Leasing Turtle Bay for Use by the Royal Navy, 1741
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A future hero of the French and Indian War leases Turtle Bay for fifty years of use by the British Navy. From the beginning of European settlement, it offered sailing vessels refuge from the East River’s treacherous currents and winter storms. Today, it helps weather different kinds of storms: it was filled in and is the site of the present United Nations complex. [NEW YORK].
Manuscript Document Signed. Fifty-year lease on Turtle Bay from Captain Robert Long to Peter Warren. Signed by Peter Warren (with his wax seal), his father-in-law Stephen Delancey, and two other witnesses. New York, March 2, 1741. 1 p., 13 x 16 in. Docketed on verso, with later notes on payment through 1750 signed by Long.
“This Indenture made the Second day of March in the Fifteenth Year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second... and the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty One Between Robert Long Esquire Captain in his Majestys Royal Navy of the one part and Peter Warren Esquire Captain in the Same Royal Navy of the other part Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the yearly rent and Covenants.... All that Messuage, Tenement or Dwelling house together with the Brewhouse, Store House, Powder House, and other Outhouses thereunto belonging Situate lying and being in Turtle Bay near the city of New York...together with the use of the large Copper now set up on the same premises...”
Turtle Bay, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was one of the best harbors on the East River. While some historians claim it was named after the turtle-filled creek running through the 40-acre parcel Dutch Director-General Wouter van Twiller granted to two Englishmen, it is more likely a bastardization of Dutch word “deutal” (a bent blade), which referred to the shape of the bay. In the 18th century, it was further developed for use by naval vessels—as place to “careen” (intentionally beach) vessels for below-waterline maintenance, dockside repairs, or to await favorable tides. In 1734, it was acquired by British naval captain Robert Long.
Here, in 1741, fellow naval captain Peter Warren leased the property, its outbuildings, and all its resources for £25 per year from Long. Warren would soon become a hero of the French and Indian War. In 1749, he would purchase the property outright. Warren died in 1752, but the property stayed in his family until 1791 (see Stokes, pages VI: 173-4). Manhattan’s Warren Street and the Rhode Island town of Warren were both named in his honor.
Shipbuilders established a thriving business in Turtle Bay, and by the time Robert Fulton tested his steamboat on the East River in 1808, the wharf area was filling up with breweries, carpentry shops, mills, and small industries. The bay was filled in after the Civil War and is now part of the United Nations headquarters at the foot of 46th and 47th Streets, as well as a number of consulates and luxury residential buildings.
Sotheby’s London, April 9, 1974, lot 646. Maggs Brothers.
I.N. Phelps Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, Volume VI. (New York: Robert Dodd, 1928).