Prehistory of Fort Greene


Revolutionary War-era map of Wallabout Bay

Bleakly during the last great Ice Age some 12,000 years ago, a crunching slurry of massive granite boulders, rocks and gravelly clay bruised down across the whole northern rim of America from Cape Cod to Washington State. One of the last great puddles of this terminal moraine (final downwash) settled as hillocks and sandy valleys across Long Island, ending at a cleft at what is now the East River. Fort Greene is a part of that “imported” land, stretching from Clinton Hill at the east down to the waterfront and Navy Yard at the west, opposite lower Manhattan.

Early Dutch milestone in front of Van Pelt House, New Utrecht

About 800 A.D. a gradual movement of Native Americans advanced from the Delaware area into lower New York, ultimately settling as part of the Canarsie tribe among 13 tribes of the Algonquin Nation. While it is believed that in 1524 the explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, entered New York Harbor, the English navigator, Henry Hudson, aboard the Half Moon, did sail farther into the North River (now Hudson) in 1609. In the employ of the Dutch East India Company, he sought an imagined Northwest Passage to the Far East. The Dutch sent out merchants the following year to trade for furs with the Indians, and soon claimed this outpost as New Amsterdam. In Brooklyn, the first of several Dutch purchases of land from the Indians began in 1636, followed in a year by the sale of land to Joris Janssen de Rapelje, a Walloon (now called a Belgian), who secured 335 acres around Wallabout Bay, or Waalbogt. That bay is now the Navy Yard.