The Upper West Side is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, that lies between Central Park and the Hudson River and between West 59th Street and West 125th Street. It encompasses the neighborhood of Morningside Heights.
Like the Upper East Side,
the Upper West Side is an upscale, primarily residential, area, with
many of its residents working in more commercial areas in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.
While these distinctions were never hard-and-fast rules and now mean
little, it has the reputation of being home to New York City's cultural
and artistic workers, while the Upper East Side is traditionally perceived to be home to commercial and business types.
The Upper West Side is bounded on the south by 58th Street, Central Park to the east, and the Hudson River to the west. Its northern boundary is somewhat less obvious. Although it has historically been cited as 110th Street, which fixes the neighborhood alongside Central Park, it is now sometimes considered to be 125th Street, encompassing Morningside Heights.
This reflects demographic shifts in Morningside Heights, as well as the
tendency of real estate brokers to co-opt the tony Upper West Side name
when listing Morningside Heights and Harlem apartments. The area north of West 96th Street and east of Broadway is also identified as Manhattan Valley. The overlapping area west of Amsterdam Avenue to Riverside Park was once known as the Bloomingdale District.
From west to east, the avenues of the Upper West Side are Riverside Drive (12th Avenue), West End Avenue (11th Avenue), Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue (10th Avenue), Columbus Avenue (9th Avenue) and Central Park West
(8th Avenue). The 66-block stretch of Broadway forms the spine of the
neighborhood and runs diagonally, north / south across the avenues at
the south end of the neighborhood and above 72nd Street moves parallel
to the avenues. Broadway enters the neighborhood at its juncture with
Central Park West at Columbus Circle (58th Street), crosses Columbus Ave. at Lincoln Square (65th Street), crosses Amsterdam Ave. at Verdi Square (72nd Street), and then merges with West End at Straus Park (aka Bloomingdale Square, at 107th Street).
Morningside Heights, just west of Harlem, is the site of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Columbia University, Barnard College, Bank Street College of Education, the National Council of Churches, Union Theological Seminary, Manhattan School of Music, Teachers College and Jewish Theological Seminary of America, as well as Grant's Tomb and Riverside Church.
Traditionally the neighborhood ranged from the former village of Harsenville, centered on the old Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) and 65th Street,
west to the railroad yards along the Hudson, then north to 110th
Street, where the ground rises to Morningside Heights. With the building
of Lincoln Center,
its name, though perhaps not the reality, was stretched south to 58th
Street. With the arrival of the corporate headquarters and expensive
condos of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, and the Riverside South apartment complex built by Donald Trump,
the area from 58th Street to 65th Street is increasingly referred to as
Lincoln Square by realtors who acknowledge a different tone and
ambiance than that typically associated with the Upper West Side. This
is a reversion to the neighborhood's historical name.
The long high bluff above useful sandy coves along the North River was little used or traversed by the Lenape people. A combination of the stream valleys, such as that in which 96th Street
runs, and wetlands to the northeast and east, may have protected a
portion of the Upper West Side from the Lenape's controlled burns; lack of periodic ground fires results in a denser understory and more fire-intolerant trees, such as American Beech.
The Dutch applied the name Bloemendaal, Anglicized to "Bloomingdale" or "the Bloomingdale District", to the west side of Manhattan from about 23rd Street up to the Hollow Way (modern 125th Street),
and by the 18th century it contained numerous farms and country
residences of many of the city's well-off, a major parcel of which was
the Apthorp Farm. The main artery of this area was the Bloomingdale Road, which began north of where Broadway and the Bowery Lane (now Fourth Avenue) join (at modern Union Square)
and wended its way northward up to about modern 116th Street in
Morningside Heights, where the road further north was known as the
Kingsbridge Road. Within the confines of the modern-day Upper West Side,
the road passed through areas known as Harsenville, Strycker's Bay, and Bloomingdale Village.
the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Upper West Side-to-be
contained some of colonial New York's most ambitious houses, spaced
along Bloomingdale Road. It became increasingly infilled
with smaller, more suburban villas in the first half of the nineteenth
century, and in the middle of the century, parts had become decidedly
Much of the riverfront of the Upper West Side was a shipping, transportation, and manufacturing corridor. The Hudson River Railroad line right-of-way
was granted in the late 1830s to connect New York City to Albany, and
soon ran along the riverbank. One major non-industrial development, the
creation of the Central Park in the 1850s and 60s caused many squatters
to move their shacks into the UWS. Parts of the neighborhood became a
ragtag collection of squatters' housing, boarding houses, and rowdy
As this development occurred, the old name of
Bloomingdale Road was being chopped away and the name Broadway was
progressively applied further northward to include what had been lower
Bloomingdale Road. In 1868, the city began straightening and grading the
section of the Bloomingdale Road from Harsenville north, and it became
known as "The Boulevard". It retained that name until the end of the
century, when the name Broadway finally supplanted it.
Development of the neighborhood lagged even while Central Park was being laid out in the 1860s and 70s, then was stymied by the Panic of 1873.
Things turned around when the elevated train's rapid transit was
extended up Ninth Avenue (renamed Columbus Avenue in 1890), and with Columbia University's relocation to Morningside Heights in the 1890s, using lands once held by the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum.
The Upper West Side experienced a building boom from 1885 to 1910,
thanks in large part to the 1904 opening of the city's first subway
line, the IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line, with subway stations at 59th, 66th, 72nd, 79th, 86th, 91st, 96th, 103rd, 110th, 116th and Manhattan (now 125th) streets. This followed upon the opening of the now demolished IRT Ninth Avenue Line – the city's first elevated railway – which opened in the decade following the American Civil War.
Riverside Park was conceived in 1866 and formally approved by the state legislature through the efforts of city parks commissioner Andrew Haswell Green.
The first segment of park was acquired through condemnation in 1872,
and construction soon began following a design created by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed the adjacent, gracefully curving Riverside Drive. In 1937, under the administration of commissioner Robert Moses, 132 acres (0.53 km2)
of land were added to the park, primarily by creating a promenade that
covered the tracks of the Hudson River Railroad. Moses, working with
landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke also added playgrounds, and distinctive stonework and the 79th Street Boat Basin, but also cut pedestrians off from direct access to most of the riverfront by building the Henry Hudson Parkway by the river's edge. According to Robert Caro's book, The Power Broker
on Moses, Riverside Park was designed with most of the amenities
located in predominately white neighborhoods, with the neighborhoods
closer to Harlem getting shorter shrift. Riverside Park, like Central
Park, has undergone a revival late in the 20th century, largely through
the efforts of The Riverside Park Fund, a citizen's group. Largely through their efforts and the support of the city, much of the park has been improved. The Hudson River Greenway
along the river-edge of the park is a popular route for pedestrians and
bicycle commuters, and offers spectacular vistas. A dramatic
improvement is the $15.7 million "Riverwalk" extension to the park's
greenway constructed between 83rd and 91st Streets on a promenade in the
river itself, completed in May 2010.
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