Monday, February 15, 2010

Harlem in the Old Times (4)

The inhabitants of young Harlem must have done most of their traveling to the City by water, for eight years after its settlement, in 1671, it was recorded: "Whereas, the road between this City and the Villaqe of New Harlem is impassable, and it is necessary a road should be maintained, it is ordered that the Overseers of Roads and the magistrates of Harlem lay out a suitable road, and that it be made by the inhabitants of Harlem, in conjunction with those living on the other side of Fresh Water, [Collect Pond,] each within their respective limits." This road was long building, for a year later it is recorded: "Whereas, the road to New Harlem is still unfinished, and many complaints have been made even that people lately wishing to travel over that road on horseback have been in danger of losing their lives by the bad condition of the road, therefore, Overseers are appointed to urge the inhabitants to go on with the work, and to impose fines for neglect."

This road was finished in 1673, the following year. There had been a bridge across "the Fresh Water," a brook that emptied the waters of the Collect Pond into the East River, running a little north of the present Pearl street. This bridge was built anew in 1695, at a cost of L1 16s. In 1707, in pursuance of an act of Assembly, the Highway Commissioners reported the plan of the road to Harlem, "To begin at the Spring Garden Gate, [Broadway, near Fulton-street] to the Fresh Water, the course being east by north; thence by a small turning to the tree in the highway upon the hill, [head of Chatham-square;] so along the lane [Bowery] to the furthermost house in the same, the course being about north-north-east. From the said last house the road to run along the fence upon the right hand, as the road now lies, to Kip's Runs, [the brook emptying into Kip's Bay.] From thence north-north-east to the bridge beyond the Kill; from thence to the corner of Turtle Bay Farm to the top of the next hill, about east-north-east; from thence to the Saw-mill bridge northeast a little northerly; from Saw-mill bridge along Mr. Codrington's fence to the half-way house, the road to turn to the right hand, and so over the creek to Harlem." There was no bridge over the Harlem River till about the time of the Revolutionary War, nearly a century after the first settlement of the village. In 1774, the Common Council granted permission for the building of a bridge to shorten the post-road between this City and East Chester, the mails having previously been carried by way of King's Bridge, which was built about 1690.

Source of Information: The New York Times January 11, 1880

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