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Government officials eager to recreate historic Dutch colonial Fort Orange

Half Moon replica to get permanent home at Albany

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ALBANY, New York - Dreams of recreating Fort Orange, an early 17th century stronghold of the Dutch West Indies Compagny (WIC) on the Hudson River, are a small step closer to realization now that New York State has announced an initiative to fund a feasibility study for a proposed museum village. Part of such a project would be a parmanent berth for the replica of explorer Henry Hudson’s ship the “Halve Maen” (the replica is known as the Half Moon) which has been sailing up and down the river since it was built in 1989.

Albany city and New York state officials have outlined a tentative plan in which 12 to 15 acres next to the city’s port would be developed into a living history museum, complete with staff in period custome, a shipyard, demonstrations of Dutch colonial-era trades, and pastures with livestock. Artifacts unearthed during area construction projects and archeological studies would be put on display as well. In 2009, it will be 400 years ago that Henry Hudson, an English seafarer employed by Dutch merchants, sailed up the river that now bears his name.

Gov. Pataki laments the fact that New York’s “magnificent history” had been lost for too long. He wants people in the 21st century to “embrace” their past. The museum proposal is part of a larger redevelopment plan of the Corning Preserve site where the city hopes to build an outdoor amphitheatre for 10,000 and a pedestrian bridge spanning Highway 787 which would give access to the waterfront. Albany mayor Jerry Jennings said that by not taking “advantage of our history, we are doing an injustice to our etire revitalization project.” The city is raising funds from the community to help pay for the bridge by selling personalized bricks. So far, $200,000 of the $1.5 million has been raised.

It is unknown how much it would cost to recreate Fort Orange, the stronghold built in 1624 after flooding destroyed Fort Nassau which had been constructed a decade earlier. Dutch colonists were brought in to populate several commercial farms owned by investors but only “patroon” Van Rensselaer succeeded in such an operation.Albany largely remained a Dutch town until the late 1700s.

Operating the Half Moon and recreating Fort Orange are not the only initiatives to “embrace” the past. Albany also is home to the New Netherland Project (NNP) which for decades already is translating archival material (mainly government records) written in the colonial Dutch language, effectivily forcing historians to re-evaluate poorly understood and under-appreciated contributions by the Dutch to early American history.