A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 11, 2006
Governor Stuyvesant’s Tree (pear, not apple)
It is sometimes (not often, thankfully) said that New York City is called "the Big Apple" because of Governor Peter Stuyvesant's apple tree.

Actually, it was a pear tree. The tree is a great New York story. The two 2005 stories in The Villager (below) are worth reading in full.

America's longest-lived apple tree was reportedly planted in 1647 by Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard and was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.

Governor Peter Stuyvesant plants an apple tree from Holland on the corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street in New York City.

America's longest-lived apple tree was reportedly planted in 1647 by Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard and was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.

On his return from Holland after the surrender, he spent the remainder of his life on his farm of sixty-two acres outside the city, called the Great Bouwerie, beyond which stretched woods and swamps to the little village of Haarlem. The house, a stately specimen of Dutch architecture, was erected at a cost of 6,400 guilders, and stood near what is now Eighth street. Its gardens and lawn were tilled by about fifty negro slaves. A pear-tree which he brought from Holland in 1647 remained at the corner of Thirteenth street and Third avenue until 1867, bearing fruit almost to the last.

Volume 75, Number 27 | November 23 - 29, 2005
Peter's famed pear tree plaque returns to its roots
By Bonnie Rosenstock

On a clear, brisk Thurs., Nov. 17 morning, in a low-key, but spirited ceremony, the bronze plaque commemorating the site of Peter Stuyvesant's beloved pear tree was welcomed back to Kiehl's after an absence of 46 years with a formal dedication accompanied by champagne, croissants and the cacophony of city street sounds.

Joining employees of Kiehl's — the East Village store founded 154 years ago as an apothecary and today offering an array of hair and skin products — at the event were members of the Holland Society, the Society of the Holland Dames, St. Mark's Church Historic Landmark Fund, the St. Mark's Church community and a few invited guests.

The honor of parting the crimson curtain covering the plaque was accorded to Nicholas Stuyvesant Fish, a seventh-generation descendant of the former governor of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.

Volume 74, Number 45 | March 16 - 22, 2005
Peter's pear tree plaque is going home at long last
By Bonnie Rosenstock

Forty-six years after the plaque commemorating the site of Peter Stuyvesant's befallen pear tree was repositioned on the northeast corner of Third Ave. and E. 10th St., said plaque will be going home to its rightful owner and original site at the northeast corner of Third Ave. and E. 13th St. In negotiations with William Van Winkle, president of the Holland Society, Charles "Duke" Schlesinger, president of Bendiner & Schlesinger — the medical laboratory at 47-53 Third Ave./101 E. 10th St. — and current plaque owner, has agreed to relinquish the historic 115-year-old bronze tablet. Van Winkle will give it to Philip Clough, president of Kiehl's Pharmacy. Kiehl's had been trying for decades to get back the plaque, which had been affixed to its corner wall for 68 years beginning in 1890.
The saga begins in 1664 when the unpopular Governor Stuyvesant was recalled to Holland after losing New Amsterdam to the British. Stuyvesant returned to the renamed New York in 1667 with a flowering pear tree, which he planted on the northeast corner of Third Ave. and E. 13th St., then part of his sprawling 62-acre Great Bouwerie estate. The dour Dutchman, who chose to live out his days in his beloved former colony, planted the tree as his own memorial "by which my name may be remembered," the plaque reads. The venerable pear tree, at one time considered "the oldest living thing in the city of New York," according to Harper's Monthly Magazine of 1862, succumbed to a one-two punch of bad weather and worse driving in February 1867. After a massive winter storm, which had weakened the tree, two drays (low flat carts without sides or with very low sides, used for heavy loads, especially by brewers) collided, one of which was thrown against the tree with sufficient force to send the 200-year-old veteran to the equivalent of its knees. The tree bore fruit right to the end. With its demise went one of old New York's popular sightseeing attractions and perhaps the last living vestige of the Dutch presence in the city. The tree was taken down, but a Stuyvesant descendant gave a cross-section of its trunk to The New-York Historical Society, where it is enclosed in a glass case on the fourth floor.

