Photos of New York City Through the Decades

  • Manhattan skyline, 1940s
Manhattan skyline, 1940s
Hulton Archive via Getty Images

The first known inhabitants of what is now New York City were the Lenape (aka Delaware), an Indigenous people native to the northeastern U.S. Their villages were groupings of round-shaped wigwams constructed from bark, some of which were large enough to function as communal housing. The name “Manhattan” comes from the Lenape “Manahatta,” their word for a hilly, forested area, which roughly translates to “the place for gathering wood to make bows.” But when Dutch colonists acquired the land around New York Harbor in 1626, they named it New Amsterdam.

Photo credit: Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1600s and 1700s

The Dutch constructed modest red tile-roofed brick and stone buildings, warehouses to support the fur trade, a church, and thatch-roofed wooden homes, in the style of a small European village. They also built a series of walls bordering the settlement in order to protect it against attacks — the street that was originally adjacent to one of the walls is known today as Wall Street.

You may also like