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Spuyten Duyvil Creek

Coordinates: 40°52′30″N 73°55′5″W / 40.87500°N 73.91806°W / 40.87500; -73.91806
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The mouth of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek with the Henry Hudson Bridge (foreground) and the railroad's Spuyten Duyvil Bridge in the background
Spuyten Duyvil Creek, King's Bridge, and Marble Hill area, 1777 military map
1842 view
What was a southern meander of Spuyten Duyvil Creek is now a bay in Inwood Park.

Spuyten Duyvil Creek (/ˈsptən ˈdvəl/) is a short tidal estuary in New York City connecting the Hudson River to the Harlem River Ship Canal and then on to the Harlem River. The confluence of the three water bodies separate the island of Manhattan from the Bronx and the rest of the mainland. Once a distinct, turbulent waterway between the Hudson and Harlem rivers, the creek has been subsumed by the modern ship canal.

The Bronx neighborhood of Spuyten Duyvil lies to the north of the creek, and the adjacent Manhattan neighborhood of Marble Hill lies to the north of the Ship Canal.



The earliest use of the name "Spuyten Duyvil" was in 1653, in a document from Dutch landowner Adriaen van der Donck to the Dutch West India Company.[1] It may be literally translated as "Spouting Devil" or Spuitende Duivel in Dutch; a reference to the strong and wild tidal currents found at that location. It may also be translated as "Spewing Devil" or "Spinning Devil", or more loosely as "Devil's Whirlpool" or "Devil's Spate." Spui is a Dutch word involving outlets for water.[2][3][4][5] Historian Reginald Pelham Bolton, however, argues that the phrase means "sprouting meadow", referring to a fresh-water spring.[5][6] A folk etymology, "to spite the Devil" or "in spite of the devil", was popularized by a story in Washington Irving's A Knickerbocker's History of New York published in 1809. Set in the 17th century, the story tells of fictional trumpeter Anthony Van Corlaer summoned by Dutch colonial governor Peter Stuyvesant to warn settlers of a British invasion attempt, with Corlaer attempting to swim across the creek in treacherous conditions.[1][3][4][5][7][8]

An extensive appendix to Studies in Etymology and Etiology: With Emphasis on Germanic, Jewish, Romance and Slavic Languages (2009) by David L. Gold, which includes commentary by Rob Rentenaar, professor of onomastics at the University of Amsterdam, goes into great detail about all the various translations for "Spuyten Duyvil" which have been mooted over the years. Rentenaar concludes that "Duyvil" means "devil", either literally or in a transferred sense, but he could not determine what the intended meaning of "Spuyten" was because of the many variants that have been used throughout history.[9]

The local Lenape Native Americans referred to the creek by several names.[1] The first was Shorakapok or Shorackhappok, translated as “the sitting down place” or “the place between the ridges”.[1][3] A second term, spelled various ways including Paparinemo or Papiriniman, was shared with a triangular island formed by the junction of the creek and Tibbetts Brook in today's Kingsbridge neighborhood. The word has been translated as "place where the stream is shut" or to "parcel out" or "divide".[1][10][11][12] A third name, Muscoota, was also used.[1][5]



Early history


Spuyten Duyvil Creek was originally a narrow tidal strait connecting the Hudson River to the west and the headwaters of the Harlem River to the east, both of which were fed by the waters of Tibbetts Brook flowing south from the Bronx.[13] When the Dutch settlers arrived they found its tidal waters turbulent and difficult to handle. Though its tides raced,[14] there was no navigable watercourse joining it with the headwaters of the Harlem River,[15] which flowed in an S-shaped course southwest and then north into the East River.[16][10] Steep cliffs along the Spuyten Duyvil's mouth at the Hudson prevented any bridge there, but upstream it narrowed into a rocky drainage. Prior to the development of the Bronx, the creek was fed by Tibbetts Brook, which begins in Yonkers, Westchester County and intersected with the creek at modern West 230th Street. The brook currently ends above ground within Van Cortlandt Park, emptying into the Harlem River system at the Wards Island Water Pollution Control Plant via underground sewers.[10][17][18][19][20]

