A tribute to Inwood Hill Park, the location of Manhattan’s last natural forest

The weather is finally going to be beautiful in the New York City region this weekend. May we suggest a trip to one of our absolute favorite places in the city?

Inwood Hill Park is quite possibly New York City’s most underappreciated treasure, a series of breathtaking postcards come to life, where earth, foliage, and water return Manhattan to “Mannahatta.”

Made a park in 1916, its woods are the opposite of southern Central Park, naturally wild and rugged, as if no European had ever crossed this forested landscape. Who knows what ancient secrets lurk along the banks of Spuyten Duyvil Creek or cling to the anchors of the Henry Hudson Bridge?

Nearly 400 years ago, in 1626, next to a tulip tree here, Peter Minuit, the director-general of New Amsterdam, reportedly purchased the island from the Lenape for a grand total of 60 guilders. While that’s generally considered a steal on an island where today a guilder couldn’t buy you a hot dog, it’s not clear that either party understood the arrangement. (The Lenape were not encumbered by the European concept of “ownership.”) Today you can find the location of the old tulip tree near a boulder named Shorakkopoch Rock.

If the legends are true, then the journey to old New York actually starts here.

The famed tulip tree (looking pretty healthy in 1929) where reportedly the sale of Manhattan was transacted. It was destroyed in a storm in 1938. The excellent website My Inwood had further information.

MCNY
NYC Parks Department

A map of Inwood Hill Park from 1955, indicating old property lots and the location of tracks and bridges on the Hudson River side.

New York Public Library

Several homes and institutions within the area predated the construction of the park around it. They were all demolished although one can wander the heights of Inwood Hill Park and imagine where they might have been. These images from the Museum of the City of New York date from 1925.

MCNY
MCNY
MCNY

The Henry Hudson Bridge in 1937. It opened the previous year (1936). “When it opened, it was the longest plate girder arch and fixed arch bridge in the world.” [source]

Irving Underhill/Museum of the City of New York

The C-Rock (for Columbia University) was known as a popular diving spot.

 

A ‘glacial pothole’ — sometimes called a giant’s kettle — also exists in the park. See if you can find it!

 

Believe it or not, the park is also situated on a seismic fault line called the Dyckman Street Fault. There have actually been minor earthquakes in the area, the last one in 1989.

 

If you’re headed to Inwood Hill Park this spring, make a pitstop at our favorite place on the edge of the park — Indian Road Cafe. They have monthly Inwood history nights (Lost Inwood) which are always fascinating.

 

The article is an expanded excerpt from our book The Bowery Boys Adventures In Old New York, now available at bookstores everywhere.

Top photo courtesy NYC Parks