Fort Orange

Fort Orange

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Fort Orange was the first permanent Dutch settlement
New Netherland settlements
New Netherland, or Nieuw-Nederland in Dutch, was the 17th century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on northeastern coast of North America. The claimed territory were the lands from the Delmarva Peninsula to southern Cape Cod. Settled areas are now part of...

 in New Netherland
New Netherland
New Netherland, or Nieuw-Nederland in Dutch, was the 17th-century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on the East Coast of North America. The claimed territories were the lands from the Delmarva Peninsula to extreme southwestern Cape Cod...

 and was on the site of the present-day city of Albany
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. It was a replacement for Fort Nassau
Fort Nassau (North)
Fort Nassau was the first Dutch settlement in North America, and was located along the Hudson River in present-day Albany, New York, United States. The factorij was a small fortification which served as a trading post and warehouse...

, which had been built on nearby Castle Island
Castle Island (New York)
Castle Island is in the city of Albany, Albany County, New York and has over the past 400 years been referred to as Martin Gerritse's Island, Patroon's Island, Van Rensselaer Island, and since the late 19th century has been referred to as Westerlo Island...

 in the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

, and which served as a trading post until 1617 or 1618, when it was abandoned due to frequent flooding. Both forts were named in honor of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau
House of Orange-Nassau
The House of Orange-Nassau , a branch of the European House of Nassau, has played a central role in the political life of the Netherlands — and at times in Europe — since William I of Orange organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule, which after the Eighty Years' War...

. Due to a dispute between the Director-General of New Netherland and the patroonship of Rensselaerswyck regarding jurisdiction over the fort and the surrounding community, the fort and community became an independent municipality, paving the way for the future city of Albany. After conquest by the English
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, Fort Orange (renamed Fort Albany) was soon abandoned in favor of a new fort- Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick (Albany)
Fort Frederick was a fort in Albany, New York from 1676-1789. Sitting atop State Street Hill it replaced the earlier decaying Fort Orange along the Hudson River. The fort was named for Frederick Louis, son of King George II. The fort was referred to as Fort Albany in the 1936 novel Drums Along the...

, constructed in 1676.


In 1623 a ship with 30 Walloon
Walloons are a French-speaking people who live in Belgium, principally in Wallonia. Walloons are a distinctive community within Belgium, important historical and anthropological criteria bind Walloons to the French people. More generally, the term also refers to the inhabitants of the Walloon...

The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 Protestants from what is today Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

) landed at New Netherlands, near present-day Albany. There they proceeded to build Fort Orange roughly 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Fort Nassau (North River), which was prone to flooding. Despite these additions, a 1628 publication on the population of New Netherland stated that "there are no families at Fort Orange... they keep five or six and twenty (25 or 26) persons, traders, there".  In 1626 the commander of Fort Orange and a company of men set out from the fort to assist the Mahican
The Mahican are an Eastern Algonquian Native American tribe, originally settling in the Hudson River Valley . After 1680, many moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. During the early 1820s and 1830s, most of the Mahican descendants migrated westward to northeastern Wisconsin...

s in their war against the Mohawks
Mohawk nation
Mohawk are the most easterly tribe of the Iroquois confederation. They call themselves Kanien'gehaga, people of the place of the flint...

. They were ambushed and three of the men were killed approximately a mile from the fort, roughly where Lincoln Park and Delaware Avenue are sited today.

Whereas later settlement would be through the purchase of land from the Native Americans, the Dutch
United Netherlands
United Netherlands is an educational student-led organization that focuses on the theory and practice of international relations and diplomacy...

 built Fort Orange without any consent and continued to hold it only through the goodwill of the Mahicans and the occasional presents that they gave to them. When the Charter of Privileges and Exemptions was established in 1629 setting up the patroon
In the United States, a patroon was a landholder with manorial rights to large tracts of land in the 17th century Dutch colony of New Netherland in North America...

 system, Kiliaen van Rensselaer established his patroonship of Rensselaerswyck, surrounding Fort Orange on 24 miles (38.6 km) of shoreline along the Hudson River and 24 miles (38.6 km) inland on each side. This land patent
Land patent
A land patent is a land grant made patent by the sovereign lord over the land in question. To make a such a grant “patent”, such a sovereign lord must document the land grant, securely sign and seal the document and openly publish the same to the public for all to see...

