6. The Construction of the Henry Hudson Bridge Was Stifled Due to an Indian Princess

Tulip Tree under which the ‘sale’ of Manhattan took place in 1626. Image in public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Like many of Robert Moses’ public work projects, the construction of the Henry Hudson Bridge was not without controversy. One such problem arose over an alleged Indian princess who taught pottery in the woods of Inwood Park. Public outcry arose over the princess’ working area and the removal of famous old trees that surrounded it — specifically an old, decayed tulip tree that reportedly dated back to when Henry Hudson sailed up the river in the Half Moon.

In describing the situation, Moses had stated sarcastically: “There were other trees, many decrepit. In the middle was a kiln where an Indian princess taught ceramics under dubious auspices. She had a son who didn’t work. Both were on relief, and the relief checks were delivered to the princess at a mail box fastened to a tree. The hullabaloo about disturbing the princess, the kiln, the old tulip tree, and other flora and fauna was terrific.”

To resolve the problem, a compromise had to be reached in which the good trees were saved and left on the hill. According to legend, Inwood Hill Park was also home to the tulip tree where Peter Minuit, the Director General of New Netherland, reportedly purchased Manhattan from the Lenape in exchange for a shipment of goods.