During the 17th century, the only mode of transportation across the Harlem River was by ferry from the east end of 125th Street. The ferry was established in 1667 and operated by Johannes Verveelen, a local landowner. Many settlers circumvented the toll for the ferry by crossing the creek from northern Marble Hill to modern Kingsbridge, Bronx, a point where it was feasible to wade or swim through the waters.[3][5][21] This area was known as the "wading place", and had previously been used by Native Americans.[5][1][10] In response, Verveelen had the creek fenced off at the wading place, though travelers simply tore the barrier down.[5][10] In 1669 Verveelen transplanted his ferry to the northern tip of Marble Hill, at today's Broadway and West 231st Street.[3][21][10]

In 1693 Frederick Philipse, a Dutch nobleman who had sworn allegiance to the Crown upon the British takeover of Dutch New Netherlands, built the King's Bridge at Marble Hill near what is now West 230th Street in the Bronx.[21][22] Originally a merchant in New Amsterdam, Philipse had purchased vast landholdings in what was then Westchester County.[21] Granted the title Lord of Philipse Manor, he established a plantation and provisioning depot for his shipping business upriver on the Hudson in present-day Sleepy Hollow. His toll bridge provided access and opened his land to settlement. Later, it carried the Boston Post Road. In 1758, the Free Bridge was erected by Jacob Dyckman,[3] opening on January 1, 1759.[5][23] Stagecoach service was later established across the span.[21] The new bridge proceeded to take much of the traffic away from the King's Bridge.[5][23] The Free Bridge was destroyed during the American Revolution.[3] Following the war, Philipse Manor was forfeited to the state legislature, after which the King's Bridge was free.[5][21]

Harlem River Ship Canal

Blue shows the original path of the creek, north around Marble Hill and then curving south toward the Harlem River
Marble Hill was cut off from Manhattan except for the Broadway Bridge when the Harlem River Ship Canal straightened the creek out. A small piece of the Bronx later became part of Manhattan Island (not marked on this map).

Over time the channels of the Spuyten Duyvil and Harlem River were joined and widened and additional bridges were constructed,[21] but maritime transit was still difficult and confined to small craft.[21][24] By 1817,[25] a narrow canal was dug through the south end of Marble Hill at approximately 222nd Street, known as "Boltons' Canal" or "Dyckman Canal".[25][24][26]

With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825,[22] and the advent of large steamships in the second half of the 19th century, a broad shipping canal was proposed between the Harlem and Hudson Rivers to allow them thru-transit by bypassing the tight turn up and around Marble Hill. The Harlem Canal Company (then stylized as the "Harlaem Canal Company") was founded in 1826, but did not make any progress towards building a canal.[21][27][24] A second company also failed to complete the project.[21] In 1863 the Hudson and Harlem River Canal Company was created, and began the final plans for the canal.[21][24] The U.S. Congress broke the logjam in 1873 by appropriating money for a survey of the relevant area, following which New York state bought the necessary land and gave it to the federal government.[28][24][29] In 1876, the New York State Legislature issued a decree for the construction of the canal.[3] Construction of the Harlem River Ship Canal – officially the United States Ship Canal[30] – finally started in January 1888.[28][29] The canal would be 400 feet (120 m) in width and have a depth of 15 feet (4.6 m) to 18 feet (5.5 m). It would be cut directly through the rock of Dyckman's Meadow, making a straight course to the Hudson River.[21][28] The first section of the canal, the cut at Marble Hill, was completed in 1895 and opened on June 17 of that year.[3][31][32] Several festivities including parades were held to commemorate the occasion.[32][33] At this time, Tibbets Brook was diverted into storm drains underneath Broadway, with the old right-of-way becoming Tibbett Avenue.[17][34]

A bridge opened over the former Marble Hill alignment of the creek in 1900, carrying Broadway. The bridge's superstructure was demolished shortly afterward, with the construction of the IRT subway above Broadway in 1904.[35] The effect of channeling through what had been 222nd and 223rd streets was to physically isolate Marble Hill on the Bronx side of the new creek. In 1914 the original creekbed was filled in with rock from the excavation of Grand Central Terminal's foundation during its construction;[10][36][37] and the temporary island, comprising present-day Marble Hill, became physically attached to the Bronx, though it remained politically part of the borough of Manhattan, as it is today.[3][26][38] The bridge carrying Broadway over the former alignment of the creek at 230th Street was destroyed in the late 1920s.[35]

