The East Village is emblematic of the evolution of New York City and its neighborhoods. Prior to the Dutch colonization in the 1600s, the East Village was lush with greenery resting on swampy marshes. The region was inhabited by a few Native American tribes. The Native Americans used the land for several paths and game trails. In fact, some of those early paths would serve as the groundwork for some of lower Manhattan’s more iconic roads. The largest path in the region would eventually become the Bowery.
Of the Native American tribes in the area, the Lenapes may be the most notable. To the Lenapes, the land was called Lenapehoking–”where the Lenapes dwell”–starting over 6,500 years ago. As time progressed, the Lenapes shifted from a nomadic way of life to a settled community based on agriculture. Other tribes, like the Canarsie, were known to be present in the area as well.
Upon the Dutch settling into the area in the early 1600s, most of the land would fall under the ownership of the last governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant received the farmland from Dutch Governor-General Wouter van Twiller in 1651. Stuyvesant’s family actually held onto this land for seven generations until parts of the land began being sold in the 1800s.
The region would remain relatively calm with a sparse collection of affluent homes in the area until the immigration boom of the mid-1800s.