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Changes in the Geography, Layout and Settlement of Lower Manhattan

by Jessica Thompson

It is important to remember that a lot of today's lower Manhattan is landfill (See the image below). This process, in combination with the flattening of hills, draining of swamps, and straightening and widening of streets greatly changed the physical nature of lower Manhattan from the Dutch's arrival to Manhattan in 1624.


This image shows how landfill has expanded Manhattan's shoreline from 1650-1980.

[Watch Jack Putnam speak about Manhattan's geography.]


This image provides another striking perspective of the expansion of Manhattan out into the water.


This image overlays the Dutch Grants with a map showing landfill as of 1915.


This image of the Castello plan (circa 1660) demonstrates the Dutch enclosure south of the wall. The eastern most street is Pearl Street and the dock depicted is approximately one half mile south of the area that will become South Street Seaport.


In this 1730 image we see development farther north to include Peck Slip, However there are still swamp lands depicted in bottom right corners of the image. The eastern most completed street is still Pearl (called Queen on this map) but we see the beginnings of what will become Water Street.


The northern most street depicted on this 1754 map is Catherine Street (not depicted here). This map for the first time, labels Water Street and we see the beginnings of what will become Front Street (here called Dock street).


This 1797 image depicts a completed Front Street.


This 1836 image depicts a completed South Street.

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