September 17, 2016 at 10:53 pm #149
If you wanted to travel to New York City by land in colonial times, you had to pass through the Kingsbridge area. That’s because the only bridges to Manhattan were built right here–The King’s Bridge was built in 1693 and the Free Bridge in 1758. Unless I’m mistaken, the next bridge built to connect NYC to the mainland was the High Bridge in 1848. That means that for 150 years all land travel to the city passed through Kingsbridge. The post roads from Albany and Boston converged in Kingsbridge as did important local roads from the town of Westchester, Mile Square, and West Farms. For traveler accommodations, Kingsbridge offered two taverns: Hyatt’s Tavern, which was located in today’s Marble Hill neighborhood; and John Cock’s Tavern, which was situated on the Northwest corner of Broadway and 230th Street. This second tavern, owned by Frederick Philipse, had several different proprietors and therefore different names but John Cock was the owner in the years leading up to the revolution. Although practically no detailed records of the tavern exist, we know the names of many travelers that stopped by for food or lodging thanks to the scattered diaries that they kept of their travels. Several of these diary entries are so detailed that, taken in aggregate, they start to paint a picture of what life was like at the tavern and around the bridge. I will be posting the travel diaries that I have come across in the “Colonial Kingsbrige, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil” Forum as separate topics. This is the first.
The earliest travel diary I have seen is that of Sarah Kemble Knight, a 38-year-old Bostonian, who traveled from Boston to New York and back in 1704. She did not write much about passing through Kingsbridge except to note the following on her way out of New York City:
Having here transacted the affair I went upon and some other that fell in the way, after about a fortnight’s stay there I left New-York with no Little regrett, and Thursday, Dec. 21, set out for New Haven wth my Kinsman Trowbridge, and the man that waited on me about one afternoon, and about three come to half-way house about ten miles out of town, where we Baited and went forward, and about 5 come to Spiting Devil, Else Kings bridge, where they pay three pence for passing over with a horse, which the man that keeps the Gate set up at the end of the Bridge receives.
She clearly does not go into much detail but it is interesting to know that there was a gatekeeper at the end of the bridge collecting a toll. She was hoping to lodge at New Rochelle and Having already stopped at a “way house about ten miles out of town,” it seems natural that she would not stop at the tavern at the bridge. More about that tavern in the next post. Click here to see the “beta version” of a map of colonial Kingsbridge (best viewed on a large screen).
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