Ordinance prohibiting wooden chimneys and appointing firewardens in New Amsterdam

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The honorable director general of New Netherland, Curaçao and the islands thereof, and the honorable lords councilors having observed and seen by experience that some careless people are negligent in keeping their chimneys clean (by sweeping) and do not watch their fires, whereby fire broke out in two houses recently and greater damage is to be expected in the future, especially as the houses here in New Amsterdam are mostly built of wood and covered with thatch; also, there are wooden chimneys in some of the houses, which is also extremely dangerous.

Therefore, the honorable general and lords councilors have considered it advisable and highly necessary to provide herein, whereby the aforesaid lord general and lords councilors proclaim, enact and prohibit, as they hereby do, that henceforth no wooden or plastered chimneys shall be allowed to be built in any houses between the fort and the Fresh Water[1] and those which already exist shall be allowed to remain standing until further orders and at the discretion of the firewardens; and so that the foregoing shall be well observed, for that purpose are appointed as firewardens: from the honorable council, the commissary Adriaen d’Keyser; from the commonalty, Tomas Hall, Marten Krieger, and Gorge Wolsey, in order to inspect at their pleasure the chimneys in all houses between this fort and the fresh water (standing and located in and around this city) and ] whether the same have been kept clean by sweeping, and if anyone shall be found negligent, every time the aforesaid firewardens pronounce or find the chimneys dirty, a fine of three guilders for every chimney pronounced or found to be dirty shall be paid at once without argument, to be expended for the maintenance of fire ladders, hooks and pails (which are to be procured and acquired at the earliest and most convenient opportunity); and if anyone’s house bums or causes a fire, whether it be through negligence or by his own fire, he shall forfeit /25, to be expended as above.

Thus done and enacted in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland; published the 28th of January 1648.[2]


't Varse Waeter. This is a reference to a body of water just north of the Commons in New York City, also called kalck pond, a placename which eventually developed into Collect Pond under the English. It was a rather large body of water, which the Dutch thought to be bottomless. The shells left there by the Indians were used to make lime mortar, hence the Dutch placename designation kalck, “lime.”
Also in LO, 82-83. On September 28,1648, the council ordered the firewardens to inspect all chimneys in New Amsterdam and on December 12, 1657, ordered a chimney tax on the city for buying fire buckets; see LO, 102 and 363. Each town probably made its own fire ordinances. For example, see LO, 326, for Fort Orange and 416 for Wiltwijck.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., New Netherland Documents Series: Vol. 16, part 1, Laws and Writs of Appeal, 1647-1663 (Syracuse: 1991).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.