Stone Street, originally known as Brouwers Stract, was the first road to be paved in New York. Some of the other nearby streets also have interesting “firsts.”
When “Stony Street,” as Stone Street in lower Manhattan often was called, needed to be widened, improved and repaved during 1784 (it was first paved by cobblestones during 1652) residents became concerned about exposing the public to the “dark recesses” of that street and of the “hallowed mysteries” of nearby Petticoat Lane. Those dark recesses and hallowed mysteries today only can be imagined as the stories have faded over time.
This area below Wall Street, east of Broadway and containing Broad Street, included the earliest part of the settlement of Dutch Manhattan. The upper portion was known as Schapen Weyte, or Sheep Pasture.
Verlettenbergh Hill rose to the east of Broadway at today’s Exchange Place. It was named for Nicholas Verlett, husband of Anna Bayard (nee Stuyvesant). He was the commissioner of imports and keeper of public stores during the 1650s. During English times, the street that ran between Broadway and Broad Street became Flatten Barrack Street. It, along with Garden Street that ran between Broad and Williams streets, morphed into Exchange Place.
Broad Street once was a narrow canal known as Der Heere Graft. Oyster, vegetable and wood boats navigated the water to sell wares. Two footbridges crossed the canal before it was filled. During a portion of the Revolutionary War when the British did not occupy the city, a residence on Broad housed a couple of patriot generals – Horatio Gates and William Alexander (Lord Stirling).
From 1693 until the 1835 great fire, the old South Dutch Reformed Church stood on the north side of Exchange Place, first known as De Warmoes Straet (Street of Vegetables) and then Dutch Church Street.
Today, the oldest structure in this part of Manhattan is Fraunces Tavern. It was built during 1719 “upon the range of the Coffee House,” on the northeast corner of Broad Street and old Great Dock Street. It was the residence of Stephen Delancey and later occupied by Colonel Joseph Robinson until his death during 1759.
Over the years, this structure has seen a lot of changes. When run by Samuel Fraunces, a mulotto chef popular with George Washington, the general bade farewell to his officers when the war ended in a second floor room. Later, it became a German tenement house with a noisy lager beer saloon on the first floor. It also has been a storehouse, and it housed the War Department of the United States under Henry Knox.
During the Revolution, a round shot from His Majesty’s Shop of War, Asia, struck the inn. The roof burned during 1832. Two stories were added 20 years later and more alterations disguised it during 1890. It was finally purchased by the Sons of the American Revolution and restored during the first few years of the 1900s.
Nearby, on New Street between Broad Street and Broadway, small houses and stables could be found during the early 1830s. The street then was 25 feet wide. At this same time, back on Broad Street, the Exchange Hotel hosted celebrated Indian Chief Black Hawk during 1833. A few days earlier, President Andrew Jackson visited the hotel. Progress eventually took over and on the same site, during 1864, the Stock Exchange erected the first of its buildings.