The uptown Museum Row no one knows about

It was a visionary idea around 1900: the construction of a majestic cultural complex in the wide-open, breezy space between Riverside Drive and Broadway at 155th Street.

AudubonterracesignAt the time, this area of Upper Manhattan, once part of the estate of artist James Audubon in the 1840s, was being developed into a residential neighborhood.

Builders were putting up apartment houses and flats in what they hoped would be a prime part of the city. Adding a beautiful museum row would enhance the area and give it cultural cache.


So the Beaux Arts-style, granite and limestone structures were built, centered around a brick walkway and sunken courtyard and marked by a wrought-iron gate. Opened in 1904, this uptown museum row was called Audubon Terrace.


The Hispanic Society of America, a museum with Goyas and El Grecos, moved in. So did the American Indian Museum, American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Geographical Society, and the American Numismatic Society.

Audubonrowelcid2This cultural crossroads attracted crowds, at least at first. The problem? As they say, location location location.

Upper Manhattan didn’t pan out as the well-to-do enclave developers had hoped. And it was far out of the loop of the main part of the city.

Decades passed. Three of the original tenants moved out. Only the Hispanic Society museum and the American Academy of Arts and Letters remain. Boricua College, a bilingual institution, has joined them.

Audubon Terrace today feels like a secret. The wide courtyard, ghostly equestrian statue of El Cid, and other monuments to art and culture are devoid of crowds.


The art at the Hispanic Society is fantastic (and free!). It’s an ideal place for walking and looking and dreaming.

[Photos: Second photo, 1919, MCNY; third, 1925 postcard from MCNY]

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10 Responses to “The uptown Museum Row no one knows about”

  1. Keith Goldstein Says:

    I live just down the street from here. It is a great place to visit. The empty spaces are now homes to more contemporary artwork.

  2. me Says:

    I’ve given it a nice write up for my new walking tours book. My daughters like to go to the Hispanic Society once in a while, and my younger one will sketch.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    This area is one of the least-appreciated in the city, The Church of the Intercession and Trinity Church graveyard are right there, along with many grand old apartment buildings. It’s quiet and safe but still has the sketchy rep that kept visitors from the museums decades ago.

  4. Herzog von Otter Says:

    I love the Hispanic Society! What a treasure it is. I believe that it had plans to relocate. Although it takes effort to reach this part of the City, I am happy the Society stayed put.

    I very much want to visit Trinity Cemetery & Mausoleum. I am developing a tour for Green-Wood Cemetery, a National History Landmark in Brooklyn; a visit to Trinity Cemetery could be useful.

    Your posts are wonderful. Thank you so much for drawing our attention to little-known areas, and bygone pieces of the City.

  5. Ricky Says:

    I have been wanting to go there for years to see the El Greco’s and Goya’s but for haven’t quite made it. Thanks for the reminder, now I’m gonna make sure and go.

  6. Cory Says:

    I’d never heard of this either until we went to the Architecture Society’s Beaux Arts Ball at the Academy of Arts & Letters a few years ago and it was a beautiful venue.

  7. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you! You must visit the Hispanic Museum, you’ll have it all to yourself too. And Trinity Cemetery is incredible. It’s certainly not as vast as Green-Wood, but it transports you to another time.

    I’ve never been inside the Academy of Arts & Letters. I’m looking for a reason to go!

  8. Kathleen Brady Says:

    Reblogged this on Present In The City and commented:
    This blog enriches those who love NYC.

  9. snowclones Says:

    Hey, that’s the same El Cid statue that’s in Balboa Park in San Diego. Makes me wonder whether it’s anywhere else.šŸ™‚

  10. The mysterious Star of David on Upper Broadway | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Hispania Hall (perhaps a nod to the Hispanic Society of America museum, which opened a block away in 1908), it was billed as “artistic, comfortable, and […]

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