Washington Heights’ lovely little country lanes

When you think of New York neighborhoods with lots of mews and alleys, the West Village and Brooklyn Heights probably come to mind.

But Washington Heights on the Harlem border has its share of tiny lanes as well. Two small streets in the 160s feature old-style lampposts, Belgian block paving stones, and pre-20th century residences. They make the area feel more like a time-warped country village than an urban center.


Sylvan Terrace (above), up a flight of stairs from St. Nicholas Avenue, is a two-sided stretch of 20 wooden row houses flanking a once-private lane. The three-story houses were built in 1882 and restored in the 1980s.


At the end of Sylvan Terrace is Jumel Terrace. Spanning 160th-162nd Streets, this quiet, leafy road is the home of the Morris-Jumel Mansion (above), the oldest house in the borough. Built in 1765 on high ground with views of Manhattan, it served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War.

The city purchased the mansion in 1903 and restored it as a museum. Up until the late 1800s, this part of Harlem was still pretty rural.

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10 Responses to “Washington Heights’ lovely little country lanes”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Wow, Sylvan Terrace is beautiful, looks like something European or at least shows us a NY we never knew we had. I can just image cobbled streets with a horse and carriage going by, clip clop, clip clop…

  2. Blue Says:

    This is going to get me out of midtown next time I’m in the city. The nineteenth century remnants of New York are the most interesting to me – especially in low cloud when the newer buildings disappear and what is left suddenly takes on a different and historical aspect. Thank you.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    My photos don’t do these little lanes justice. You really have to see them and, as Mick says, imagine the horses and carriages clop-clopping by. The surrounding blocks are also beautiful. A true time warp. You’ll want to move there. I do!

  4. Jill Says:

    There are definitely parts of upper Manhattan that are simply incredible, and with the restoration that’s been going on in Harlem recently it’s gotten even nicer. I always thought Dyckman House was the oldest, but I just checked and it was built in 1784 – another pretty cool place.

  5. petey Says:

    manhattan is a set of villages eaten up by new york. there are still old bits, like these lanes, and henderson place here in yorkville, and the out-of-alignment (because pre-commissioners’ plan) colonial dames building on east 61st street.

  6. Donna Muller Says:

    I read that the mistress of this house, Eliza, who was once married to Aaron Burr, gave an imaginary dinner party one evening for Napoleon’s brother Joseph. Eliza was clearly slipping into some kind of dementia, but didn’t get proper care for it, because this dinner remained set up for more than thirty years in her dining room, food and all, like something from “Great Expectations.” It became well-known in the neighborhood. (My information comes from Stacy Horn, NYC contributor to NPR’s “All Things Considered”).

  7. Is Sylvan Court the tiniest alley in Manhattan? « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Court shouldn’t be confused with Sylvan Terrace—a better-restored mews dozens of blocks […]

  8. Kristen Says:

    I know I’m months late to this party, but I’m a little surprised no one else has pointed out that the northernmost boundary of Harlem is generally accepted as 145th Street. Both these locations are in Washington Heights.

  9. Harry Says:

    This is not Harlem, but Washington Heights.

  10. A founding father’s country home in Harlem | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] These scenic hilltop estates had names like Pinehurst, Minniesland, and Mount Morris (former home of Aaron Burr and his wife and now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion). […]

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