The Corbin Building, now taken by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from the Collegiate Church Corporation for use as part of the Fulton Transit Center in Lower Manhattan, has for over 360 years, dating back to 1644, been part of an unbroken chain of private ownership and use in "Dutch" hands. It is part of the oldest legacy of New York City’s colonial history still remaining. It predates the establishment of the City of New York (then called New Amsterdam) as a municipal government in 1653.
The Corbin Building once owned by the Collegiate Church Corporation is currently one of four properties in an area currently under consideration as the John Street/ Maiden Lane Historic District. These properties had been in privately-owned Dutch hands since 1644 when the Director General of New Netherland, William Kieft granted a patent to Cornelius van Tienhoven for a parcel of land bound by Broadway on the west, Maiden Lane on the south, Ann street on the North and Pearl Street on the east for his "bouwerie" or farm. Upon the disappearance of van Tienhoven in 1656, this same property was soon turned over to five New Netherland citizens who used the area for the tanning of leather and the area was then called "Shoemakers Field."
One of these owners, John Harberdinck, left in his will, 39 properties within Shoemakers Field (now reduced to 15 properties through lot consolidation) to the Collegiate Church Corporation in 1723. Four of the fifteen properties were oncel held by the church as a source of their endowment and as the oldest legacy of New York’s Dutch colonial history still remaining in "Dutch" hands.
Mention was made earlier of the Shoemaker's Pasture, of which Harberdinck was an original landholder in 1691. Chapter One discusses that the original grantees were Harberdinck, Heiltje Clopper, Charles Lodwick, Abraham Santford, and Carsten Luersen. The tract was bounded on the west by Broadway; on the north it extended beyond present-day Fulton Street; on the south it was bounded by Maiden Lane; and on the east it extended beyond present-day William Street. When the streets were laid out, Nassau Street and William Street were cut through the property to run north-south, approximately parallel with Broadway. At the same time, John Street and Fair Street (later Fulton Street) were cut through the property in an east-west direction. A concise history of this property is given in Valentine's Manual for 1865:
After being used in common for many years, the property was mapped off in 1715, at which time, as the record curiously states, the owners, "finding the said land to be rentable for building of houses for an enlargement of the city, projected and laid out said lands into one hundred and sixty-four lots." John Harberding, a venerable craftsman, and one of the original members of the shoemakers' association, lived and plied his trade on Broadway, near Maiden lane. In a division of the property, some years after, the along-Broadway portion was allotted to him, extending the whole front, being five hundred and eighty feet along Broadway, and one hundred and sixty feet in depth. The plot is described as a garden then in occupation of said Harberding. Mr. Harberding emigrated to this city about the year 1660, while it was still under Dutch rule. He was a shoemaker by trade, and though rather a wild youth, became in his maturer years a pillar of the Church, and lived to a venerable age. He died in 1723, leaving a handsome fortune, a considerable portion of which he bequeathed to the Dutch Reformed Church, which they still enjoy. The streets as laid out originally through the property still exist (although both have been widened in recent times) under the names of John street (after the proprietor) and Fulton street, formerly Fair street. A house and lot, apparently the homestead of John Harberding, on the corner of Broadway and Maiden lane, was sold soon after his death (viz. 1732) for one hundred and twenty pounds. . .
Taking of this property by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is no bread and butter exercise of eminent domain powers, it is a taking of New York’s colonial history and a major part of the Collegiate Church heritage.
Understanding Market Value and Location of Properties in the Harberdinck Will
Chapter Two describes the total 2004 market value of property that was donated by John Harberdinck to the Collegiate Church Corporation and is worth approximately $365 million, representing 15 total properties as currently laid out on the City’s 2003 base map. Collegiate still owns four of these properties and has owned them since 1723. Their current market value is $23 million according to City of New York estimates. Collegiate believes the approximate value of these properties is about $70 million according to their recent appraisal. The clear difference in current market value between church owned property and property sold by the church to others, demonstrates that the property retained by the church continues to have cultural and historical value to its owner, apart from its obvious development potential.
Chapter Three demonstrates the importance of the Shoemakers Field location through maps. They prove visually the unbroken chain of Dutch related ownership in private use since 1644. Where there is a direct match between the current New York City lot and the lot that Harberdinck donated, it has not changed hands since 1723, a period of 281 years. In other cases, a number of a Harberdinck lots are combined after being sold to others.
The threatened removal of part of the soul and purpose of New York’s oldest community should be taken very seriously, and every effort should be made to preserve this heritage. Among other priorities, the Church wishes to carry out its plan to use a portion of the Corbin Building for a museum of Dutch Colonial history to be integrated with the current plans to make the World Trade Center area a more vital part of New York’s cultural center. The mission and vision statement for the museum is described below and further developed in Chapter Four.
To create a history center to celebrate Dutch colonial history in the place in New York where the Dutch community can best share its rich history with the City, a location near the old New Amsterdam Fort.
The planned components are:
Permanent home for the replica of Captain Henry Hudson’s ship, Half Moon;
Accommodation for collaborative visiting tall ships and other visiting ships;
A museum and archive of Dutch historical documents;
Educational outreach with an electronic field trip, study visits and other forums;
An annual fund raising event featuring a festival of Dutch history; and
A reading room of Dutch Colonial history and a restaurant with Dutch cuisine.
The build-out of the 10,000 square feet of space at the museum site and the creation of the initial exhibit theme of a visual tour of New Amsterdam as it was is 1660 represent primary capital expenditures needs in the start up stage. The museum site is within the historic Corbin Building located at the northeast corner of John Street and Broadway since 1889. Site control by Collegiate Church, a museum partner, ensures access and continuity beginning with the development phase.
Proof of Unbroken Ownership
Chapter Five and the Appendix, through a survey of various documents, provide the proof of the stream of Dutch-related ownership of this property from 1644 to today. The Appendix contains a biography of John Harberdinck and includes his will as well as the complete vision statement.
Dutch Colonial History Should Be Preserved and Protected
The Collegiate Church Corporation has recently completed a study "Collegiate Church Vision for the Corbin Building" with excerpts presented below, and the complete study shown in Preservation Multimedia herein.