History of New York City, NY

New York City is a historic city in New York State. Settled by the Dutch in the early 17th century, it was later taken over by the English and eventually became the financial and cultural hub of New York State and one of the oldest towns in America.

The following is a timeline of the history of New York City:

Pre-colonization:

  • For about 13,000 years before colonization, the island of Manhattan is inhabited by the Lenape tribe who call the island Manahatta, meaning “hilly island.” During this time, the Wickquasgeck trail is established which runs the length of the island.

1609:

  • On September 2, Henry Hudson arrives in New York Harbor and begins exploring the Hudson River during an expedition to locate the famed Northwest Passage.

1613:

  • In November, Adriaen Block and his crew land on Manhattan after their ship, Tyger, catches fire and burns in the harbor. They are forced to spend the winter on the island during which the Lenape help them build a new ship.

1624:

  • New York City is settled as a trading post by the Dutch West India Company and is named New Amsterdam.
  • The Dutch widen the Wickquasgeck trail and make it the main road on the island. They name the road Heeren Wegh or Heeren Straat, meaning “Gentlemen’s Way” or “Gentlemen’s Street.”
Official Seal of the City of New York

1625:

  • Fort Amsterdam is built on what is now Bowling Green in Manhattan.

1626:

  • Director of the Dutch Colony of New Netherland, Peter Minuit, purchases the island of Manhattan from the Lenape tribe for $24 worth of beads and trinkets.

1636:

  • The governor of New Amsterdam, Wouter van Twiller, purchases 3,000 acres of what is now Brooklyn from the Lenape tribe.

1641:

  • The Wyckoff House, a Dutch Colonial-style house, is built on what is now Clarendon Road in Brooklyn sometime before 1641.

1661:

  • The John Bowne House, an Anglo-Dutch Colonial Saltbox-style house, is built in Flushing, Queens.

1662:

  • The Billiou–Stillwell–Perine House, a Dutch Colonial-style house, is built on Richmond Road on Staten Island.

1664:

  • New Amsterdam is seized by the English and its name is changed to New York. The Wickquasgeck trail is renamed Broadway because of its unusual width.

1670:

  • Abraham Manee House, a Dutch Colonial-style house, is built in Prince’s Bay on Staten Island.

1671:

  • The Britton Cottage is built in Richmondtown on Staten Island.

1675:

  • The Jans Martense Schenck house is built by Dutch settler Jan Martense Schenck in Brooklyn.
  • The Conference House, a stone house that is also known as the Billhop House, is built by Captain Christopher Billhop in the Tottenville neighborhood of Staten Island. It served as the location of the Staten Island Peace Conference in September of 1776 in what was a failed attempt to end the Revolutionary War.

1690:

  • The Alice Austen House, a Dutch Colonial-style house, is built on Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island.

1694:

  • The Old Quaker Meeting House is constructed on what is now Northern Boulevard in Flushing, Queens.

1698:

  • The population of New York City is 4,937.

1700:

  • Treasure House is built by local tanner U.S. Samuel Grasset in Richmondtown on Staten Island. It earned its nickname after a hoard of Revolutionary War-era gold coins were discovered during renovations in the house in 1860.

1712:

  • The population of New York City is 5,840.

1719:

  • The Fraunces Tavern is built by Stephen Delancey on Pearl Street in Manhattan. It originally served as a private residence before it was sold to Samuel Fraunces in 1762 and converted into a tavern.
Fraunce’s Tavern in New York City circa 1900-1920

1722:

  • The Kreuzer-Pelton House, a Dutch-influenced fieldstone house, is built on Richmond Terrace on Staten Island.

1723:

  • The population of New York City is 7,248.

1735:

  • The first almshouse is built in what is now City Hall Park.

1736:

  • St. James Church is built on Broadway in Elmshurst, Queens.

1737:

  • The population of New York City is 10,664.

1740:

  • The Lake–Tysen House, a Dutch-influenced farmhouse, is built in Oakwood on Staten Island.

1744:

  • The Joost Van Nuyse House, a Colonial-style house also known as the Ditmas Coe House, is built on E. 34th St in Brooklyn.

1746:

  • The population of New York City is 11,717.

1747:

  • The Stoothoff–Baxter–Kouwenhaven House is built in Flatlands, Brooklyn.

