When some people think of Manhattan, they think of Times Square or Central Park or the Theater District or the Financial District or some other popular spot. But near the very top of Manhattan Island is a beautiful little neighborhood called Hudson Heights.
Hudson Heights, also called Fort Tryon and Fort George, is the northernmost part of Washington Heights, a long stretch of the city between 155th Street and about 190th Street, bound by the Harlem River on the east and the Hudson River on the west. As you can see from the map below, the east side of Manhattan disappears above 142nd Street, as the Harlem River veers west in its quest to join up with the Hudson.
I live on the Upper East Side (bottom red X). As the crow flies, Hudson Heights is about 6 miles northwest (top red X). But if I walk across Central Park and catch the A train on Central Park West, I can be there in about 35 minutes.
Upper Manhattan has two gorgeous parks. Fort Tryon Park, which starts at 190th Street, is 67 acres and houses a branch of the Metropolitan Museum called the Cloisters, a building reconstructed from five French cloisters, exhibiting 3,000 medieval European artworks. Inwood Hill Park, at almost 200 acres, sits between 200th and 218th Street, making it the northernmost park in Manhattan. It has caves which were used by the Lenape Indians through the 17th century. It also contains the largest original forested land on the island and one of the only salt marshes. Both are high above the Hudson River with beautiful views in all directions.
In fact, the topography in Hudson Heights is so stark that the neighborhood is divided into The Hill and The Valley. Here we are on Bennett Avenue in the valley, looking up toward the hill. Look at the support under those apartment buildings!
If you want to get to the top of the hill, let’s hope you have a car, because if not, up the stairs you go. The highest natural point in Manhattan, 265 feet above sea level, is near the top of these stairs.
What’s not to love about the hill? Who wouldn’t like a spot perched on the river, looking at the beautiful George Washington Bridge?
Hudson Heights is a fairly new name for the area; it was once called Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson for its dense population of Germans and Austrians. Many of the buildings are Art Deco, completely preserved, with dramatic lobbies and original details.
Here’s where I’d like to live, hovering above the Hudson River, in this picturesque series of 1920s-era apartment buildings with their beautiful lead paned windows and Tudor design. So charming.
What’s not to love about a front entryway like this?
Just a few blocks further north is the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. In keeping with the rest of the area, it’s built on many levels, with stairs running up and down in all directions. I ate my lunch here, overlooking the water.
The Cloisters is a short walk away in the northern end of the Park. The building is peeking through the trees.
Everyone you walk, there seems to be another level. It’s like a big three-dimensional puzzle. Notice the street lamp high above the pathway.
This is the Henry Hudson Parkway, the highway that hugs Manhattan along the river. The structure on the right supports the overlook of the park built upon it. It’s possible to get all the way down to the water, but I don’t know where the path is.
A final view, looking south towards the Bridge. Just around the bend is the rest of Manhattan.
I love it up here. It feels so different from the rest of the city, with the wind blowing off the water, the beautiful old buildings and the dense trees creating a buffer between the land and the river. But if I hop on the super-speedy A train, in 20 minutes I’m smack on 59th Street and Central Park West, in the thick of things again. The best of both worlds.