Posts Tagged ‘Morningside Heights’

Progress made building the “great cathedral”

January 5, 2011

“The great cathedral on Morningside Heights is nearing completion faster than most of us imagine,” states the opening sentence of this New York Times article from November 28, 1909.

Well, not exactly—the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is still unfinished more than a century later.

The cornerstone was laid in 1892, and workers instantly encountered problems.

First, geological snags had to be fixed before the foundation could be poured.

In 1905, controversy erupted when it was discovered that sculptor Gutzon Borglam had created female angels in one of the chapels. Four years later, the Byzantine-Romanesque design was shelved in favor of a Gothic look.

Some of the seven planned chapels were completed, as was the crypt and nave, by the 1930s. Then World War II halted construction, postwar efforts to get things going occurred in fits and starts, and a fire in 2001 destroyed part of the northern end.

But even at only three-fifths complete, it’s still breathtaking and beautiful.

Country-like Morningside Park

December 14, 2009

This circa-1900 postcard captures Morningside Park’s rugged beauty. It’s one of the city’s best-kept secrets.

That wild, gothic St. Luke’s Hospital building high on a bluff makes this look anything like New York today.

Riverside Drive’s Hendrik Hudson apartments

September 23, 2009

From a publication called The World’s New York Apartment House Album comes this sketch and description of a beautiful turn-of-the-century residential building, the Hendrik Hudson.

Spanning the entire block between Riverside Drive and Broadway at 110th Street, the Hendrik Hudson must have been a striking sight when it was completed in 1907. The facade was modeled after an Italian villa and the roof made from Spanish tile, topped by two imposing towers.


As ambitious as the facade was, the 7- to 9-room apartments were also innovative, explains Andrew Alpern’s Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan:

“Walnut paneling, wood-beamed ceilings, mahogany doors with glass knobs, and the latest designs in porcelain bathroom fittings were all used to attract tenants,” writes Alpern. “Also offered was a billiard parlor, a cafe, a barber shop, and a ladies hairdressing salon—all for the exclusive use of the building’s occupants and guests. Rents ranged from $1500 t0 $3000 per year.”

As Morningside Heights became kind of sketchy in the post World War II years, so did the Hendrik Hudson; at some point, one of its towers disappeared. The building went co-op in 1970. It looks like an terrific place to live today.

A beautiful day on the Boulevard

March 7, 2009

Morningside Heights looks like a country village in this 1895 photo, facing south from 114th Street. 


“The Boulevard” referred to the main artery bridging 59th Street to Harlem. Eventually it was absorbed into the northern extension of Broadway; those wide roads and the tree-lined center mall are still recognizable. No more bicyclists riding leisurely though.

Columbia University’s lunatic past

May 5, 2008

They didn’t used to call Morningside Heights “Asylum Hill” for nothing. Before Columbia built its campus on Broadway and 116th Street, the grounds were occupied by the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum. Buell Hall, below, is the only campus building that was originally part of the asylum.

Opened in 1808, the asylum was named for Bloomingdale Road, the old name for this stretch of Broadway. Until the late 1800s, the neighborhood was bucolic and sylvan, and through the years the asylum became somewhat of a tourist attraction. In 1893, it relocated to Westchester, and Columbia, then on Madison Avenue in the 50s, took over, building the campus as we know it today.

Look closely; I love the family of deer hanging out on the asylum grounds.