In order to preserve the memory of the Dutch presence, the Holland Society "very quietly" went about town "marking out the old landmarks and sites of buildings long swept away connected with the early history of New-York City," reported the New York Times on Sept. 30, 1890. (New hyphen York is the original spelling for the Big Apple.) One of the eight earmarked sites was the corner where Stuyvesant's pear tree reigned. The original corner pharmacy, known as "The Pear Tree Drugstore," became Kiehl's in 1851. The plaque, valued at about $300 at the time, hung on the wall until 1958, when Kiehl's had to move one building farther north because the building it occupied had fallen into disrepair and was slated to be razed. The Holland Society removed the plaque and gave it to St. Mark's Church in the Bouwerie, site of Stuyvesant's original chapel and his family's vault, for safekeeping.
Here in The Villager the mystery of the misplaced plaque is revealed at last. Schlesinger gave this reporter a copy of a letter, dated Jan. 29, 1959, in which his father asks the Reverend William J.F. Lydecker, priest in charge of St. Mark's during an interim period between rectors (January to September 1959), for permission to install the plaque on his building. Apparently, Lydecker agreed.

12 September 1835, Genesee Farmer and Gardener's Journal, pg. 389:
Governor Stuyvesant's Pear.

One of our friends writes as follows: "A correspondent of the Pennsylvania Inquirer, lately wrote from New York, stating many things about old Petrus Stuyvesant of Knickerbocker memory; that the old house was lately pulled down by the New Yorkers; and that he saw the celebrated pear tree which the said Governor General of New Amsterdam, brought in a box from Holland more than 175 years ago, and planted in the rear of his country seat. This tree the writer says bears Seckel Pears! and that this is the true origin of that noted fruit! Now I have no doubt that this is an idle tale; but it is spread far and wide in the newspapers, and I want to know the fact in the case. How does the Stuyvesant Pear differ from the Seckel?"

We shall answer by showing the following points of difference, taken from Lindley's description of the Seckel pear, and from Floy's description of Governor Stuyvesant's.

Fruit, rather small....................Fruit, medium size.
Eye, small..............................Large at the Eye.
Stalk, half an inch long [very short.]...Stalk, long.
Skin, dull brown or brownish green, with a very bright red cheek...Skin of a greenish yello with some cloudy patches, becoming more yellow as it ripens.
Ripe, [from the end of August to the middle of October.]...Ripe, the middle of August.

These differences show that they are very dissimilar; and that the writer referred to, had no just ground for this assertion.

5 October 1854, New York Times, pg. 4:
Through his name is not in the Directory, never having married or kept house, all householders know of whom we speak -- the Old Parr of the Pear family, or as it is called, "Governor Stuyvesant's pear-tree." Yesterday, in honor of the return of the 213 anniversary of its planting, this venerable relic of a defunct century -- to wit: the grandfather of the Nineteenth Century -- was adorned with flags according to a most honorable custom. This morning, let all who have not yet breakfasted drink one cup to the health of the "Old Stuyvesant pear-tree," and no offense, temperate reader, at the beverage you honor the toast in, providing it be no slop-milk.

July 1864, The Cultivator, pg. 208:

This old tree which still continues to grow and bear at the corner of Third avenue and Thirteenth-street, New-York city, is a curiosity in more than one particular. The writer first visited it in 1833, when the streets on which it now grows were comparatively country roads, and the adjacent land mostly open fields. It appeared then much as it does at the present time, but had a much larger and broader top, and of course bore heavier crops. The stone pavements which cover its roots ,and the tall brick blocks which shade its stem and branches, must, of course, tend to diminish its vigor. When visited about the first of the present summer, the shoots forming the remaining portion of the top were found to be full of vigor, and still bearing a few pears. Some of the shoots had grown last season from two to three feet in length, and had then made about a foot in growth the present year -- showing conclusively that there was no inherent decay from old age in the variety after the lapse of centuries, as claimed by those who adopt the theory of sorts running out by old age. The stem up to five feet, measured two feet eight inches in diameter, where a large dead branch had been sawed off some years ago. At eight feet high the tree formed two separate branches with distinct heads, one about twenty feet high, and the other thirty feet. These heads appear to be gradually lessening in size, from the successive dying of the shoots -- either from not receiving enough nourishment through the old, hardened and decaying trunk, or by the bad cultivation which it now receives, or from the blight -- or all three combined. We understand that the tree bore nearly a barrel of pears a few years since. It is a late summer variety, quite good, and somewhat allied in character to the Summer Bon Chretien.

This tree was planted by old Gov. Stuyvesant when New-Amsterdam, now New-York, was held by the Dutch; but, on being driven out of the city by the "guessing, pumpkin-eating gentry,"and their English allies, he retreated to his country residence at this place, and being brimful of wrath and cabbage, he cut down every English tree he could find on his grounds -- consequently this could not have been an English variety, and it appears to be unknown and undescribed in English works. As this occurrence took place some two hundred years ago, the tree must be now considerably more than two centuries old. The accompanying sketch was made on the spot a few weeks ago.

