Hudson Heights, Manhattan
Hudson Heights is a residential neighborhood located within the Washington Heights area of Upper Manhattan, New York City. As its name implies, it is a high area overlooking the North River portion of the Hudson River, and the neighborhood includes the highest natural point in Manhattan, in Bennett Park.
The neighborhood consists largely of co-operative apartment buildings and complexes, including Hudson View Gardens and Castle Village. Many of the buildings were constructed in the 1920s and 1930a, and the Art Deco style is prominent, along with Tudor Revival. There is a small shopping street at West 187th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue.
- 1 Boundaries
- 2 History
- 3 Community overview
- 4 Transportation
- 5 Education
- 6 Notable residents
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Like many New York City neighborhoods, the boundaries of Hudson Heights are not precise. One definition has it bounded by the Hudson River to the west, Broadway to the east, 173rd Street to the south, and Fort Tryon Park to the north, but another would limit the neighborhood to the top of the ridge which physically separates it from the rest of Washington Heights. By this definition, Hudson Heights is bounded in the west by the Henry Hudson Parkway, in the east by Fort Washington Avenue, in the south by West 181st Street and in the north by Fort Tryon Park.
Before European explorers and settlers, the Lenape Indians lived on the island they called Manhatta. Just to the north of Hudson Heights, in what is now Inwood Hill Park, the Lenape tribe exchanged the island for items worth about 60 Dutch Gilders in a deal with Peter Minuit in 1626. He named the island New Amsterdam. The area north of central Manhattan was called Niew Haarlem until the British gained control of the area during the Revolutionary War. They renamed the area Lancaster, and gave it a northern border near what is now 129th Street The ridge that overlooks the Hudson River was once inhabited by the Chquaesgeck Indians. Later it was called Lange Bergh (Long Hill) by Dutch settlers until the 17th century.
18th and 19th centuries
In the 18th century, only the southern portion of the island was settled by Europeans, leaving the rest of Manhattan largely untouched. Among the many unspoiled tracts of land was the highest spot on the island, which provided unsurpassed views of what would become the New York metropolitan area.
When the Revolutionary War came to New York, the British had the upper hand. General George Washington and troops from his Continental Army camped on the high ground, calling it Fort Washington, to monitor the advancing Redcoats. The Continental Army retreated from its location after their defeat on November 16, 1776, in the Battle of Fort Washington. The British took the position and renamed it Fort Knyphausen in honor of the leader of the Hessians, who had taken a major part in the British victory. Their location was in the spot now called Bennett Park. Fort Washington had been established as an offensive position to prevent British vessels from sailing north on the Hudson River. Fort Lee, across the river, was its twin, built to assist in the defense of the Hudson Valley.
Not far from the fort was the Blue Bell Tavern, located on an intersection of Kingsbridge Road, where Broadway and West 181st Street intersect today, on the southeastern corner of modern-day Hudson Heights. On July 9, 1776, when New York's Provincial Congress assented to the Declaration of Independence, "A rowdy crowd of soldiers and civilians ('no decent people' were present, one witness said later) ... marched down Broadway to Bowling Green, where they toppled the statue of George III erected in 1770. The head was put on a spike at the Blue Bell Tavern ... "
The tavern was later used by Washington and his staff when the British evacuated New York, standing in front of it as they watched the American troops march south to retake New York.
By 1856 the first recorded home had been built on the site of Fort Washington. The Moorewood residence was there until the 1880s. The property was purchased by Richard Carman and sold to James Gordon Bennett Sr. for a summer estate in 1871. Bennett's descendants later gave the land to the city to build a park honoring the Revolutionary War encampment. Bennett Park is a portion of that land. Lucius Chittenden, a New Orleans merchant, built a home on land he bought in 1846 west of what is now Cabrini Boulevard and West 187th Street. It was known as the Chittenden estate by 1864. C. P. Bucking named his home Pinehurst on land near the Hudson, a title that survives as Pinehurst Avenue.
Early to mid-20th century
At the turn of the 20th century the woods started being chopped down to make way for homes. The area was settled by Irish immigrants in the early years of the century.
