dutch history of New York, New Jersey and Delaware
The book addresses the question: which traces of the Dutch past are still visible today?
"The legacy of the Dutch period is much larger than most people realize”, says Gajus. “We have included all famous Dutch-Colonial houses in the Hudson River Valley area, New Jersey and Delaware. It's really worthwhile to see them. But we also documented lesser well-known houses. Many of the houses date from after the Dutch period, but continued to be built in the Dutch-Colonial style. During the Revolutionary War, for example, many people left Brooklyn for New Jersey, which now accounts for a large portion of the legacy. "
Heleen: "We felt that it was necessary to bundle all traces of the Dutch period, and to provide a single place to find the Dutch history in the region. Architecture is one of the most important heritages of the Dutch."
The book provides addresses, phone numbers and opening hours of the destinations. The introduction is by Russell Shorto, author of the book "The Island at the Center of the World", which introduced the history of New Netherland to a wider audience.
The maps in the book, created by Henk van Assen, are very useful. They provide a good overview of where the various houses and museums are located.
Gajus: "Until now, there had not been a true travel guide for Dutch New York. Our book tries to meet that demand." Heleen adds: "It is more than just a travel guide -- it's a historical travel guide, with lots of background information. That's why we believe that a translation into Dutch would be valuable. For a Dutch audience it would be interesting to have a Dutch translation and we're hopeful that this will happen sooner rather than later."
Gajus: "Our book aims at a broader audience than most travel guides. We target three groups: New Yorkers and Americans in the area with an interest in history; Americans with Dutch roots, such as the members of the Holland Society, and last but not least tourists from the Netherlands."
An official launch of the book is planned for June 23th, in the Museum of the City of New York, the co-publisher of the book. The following day the editors will present the book in the Netherland Club of New York.
The book is a must-have for history buffs and people who are interested in the rich Dutch heritage of the New York region. As Russell Shorto writes in the introduction, "Everyone who reads history has the same secret wish: to go back there." This book helps you find your way around.
Exploring Historic Dutch New York
Editors: Gajus Scheltema & Heleen Westerhuijs
Generally available in stores from mid June
Available for pre-order on Amazon.com