It is hard to believe that New York City was once a small Dutch settlement. An old document shows that Dutch settlers did, in fact, pay for this land. The document can be seen at the citys South Street Seaport Museum.
Martin Berense is head of the Netherlands National Archives. He says the letter tells about a ship arriving in Amsterdam. The ships operator said, The settlement is going well. And, we bought the island of Manhattan for sixty guilders.
The letter is on loan for New Yorks four hundredth anniversary.
Berendse says the letter tells about the settlement, which became New York.
The museum also has a map of the settlement. Another map shows just how small Manhattan was. That changed when Britain took control. Historian Barry Lewis says the British filled in part of the East River with waste because more land was needed.
BARRY LEWIS: We had only about one hundred thousand people at the beginning of the nineteenth century. By 1875, the population of Manhattan is over one-million people. By 1910, over two million people are living in Manhattan island.
The Brooklyn Bridge was built in eighteen eighty-three so people could move to Long Island, where land was less costly.
Lewis says people crossed the East River by carriage or boat. Or they walked across the bridge. He says New Yorks underground trains led to the development of land in areas far from the center of the city.
Many businesses needed to be in Manhattan. So developers started building up, creating the skyscraper.
BARRY LEWIS: People were afraid it would fall down in the first windstorm. And anyone who had property in the commercial buildings next to it, they were terrified that no one would rent in their buildings because that thing was next door.
But more and more skyscrapers were built. Each one was higher than the next. Lewis says the big reason for so many skyscrapers was money. He says New York was built by investments in land.
That is not why everything was built. Some structures have improved the look of the city. Two examples are the Washington Square Arch and the Guggenheim Museum.
But money is still important on the island that began as a trading century four centuries ago. The area the Dutch settled is now Wall Street, the worlds financial capital. Im Steve Ember.