After finishing my doctorate in the 1980s, I moved into a gaslight-era Brooklyn brownstone and began exploring New York. My first job was on Wall Street studying the urban economy. Work meant pouring over data and talking to businesses. Outside work meant tramping the streets and reading the history.
Almost two decades passed before I turned my love for New York to telling its stories. By then I had a second career as an Internet entrepreneur and travel writer, building with my wife Diane the early web’s leading community for outdoor adventure, GORP.com. By 2000, GORP attracted two million people a month and earned ranking as one of the Top 50 sites on the web. My stories on places from Rocky Mountain wilderness to ancient cities of southeast Asia connected me with people like a student asking about archaeological careers, a hiker telling me about his visit to an old growth forest I had written about, a Nepali who just wanted to meet a visitor to his country. As an expert in adventure travel, I got to connect with even more people through appearances on television and radio and at travel conferences from Alaska to Florida.
My turn to storytelling about New York started in New Netherland and its trove of records. A teenage bride among the first settlers inspired my novel of New Amsterdam, The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan. I enmeshed myself further into that world at the New Netherland Institute, helping launch the New Netherland Research Center in Albany. I spoke about the Dutch period throughout the Hudson Valley. I heard from people who read my novel, or found my web site, asking me about their Dutch ancestors, proud of their connections to the richest merchant or the earliest whore. Actually the dozen or so of the latter – her name was Griet Reyniers, seem the proudest.
Now I have moved centuries forward to 1872 New York with a nonfiction narrative of fascinating characters and a city beset with all the excitement and challenges transformation brings. A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, & Scandal in Gilded Age New York is forthcoming from Chicago Review Press, tentatively scheduled for release in April 2020. I look forward to hearing from people with whom this story strikes a chord.
I welcome notes on my books, anything in the brownstone, New York, adventure travel, or whatever else is on your mind. Also queries about a variety of talks I give on New York’s Dutch heritage, Gilded Age New York, and the 19th century period of women’s suffrage.
Email me at Bill at BillsBrownstone.com.
A Novel of New Amsterdam
The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan
"[A] romp through the history of New Netherland that would surely have Petrus Stuyvesant complaining about the riot transpiring between its pages."
- de Halve Maen, Journal of the Holland Society of New York