1748:

  • The Van Cortlandt House, a Georgian-style house, is built in what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

1750:

  • The Cornell Farmhouse is built on Little Neck Parkway in Queens.

1754:

  • King’s College is established on the grounds of Trinity Church in Manhattan.

1756:

  • The Christopher House, a stone masonry farmhouse, is built near Willowbrook Road on Staten Island.
  • The population of New York City is 13,046.

1758:

  • The Valentine–Varian House is built on Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx.

1765:

  • Morris–Jumel Mansion, a Palladian / Georgian / Federal-style house, is built on Jumel Terrace in Upper Manhattan.

1766:

  • St. Paul’s Chapel, a Georgian-style building, is constructed on Broadway in Lower Manhattan.
  • The Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead, a Dutch Colonial-style house, is built on East 22nd Street in Brooklyn.

1769:

  • Voorlezer’s House, a Dutch-influenced house, is built on Arthur Kill Road in Richmondtown, Staten Island.

1771:

  • The population of New York City is 21,863.

1774:

  • The Kingsland Homestead, a Colonial-style house, is built at 37th Ave and Parsons Blvd in Flushing, Queens.

1776:

  • On August 27, the Battle of Brooklyn, also known as the Battle of Long Island, takes place during which the British invade and capture Long Island and Brooklyn.
  • On September 15, the British land at Kip’s Bay on the shore of the East River and capture New York City.
  • On September 20, the Great New York Fire of 1776 takes place during which 10 to 25 percent of the buildings in New York City are destroyed.

1783:

  • The Lefferts Historic House is built in what is now Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
  • On November 25, the last of the British troops are ordered to evacuate New York City.

1784:

  • King’s College is renamed Columbia University.

1785:

  • The Dyckman House, a Dutch Colonial-style farmhouse, is built on Broadway in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan. It still stands today, making it the oldest remaining farmhouse on Manhattan Island.
Dyckman House on Broadway in New York City
  • The Edward Mooney House, a Federal / Georgian-style brick building, is constructed between 1785 and 1789 on the corner of Pell Street. It still stands today, making it the oldest surviving row house in Manhattan.

1790:

  • A wooden house and carriage house, known simply as 203 East 29th Street, is built on East 29th Street in Manhattan sometime between 1790 and 1870. The building still stands today, making it one of the oldest wooden frame houses in New York City.
  • The population of New York City is 33,131.

1794:

  • The Bridge Cafe is built on Water Street. It originally served as a grocery and liquor store and later became home to a series of drinking and eating establishments throughout the 19th century, making it the oldest surviving tavern in New York.

1796:

  • The Blackwell House is built by Jacob Blackwell on Blackwell’s Island which is later renamed Roosevelt Island.

1797:

  • A Second Almshouse is built in what is now City Hill Park.

1798:

  • The Flatbush Reformed Church, a Federal-style building, is constructed on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn.

1799:

  • The Mount Vernon Hotel is built on East 61st Street. It originally served as a carriage house and stable for a nearby estate before being converted into a hotel in 1826.
  • The Gracie Mansion, a Federal-style mansion, is constructed by Archibald Gracie on East End Avenue.
Gracie Mansion in New York City in 1969

1800:

  • The population of New York City is 60,515.

1810:

  • The population of New York City is 96,373.

1820:

  • The population of New York City is 123,706.

1821:

  • The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum is built in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

1825:

  • Seneca Village, a primarily African-American community, is established in what is now Central Park, between West 82nd and West 89th Street, when landowners John and Elizabeth Whitehead subdivide their land and sell it as 200 lots, primarily to African Americans.

1829:

  • The Willets Point Farmhouse, a Greek Revival-style house, is built by Charles Willets at Fort Totten in Queens.

1830:

  • The population of New York City is 202,589.

1832:

  • New York University is founded by a group of New Yorkers led by Albert Gallatin near City Hall.

1833:

  • New York University moves to Greenwich Village.

1835:

  • On December 16, the Great Fire of 1835 takes place during which 700 buildings are destroyed.

1836:

  • The LaTourette House, a Federal-style brick house, is built on Staten Island.

1840:

  • The population of New York City is 312,710.

1841:

  • The New York City Lunatic Asylum is built on Roosevelt Island.

1842:

  • Federal Hall, a Greek Revival-style building, is constructed on Wall Street.

