New York - History and Heritage

Henry Hudson was searching for a route to the Pacific Ocean when he sailed up the river that came to be named after him. Hudson's 1609 voyage, sponsored by the Netherlands, did not lead to the mythical Northwest Passage, but his reports of an island at the river's mouth, with a good harbor and fertile soil, prompted the Dutch to found the colony of New Amsterdam, on the island's southern tip. The colony, which began in 1626, would stay in Dutch hands until 1664, when it was seized peacefully by the English Duke of York and renamed New York.

Today, vestiges of Dutch New York show up in place names—Brooklyn, Harlem—and remain in a handful of historic sites. The oldest of these is the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, built around 1652, in the area that would become the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Flatbush. The house was in danger of being torn down by developers in the 20th century, but Wyckoff descendents purchased it and donated it to the city. In 1982, the oldest extant dwelling in the state was restored to its original appearance, and it is now open for tours.

Upstate New York, the region north of New York City and its suburbs, grew rapidly in the 18th century, and many important battles were fought there during the Revolutionary War, including a pivotal American victory at Saratoga and skirmishes at Ticonderoga. At the southern tip of Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga was originally a French stronghold. It changed hands several times during the French and Indian War and the Revolution, and today the restored fort is a museum, with a research center, gardens, its own fife-and-drum marching band, and sweeping lake views.

Though women did not get to vote in national elections until 1920, the women's rights movement began decades earlier in the small town of Seneca Falls, west of Syracuse. In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four other women held the First Women's Rights Convention, which brought 300 people, including 40 men, from around the area. Famous orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who came down from Rochester, made a persuasive speech in support of the radical concept of women's suffrage, and at the end 68 women and 32 men signed the Declaration of Sentiments in support of women's rights. Today, Seneca Falls is the site of the Women's Rights National Historical Park, which includes the Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's house.

From the 19th century until today, New York City has been the gateway to America for millions of immigrants, who have made New York one of the most diverse cities in the world. Today, ethnic neighborhoods range from the well-known Chinatown and Little Italy to newer enclaves, like Little Senegal, in West Harlem, and Little Bangladesh, in Central Brooklyn. From 1892 to 1954, some 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, in New York's harbor. Since 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum has told their stories.

On September 11, 2001, one of New York City's most recognized landmarks was destroyed by terrorists, killing almost 3000 people. Today a memorial is slated for construction at the former site of the World Trade Center, known as Ground Zero, and the temporary museum and visitors' center is located across the street.

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