The 1676 Map of Albany

Albany 1676

The oldest known historical visualization of the city of Albany seems have come from a faded sketch/drawing that was found among the New York Land Papers and is now in the collection of the New York State Archives. Written on the parchment manuscript is the after-the-fact notation "French Map 1676." No other information was associated with the document.

The image shown here is a retouched but relatively faithful engraving of that sketch. Produced during the middle of the nineteenth century, the engraving has appeared in a number of publications including the Bicentennial History of the City of Albany, published in 1886 and the source of this image. However, it seems to be derivative of an essay printed in volume 4 of the Annals of Albany. The accompanying narrative appears below.

The easternmost road running parallel to the river became Market and Court Streets. "Joncaer" became State Street. "Rom" became Maiden Lane.

Historians have been speculating about the source and authenticity of this relic for more than a hundred years. We believe it to be useful for the history of Albany because it conforms roughly to subsequent cartography and thus provides one of the earliest visual links to the early Albany past.

The Colonial Albany Project actively seeks more information about this important resource!


Land Papers: The manuscript map is in volume 1 of the "Land Papers" as described on page 6 of the Calendar of . . . Land Papers, 1643-1803 (Albany, 1864). The sketch originally was undated but was placed between two items dated October 20, 1674 and March 1, 1675.

The diagram on the opposite page is a facsimile of the oldest plan of the city that has yet been discovered. It is reduced from the original manuscript in the office of the Secretary of State, preserved by Dr. O'Callaghan, in the series marked Land Papers, I, 58. It seems to embrace that part of the city now bounded by the river on the east, Beaver street on the south, Pearl street on the west, and Steuben street on the north. But two streets are denominated on the map, Joncaer straet, now State; and Rom straet, now Maiden lane. Broadway is represented by parallel lines. The earliest title that we know for it, was Handelaer straet, as seen on a map made twenty years later. (See Annals III, 39.) The walls, it will be seen, are pierced for six gates (poerts). The guard house seems to have occupied the old elm tree corner, and Pearl street was eighty feet wide, now eighty-four. The bridge (Jbrug) crossed the Rutten kill just north of the foot of Beaver street. The dwellings (huysen) were thus confined within a narrow compass, and surrounded by a line of upright posts, of which pine seems to have been the customary material, thirteen feet long and one foot in diameter. The preservation of this wooden wall was expensive and vexatious to an extraordinary degree, as the records bear witness. Mandates wenth forth periodically to compel delinquent burghers to produce and " sett their quotaes"; " and even forlorn widows were sternly commanded by the burgomasters and schepens, in grim conclave at the Citty hall, to " ride their stockadoes; " in default whereof the schout fiscaal was diected to strain 18d for each deficient stockadoe !

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:first posted 4/26/00; last revised 10/14/13