It's one of the most peculiar names in the Bronx—Spuyten Duyvil. In this part of our series exploring the history behind the names of neighborhoods, we learn where the name came from. NY1's Erin Clarke filed this report.
A seemingly peaceful body of water that connects the Harlem and Hudson Rivers has quite the sinister name: Spuyten Duyvil.
"It's a dutch name that means in spite of the Devil," says Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan.It's one of the most peculiar names in the Bronx—Spuyten Duyvil. In this part of our series exploring the history behind the names of neighborhoods, we learn where the name came from. NY1's Erin Clarke filed this report.
"Spitting devil because of the strong current," says Angel Hernandez of the Bronx Historical Society.
"Spouting stream," says Thomas Casey, president of the Huntington Free Library.
No one knows for sure why it got that reputation, but author Washington Irving helped fan the flame with a story that some still debate.
"He tells a fictional story that when the English fleet comes in menacing the Dutch control of the area that Peter Stuyvesant sent a messenger to the mainland. There was a big storm in the area, but the messenger had a duty to perform so he said that he was going to cross that creek in spite of the devil or in "spuyten duyvil" and supposedly, according to the story, he drowns," Ultan says.
"He's eaten by a very large fish," Casey says.
Frightening creatures aside, Spuyten Duyvil Creek was a troublesome waterway. Its curves and shallow waters made it difficult to navigate, and in 1895, the Army Corp of Engineers widened and made it deeper.
Years later when a railroad was built, more people began moving to what was known as the country and they took their neighborhood name from the creek.
"You had a large estate and you traveled sometimes by boat you had a dock right on the Hudson River," says Casey.
That position along the Hudson made Spuyten Duyvil a prime location a century earlier during the Revolutionary War.
To protect the only connection between the mainland and what is now Manhattan, George Washington built three forts in Spuyten Duyvil overlooking the river.
"Fort number 1, fort number 2, fort number 3 were right along that area to protect the King's Bridge," Casey says.
The King's Bridge, which spanned Spuyten Duyvil Creek, eventually gave its name to the nearby neighborhood of Kingsbridge.
Despite the history, some say the name Spuyten Duyvil is fading.
"Just north of Spuyten Duyvil is Riverdale and Riverdale has the cache of being a wealthy neighborhood and a lot of people want to be identified with that rather than with Spuyten Duyvil," says Ultan.