Important moments in the history of New York

New York is the most famous and populous city in the United States, with an estimated population of more than 8,5 million people in 2016. The land area of NYC is about 302.6 square miles, which makes it, correlated with its large population, the most densely populated major city in the United States. This area used to be inhabited before the arrival of colonists by bands of Algonquian tribes of Native Americans. How did New York evolved from an area inhabited by tribes to the modern city we have today? This article does not intend presenting you the entire history of the place, but just a few major moments that define its past.

1524 – First documented visit by an European

Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine explorer serving the French crown, reached the New York Harbor on the ship La Dauphine in 1524. The area was claimed for France and named Nouvelle Angoulême (New Angoulême).

colonist figurine

1613 – The first non-Native American inhabitant

Juan Rodriguez, a merchant of Portuguese and African descent from Santo Domingo, arrived in Manhattan during the winter of 1613 – 1614. As a representative of the Dutch, he was the first European inhabitant of what would eventually become New York City. A street in New York is named Juan Rodriguez in his honor.

1625 – The Dutch started the construction of a citadel

The prior year, a permanent European presence in New Netherland began with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement on Governors Island. In 1625, the construction of a citadel and Fort Amsterdam started on Manhattan Island, and in 1626, the Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from a small Lenape Native American band. After the purchase, New Amsterdam started to grow slowly.

1664 – Beginning of the English rule

English troops obtained New Amsterdam from its Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, without much resistance from his part. The Dutch were allowed to remain in the colony and were offered religious freedom. This is the moment when the colony was renamed “New York”, after the Duke of York and future King James II of England. The Treaty of Breda, which concluded the Second Anglo-Dutch War, confirmed the transfer in 1667.

congress of breda

1785 – New York becomes the capital of the United States

The Congress of the Confederation made New York the national capital – the last capital of the United States under the Articles of Confederation and the first capital under the Constitution of the United States. This is where the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated in 1789 and the first United States Congress and Supreme Court of the United States were assembled for the first time.

1857 – Central Park was established

Central Park was the first landscaped park in New York, whose construction started in 1857. The park’s first area was opened to the public in the winter of 1858 and its construction was continued during the American Civil War farther north, until expanding to its current size of 843 acres in 1873. Central Park was designated a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior in 1962, and is one of the most filmed locations in the world.

central park

1898 – The modern City of New York was formed

Until then, Brooklyn had been a separate city; it was included in New York City, along with parts of the Bronx, the Country of Richmond, and the western portion of the County of Queens. The new city was bound by the opening of the subway in 1904, first build as separate private systems.

1930s – New York becomes the first megacity in human history

By 1920, New York had overtaken London as the most populous urbanized area in the world, and it surpassed the 10 million mark in the early 1930s. The post-war economic boom created by the return of veterans contributed to the development of this city not affected by war, and Wall Street became America’s symbol of economic dominance.

1950s – New York consolidates its dominant position on the global scene

In 1952, the United Nations Headquarters was completed, symbolizing New York’s solidifying geopolitical influence, and the emergence of abstract expressionism made the American megacity one of the poles of art world, weakening the position Paris had held for centuries.

abstract expressionism

1969 – The Stonewall riots

New York saw one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement on June 28, 1969. The event consisted of a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by the members of the gay community against a police raid. This moment marked the beginning of the modern fight for LGBT right in the United States.

2001 – The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001

The city of New York suffered its largest loss of human life – 2,192 civilians, 343 firefighters, and 71 law enforcement officers who were in the Twin Towers and the surrounding area when two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were piloted by Al-Qaeda terrorists in the North, respectively South Tower of the World Trade Center. The North Tower was the tallest building ever to be destroyed and still maintains this status.

9/11 memorial

21st century – rebuilding of the World Trade Center site

The city’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, proclaimed on the same day of the attacks: “We will rebuild. We’re going to come out of this stronger than before, politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again.” The World Trade Center leaseholder, Larry Silverstein, added that “it would be the tragedy of tragedies not to rebuild this part of New York. It would give the terrorists the victory they seek.” However, several years passed until the area was rebuilt – the first new building in the complex was 7 World Trade Center, completed in 2006. The centerpiece of the new complex’s design is One World Trade Center, rising to 1,368 feet and completed in 2009. With its antenna, 1WTC has a symbolic height of 1,776 feet – a reference to the year in which the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.

one world trade center

It was a terrific journey and we are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this great city!