East Harlem History - Page 1

Early map of East Harlem with city block overlay

Map of East Harlem terrain during the 1600s

Native Americans who inhabited East Harlem near the East River & 120st.

Inwood Hill Park, Print Archives,
Museum of the City of New York

East Harlem History*
All the area north of what is now 59th Street was called "Muscoota" by the Manhattan Indians. Muscoota means "flat place". This flat place was good for growing food and this is why many of the Manhattan Indians lived in this part of Manhattan. When the Dutch arrived and took over the lower, southern part of the island - "Nieuw Amsterdam", they left the native Indians pretty much to themselves in the northern part.

First European in Muscoota
One trader, Mynheer Hendrick de Forest became the first European to set foot in Muscoota. He liked it immediately. After a while, he built a house, planted some crops and began living in Muscoota, all without asking the Native American if he could. Later on, other Dutchmen and women followed suite and began to move into Muscoota too.

War broke out with the Native Americans after the Governor Kieft indiscriminately and arbitrarily sentenced some to death. The Manhattan Indians managed to kill all of the settlers. The arrival of Governor Peter Stuyvesant changed Muscoota forever. Governor Stuyvesant built a town in Muscoota and named it "Nieuw Haarlem". With the arrival of the English in 1664 Nieuw Haarlem's name was changed to "Harlem".

*(From: "Harlem, The Story of a Changing Community" by Bernice Elizabeth Young Published by Julian Messner, a Division of Simon & Shuster, Inc. 1972)

Some pictures are courtesy of East Harlem's La Guardia/Corsi House which is located at 307 East 116th Street, New York, NY 10029, (212) 534-7800 or from the Print Archives,
Museum of the City of New York

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For further information on East Harlem please read the 197-A Plan from Community Board # 11. This document contains demographic, historic and statistical data.


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