1845:

  • On July 19, the Great New York City Fire of 1845 takes place and destroys 345 buildings.

1846:

  • Trinity Church, a Gothic Revival-style building, is constructed on Broadway in Manhattan.
Trinity Church in New York City in 1865
  • Grace Church, a Gothic Revival-style building, is constructed on Broadway.

1848:

  • Brooklyn Borough Hall, a Greek Revival-style building, is constructed on Joralemon Street.

1849:

  • The Anshe Slonim Synagogue, a Gothic Revival-style building, is constructed on Norfolk Street.

1850:

  • The population of New York City is 515,547.

1853:

  • The New York Legislature enacts a law that sets aside 775 acres of land in Manhattan, from 59th to 106th Streets, for a public park.

1855:

  • The population of Seneca Village in Central Park is about 225 residents, made up of roughly two-thirds African-Americans, one-third Irish immigrants, and a small number of individuals of German descent.

1858:

  • Construction begins on Central Park after the land is acquired through eminent domain. Approximately 1,600 inhabitants in the area are displaced as a result.
  • The first section of the park, the Lake, is completed and opens to the public.
Swans on the lake, Central Park, NYC in 1865

1858:

  • Central Park is established as a public park.

1860:

  • The population of New York City is 813,669.

1863:

  • On July 13-16, a series of Draft Riots take place in Lower Manhattan when Irish laborers riot over being drafted into the American Civil War.
Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1865

1870:

  • The population of New York City is 942,292.

1873:

  • The construction of Central Park is completed at a total cost of $14 million.
People sailing toy boats in a pond in Central Park, New York City. in 1900

1874:

  • The Great Roman Hippodrome, a open oval arena, is built by P.T. Barnum on land owned by the Vanderbilt family on the corner of East 26th Street and Madison.

1879:

  • William Kissam Vanderbilt changed the named of the Great Roman Hippodrome to Madison Square Garden and hosted sporting events, conventions and horse shows in the venue.

1880:

  • The population of New York City is 1,206,299.

1883:

  • The Brooklyn Bridge is built.

1886:

  • On October 28, the Statue of Liberty, a 305-foot tall copper statue of the Roman Goddess of Liberty, known as Libertas, is dedicated on Liberty Island.
Statue of Liberty in 1952

1889:

  • The Vanderbilt family sells Madison Square Garden and it is demolished that July.
  • The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum moves to White Plains, NY and the original location of the hospital in the Morningside neighborhood is renamed the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

1890:

  • A new Madison Square Garden building, a Beaux-Arts-style indoor arena, is constructed on the site of the old one and opens to the public on June 1.
  • The population of New York City is 1,515,301.

1891:

  • Carl Schurz Park is established on East End Avenue.

1892:

  • On January 1, Ellis Island opens, making it the first and largest federal immigrant processing station.

1895:

  • Church of the St. Mary Virgin is built in Times Square on West 46th Street in Manhattan.

1896:

  • The city of New York takes ownership of Gracie Mansion due to unpaid taxes and adds it to Carl Schurz Park.
  • Columbia University moves its campus to the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

1900:

  • The population of New York City is 3,437,202.
City Hall in New York City in 1900

1902:

  • The Flatiron building, a 22-story steel-framed triangular building, is constructed on Fifth Avenue.
  • Macy’s Herald Square, Macy’s headquarters and flagship store, is built on 34th Street in Manhattan.

1904:

  • One Times Square, a 25-story Neo Gothic skyscraper, is built in Times Square in Manhattan and originally serves as the headquarters of the New York Times.
  • The Ansonia, a Beaux-Arts-style apartment building is constructed on Broadway.
  • On October 27, the New York City subway opens to the public.
  • At 11:59 PM on New Year’s Eve, the New Year’s Eve Ball makes its descent from the pole at One Times Square for the first time.

1907:

  • The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, a Beaux-Arts-style building, is constructed on Bowling Green in Manhattan.

1910:

  • The population of New York City is 4,766,883.

1911:

  • Construction is completed on the New York City Library on Fifth Avenue.
  • The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a Romanesque Revival / Gothic Revival-style building, is constructed on Amsterdam Avenue.
  • On March 25, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire takes place in Greenwich Village during which 146 workers are killed.

1912:

  • The Woolworth Building, a 792-foot-tall Neo Gothic skyscraper, is constructed on Broadway in Manhattan.