In 1919, New York State passed a bill in order to straighten the western end of the creek feeding into the Hudson. At the time, the creek was diverted south to avoid a peninsula that housed the Johnson Iron Works foundry.[39] The foundry held out until 1923 when it vacated the premises,[39][40] and in 1927 was awarded $3.28 million in compensation, just over a third of their original demand of $11.53 million.[41] Plans to excavate the channel were finalized in 1935,[42] and the channel was excavated from 1937 to 1938.[25][43] The work severed the Johnson foundry's 13.5-acre (5.5 ha) peninsula of land from the Bronx, which was then absorbed into Manhattan's Inwood Hill Park; the peninsula now contains the park's Nature Center.[39][44]

Today, Spuyten Duyvil Creek, the Harlem River Ship Canal, and the Harlem River form a continuous channel, referred to collectively as the Harlem River. Broadway Bridge, a combination road and rail lift span, continues to link Marble Hill with Manhattan.[45] There is little evidence that the building of the Ship Canal enhanced commerce in the city.[5][36]



Three bridges cross the Spuyten Duyvil Creek; from west to east, they are:

See also





  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Names of Places: General Principles of Place Names". Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York. 16 (55–58). New York State Legislature: 99–107. 1911. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  2. ^ Sixteenth Annual Report, 1911, of the American Secneic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of the State of New York , p. 106. American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, 1911. Accessed November 4, 2015. "Another reason is that there are phonetic elements in the name as first written which suggest other meanings quite appropriate to the locality. There is a Dutch word 'spui' of frequent use in Holland, meaning a sluice way or canal. The Spui at The Hague, part of which is redeemed and used as a street, is a famous thoroughfare."
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Inwood Hill Park: Spuyten Duyvil Creek". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  4. ^ a b McDonald, Rabecca (April 29, 2010). "History of the Name Spuyten Duyvil". New York Public Library. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Stephen Jenkins (1912). The Story of the Bronx from the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day. G. P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 177–208. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  6. ^ Sypher, Frank J. "Dispute Springs Eternal Over 'Spuyten Duyvil'" (letter to the editor) The New York Times (November 14, 1993)
  7. ^ Ed Boland Jr. (October 13, 2002). "F.Y.I. – Beating the Devil". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Baumstone, Hal (January 28, 1988). "Stanford News: Legend or History". Pine Plains Register Herald. Fultonhistory.com. p. 8. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  9. ^ Gold, David L. and Rentenaar, Rob "Appendix 1: On the Etymology of the New York City Place Names Gramercy Park, Hell Gate, and Spuyten Duyvil , the New Jersey Place Name Barnegat, and Regional American English Fly ~ Vlei ~ Vley ~ Vlaie ~ Vly" in Gold, David L. (2009) Studies in Etymology and Etiology: With Emphasis on Germanic, Jewish, Romance and Slavic Languages. Universidad de Alicante. pp.145-146 ISBN 978-8-47-90851-79
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "TIBBETT GARDENS: PHASE 1A ARCHAEOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT REPORT" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, Historical Perspectives. January 30, 1987. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  11. ^ Anderson, Marianne O'Hea (June 1996). Native Americans: Van Cortlandt & Pelham Bay Parks (PDF). New York City Parks Department. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  12. ^ "Macomb Landmarks: Acquisitions at Paparinemin, King's Bridge". Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York. 29 (62). J.B. Lyon Company: 136–139. 1918. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  13. ^ "Watercourses". Watercourses. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  14. ^ "Although the river is very narrow, it is deep, and the tide runs rapidly under the bridge, alternately both ways, as the tide ebbs and flows." (Diary, July 5, 1787) in Cutler, William Parker; Cutler, Julia Perkis; Dawes, Ephraim Cutler; and Force, Peter. Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL. D., p. 227. Cincinnati, Ohio: Rovert Clark & Company, 1888.
  15. ^ "Here we cross the River upon a tall bridge made of wood, the Inn and this bridge belong to the same person...the river is no(t) at all Navigable As there's abundance of rocks between this bridge and North (Hudson) River." in Birket, James. Some Cursory Remarks Made by James Birket in His Voyage to North America 1750-1751 New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1916.
  16. ^ Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, pp. 102–103
  17. ^ a b Kadinsky 2016, p. 69.
