- My NYPL
Tools and Services
- Using the Library
I am a...
- Classes & Events
- Support the Library
History of the Name Spuyten Duyvil
For people not familiar with the Northwest Bronx, the name of the Spuyten Duyvil Branch Library (\ˌspī-tən-ˈdī-vəl\) can be a tongue twister. Dating back to the 17th century, the name Spuyten Duyvil originates from the Dutch settlers who gave the name to the creek that flowed around what is today the Marble Hill neightborhood. The creek has since been filled in, but the name stuck, with several theories about its origin.
Washington Irving refers to the origin of the name in his book, Knickerbocker History. According to him, a Dutch trumpeter vowed to swim the turbulent waters of (then) Spuyten Duyvil Creek where it met the Hudson during the British attack on New Amsterdam in the 1660s "en spijt den Duyvil," or in "spite of the devil."
John McNamara also refers to this story in his book McNamara's Old Bronx. "Popular legend has it that a messenger was dispatched from Fort Amsterdam to the Bronx mainland for reinforcements, but high tides and treacherous current swept him away and he lost his life. It was the Spite of the Devil that prevented the messenger from completing his mission."
More likely, however, according to McNamara, "is a 1647 reference to a gushing fountain of fresh water that poured into the creek. The Hollanders called it the Devil's Spout "Spuit den Duyvil'...Later the name was aglicized to Spitting Devil and, someimtes, Spouting Devil."
To further explore the history of the Spuyten Duyvil area, check out the book
Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Spuyten Duyvil: New York City; a Historical Epitome of the Northwest Bronx by William Tieck and Forgotten NY.