 was interpreted by van Rensselaer as including Fort Orange and the settlement that had begun outside its walls, and it was van Rensselaer who began purchasing and acquiring title to the lands. In 1630 Gillis Hoosett purchased in van Rensselaer's name the lands to the south and north of the fort from the natives. Later in 1630 the first real settlers and farmers came to Fort Orange and settled on the outskirts of the fort. Dispute soon arose between agents of the Dutch West India Company
Dutch West India Company
Dutch West India Company was a chartered company of Dutch merchants. Among its founding fathers was Willem Usselincx...

 and agents of the patroon over control of Fort Orange and the surrounding settlement, first called the Fuyck and later Beverwyck
Beverwijck was a fur-trading community north of Fort Orange on the Hudson River in New Netherland that was to become Albany, New York, when the English took control of the colony in 1664....

. In the 1640s a French Jesuit priest named Isaac Jogues described Fort Orange as "a wretched little fort... built of stakes, with four or five pieces of cannon of Breteuil".

The director-general of New Netherland representing the West India Company was Pieter Stuyvesant, who saw the patroon's position, power, and land as a direct threat to the West India Company's ability to profit from the beaver pelt
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

 trade in Fort Orange. Several confrontations arose over the status of the fort and the right of settlers around it. Stuyvesant at first ordered all buildings within cannon shot to be destroyed, then lowered that circumference to that of musket shot. In response, the patroon's agent Commander van Schlechtenhorst decided to expand settlement to "within pistol shot of Fort Orange". After the yearly freshets had damaged much of the fort, the West India Company decided to reconstruct the fort using stone. In response, Van Schlechtenhorst declared it illegal for anyone to quarry stone within Rensselaerswyck for the fort or for anyone to sell the material to the fort's commander, Carl van Brugge. All material for the fort then had to be shipped in from outside the colony. Van Schlechtenhorst claimed that Fort Orange had been illegally built on the patroon's lands, while Stuyvesant pointed out that Fort Orange had been built 15 years prior to the establishment of Rensselaerswyck. In 1651 Stuyvesant declared the jurisdiction of the fort to extend 600 paces around the fort, thereby severing it from Rensselaerswyck. In 1652 Stuyvesant, with the intention of settling this dispute once and for all, set up a "Court of Justice for the Village of Beverwyck and its dependencies", the first municipal government for the future city of Albany. At the time when Beverwyck consisted of roughly 100 structures huddled next to the fort, Stuyvesant set up Beverwyck at a safer distance from the cannons of the fort and laid out future Albany's oldest streets- State Street and Broadway.

By the end of the 1650s the fort was in disrepair again, and both Fort Orange and Beverwyck were enclosed by a wooden stockade in 1660. In 1663 smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 raged in Fort Orange, killing one person a day, which was a large percentage given the small population in the fort. On September 8, 1664 the English
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, after sending numerous war ships to New Amsterdam, demanded the surrender of New Netherland and came to terms; on that date New Netherland became the Province of New York with Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Richard Nicolls
Richard Nicolls
Richard Nicolls was the first English colonial governor of New York province....

 as the first English colonial governor, and New Amsterdam was renamed New York. Johannes De Decker sailed on that day from New Amsterdam to Fort Orange to rally the troops and settlers to resist English rule. On September 10 Governor Nicholls sent troops to demand the peaceful surrender of the "Fort Aurania", aurania being the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 name for orange that the English used when referring to Fort Orange. It was not until September 24 that vice-director of New Netherland Johannes de Montagne surrendered the fort to the English and Colonel George Cartwright took command. On the 25th Captain John Manning was given control of the fort, which was renamed Fort Albany; Beverwyck was named Albany. In 1673 the Dutch retook New York City, which they named New Orange, on July 29 and Albany on August 3. In September Albany was renamed Willemstadt and Fort Albany became Fort Nassau. The Treaty of Westminster
Treaty of Westminster (1674)
The Treaty of Westminster of 1674 was the peace treaty that ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Signed by the Netherlands and England, it provided for the return of the colony of New Netherland to England and renewed the Treaty of Breda of 1667...

, signed on February 19, 1674, renamed New Orange and Willemstadt back to their English names; Fort Nassau became Fort Albany and Willemstadt became Albany.