  18. ^ "Van Cortlandt Park: Tibbetts Brook". New York City Parks Department. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  19. ^ Isabel, Angell (February 24, 2016). "Underground brook beckons to activists". Riverdale Press. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  20. ^ Dwyer, Jim (February 16, 2016). "An Underground Brook, Gallons of Sewage and a Century-Old Problem". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Croton Water Treatment Plant at the Harlem River Site; 7.12: Historic and Archaeological Resources" (PDF). New York City Department of Environmental Protection. June 30, 2004. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  22. ^ a b c d Kadinsky 2016, p. 56.
  23. ^ a b James Thomas Flexner (January 1992). States Dyckman: American Loyalist. Fordham University Press. pp. 12–15. ISBN 978-0-8232-1369-6. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  24. ^ a b c d e "Survey of Harlem River From Randall's Island, By Way of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, To Hudson River, New York". Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War for the Year 1875. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office: 224–237. February 18, 1875. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  25. ^ a b c Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, p. 102.
  26. ^ a b Jackson, Nancy Beth (January 26, 2003). "If You're Thinking of Living In/Marble Hill; Tiny Slice of Manhattan on the Mainland". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  27. ^ Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, p. 104.
  28. ^ a b c Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, pp. 103–105.
  29. ^ a b Harlem River Ship Canal: Letters from Simon Stevens to the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund of the City of New York. C. G. Burgoyne, printer. March 8, 1892. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  30. ^ Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, pp. 104–105.
  31. ^ Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, pp. 102–105.
  32. ^ a b "Harlem Canal Parades" (PDF). The New York Times. June 17, 1895. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  33. ^ "Parades Along The Canal: The Details for Harlem's Festal Day Have Been Completed" (PDF). The New York Times. June 16, 1895. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  34. ^ Duncan, Steve (December 13, 2013). "The forgotten streams of New York". The Week. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  35. ^ a b "Bridge Removal to Hide Site of First Manhattan-Mainload Ferry: Passing of Landmark on Broadway Near 230th Street Recalls the Indians' Wading Place and the Dutch Crossing of Spuyten Duyvil Creek". New York Herald Tribune. January 15, 1928. p. B4. ProQuest 1113422409. Retrieved January 1, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  36. ^ a b Eldredge & Horenstein 2014, p. 105.
  37. ^ Tax Block & Tax Lot Base Map Files on CD-ROM Archived August 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, New York City Department of City Planning. Accessed July 26, 2007. "Marble Hill is a neighborhood that is part of the borough of Manhattan but is administratively often included with neighboring areas of the Bronx. Parts of Marble Hill are within Bronx Community District 7; the rest is within Bronx Community District 8."
  38. ^ "What's in a Name: While Marble Hill's Origins Are Clear, Its Present Status is Up for Debate". NY1. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  39. ^ a b c Kadinsky 2016, p. 57.
  40. ^ "EFFORTS RENEWED TO RAZE HIGH BRIDGE; Johnson Iron Works Offers to Accept Award So as to Improve Harlem River". The New York Times. March 12, 1923. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  41. ^ "AWARDS $3,275,000 IN SHIP CANAL CASE; State Commissioners Cut Sum Asked for Seized Property by Johnson Iron Works". The New York Times. January 9, 1926. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  42. ^ "SHIP CANAL TO BE FINISHED; Bend in Harlem River Will Be Cut Away By Government to Improve Waterway". The New York Times. August 4, 1935. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  43. ^ "If You're Thinking of Living In Spuyten Duyvil; Sunsets Over the Palisades, and Legends". The New York Times. May 29, 1994. Retrieved January 18, 2020. Most of the peninsula was destroyed by 1937 to widen the Harlem River Ship Canal. The remaining wedge, between a railroad cut and water, became known as the Columbia Rock....
  44. ^ Renner, James (September 2005). "Johnson Ironworks Factory". Washington Heights & Inwood Online. Archived from the original on July 8, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  45. ^ Betts, John H. The Minerals of New York City originally published in Rocks & Minerals magazine, Volume 84, No . 3 pages 204-252 (2009).
  46. ^ a b Kadinsky 2016, p. 59.
  47. ^ Kadinsky 2016, p. 58.
  48. ^ a b "Streetscapes/Henry Hudson Bridge; A Controversial '36 Span Through Dreamy Isolation". The New York Times. August 10, 2003. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  49. ^ "University Heights Bridge" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. September 11, 1984. p. 1.



40°52′30″N 73°55′5″W / 40.87500°N 73.91806°W / 40.87500; -73.91806