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Rutgers Farm, A Model for City History

Thomas H. Poppleton. Plan of the City of New-York. New York, 1817. NYPL, The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, Rose Fund. Digital ID 434110

For decades, farms on Long Island and in New Jersey, and even in upper Manhattan, fed the city below Wall Street. The story of Rutgers Farm—an early Dutch family farm and brewery situated in the present-day Lower East Side—illustrates the land changes in a particular shoreline neighborhood over time. Rutgers Farm also serves as a microcosm of the entire city. Similar changes occurred everywhere across the metropolitan area as it evolved from rural Dutch landscape to become the intensely urbanized region we know today.

In 1728, when the farm was acquired, the Rutgers family had been brewers in Nieuw Nederland for five generations. Beer was a valuable commodity, as there was not yet a municipal water supply and many of the active springs were becoming polluted with by-products and refuse of early industry. The 100-acre farm and brew house were located west of Corlears Hook, on the Lower East Side. This area, representing nearly the entire Seventh Ward, was bounded by Delancey Street to the north, Catherine Street to the south, East Broadway to the west, and the East River.

By the time of the American Revolution, Rutgers Farm was one of six large farms that dominated the island’s northward expansion. Later, the farm was subdivided so that individual parcels of land could be inherited by future generations of the Rutgers clan. Eventually, lots were sold off one by one, and much of the farm was replaced by tenements and factories. By the late 19th century, the only vestige of the great farm was the old Rutgers Mansion and gardens, then occupying only a single city block.


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