In 1666 Jeremias van Rensselaer
Jeremias van Rensselaer
Jeremias van Rensselaer was the third son of Kiliaen van Rensselear and the fourth patroon of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck.-Life:...

, then-patroon of Rensselaerswyck, petitioned the new government of Governor Nicholls to recognize Fort Albany (Fort Orange) as part of Rensselaerswyck. Governor Nicholls informed him that he would be wise to drop the matter until he heard from the Duke of York
Duke of York
The Duke of York is a title of nobility in the British peerage. Since the 15th century, it has, when granted, usually been given to the second son of the British monarch. The title has been created a remarkable eleven times, eight as "Duke of York" and three as the double-barreled "Duke of York and...

. In 1678 Governor Andros issued to the patroon's heirs a grant reaffirming the patroon's rights over Rensselaerswyck but leaving out Fort Albany and the immediate area around the fort.

The English abandoned Fort Orange and built a new fort on top of State Street Hill named Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick (Albany)
Fort Frederick was a fort in Albany, New York from 1676-1789. Sitting atop State Street Hill it replaced the earlier decaying Fort Orange along the Hudson River. The fort was named for Frederick Louis, son of King George II. The fort was referred to as Fort Albany in the 1936 novel Drums Along the...

 both to defend the settlement from the natives to the west and to be on high ground to remind the Dutch inhabitants of English rule. The land around the old fort was sold to the Dutch Reformed Church
Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church was a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It existed from the 1570s to 2004, the year it merged with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to form the Protestant Church in the...

 for use as pastureland, but the fort itself continued to deteriorate. It continued to be placed on maps during the 18th century, labeled as "ruins of an Old Fort", and Richard Smith observed that there was "nothing to be seen of Fort Orange... but the Ditch which surrounded it". After the US Revolutionary War the deteriorated site of the old fort was seen as a historic site and was home to many historical observances.

Subsequent occupation

Simeon De Witt
Simeon De Witt
Simeon De Witt was Geographer and Surveyor General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and Surveyor General of the State of New York for the fifty years from 1784 until his death.-Life:He was one of fourteen children of physician Dr...

 built a large house or mansion and a number of out buildings on the site of the old fort during the 1790s, and the address for the site of the old fort became 549 South Market Street (later Broadway). On his property traces of the old fort could still be seen as late as 1812. He lived at this location while he was the surveyor-general of New York. Following his death, the buildings became the Fort Orange Hotel, which burned down in 1848 but was rebuilt under the same name.

In 1886, as part of the bicentennial of Albany's incorporating document, the Dongan Charter
Dongan Charter
The Dongan Charter is the 1686 document incorporating Albany, New York as a city. Albany's charter was issued by Governor Thomas Dongan of the Province of New York, a few months after Governor Dongan issued a similarly worded, but less detailed charter for the city of New York. The city of Albany...

, the city erected a bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 tablet at the site of the northeastern bastion. In the 1930s the tablet was moved during construction of the Dunn Memorial Bridge
Dunn Memorial Bridge
The Dunn Memorial Bridge, officially known as the Private Parker F. Dunn Memorial Bridge, carries US 9 and US 20 across the Hudson River between Albany, New York and Rensselaer, New York. Completed in 1967 to replace an earlier span bearing the same name, the highway bridge has a steel girder...

 and for almost 100 years it did not sit on the site of Fort Orange. The Albany Institute of History and Art has a cannon ball that is marked with "Dug up at Fort Orange site July 22nd 1886", the date the bicentennial marker was placed, but no known excavations were done other than placing the sign. The tablet was moved again in 1971 after excavations discovered remnants of the fort during construction of Interstate 787
Interstate 787
Interstate 787 is an auxiliary Interstate Highway in the U.S. state of New York. I-787 is the main highway for those traveling into and out of downtown Albany. The southern terminus is at the Interstate 87/New York State Thruway exit 23 toll plaza southwest of downtown Albany...

 and the interchange with the South Mall Expressway. The marker then returned to the site of Fort Orange, but not to the location of the northeastern bastion which it refers to.

As the Fort Orange Archeological Site, the area of the fort was declared a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 (and therefore added to the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places listings in Albany, New York
The National Register of Historic Places listings in Albany, New York represent the history of Albany from the Dutch colonial era, through the British colonial era, the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and World War II, in addition to various periods of immigration into New York's...

