Will the Real Petrus Stuyvesant Please Stand Up?
In this part of New York, the Stuyvesant name is all around us: Stuyvesant Street, Stuyvesant Town, Stuyvesant Square, the old Stuyvesant Casino (a former East Village jazz club, now the site of the Ukrainian National Home) and, Stuyvesant Polyclinic, just to name a few. Many know that this stems from the Stuyvesant clan being the first European landowners in this area, starting with the family patriarch, Petrus Stuyvesant, who was the director-general of New Netherland from 1647 until 1664 when it was taken over by the British.
Petrus Stuyvesant is also referred to as Peter, Pieter, and even Peg-Leg Pete (due to his missing appendage). This variation on his first name, as well as the fact that there were descendants who shared his name(s) and played a significant role in New York history as well, can sometimes cause some confusion. So we thought we would use this opportunity to explain a bit of the Stuyvesant genealogy as well as some of their impact on the East Village.
According to Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace in Gotham, A History of New York City to 1898, Petrus opted for the Latin form of his name, as opposed to the Dutch, Pieter, because it showed that he was university trained as he began to make his career in Amsterdam with the Dutch West India Company. Even after the surrender of New Netherland to the British, Petrus retained his farm or Bowery in the East Village, and finished out his remaining years here when he died in 1672. His tomb is held and marked at St. Mark’s Church.
Some of Director Petrus’ descendants also continued to make their homes here. Petrus, married to Judith Bayard, had two sons, Balthazar Lazar (1647-1678) and Nicholas William (1648-1698). Nicholas, with his second wife, Elizabeth Slechtenhorst, had three children — Petrus (1684-1706), Anna (d. 1759) and Gerardus (1690-1777). Gerardus married Judith Bayard and they had two children — Nicholas William (1722-1780) and Petrus (1727-1805). Petrus married Margaret Livingston and had several children, including Elizabeth (1775-1854) and Peter Gerard (1777-1847).
Before and after the Revolutionary War, the Stuyvesants owned Director Petrus’ original farm or bowery, which was located between Fourth Avenue and the East River, and approximately East 5th Street to East 20th Street. Gerardus (1690-1777), grandson of Director Petrus, occupied the original family home which was located at what is today the eastern end of Stuyvesant Street, and which burned down in 1778. His sons, Nicholas (1722-1780) and Petrus (1727-1805) had houses nearby on the family land.
Petrus (1727-1805, great grandson of Director Petrus Stuyvesant) was credited with the original layout of the streets of the area, which led to the urban development of this area. This original street grid ran true east-west, but would be subsumed by the Commissioners Plan of 1811. A remnant of this original layout may be seen in the still extant Stuyvesant Street between Third and Second Avenues. Petrus is also credited with donating the land and initiating the construction of St. Mark’s on the Bowery Church in 1799, on the site of his great-grandfather’s chapel.
Petrus built for his daughter, Elizabeth, 21 Stuyvesant Street as a wedding gift 1803-04. She married Hamilton Fish and their home, known as the Stuyvesant Fish House, still stands today and is an individual New York City landmark within the St. Mark’s Historic District. In 1826, Tenth Street was opened which cut considerably Elizabeth and Hamilton’s property. As compensation, Peter Gerard, Elizabeth’s brother, conveyed the triangular shaped lot to them which would be known as Elizabeth Fish’s Garden. This would later be built on in 1861 with a series of houses known as Renwick Triangle, designed by James Renwick, Jr.
Peter Gerard was one of the founders of the New York Historical Society, which originally made its home in the East Village at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and East 11th Street, demolished to make way for the present-day apartment building at 170 Second Avenue. He also sold to the City four acres of the Stuyvesant farm for $5 to be used as a public park, making Stuyvesant Square.
For a relatively small family with a lot of similar sounding names, the Stuyvesants — especially Petrus (and Petrus, and Petrus…) — had a big impact upon this part of town.