1913:

  • The Apollo Theater is built on West 125th Street in Harlem and featured burlesque shows. In 1934, Sidney Cohen acquired the theater and it became a venue for African American musicians, comedians and performers.

1916:

  • The remains of Adriaen Block’s ship Tyger is discovered during the construction of the New York City subway.

1920:

  • The population of New York City is 5,620,048.

1924:

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York Building is constructed on Liberty Street.

1927:

  • Hearst Tower, a Structural Expressionism-style building, is constructed on the corner of 57th Street and Eighth Avenue.

1928:

  • The New York Life Building, a Gothic Revival-style office building, is constructed on Madison Avenue.

1929:

  • The San Remo building, a Renaissance Revival-style apartment building, is constructed on Central Park West.

1930:

  • The Chrysler Building, an Art Deco-style skyscraper, is constructed at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.
  • Construction begins on Rockefeller Plaza between West 49th and 50th Street.
  • The population of New York City is 6,930,446.

1931:

  • The Empire State Building, an Art Deco-style skyscraper, is constructed on Fifth Avenue.
  • The Waldor Astoria New York, an Art Deco-style building, is constructed on Park Avenue and serves as a hotel.
  • The The General Electric Building, an Art Deco-style skyscraper, is constructed on Lexington Avenue.

1932:

  • Radio City Music Hall is built on Sixth Avenue.
Radio City Music Hall in New York City

1936:

  • On December 25, the ice rink at Rockefeller Center opens to the public.

1938:

  • The Cloisters, an art museum featuring European medieval art and architecture, is built on Margaret Corbin Drive in Manhattan.

1939:

  • Construction is completed on Rockefeller Plaza.

1940:

  • The population of New York City is 7,454,995.
New York City in 1941

1948:

  • The New York International Airport is built in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens.

1950:

  • The population of New York City is 7,891,957.

1952:

  • The Lever House, an International-style office building, is constructed on Park Avenue.

1960:

  • The population of New York City is 7,781,984.
Central Park, with the JW Marriot Essex House in background, circa 1956

1963:

  • After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, New York International Airport is renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport as a tribute to the late president.

1970:

  • The population of New York City is 7,894,862.

1980:

  • The population of New York City is 7,071,639.

1984:

  • 550 Madison, a Post Modern-style skyscraper, is constructed on Madison Avenue.

1990:

  • The population of New York City is 7,322,564.

2000:

  • The population of New York City is 8,008,288.

2001:

  • On September 11, the Twin Towers are destroyed and 2,996 people are killed during a terrorist attack.

2007:

  • The New Museum building is constructed on Bowery.

2010:

  • The population of New York City is 8,175,133.

2012:

  • On October 12, Hurricane Sandy hits New York City during which 43 people die and thousands of homes are destroyed resulting in $19 billion dollars in damage.

2014:

  • Construction is completed on the World Trade Center on Fulton Street.

2017:

  • A 57-story High-Tech-style skyscraper nicknamed the Jenga Tower is built on Leonard Street.

2020:

  • The population of New York City is 8,804,190.

Sources:
“160 Years of Central Park: A Brief History.” Central Park Conservancy, centralparknyc.org/articles/central-park-history
“Before Central Park: The Story of Seneca Village.” Central Park Conservancy, centralparknyc.org/articles/seneca-village
“NYE History & Times Square Ball.” Times Square NYC, timessquarenyc.org/times-square-new-years-eve/nye-history-times-square-ball
“The Twin Mysteries of Henry Hudson—His 1609 Voyage.” Hudson River Valley Institute, hudsonrivervalley.org/the-twin-mysteries
“NYC Timeline.” NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, archaeology.cityofnewyork.us/collection/nyc-timeline
“The Battle of Brooklyn.” New York City Historical Society, nyhistory.org/exhibitions/battle-brooklyn
“The Battle of Brooklyn, August 27, 1776.” The Old Stone House, theoldstonehouse.org/history/battle-of-brooklyn/
“New York Campaign.” Mount Vernon, mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/new-york-campaign/
“British Occupation of New York City.” Mount Vernon, mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/british-occupation-of-new-york-city/
“Jan Martense Schenck House, 1676.” Brooklyn Museum, brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/2676

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of Historic Sites USA. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in New England after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism.

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