) on November 4, 1993.

Commanders of the fort

  • Daniel van Krieckebeck
  • Hans Jorissen Houten
  • Carl van Brugge
  • Johannes Dyckman
  • Johannes de Decker
  • Johannes de la Montagne

as Fort Albany under the English

  • Captain John Manning
  • Captain John Baker
  • Lieutenant Salisbury


Prior to the excavations that occurred in 1970, there had not been any 17th century Dutch artifacts discovered in Albany. The excavations were undertaken by the New York State Historic Trust with the New York State Department of Transportation
New York State Department of Transportation
The New York State Department of Transportation is responsible for the development and operation of highways, railroads, mass transit systems, ports, waterways and aviation facilities in the U.S...

 from October 20, 1970 until March 1971. The first test hole was made in what had been the cellar of the De Witt house, which had obliterated all remnants of the old fort, but digging at a site that was under Broadway in front of the house turned up many pieces from the Dutch colonial past of Albany. Among those pieces were a Jew's harp
Jew's harp
The Jew's harp, jaw harp, mouth harp, Ozark harp, trump or juice harp, is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world; a musician apparently playing it can be seen in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC...

, tobacco pipes, beads, Rhenish
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 stoneware, and delftware
Delftware, or Delft pottery, denotes blue and white pottery made in and around Delft in the Netherlands and the tin-glazed pottery made in the Netherlands from the 16th century....

. The excavations also revealed the south moat
A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that surrounds a castle, other building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices...

 and counterscarp
A scarp and a counterscarp are the inner and outer sides of a ditch used in fortifications. In permanent fortifications the scarp and counterscarp may be encased in stone...

, a pebbled path from the east entrance of the fort, a brewery owned by Jean Labatie built in 1647, and parts of several houses owned by Hendrick Andriessen van Doesburgh, Abraham Staats, and Hans Vos.

From the excavations it was noted that venison
Venison is the meat of a game animal, especially a deer but also other animals such as antelope, wild boar, etc.-Etymology:The word derives from the Latin vēnor...

 made up the majority of the meat eaten by the settlers of the fort, seconded by that of pork
Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig , which is eaten in many countries. It is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC....

. The greatest number of fish bones and scales were found in a pit 20 feet (6.1 m) south of the pebbled entrance path dating from before 1648. Sturgeon
Sturgeon is the common name used for some 26 species of fish in the family Acipenseridae, including the genera Acipenser, Huso, Scaphirhynchus and Pseudoscaphirhynchus. The term includes over 20 species commonly referred to as sturgeon and several closely related species that have distinct common...

 were found infrequently in later 17th century deposits. Eating and drinking utensils consisted of lead-glazed red-bodied and white/buff bodied earthenware, tin earthenware, Rhenish stoneware, Chinese porcelain
Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating raw materials, generally including clay in the form of kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between and...

, glass roemers, spechter glasses, and facon de Venise glassware. The tin-glazed earthenware, at least prior to 1650, were of the majolica
Maiolica is Italian tin-glazed pottery dating from the Renaissance. It is decorated in bright colours on a white background, frequently depicting historical and legendary scenes.-Name:...

 variety and not the delft. The porcelain was rare and consisted of only a few shards.

See also

  • History of Albany, New York
    History of Albany, New York
    The history of Albany, New York, begins with the first interaction with native Indian tribes that originally inhabited the area. The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian Indian tribes, namely the Mohican and the Iroquois....

  • List of National Historic Landmarks in New York
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Albany, New York
    National Register of Historic Places listings in Albany, New York
    The National Register of Historic Places listings in Albany, New York represent the history of Albany from the Dutch colonial era, through the British colonial era, the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and World War II, in addition to various periods of immigration into New York's...

External links

  • Fort Orange at the New York State Military Museum site
  • Fort Orange, 1635 (painting) - a visualization by artist Leonard Tantillo, at the University at Albany, SUNY
    University at Albany, SUNY
    The State University of New York at Albany, also known as University at Albany, State University of New York, SUNY Albany or simply UAlbany, is a public university located in Albany, Guilderland, and East Greenbush, New York, United States; is the senior campus of the State University of New York ...

    , University Art Museum, site (accompanying documentation to National Historic Landmark Nomination)
  • National Register Information System database (search by location)