One of the things that made Manhattan Island such a suitable place for European settlement was the fact that it had its own water supply -- not only was there ample ground water, there was a fresh water pond about half a mile from the tip of the island drained by a little stream and a marsh.   The Natives who sold Peter Minuit the island in 1624 had used the pond as a resource for water and fish.  The early Dutch settlers could not help but remark upon the idyllic setting of the pond, which they may or may not have called de Kaltchhook1 or Kolch.

When Nieuw Amsterdam was captured by the English, they gave it a much more prosaic name, "Fresh Water Pond", but a form of the Dutch name, "The Collect", was more common.

As New York grew northward, its water needs increased. Wells were sunk near The Collect, and water was drawn directly from the pond.  A brewery was built at the southeast corner of the pond.  On a small island in the pond, a gallows was erected.  However, the area around the pond remained undeveloped.

By the late 18th Century, however, the area around The Collect had become a center of slaughterhouses and tanneries, which polluted the pond beyond all usefulness.  It became so noisome that in 1805, a canal was dug to the Hudson River to drain it, and the pond was filled in.

The springs that fed the pond would not die, and the material used to fill the pond came from the slaughterhouses and tanneries. The dirt floors of the shabby houses that were built there were always muddy. The infamous Tombs prison was built on part of the fill; its basement cells were frequently flooded, practically guaranteeing a death by yellow fever or tuberculosis for inmates placed there.

East of The Tombs, the brewery became the center of the notorious Five Points slum, from where the 1863 New York Draft Riot erupted, a neighborhood so rough that police kept away for fear of being killed, and from which infamous organized crime syndicates (such as La Cosa Nostra) emerged.

Today, the Five Points has been wiped out, replaced with Columbus Park and a courthouse; The Tombs has been replaced twice but still can't shake its nickname. The city's water comes from much further away, and through much more sophisticated conduits than the log pipes that used to carry water from The Collect. However, the Collect's shores can be seen in the street patterns of Lower Manhattan.  The pond was roughly bounded by Elm Street (now Lafayette Street), White Street, Orange Street (now Baxter Street), and Worth Street, with a southern extension into what is now Foley Square.  The canal was filled in in 1815, and the western part of Canal Street now follows its course.

1Many thanks to Dutch noders Professor Pi, fuzzy and blue, and sloebertje, who pretty much agree that "Kaltchhook" can't possibly be a Dutch word, even an archaic one. Professor Pi suggests that "Kaatshoeck", which might refer to a good fishing spot, is a more likely name.

The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and their ORigins, Henry Moscow, Hagstrom, NY, 1978
ISBN 0-910684-07-03

The City of New York Department of Environmental Protection, New York City's Water Supply System: History

Re-Covering the Cityscape: Impressions of History Underfoot

The Street Necrology of the Lower East Side

A Tale of The Tombs

The Five Points Site

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