27 February 1867, New York Times, pg. 2:
Untimely End of the Stuyvesant Pear-Tree.

The well-known pear-tree planted by Gov. STUYVESANT, and which has stood for two centuries, came at last to a sudden demise during the latter part of last week. This old and famous tree stood on the corner of Thirteenth-street and Third-avenue, in a circular inclosure of iron railing, erected, we believe, by Mr. WAINWRIGHT, a descendant of the old Dutch Governor. It had its traditions, though it was less renowned than the famous Charter Oak of Connecticut, but like that old tree, it had been made the subject of many a sketch. Its decay was marked year by year in the declining average of its blossoms, but it was not considered beyond bearing before the occurrence of an accident which cleft the ancient trunk in twain. The destruction of this old landmark is stated to have resulted from a collision of vehicles, one of which was thrown against the tree with sufficient force to break it down. Laborers were engaged in removing the limbs and trunk yesterday, which were proclaimed obstructions to travel.

30 September 1890, New York Times, pg. 8:
Third Avenue and Thirteenth Street, at the northeast corner, will now be pointed out to future generations as "on this corner stood Gov. Petrus Stuyvesant's pear tree. He brought the tree from Holland on his return from his trip in 1664. He planted it as his own memorial, by which he said his name might still be remembered. The pear tree grew and bore fruit for over 200 years, and then succumbed to the ravages of decay."

16 September 1895, New York Times, "The Stuyvesant Pear-Tree Relic," pg. 5:
The relic of the old "Stuyvesant Pear Tree," unearthed by Commissioner Roosevelt, should be placed in the Governor's Room at the City Hall under the only photograph known to be in existence of the original tree.

15 May 1901, New York Times, "The Stuyvesant Pear Tree," pg. 8:
To the Editor of The New York Times:

In your issue of to-dy on New-York's historic trees you say that the Stuyvesant pear tree, which stood on the corner of Third Avenue and Thirteenth Street, "weakened by age and storms, was hurled to the ground by a truck in February, 1867." WHile the date may be correct, I understood, being a resident of the immediate vicinity at the time, that the old tree, being badly decayed at the roots, was "hurled to the ground" by a high wind which blew that night, as I distinctly remember in connection with the falling of the old tree. The tree, being surrounded by a high circular iron fence and standing entirely within the curb, could hardly have been interfered with by a truck, th fence being of strong build and appraently firmly placed.

R. S. W.
New York, May 12, 1901.

17 May 1901, New York Times, "The Stuyvesant Pear Tree," pg. 8:
To the Editor of The New York Times:

Your correspondent, R. S. W., is certainly in error in supposing that the Stuyvesant pear tree was blown down by a windstorm. There is good evidence that it was overthrown by atruck. The son of the owner of the truck resides in this city; he formerly lived near the well-known site of the tree and he remembers the destruction of the tree.

New York, May 15, 1901.

24 May 1910, New York Times, "Stuyvesant Pear Tree," pg. 8:
To the Editor of The New York Times:
In your issue of this date replying to an inquiry about noted trees by "Mrs. E. C.," you state the Stuyvesant pear tree was on the "northwest" corner of Third venue and Thirteenth Street. This is a mistake. It was on the northeast corner. I remember it well and have some frames made from it.

New York, May 22, 1910.

30 April 1911, New York Times, "Queries and Answers," pg. X11:
Open before me is a copy of Valentine's Manual of the Common Council of New York for the year 1861, and opposite Page 532 is a fine full-page picture of the historic tree, described underneath as "The Old Pear-Tree Planted by Governor Stuyvesant, Corner Third Avenue and Thirteenth Street," and while the side of the street is not designated ,the adjacent buildings shown in the picture and "the lay of the land" generally prove conclusively that the tree was at the northeast corner of the two streets indicated. In contradiction to one of your correspondent in THE TIMES, however, the site was not "about twenty feet above Thirteenth Street," if the illustration be authentic, but directly in he apex, and close to the curbs of the two streets.

9 November 2003, New York Times, "A New Pear Tree Will Pay Homage to Old New York" by Jim O'Grady, pg. CY7:
Now Pear Tree Corner, as the site was known for many years, will be regreened. On Wednesday, dignitaries will gather, a mayoral proclamation will be read, and Parks Department workers will sink a new pear tree into a dirt pit dug into the sidewalk.

Posted by Barry Popik
1970s-present: False Etymologies • (0) Comments • Sunday, June 11, 2006 • Permalink