Sybout Claessen, a native of Hoorn in the Netherlands, was a carpenter who emigrated to New Amsterdam and became the owner of a 100-acre tract of land granted to him in 1646 by the Dutch West India Company. The land was sited at the bend of the East River near the top of Manhattan. He called it Hoorn’s Hook after the Hoek on the Zuider Zee of his hometown.
In 1651, he purchased a house on the East River in New Amsterdam near the corner of Broad and Stone streets, but the seller, Cornelis Melyn, in some trouble with the law, was prohibited from legally transferring the land to Claessen, who proceeded to withhold from Melyn the agreed-upon sale price for some ten years. The property was severely eroded by tides, and so Claessen had the idea of erecting sheet-piled planks along the river bank behind his house, which led other property-owners to do the same. He married the widow of Aert Teunissen and left his estate to her two daughters in 1680.