The cliffs that are now Fort Tryon Park held the mansion of Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings, a retired president of the Chicago Coke and Gas Company. He purchased 25 acres (100,000 m2) and constructed Tryon Hall, a Louis XIV-style home designed by Gus Lowell. It had a galleried entranceway from the Henry Hudson Parkway that was 50 feet (15 m) high and made of Maine granite. In 1917, Billings sold the land to John D. Rockefeller Jr. for $35,000 per acre. Tryon Hall was destroyed by fire in 1925. The estate was the basis for the book "The Dragon Murder Case" by S. S. Van Dine, in which detective Philo Vance had to solve a murder on the grounds of the estate, where a dragon was supposed to have lived.
The beginning of this section of Washington Heights as a neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood seems to have started around this time, in the years before World War II. One scholar refers to the area in 1940 as "Fort Tryon" and "the Fort Tryon area." In 1989, Steven M. Lowenstein wrote, "The greatest social distance was to be found between the area in the northwest, just south of Fort Tryon Park, which was, and remains, the most prestigious section ... This difference was already remarked in 1940, continued unabated in 1970 and was still noticeable even in 1980..."
Lowenstein considered Fort Tryon to be the area west of Broadway, east of the Hudson, north of West 181st Street, and south of Dyckman Street, which includes Fort Tryon Park. He writes, "Within the core area of Washington Heights (between 155th Street and Dyckman Street) there was a considerable internal difference as well. The further north and west one went, the more prestigious the neighborhood..."
During the World War I, immigrants from Hungary and Poland moved in next to the Irish. Then, as Naziism grew in Germany, Jews fled their homeland. By the late 1930s, more than 20,000 refugees from Germany had settled in Washington Heights.
In the years after World War II, the neighborhood was referred to as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson due to the dense population of German and Austrian Jews who had settled there. A disproportionately large number of Germans who settled in the area had come from Frankfurt-am-Main, possibly giving rise to new name. No other neighborhood in the city was home to so many German Jews, who had created their own central German world in the 1930s.
So cosmopolitan was that world that in 1934 members of the German-Jewish Club of New York started Aufbau, a newsletter for its members that grew into a newspaper. Its offices were nearby on Broadway. The newspaper became known as a "prominent intellectual voice and a main forum for German Jewry in the United States," according to the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. "It featured the work of great prominent writers and intellectuals such as Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Stefan Zweig, and Hannah Arendt. It was one of the only newspapers to report on the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II."
In 1941 it published the Aufbau Almanac, a guide to living in the United States that explained the American political system, education, insurance law, the post office and sports. After the war, Aufbau helped families that had been scattered by European battles to reconnect by listing survivors' names. Aufbau's offices eventually moved to the Upper West Side. The paper nearly went bankrupt in 2006, but was purchased by Jewish Media AG, and exists today as a monthly news magazine. Its editorial offices are now in Berlin, but it keeps a correspondent in New York.
When the children of the Jewish immigrants to the Hudson Heights area grew up, they tended to leave the neighborhood, and sometimes, the city. By 1960 German Jews accounted for only 16% of the population in Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson. The neighborhood became less overtly Jewish into the 1970s as Soviet immigrants moved to the area.
After the Soviet immigration, families from the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, made it their home. So many Dominicans live in Washington Heights that candidates for the presidency of the Dominican Republic campaign in parades in the area.) In the 1980s African-Americans began to moved in, followed shortly by other groups. "Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson" no longer described the area.
Late 20th and early 21st centuries
"Hudson Heights" began to be used as a name for the neighborhood around 1993. Neighborhood activists formed a group in late 1992 to help promote the neighborhood and after considering several names, settled on the one that became part of their organization's name: Hudson Heights Owners' Coalition. According to one of the group's founders, real estate brokers didn't start using the name until after the group was formed.
The new name replaced the outdated reference to German heritage, which some have criticized, even though the German-speaking population is negligible at best. Although many Russian speakers still live there, Spanish-speakers vastly outnumber the Russophones, and English remains the lingua franca.
Elizabeth Ritter, the president of the owners' group, said, "We didn’t set out to change the name of the neighborhood, but we were careful in how we selected the name of the organization."
