Ordinance concerning thatched roofs, wooden chimneys, hay stacks, fire buckets, hooks and ladders in New Amsterdam

Scanned Document:

The director general and council of New Netherland, to all those who see this or hear this read, greetings.

Let it be known that they, to prevent the calamity of fire, did long ago condemn thatched roofs and wooden and plastered chimneys within this city, and to that end appointed fire wardens and inspectors, which by-law and ordinance, the aforesaid director general and council, have often published and renewed,[1] but, it has, hitherto, been carelessly or obstinately neglected by many inhabitants, because the fine or penalty affixed thereto is either entirely too small, or the penalty is not enforced as it ought to be; by which negligence now and again diverse calamities and accidents have been caused and are still to be apprehended from fire; indeed, a total ruin of this city, in as much as it daily begins to be compactly built, so that provision must absolutely be made therein; to which end, the aforesaid director general and council, have deemed it proper and necessary not only to renew their previously enacted by-law and edicts, but also to amplify the same, and to increase the penalty thereof and to put it promptly into execution.

Therefore, the director general and council do ordain, that all thatched roofs and wooden chimneys, hay barracks and haystacks within this city, shall be removed and taken away within the time of four consecutive months after the publication hereof, under a fine of 50 guilders to be forfeited every month, and to be promptly put in execution for every house whether small or large, hay barrack, hay stack or wooden chimney, hen houses and hog pens included, that may be found within the walls of this city at the expiration of the aforesaid four months; the fine to be applied one-third for the officer who shall levy execution; the two other third parts for the behoof of this city. If in the meanwhile any fire should break out in any such chimneys or houses, a quadmple fire penalty, namely, one hundred guilders to be applied according to the previously enacted edict.

Further, whereas in all well ordered cities and towns it is customary that fire buckets, ladders and hooks be found provided about the comers of streets and in public houses, in order to be the better prepared in time of need, which is more necessary here than elsewhere, because, for want of brick, many wooden houses are built within this city, the one adjoining the other; therefore, the director general and council order and authorize the burgomasters of this city, that they, of themselves, or by their treasurer, shall at once promptly demand, collect or cause to be collected, from each house, whether large or small, one beaver or eight guilders in sewant, according to the rate at the office, in order, with the proceeds thereof, to send, by the first opportunity, to the fatherland for one hundred to 150 leather fire buckets, and for the balance to have some fire ladders and fire hooks immediately made, and, further, once a year, from each chimney, one guilder for a supplement and repairs thereof.

Thus done in the session of the director general and council held at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 15th of December 1657.[2]


This ordinance was passed in 1648; see LO, 82.
Also in LO, 322.


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 theĀ New Netherland Institute website.