Beverwijck was created in 1652, when the West India Company asserted its jurisdiction to the area within 3,000 feet of Fort Orange, thus carving a new village out of the patroonship of Rensselaerswijck. As there were no fortifications in the area other than Fort Orange, which was in a bad condition, a number of structures were built in the ensuing years, including a guardhouse, a blockhouse church, and a palisade.
One of the first buildings to be constructed was a guardhouse (kortegaard), which is first mentioned in the records in 1654 and was likely built some time earlier. It was strategically located near the entrance to Beverwijck from the north. Although no details are known, both its location and the fact that it was also used as a prison, suggest that the guardhouse may have been a stronger construction than a regular house. However, its main function was to provide cover for the men on guard duty against the elements.
In 1655, plans were drawn up to construct a blockhouse in Beverwijck. In 1656 a square blockhouse of unknown size was built. Internally, it had a heavy wooden structure (gebinten) to provide extra support for the ordnance, which, according to Venema, were “mounted behind loopholes in the overhanging balconies,” i.e. at the upper level. The magistrates of Beverwijck brought in three light pieces, which had previously been positioned in the patroonship. The fortified building, which was also used as church, was located at the intersection in the middle of Beverwijck, with views along the roads leading north, west, and south. It was replaced by a stone building in 1715.
Although the blockhouse-church provided the colonists with some protection in case of an attack by the Indians, it did not constitute a perimeter defence, as Jan Baptist’s remark highlights. The outbreak of war with the Esopus Indians in 1659 provided the impetus to build a stockade. Like the perimeter defence of New Amsterdam, the stockade at Beverwijck was constructed with horizontal planks, rather than with vertical rods. With a height of eight boards, the Beverwijck defence was slightly lower than the nine boards of New Amsterdam. Three weeks after the work was begun, the Beverwijck magistrates observed that the new palisade protected the village on the landside, the side of the river remained open. They therefore ordered owners of gardens on the river to build a fence of posts and planks, from seven to eight feet high, at the back of their property. A rough undated draft in the New York States Archives is very likely a sketch of the planned stockade of 1659. It is likely that the 1659 stockade had fallen into disrepair by 1670. In November of that year, the local authorities received instructions from the governor in New York to set off the entire circumference of Albany, as Beverwijck had been renamed, with “straight oaken posts, eleven feet long, the least of them to measure eight inches across at the thin end.” This suggests a vertical palisade, rather than a construction of horizontal planks.
Beverwijck, fort (Albany)
- Jacobs, J., Dutch Colonial Fortifications in North America 1614-1676 (Amsterdam, 2015), 57-58