Today Hudson Heights has been adopted by arts organizations such as Hudson Heights Duo and the Hudson Heights String Academy, and businesses including Hudson Heights Pediatrics and Hudson Heights Restoration. Newspapers from The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times to The Village Voice use the name in reference to the neighborhood, as did The New York Sun before it went bankrupt, Money magazine in its November 2007 article naming Hudson Heights the best neighborhood to retire to in New York City. "Hudson Heights" was also used by Gourmet, in its September 2007 article about dining in Washington Heights.
Hudson Heights is primarily a residential community, with an abundance of apartment towers, many of which are cooperatives.
The neighborhood is home to the highest natural point in Manhattan, located in Bennett Park. It is 265 feet (81 m) above sea level, or a few dozen feet lower than the torch on the Statue of Liberty. A viewpoint is at the western tip of Plaza Lafayette, which runs along West 181st Street between Haven Avenue and Riverside Drive.
News of Upper Manhattan is published weekly in The Manhattan Times, a bilingual newspaper. Its annual restaurant guide, highlights the area's burgeoning restaurant scene. Events are also listed in the Washington Heights & Inwood Online calendar.
The neighborhood is mostly residential, but it also has strips of commercial activity along West 187th Street and West 181st Street. Nearly every structure was built before World War II, which in New York real estate parlance is referred to as pre-war, many of them in the Art Deco style. Facades in the Art Nouveau, Neo-Classical, Tudor and Collegiate Gothic styles are also present. Many of the apartment houses are co-ops and a few are condos; the remainder are still available for rent.
The largest residential complexes in the area were started by real estate developer Dr. Charles V. Paterno; Hudson View Gardens opened in 1924 and was originally started and sold as a housing cooperative. The Tudor-style complex was designed by the architect George F. Pelham, who also designed The Pinehurst on Fort Washington Avenue at West 180th Street, which opened in 1908. Paterno is remembered by the Paterno Trivium, erected in spring 2000 at the intersection of Cabrini Boulevard, Pinehurst Avenue and West 187th Street.
Pelham's son, George F. Pelham Jr., was the architect of Castle Village, on the other side of Cabrini Boulevard. This series of five buildings was finished in 1939 and converted to a co-op in 1985. On May 12, 2005 a large, 65-foot high retaining wall separating the Castle Village complex from the Henry Hudson Parkway collapsed onto the 181st Street northbound on-ramp to the parkway. Portions of the wall were nearly 100 years old according to records indicating the wall was constructed between 1905 and the 1930s. The collapse lead to the on-ramp's closure for over two and half years; the entrance was reopened in March, 2008.
Another large cooperative is the 16-story Cabrini Terrace, the highest building in the neighborhood. Members of the board of Cabrini Terrace successfully lobbied the legislature to change the law that grants tax credits to homeowners who install solar panels. Previously, apartment buildings were excluded. Cabrini Terrace inaugurated its solar panels at a ceremony on January 24, 2008.
Beginning in the 1980s, some rental buildings in the area started converting to housing cooperatives or condominiums. In recent years, Hudson Heights has been an attractive area for homebuyers who want to stay in Manhattan but who can't afford downtown prices, or who want larger homes than those in the rest of Manhattan. The multiple co-ops and condos in the area formed the Hudson Heights Owners Coalition in 1993.
A widely known museum in the area is The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, where the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses and displays its collection of Medieval art. In September, the park hosts the Medieval Festival, a free fair with costumed revelers, food and music. Also in the park is the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar, which the 2006 Michelin Guide recommended as a "cozy getaway" where the kitchen has "creative instincts." In its September 2007 issue, Gourmet magazine described the Dominican restaurants in Washington Heights and Inwood, including many in Hudson Heights.
Just south of Fort Tryon Park is the Catholic shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.
Hudson Heights is among the neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan that join in The Art Stroll, the annual festival of the arts, highlighting local artists. Public places in Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill host impromptu galleries, readings, performances and markets over several weeks each summer.
Bennett Park is the location of the highest natural point in Manhattan, as well as a commemoration on the west side of the park of the walls of Fort Washington, which are marked in the ground by stones with an inscription that reads: "Fort Washington Built And Defended By The American Army 1776." Land for the park was donated by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the publisher of the New York Herald. His father, James Gordon Bennett, Sr., bought the land and was previously the Herald's publisher. Bennett Park hosts the annual Harvest Festival in September and the children's Halloween Parade – with trick-or-treating afterwards – on All Hallow's Eve.
The Roman Catholic patron saint of immigrants, Mother Francesca Saverio Cabrini, is entombed at her shrine near the northern end of Fort Washington Avenue, where a high school bears her name. Cabrini, America's first saint, was beatified in November 1938. She founded the Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart. The name of the street on the west side of the school and shrine was changed in 1939 from Northern Avenue to Cabrini Boulevard.
Washington Heights is the home of Khal Adath Jeshurun (KAJ or "Breuer's"), the German-Jewish Ashkenazi congregation established in the late 1930s. The congregation maintains the German-Jewish mode of worship, its liturgy, practices, and distinctive melodies. There are several educational institutions associated with KAJ as well.
Other churches and synagogues in the area include Our Saviour's Atonement Lutheran Church; Congregation Mount Sinai Anshe; Hebrew Tabernacle of Washington Heights; Beth Am, The People's Temple; Fort Washington Collegiate Church; Fort Tryon Jewish Center; Holyrood Church; and Congregation Shaare Hatikvah Ahavath Torah v'Tikvoh Chadoshoh.
The only New York City Subway entrance in the Gothic style is the exterior of the 190th Street station for the A train on Fort Washington Avenue at West 193rd Street. Both it and the West 184th Street exit of the 181st Street station stand out among entrances to the city's subway stations.
The George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, at West 179th Street and Fort Washington Avenue, was designed by the Italian architect and economist Pier Luigi Nervi and constructed in 1963. From a distance, the huge ventilation ducts look like concrete butterflies. Nervi's bust sits in the terminal's lobby.
The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city.
Beneath the bridge, at the east stanchion, is the Little Red Lighthouse, where a namesake festival is held is in the late summer, and where a 5.85-mile (9.41 km) recreational swim finishes in early autumn. It is also a popular place to watch for peregrine falcons and the monarch butterfly migration.
Hudson Heights is zoned to schools in the New York City Department of Education, including P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs for grades Kindergarten through 8. Also located in the neighborhood was Mother Cabrini High School, which closed at the end of the 2013-14 school year, with a Success Academy Charter School scheduled to move into the building.
Other private schools in the area include Osher Early Learning Center, the Medical Center Nursery School, the YM/YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood Nursery School and the City College Academy of the Arts, a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Notable current and former residents of Hudson Heights include:
- Rabbi Joseph Breuer, religious leader
- Laurence Fishburne, actor.
- Scott Goldstein, writer, producer, director
- Henry Kissinger, diplomat and statesman
- Daniel D. McCracken, early computer pioneer and author
- James R. Russell, scholar and Harvard University professor
- Rabbi Shimon Schwab, religious leader
- Ruth Westheimer, psychologist
In popular culture
The 1985 film We Were So Beloved tells the stories of neighborhood Jews who escaped the Holocaust. A musical that started performing in 2007, In The Heights, takes place on 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue, and was written and produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda who grew up in northern Manhattan. The same year, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a novel by Junot Diaz, referred to Anglo women carrying yoga mats in the neighborhood as a harbinger of gentrification; the book won the Pulitzer Prize for letters in 2008.
- "Bennett Park" New York City Parks and Recreation Department website. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- Neighborhoods in New York City do not have official status, and their boundaries are not specifically set by the city. (There are a number of Community Boards, whose boundaries are officially set, but these are fairly large and generally contain a number of neighborhoods, and the neighborhood map issued by the Department of City Planning only shows the largest ones.) Because of this, the definition of where neighborhoods begin and end is subject to a variety of forces, including the efforts of real estate concerns to promote certain areas, the use of neighborhood names in media news reports, and the everyday usage of people.
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- Media related to Hudson Heights, Manhattan at Wikimedia Commons
- Hudson Heights Guide
- Hudson Heights Owners Coalition
- Photographs of neighborhood co-ops
- Dr. Charles V. Paterno
- "New York: Best place to retire: Hudson Heights", CNNMoney.com, 2007
- Fort Tryon Park flowers and landscapes