I love history. It is the type of reading I do most and helps me get insight into how our world is forever evolving. Sometimes the real world can brush up against the historical record and that can be fascinating and exciting. I had a phone call from a lady researching Turtle Bay and she had heard that Newel used to be located in that area. (We are now in Kip’s Bay, 6 block north.) It made me remember a bit of history.
My grandfather established Newel Art Galleries in 1938(?) on the northwest corner of 47th Street and Second Ave., on the 1st floor of an old walkup tenement building. In the early 17th Century, the area of Deutel Bay (now know as Turtle Bay, and long since filled in) was a stopping point on the Wickquasqeck trail that ran up the east side of the island.
A settler named Claus Swits built a house at that location and it became a place where travelers going north or to Long Island could stop and socialize. However in August of 1641, in a very random manner, Claus Swits was murdered by a Wickquasgeck Indian. This occurrence propagated a series of actions in the new colony which resulted in an extended and costly war with the Indians. This singular event had a profound effect on the political, economic, and social development for the future of New Amsterdam.
My connection to this event has its association with my grandfather’s store. I remember as a kid there was an odd sink in the office area. The interesting thing about it was that only very cold water came from its tap and the source of this water was an underground stream. My grandfather’s build is long gone, replaced with a modern high rise office building opposite Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. As the store was in the exact location of Claus Swits home I was wondering if I had once drank water from the same source as poor Claus.
Ref: The Island at the Center of the World, by Russell Shorto (pgs. 110-112)