In 1675 four New Yorkers purchased a tract of land outside the city wall that had earlier been part of the farm of Cornelis van Tienhoven, the Dutch Colonial Secretary. The buyers, Conraet Ten Eyck, Caarsen Leersen, Jacob Abrams and John Harpendingh were all tanners and shoemakers. A fifth shoemaker, Cornelius Clopper, added his adjoining land and the parcel became known as the “Shoemakers Land.”
The plot, containing about 17 acres, was situated northeast of the intersection of Broadway and Maiden Lane. It was bordered on the north by what would become Ann Street and on the east by the fence of Dirck Vandercliff’s orchard, about midway between William and what is now Gold Street. For 20 years it continued to be farmed to the benefit of it owners, but by 1696 the city had grown beyond the fortification at Wall Street and the shoemakers saw an opportunity. They hired James Evetts, the City Surveyor, to divide the acreage into nine blocks containing 164 lots to be divided equally among the owners, with the intention of renting the lots for the construction of houses.
Within the plot ran William Street (an extension of King George Street) and Nassau Street (an extension of Kip Street) both laid out some time prior to 1687. Two east-west streets were also laid out: Fair Street, which is now Fulton, and John Street (named for John Harpendingh, one of the shoemakers), which retains its original name.
What makes the Shoemakers Land remarkable in the history of Manhattan streets is that it is one of the earliest examples of a large section of farmland being divided into more or less uniform rectangular lots. This practice would of course become typical as the city continued to expand.
Although not named on Evetts’ plan, what would become Dutch Street is visible as a gap in the row of lots along Fair and John Streets, providing access to a section of vacant land in the center of the block. The name Dutch Street is probably a reference to the Dutch Reformed Church, of which John Harpendingh was a generous benefactor. Harpendingh left six of his lots to the church in 1723, located in the eastern half of present-day block 91, bordered by Ann, William, Fulton and Nassau Streets. The North Dutch Church was built on this property in 1767.
Although most of the lots of the Shoemakers Land have been sold, combined, and resold many times in the intervening 300 years, their original property lines can still be discerned on current maps. Block 91, for example, still holds several of the original 25-foot through lots surveyed by Evetts in 1696, and some internal property lines in blocks 68, 77 and 93 still follow the line of Dirck Vandercliff’s orchard fence.
Evetts, James. A map or chart of a certain tract of land commonly call’d the Shoemakers Land. Manuscript, 1696. Reprinted in Stokes, I. N. Phelps, F. C. Wieder, Victor Hugo Paltsits, and Sidney Lawton Smith. The iconography of Manhattan island, 1498-1909. New York: R.H. Dodd, 1915. v1, plate 24-a, 236.
New York City. Digital Tax Map. Department of Finance, 2013. http://gis.nyc.gov/taxmap/map.htm