The Fateful History of Fort Nassau


By Phin Upham

Fort Nassau was a Dutch establishment in Albany, New York, and it was the first time the Dutch had attempted to colonize America. The fort acted as a factorij, and the primary means of trade was through fur. The area housed many merchants and trades people, and it also housed a few large store houses.

Henry Hudson had first crossed into the area from what is now known as the Hudson River, passing Castle Island. That area was the center of the fur trade, so the Dutch wanted a strategic foothold there while maintaining a strong defensible position. Hendrick Christiaensen built the fort there and named it after the stadtholder, or steward, of the United Netherlands. During the mid 1500s, French fur traders had used the area as an outpost of sorts, trading and stocking up before heading back out, but they had long abandoned it. The structures remained and everything seemed primed for settling.

This became the first significant Dutch settlement in North America, but it was not to stay up for very long. Four years after the settlement was formally established, a heavy winter snowfall turned into an even heavier summer melt off and the rushing water demolished a great deal of the fort.

The location was moved to more secure ground at the mouth of Normans Kill, but it wouldn’t last longer than a year as the exact same thing happened again. The Dutch had established a formal treaty with the natives as soon as the fort was completed, which allowed them to maintain a foothold in the region using Fort Orange, which became the first permanent Dutch settlement in the region in 1624.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Facebook page.

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