The City's Ancient Ravines
adapted from
The Annals of Albany (volume 8, pp. 174-76)

Three considerable streams of water, which anciently traversed the city, have within the memory of many inhabitants, been converted into sewers, namely, the Foxen kill, the Rutten kill, and the Bever kill.

The Foxen kill, when the city was first settled, and for a long time after, afforded abundance of fish. It ran outside of the stockades, which for a great many years formed the northern boundary of the city. It is but little more than a quarter of a century since it was crossed by a bridge in North Pearl street, near Orange.

The Rutten kill was a lesser stream, having its source above Lark street, but which sent down a formidable volume of water in times of freshet. The inhabitants of the upper end of Beaver street, have an inkling of what it may have been when they are refreshed by a heavy rain storm. This also was a never-failing brook, stored with fish, and was the only one that came within the old city walls. Passing down the Hudson street ravine, it crossed Pearl street where the Congregational church stands, and entered the river a few feet below State street. In the oldest map of the city, 1676 (see Annals Albany, vol. iv., p. 200), a brug marks the spot where it crossed the street now called Broadway. The city records frequently allude to these bridges. In January, 1701, we find the following entry:

"It is further concluded since ye Bridge by Coll. Schuyler's doth decay, that Mr. Roseboom, Hendrick Oothout and Harpert Jacobse vizite ye same, and make returne ye next court what is required to be repaired."

A meeting was held on the next day, when the following report was made:

"Relating ye Bridge at Coll. Schuyler's, ye gentlemen yesterday appointed to vizite ye same, doe return that it requires to be repaired with one oak log, of 17 foot, 12 inches square; four posts, 10 foot, 10 inches square; two pine loggs often foot, 1 foot square; three ditto, 17 foot apiece; three ditto of 20 foot; and one of 37 foot."

In 1706 the following entry was made in the common council minutes, relating to another of these bridges: "The petition of William Hogan relating ye bridge by ye Lutheran Church being much out of repair desyreing that ye Common Council will take ye same into their wise consideration yt ye Bridge be repaired. It is "Resolved that in convenient time ye same shall be made sufficient to passe and repasse without danger."

The Lutheran church alluded to occupied the ground of the Market house in South Pearl street, and its burial ground was the site of Ihe vegetable market adjoining. Pearl street, for a century after this, was but a lane, many persons now living remembering when a gate swung across it at State street.

On the 13th April, 1706, the following record was made in the common council minutes: "As to ye Bridge towards ye Lutheran church, Mr. Hansen is agreed to make a sufficient and strong new bridge, laid with good plank two inches thick, wherefore he is to receive ye 5:10 due from Evert Janse."

Two years later we find the following entry: "The Commonalty being informed yt ye Bridge over ye Rutten kill in ye street lately known by ye name of ye ffuddamart * is very much out of repair & decade, doe therefore order yt ye sd Bridge shall be made anew and yt Mr. Robt Livingston & Coenradt Ten Eyk are appointed to see ye sd Bridge made upon ye Citty charges."

September 28. This day Mr. Robert Livingston Jun & Conraet ten Eyk brought in their acct of makeing of ye Bridge over ye Rutten kill in ye street calld ye fodde mart, amounting in all after 2:9: is deducted, wh is payd to them 1:14: 4 wh[ich] is approved of by ye Commonalty & orderd yt those persons are to have credt in ye Citty book for what there is due to them."

Whether the name of this creek is derived from rats, as some suppose, it is infested with myriads of the lustiest specimens of that vermin to this day. The creek is now a sewer throughout its entire length. The grading of the ravine which it traversed was nearly complete in 1847, from Hawk to Lark street, and from Lydius to State. So late as 1827 it was an unbroken waste. Eagle street then extended no farther than the Lancaster School, now the Medical College. There was not a dozen buildings even on Lydius street, from Pearl to Lark. When the unfortunate Strang was executed in its grassy valley in the above mentioned year, its green hills on either side were darkened by a multitude numbering full thirty thousand. The clay banks on Lydius street furnished the city with bricks for a great number of years. During a period of about three years two hundred and fifty men and sixty teams were employed upon the work of grading and filling this large area. The ravine, three hundred feet broad and fifty feet deep, received the lofty banks upon its borders, and was raised to a convenient grade, whereby a large tract was reclaimed for habitation, that had been useless except for brick kilns, or basins where water gathered, furnishing reservoirs for bathing and fishing to truant boys. Not less than six hundred thousand yards excavation was made in blue clay, and an equal amount of filling was done by one contractor. By this improvement Hudson street has become the most inviting avenue to the city, and comely blocks of dwellings already adorn most of the streets which intersect the area of the ancient Rutten kill.



notes

This exposition, probably composed by Joel Munsell (who copied down and presented such memories), was lifted from an online presention of AA and presented here as a useful step toward describing on the landscape/terrain of the early city. The copied material has been transformed into a linked webpage and follows the spellings/usage/punctuation/paragraphing of the source as closely as practical.

Author noted that the term means "Vodden markt", a rag market, or junk shop [junkyard or dump].


Home | Site Index | Navigation | Email | New York State Museum


first posted 6/30/13; revised 10/14/13