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A South East View of the City of New York in North America
From Scenographia Americana London, ca. 1768
Hand-colored engraving on wove paper
Paper dimensions: 15 1/4 x 21 inches; framed dimensions: 26 1/2 x 32 3/4 inches
This rare and finely engraved view of the lower tip of Manhattan was taken “on the spot” by Captain Thomas Howdell of the British Royal Artillery shortly before the start of the American Revolution. The city appears as little more than a village beyond the rolling hills and fields in the foreground, and this views serves as an important historical record of New York’s early growth and appearance just prior to the American Revolution. Church spires punctuate the skyline, while further in the distance, the shore of Staten Island, then quite sparsely settled, is just visible on the horizon. The monuments Howdell depicted include (from east to west) St. George’s Church, the jail, the New Dutch Church, the French Church, the South Dutch Church, City Hall, the Presbyterian Church on Wall Street, King’s College (with a cupola), and Trinity Church. This fascinating glimpse of New York City, which then comprised little more than the very southernmost tip of Manhattan Island, is a very rare view dating from this crucial period. Within fifteen years of this view, New York would become one of the most important cities in the new nation.