Hudson Heights, Manhattan
Hudson Heights is a residential neighborhood with an abundance of apartment buildings and towers, located within the Washington Heights area of Upper Manhattan, New York City. Many of the buildings are cooperatives, and most were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. The Art Deco style is prominent, along with Tudor Revival. Notable complexes include Hudson View Gardens and Castle Village.
As its name implies, the neighborhood is located on a high area overlooking the Hudson River. It includes the highest natural point in Manhattan, located in Bennett Park. At 265 feet (81 m) above sea level, it is a few dozen feet lower than the torch on the Statue of Liberty.
- 1 Boundaries and geography
- 2 History
- 3 Demographics and real estate
- 4 Culture, food and shopping
- 5 Religion
- 6 Education
- 7 Hospitals
- 8 Transportation
- 9 Notable residents
- 10 In popular culture
- 11 Gallery
- 12 References
Boundaries and geography
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 high 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. The ridge the neighborhood sits on overlooks the river to the west and the Broadway valley to the east.
Using the more restrictive boundaries, the neighborhood's main north-south thoroughfares are Fort Washington Avenue (two-way), Pinehurst Avenue (one way south) and Cabrini Boulevard (formerly Northern Avenue, one way north). Riverside Drive runs intermittently along the bottom of the ridge to the west, while Bennett Avenue and Overlook Terrace do the same on the east, with Overlook Avenue climbing to the top of the ridge at West 190th Street. The east-west streets are all numbered, from West 181st Street to West 190th Street, but none of those streets, with the exception of West 181st at the southern end of the ridge, cross all the way through the neighborhood: they are all interrupted at one point or another, which makes navigation of the area difficult for those not familiar with its peculiarities.
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 move 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 did not 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 and 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 used by Gourmet magazine in its September 2007 article about dining in Washington Heights, and by The New Yorker in May 2016 about a concert in The Cloisters.
Demographics and real estate
The 2010 census determined that the population of the neighborhood, using the larger definition of its boundaries, south to West 173rd Street, to be 29,000, with 44% being non-Hispanic whites, and 43% Hispanic.
In 2012, the average co-op in the neighborhood sold for $388,000, while in 2013 the average price was $397,000. In 2012 166 were sold, while 244 were sold in 2013. Rents were around $1,400 per month for a studio apartment, $1,700-$2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, and around $3,000 for a two-bedroom; prices were higher if the apartments for sublets in a co-op building.
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 tallest 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.
Culture, food and shopping
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. In its September 2007 issue, Gourmet described the Dominican restaurants in Washington Heights and Inwood, including many in Hudson Heights.
Hudson Heights is among the neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan that participate in The Art Stroll, an annual festival of the arts which highlights 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 east 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.
Many small shops are located on West 181st Street at the southern end of the neighborhood, and all along Broadway. In the middle of the neighborhood itself, there is a small shopping area at West 187th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue.
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 Roman Catholic patron saint of immigrants, Mother Francesca Saverio Cabrini, is entombed at her shrine near the northern end of Fort Washington Avenue. 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.
For grades Kindergarten through 8, Hudson Heights is zoned to the New York City Department of Education's P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs; it has about 770 students. In 2013, 43% of the school's third grade students met state standards in English, as opposed to 28% in the entire city.
Private schools in the general area, including nearby Inwood, 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.
The neighborhood has no local hospitals. The former St. Elizabeth's Hospital at 689 Fort Washington Avenue at West 190th Street has now been converted into cooperative apartments. The nearest hospitals are Allen Hospital at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, and Columbia University Medical Center at West 169th Street, both part of the New York-Presbyterian system.
Both of the subway entrances in Hudson Heights are notable. The entrance to the 190th Street station (providing A trains service) on Fort Washington Avenue at West 193rd Street is the only New York City Subway entrance in the Gothic style; although when originally built, it was a plain brick building: the stone facade was added later to bring the building into harmony with the entrance to Fort Tryon Park just across Margaraet Corbin Circle. The station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The station also has the distinction of being one of the deepest in the entire subway system by distance to ground level. The 184th Street entrance of the 181st Street station (providing A trains service) also stands out among entrances to the city's subway stations.
Both of the stations provide elevator connections between Hudson Heights, on the top of the ridge, and the Broadway valley of Washington Heights below. The 190th Street station elevators lead to the entrance at Bennett Avenue north of West 193rd Street, and the 184th Street elevators go to Overlook Terrace and 184th Street. When originally built, fare control for both of these entrances were in the station house, outside the elevators, which meant that they could only be used by paying a subway fare, but both have had fare control moved down to the mezzanine level, making the elevators free for neighborhood residents to use, and providing easier pedestrian connection between Hudson Heights and the rest of Washington Heights.
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 station has been undergoing a renovation and is expected to re-open in the summer of 2015. Over 100,000 square feet of new shops will be included in the updated station.
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.
The primary north/south streets in Hudson Heights are:
- Fort Washington Avenue – named after Fort Washington, the last fortified position of the Continental Army in New York before the city was taken over by the British in the American Revolutionary War.
- Pinehurst Avenue – named after "Pinehurst", the estate of C. P. Bucking
- Cabrini Boulevard – formerly "Northern Avenue", the street was renamed in 1938 for Mother Cabrini, who was later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
- Overlook Terrace – which runs at the bottom of the ridge from West 190th to 184th Street, was named for the view at the top of the street, before it descends
- Bennett Avenue – which runs at the bottom of the ridge east of Overlook Terrace from Nagle Avenue to West 181st Street. It was named after James Gordon Bennett, Sr., who founded the New York Herald newspaper. His name is also enshrined on Bennett Park in the heart of the neighborhood.
Other named streets in the neighborhood include:
- Chittenden Avenue – named in 1911 after Lucius Chittendon, the owner of the land between West 185th to 198th Streets. The street runs from West 186th to 187th Street, just west of Cabrini Boulevard. since the Henry Hudson Parkway runs almost directly below it, there are no buildings on the west side of the street, which therefore provides good views of the George Washington Bridge and the Hudson Palisades.
- Magaw Place – named after Col. Robert Magaw, a lawyer from Philadelphia who commanded the American forces in Fort Washington during the Battle of Fort Washington. The street runs for two blocks from West 181st to 183rd Streets, east of Fort Washington Avenue and west of Bennett Avenue.
- Margaret Corbin Circle and Margaret Corbin Drive – The circle is outside the main entrance to Fort Tryon Park, while the drive runs from there through the park to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Both are named after Margaret Corbin, a heroine of the American Revolution who took her husband's place in a cannon crew after he was killed.
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 began performances 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.
The Fort Tryon Park Cottage is a remnant of one of the estates which abounded in the area
The National Shrine dedicated to Mother Cabrini
Nine flights of stairs connect Overlook Terrace and Fort Washington Avenue at West 187th Street
The 181st Street subway entrance between West 183rd and 185th Streets provides elevators which lead to...
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