Posts Tagged ‘Washington Heights’

The saint entombed in Washington Heights

January 23, 2010

Born in Italy in 1850, Frances Xavier Cabrini arrived in New York City in 1889, along with thousands of other European immigrants.

But instead of seeking a more prosperous life for herself in America, she came to New York to launch schools, orphanages, and hospitals for the poor—particularly in the impoverished Italian neighborhoods springing up all over the city.

By 1896, she had opened a school on the Lower East Side, an orphanage upstate, and Columbus Hospital in the East 20s. (It eventually morphed into Cabrini Medical Center, which closed in 2008.)

She even became a U.S. citizen in 1909 and lived for a time in Washington Heights.

Her death in 1917 was followed by beatification in 1938. Pope Pius XII then canonized her in 1946 and made her the patron saint of immigrants. 

Now, she’s back in Upper Manhattan.

Her body—well, actually a wax replica of it, according to The New York Times—has been on display in a glass box at a shrine at Mother Cabrini High School on Fort Washington Avenue for decades.

Vintage store signs: faded and falling apart

December 2, 2009

Some of the letters in this Gertel’s sign don’t look like they light up, yet that’s okay. Seeing the words “bakery” and “luncheon” one on top of the other in that old-time font more than makes up for it.

Luncheon: This old-school word is disappearing fast from the New York vocabulary.

Gertel’s home had been Hester Street since 1914. They relocated near Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill in 2008, taking the iconic sign with them.

I have no idea how long G&M Variety Discounts House has been on Broadway in Washington Heights. But judging from the shape of the sign, I’d say since the 1960s.

Manhattan’s other Washington Bridge

July 6, 2009

It predates the George Washington Bridge by 43 years and has a simple beauty all its own.

Still, the tiny Washington Bridge—connecting 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights to University Avenue in the Bronx—is like a neglected kid brother to the enormous and iconic GWB.


This is the Washington Bridge circa 1907. The Harlem River looks like a country brook. The “Speedway” referred to in the postcard was the Harlem River Speedway, a three-mile road for racing horses and carriages. It eventually became today’s Harlem River Drive.

Here’s another view of the Speedway.

A Yorkville memorial for Lou Gehrig

April 20, 2009

Yankee great Lou Gehrig was born in Yorkville on June 19, 1903. But exactly where isn’t clear.

lougehrigplaqueAccording to this plaque put up in 1990 by the New York Yankees organization, his first home—probably a typical city tenement building—was at or about 309 East 94th Street. Located there now is a branch of Mount Sinai Medical Center. 

But other sources identify Gehrig’s childhood home at 1994 Second Avenue, near 103rd Street.

Apparently there was a plaque set up in memory of the Iron Horse here too, but the business that occupied the site, a garden store, moved out, and no plaque remains.


Wherever he spent his early years, Gehrig is definitely a son of New York City. He and his German immigrant parents moved to Washington Heights when he was a boy; Gehrig later attended Commerce High School, on the Upper West Side.

Then he was off to Columbia—where his mother happened to work as a cook in a fraternity house—to play football and baseball.

That’s where a couple of Yankee scouts discovered him, and the rest is baseball history.