of Peter Stuyvesant in its first
location (1913-1969) on the northeast corner
of Bergen Square in front of the second PS #11.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library
of Peter Stuyvesant in the plaza park near the HCCC Culinary Conference Center at Sip and Newkirk Avenues.
The fourth and last Director-General of New Netherland was the somewhat notorious Peter Stuyvesant (c.1612-1672). A former soldier, he had served as governor of the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curacao, where he lost his right leg. The injury left him with the unfortunate nicknames of "Peg Leg Pete" and "Old Silver Nails" from the stick of wood studded with silver nails that was his artificial limb. The ill-fitting prosthesis may have been the reason for his reputed ill-tempered manner and autocratic style.
Stuyvesant was appointed
by the Dutch
West India Company in July 1646 to replace William
Kieft at a time of the most vulnerability of the colony. He was also
a staunch member of the Dutch Reformed Church, knew the Bible well, and
attempted to strictly enforce the rules of his employer. These factors
came into play when the Dutch West India Company ordered Stuyvesant, illiberal
in matters of religion, to concede and allow Dutch Jews from Brazil to
live in the colony in 1655 after his initial objection.
As the new governor, Stuyvesant's charge was to improve the economic status of the colony and to quell the Indian hostilities that interfered with the growth of Dutch settlements like Pavonia. In August 1655, he successfully took over the colony of New Sweden along the Delaware. He returned from that victory to handle the problems at Fort Amsterdam and Pavonia caused by the "Peach Tree War." He bargained with the Indians for the ransom of the captives and entered into negotiations that later culminated in a treaty. A peace agreement was signed on March 6, 1660. From this last Indian crisis, Stuyvesant directed settlers at Pavonia to establish a town for defense rather than live on isolated farms and estates along the Hudson River.
On January 30,1658,
at Fort Amsterdam, Stuyvesant met with Indians chiefs from across the
Hudson River for the repurchase of the western shore, that is "all
the lands between the Hackensack and North (Hudson) rivers from Weehawken
and Secaucus to the Kill van Kull (Lovero, p. 12). This paved the way
for him to authorize the founding of Bergen
in 1660, a major impetus for the future settlement of Jersey City. The
town was built behind a square wooden palisade as a defensive measure
to protect settlers against Indians.
Four years later, Stuyvesant tried to defend New Netherland from takeover by England. Charles II and his brother James, the Duke of York, wanted to close the geographic gap in their control of the northeast coast of America. An Anglo-Dutch rivalry had developed over slave trade and the availability of cheaper goods from the West Indies. The elimination of New Netherland would also affect an end to the illicit trade conducted by the Dutch with the English southern colonies.
The Duke of York sent Colonel Richard Nichols with four ships and 400 soldiers to take over the Dutch colony. Nichols first went to Boston for additional recruits. When the English naval fleet took their position at the entrance of the New Amsterdam harbor on August 27, 1664, Nichols sent notice to Stuyvesant to surrenders. Stuyvesant tried but could not rally support among the settlers to defend the colony. Rather, the settlers and his council offered no resistance and advised him to surrender. After years of discontent with Dutch rule and Indian warfare, the colonists held back while the English claimed control of the colony. Stuyvesant surrendered to the English and the Dutch agreed to a peace treaty in 1667. He died in 1672 and is interred at St. Mary's Church in-the-Bowery.
New Netherland was divided to become the English colonies of New York and New Jersey. Dutch settlers, as well as Stuyvesant, remained and accepted English rule and law that included the promise of town government. They could keep their property, religious freedom and continue trade with the Dutch. These conditions allowed the Dutch to retain their ethnic culture in America through their customs and the institution of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Stuyvesant's Historic Portrait Sculpture
A statue of Peter
Stuyvesant once stood in
the front courtyard of the Martin
Luther King, Jr. School (1969)/ School No. 11.
The placement of the statue at 866 Bergen Avenue was proposed in 1910 at the time of Jersey City's commemoration of the 250th anniversary
of the founding of the village of Bergen. A coalition called the Bergen Monument Association raised $15,000 for the monument. With the assistance of the Bergen Dutch Reformed Church/Old Bergen Church contributions came from Jersey City and its Board of Commissioners, residents and school children.
Rhind fashioned the near nine-foot high statue of Stuyvesant with an elaborate granite exedra. He dons a flowing cape, plumed hat and seventeenth century Dutch-attire holding a carved walking stick in his right hand, and rolled charter in his gloved-left hand--a symbol of his governance. The bronze, describes local historian John Gomez, "... was platformed [sic] on a 10-inch-high plinth and affixed to an 8-foot-high semi-circular exedra, or wayside seat, with a wingspan of 12 feet. The exedra . . . was caped [sic] at each curling end by Dutch seafaring reliefs" (Jersey Journal 7 February 2011). An inscription read: "In the year of our Lord 1660, by permission of PETRUS STUYVESANT, Director-General, and the Council of New Netherland, around this Square, was founded and built the Village of BERGEN, the first permanent settlement in NEW JERSEY."
The completed monument was placed at an angle to the entrance of Public School No. 11 facing Bergen Avenue. On October 18, 1913, a parade, starting from the Carteret Club (Bergen Avenue and Mercer Street,) marched towards a waiting crowd of 5,000 viewers who had gathered for the unveiling. Daniel Van Winkle, president of the Hudson County Historical Society, had the honor. Among the dignitaries in attendance were Acting New Jersey Governor James F. Fielder, who addressed the audience, Mayor Mark Fagan, and City Commissioners A. Harry Moore, James J. Ferris and Frank Hague.
The statue was well-received by the community. From three engraved tablets affixed to the monument, passers-by could read about the colonial settlement of Bergen and its historic significance. It joined the other notable works by Rhind: the bronze figures for the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial (Washington, DC), George Washington (Washington Park, Newark, NJ), Philip Schuyler (Albany, NY), and bronze south doors at historic Trinity Church, (New York City).
The Stuyvesant statue proudly marked historic Bergen Square undisturbed until the devastating three-alarm fire that destroyed Public School No. 11 on October 3, 1966. The decision to build the sixth school on the site was decided after community made known its wishes to Mayor Thomas Whelan. The future of Stuyvesant, minus the damaged exedra, however, was not clear. It was eventually affixed to a new concrete base and sidelined to the back north corner of the front courtyard.
The new school, designed by Comparetto & Kenny, was named for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was dedicated on April 2, 1969. A bronze bust of Dr. King by sculptor Achimedes Giacomantonio was placed in the school lobby in remembrance of the slain civil rights leader.
The Stuyvesant statue remained at its nondescript niche until it was abruptly removed on February 5, 2010, The Jersey City Board of Education, assuming ownership of the statue, had it uprooted by Burns Brothers Monuments. The Board's explanation was that it was planning to redesign the school's courtyard, refinish the statue and place it at the Culinary Arts Plaza at Newkirk Street of Hudson County Community College--a site outside the four-block historic Bergen Square. The statue's removal met the ire of local preservationists and residents looking for answers about its status.
| By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub