Morningside Heights, Manhattan

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"Morningside Heights" redirects here. For the Toronto, Ontario neighborhood, see Morningside Heights, Toronto. For other uses, see Morningside (disambiguation).
Morningside Heights
Neighborhood of Manhattan
Residential buildings on West 116th Street opposite Columbia University
Residential buildings on West 116th Street opposite Columbia University
Coordinates: 40°48′37″N 73°57′24″W / 40.810201°N 73.956601°W / 40.810201; -73.956601Coordinates: 40°48′37″N 73°57′24″W / 40.810201°N 73.956601°W / 40.810201; -73.956601
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
County/Borough New York/Manhattan
 • Total 0.472 sq mi (1.22 km2)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 23,734
 • Density 50,000/sq mi (19,000/km2)
ZIP codes 10024, 10025, 10027
Area code 212, 646, 917
From the Hudson River
West 121st Street seen from Amsterdam Avenue; Riverside Church is in the background

Morningside Heights is a neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, on the border of the Upper West Side and west Harlem. The area is usually described as being on the Upper West Side,[2][3][4] but has also been described as part of "Greater Harlem"[5] because of a disputed claim that the Upper West Side goes no farther north than 110th Street.[6][7][8] Morningside Heights is bounded by Morningside Park at Morningside Drive to the east, Manhattanville and Harlem at 125th Street to the north, Manhattan Valley at 110th Street to the south, and Riverside Park at Riverside Drive to the west.[9][10] The main thoroughfare is Broadway.

It is chiefly known as the home of institutions such as Columbia University, Teachers College, Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, Bank Street College of Education, "Grant's Tomb", Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Interchurch Center. Because of the number of educational institutions in the neighborhood, its nickname is the Academic Acropolis. However, Morningside Heights also contains the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the Riverside Church, the Broadway Presbyterian Church, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, and St. Luke's Hospital.

The neighborhood is part of the Fifteenth Congressional District of New York, which includes all of Upper Manhattan. Traditionally, Morningside Heights has been heavily Democratic, as has much of the city.


In the 17th century, the land that is now Morningside Heights was known as Vandewater's Heights, named for the landowner.[2] On September 16, 1776, the Battle of Harlem Heights was fought in Morningside Heights, with the most intense fighting occurring in a sloping wheat field that is now the location of Barnard College. A plaque by the Columbia University gate on 117th Street and Broadway commemorates this battle.[11]

Use of the name "Morningside Heights" for the neighborhood arose in the 1890s when development of the area commenced. The name "Bloomingdale" – which referred to part of the present-day neighborhood of Manhattan Valley, located to the south – was also used for the area around the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, which was located at the present location of the main campus of Columbia University. However, other names such as "Morningside Hill" and "Riverside Heights" were used for the area.[12] No single name was commonly used for the neighborhood by the time Columbia University, Teachers College, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and St. Luke's Hospital started construction. Two names eventually gained the most use; "Morningside Heights" was preferred by the two colleges, while "Cathedral Heights" was preferred by St. John's and St. Luke's. After about 1898, "Morningside Heights" became the most generally accepted, although the diocese at St. John's continued to call the neighborhood Cathedral Heights well into the 20th century. The term "Morningside" came from the park on the east flank of the plateau, which was lit up by the rising sun and which was called "Morning Side Park" in 1870 when the city parks commissioner recommended a survey of the land.[10]

The area, c. 1926

Many apartment buildings and rowhouses, amongst the first to use elevators in residential buildings, were built for New York's prosperous middle class in the first two decades of the twentieth century and most of these buildings are still extant.[10] By the mid-20th century the increasing prevalence of Single Room Occupancy (S.R.O.) hotels led to attendant socioeconomic problems and a decline in the neighborhood. Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities presented the neighborhood as a key example of the failure of the urban planning techniques of the era.

In 1947 David Rockefeller became involved in a major middle-income housing development when he was elected as chairman of Morningside Heights Inc. by fourteen major institutions that were based in the area, including Columbia University. In 1951 the organization developed Morningside Gardens, a six-building apartment complex to house middle-income families from all ethnic backgrounds. Morningside Gardens, an experimental co-op project, opened in 1957 between 123rd and LaSalle Streets, Broadway, and Amsterdam Avenue.

The social problems in the area prompted Columbia to purchase much of the neighborhood's real estate, leading to accusations of forced eviction and gentrification. This process reached its nadir in 1968, when protests erupted in both the neighborhood and on Columbia's campus over the university's proposal to build a gym in Morningside Park. Residents alleged that the park's proposed separate entrance for Harlem residents on the lower level of the park was segregated, and that public park space was being annexed by a wealthy private institution. The university was eventually forced to abandon the plan. However, Columbia University has still expanded its presence in the neighborhood markedly over the last few decades, and gentrification and urban renewal have proceeded apace. In January 2008 the university received approval from the City Council to expand significantly in nearby Manhattanville.

In the last decade, some businesses in the area have started using the name SoHa (or "South of Harlem") to refer to the neighborhood, as seen in the names of Max's SoHa restaurant and the former SoHa nightclub in Morningside Heights.[12][13]

Sites of interest[edit]

The label Academic Acropolis has been used to describe the area, since it sits on a high natural point in Manhattan and contains numerous academic institutions.[14] Much of the neighborhood is the campus of Columbia University, and the university also owns a large amount of the non-campus real estate. Other educational institutions in the neighborhood include Barnard College, Union Theological Seminary, New York Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Manhattan School of Music, Teachers College, Bank Street College of Education, St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School, The School at Columbia University, Bank Street School for Children, The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine, and for the younger residents, Columbia Greenhouse nursery school.[15] NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies is also located in the neighborhood, directly above Tom's Restaurant in a building owned by Columbia University.

Non-academic landmarks in Morningside Heights include the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Grant's Tomb, Riverside Church, Interchurch Center, Corpus Christi Church, International House, and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center. Community Food and Juice, an eco-conscious restaurant that serves American food and uses only cage-free eggs, organic flour, wild fish, and grass-fed beef, is located at 2893 Broadway between West 112th and 113th Streets.[4][16][17][18]

In popular culture[edit]

The real Tom's Restaurant, which appeared in Seinfeld

Tom's Restaurant, on Broadway at 112th Street, was featured in the 1980s song "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega, an alumna of Barnard College. Later, exterior shots were used on the television sitcom Seinfeld as a stand-in for the diner hangout of the show's principal characters.

Further north, the West End Bar served especially as a meeting place for writers of the Beat Generation in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as for student activists prior to, during, and after the Columbia University protests of 1968. The bar's jazz room was run by jazz historian and DJ Phil Schaap for 17 years. In the late 2000s, the establishment was absorbed into a Cuban restaurant chain, Havana Central, and became known as Havana Central at the West End.


Broadway at dusk

The area is served by the New York City Subway at the Cathedral Parkway – 110th Street and 116th Street – Columbia University stations of the New York City Subway's IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line (1 train). New York City Bus service includes the M4, M5, M11, M60 SBS, and M100 routes.


The neighborhood is divided between the 69th and 70th Assembly Districts, with the 69th represented by Democrat Daniel O'Donnell and the 70th represented by Democrat Keith L.T. Wright, in the State Assembly.[19][20] In the State Senate, the neighborhood is split between the 30th District, represented by Democrat Bill Perkins, and the 31st District, represented by Democrat Adriano Espaillat.[21][22]

In Congress, the neighborhood was part of the district represented by Jerrold Nadler until 2002 redistricting moved it into Charles Rangel's Harlem-based district. The 2012 redistricting process moved the bulk of Morningside Heights into the new 10th Congressional District, largely represented by Nadler.[23]

Notable residents[edit]

Many people have resided in the area while attending or teaching at Columbia University. Several, however, have had significant engagements with the neighborhood itself:

Other notable residents include:[26]

  • Singer-songwriter Fiona Apple was a resident of the Morningside Gardens housing development. Apple was one of multiple professional African-Americans who have lived in that co-op project, built in 1957, in order to maintain roots with the black community of Harlem.
  • George Gershwin began composing his Rhapsody in Blue while living at 501 West 110th Street in Morningside Heights.
  • Film director Cecil B. De Mille lived on 114th Street.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald lived at 200 Claremont Ave. while working in advertising and writing This Side of Paradise.[27]
  • Comedian George Carlin grew up on West 121st Street; the block of 121st Street where he lived was dedicated to him in October 2014.[28] In the comedy piece "White Harlem", which appears on his Occupation: Foole album, he said that younger residents would refer to the neighborhood as "White Harlem" as that name would likely be considered an intimidating locale by outsiders and give inhabitants thereof greater respect from outsiders. This term is heard in "Brooklyn Without Limits", a 2010 episode of the comedy 30 Rock.
  • Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, lived in Morningside Gardens. The Thurgood Marshall Room in 80 LaSalle Street is named after him.[29]
  • Herb Pardes, CEO of New York Presbyterian Hospital, lives on the known to live in the Columbia University campus in Morningside Heights.



  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (1995). The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300055366. 
  3. ^ Nishanth Gopinathan. "Morningside Heights, Manhattan New York City". 
  4. ^ a b Adam Shepard (November 11, 2007). "The Dish: Five Guys, Lunetta, Community Food, ilili, Mason Dixon, Blue Ribbon Sushi". Eater NY. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ "No Longer Majority Black, Harlem Is in Transition"New York Times, January 5, 2010
  6. ^ "District Profiles - New York City Department of City Planning". 
  7. ^ "Upper West Side - New York City Neighborhood - NYC". 
  8. ^ "Morningside Heights, Manhattan, Real Estate Buying Guide". 
  9. ^ "Neighborhood Profile" – New York City Real Estate
  10. ^ a b c Dolkart, Andrew S. (1998). Morningside Heights: A History of its Architecture and Development. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07850-1. 
  11. ^ "The 1776 Battle of Harlem Heights Was Fought at Modern Day Columbia University". Untapped Cities. 
  12. ^ a b Leslie Albrecht (1 May 2012). "From Bloomingdale to SoHa: One UWS Neighborhood's Quest for a Name". DNA Info. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Nina Siegal (31 October 1999). "Suddenly Hot: Uptown Has Its SoHa". New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Morningside Heights, (unaffiliated with
  15. ^ "Columbia Greenhouse Nursery School". 
  16. ^ Paul Adams (December 26, 2007). "Pillar of the Community". The New York Sun. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  17. ^ Moskin, Julia (January 30, 2008). "Dining Briefs; Community Food and Juice". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  18. ^ Lane, Randall (December 27, 2007). "Mermaid Inn and Community Food & Juice". Time Out New York. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  19. ^ New York State Assembly - Member Section. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  20. ^ "New York State Assembly - Keith L.T. Wright". 
  21. ^ District 30 | New York State Senate. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  22. ^ District 31 | New York State Senate. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  23. ^ New congressional districts shape Rangel race, moving Columbia out of district | Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  24. ^ Remnick, David (2010). The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4000-4360-6. 
  25. ^ Smith, Elizabeth A. (June 7, 2010). "Bragging Rights: President Obama Studied Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  26. ^ "Morningside Heights: Famous Residents". 
  27. ^ "A Fitzgerald Chronology, University of South Carolina ..Fitzgerald, February 1919". Retrieved 2014-06-11. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Famous Morningside Heights Residents (At One Time Or Another)". Retrieved 2012-10-25. 


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