Historic Upper Manhattan

NYC Historic Upper Manhattan

Upper Manhattan Travel Guide

Upper Manhattan is the northernmost part of the island. Established as farmland during the Dutch period, it is today a suburb without the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan. The most famous museum here is The Cloisters, which is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York City’s Upper Manhattan has historic ties to the American Revolution war for independence. Here are tips for visiting some of the places used during this period.

This area, comprising the neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood, runs from 220th street to 125th street and is bordered by the Hudson, Harlem, and East Rivers. Upper Manhattan becomes much thinner towards the top but has steep cliffs and varying terrain. The population is a mix from an enclave of Jews around Fort Tryon Park where Yeshiva University is as well as Dominicans and young professionals.

Fort Tryon Park & The Cloisters

One of the most beautiful parks in New York and the highest elevation point in Manhattan has dramatic cliffs, old leafy trees, and meandering paths. This area, a strategic lookout point during the war for independence, was once called Fort Washington and there are still remnants of military posts throughout the park. A wonderful terraced Heather Garden is the first thing you’ll see when you enter the park. It’s definitely worth it to walk around because the plants and flowers are beautiful and the view overlooks the Hudson River and New Jersey’s Palisades. The Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is in the middle of this park and is easily reached by a stroll down the paved pathways. Admission is included in the Met price.


Inwood Hill Park

This park is part of the original forest that once covered Manhattan. There are many pathways to hike around and there are numerous free guided walks and tours during the spring and summer.

Trinity Cemetery

For history and architecture buffs the cemetery and surrounding grounds house the remnants of New York’s societal past in Neo-Gothic, Victorian and American Vernacular styles. The land housing the Trinity grounds were used as a part of the battleground during the revolution. After the war, various private parties owned the land and the last private owner was James Audubon. Audubon leased part of his land to the Trinity parish. The cemetery nowadays is the resting place for Audubon among others such as Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

Morris-Jumel Mansion

New York’s oldest house, originally built by British Colonel Roger Morris, was used by General George Washington as his headquarters during the revolution. It changed hands over the years following the war and was eventually restored to its original purpose as a country house by owners Stephen and Eliza Jumel. It is now a museum showcasing period furniture and historical facts about the estate.


Harlem is a residential neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. It was originally a village named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands, and was absorbed into New York City in 1873.

Since the turn of the 20th century, Harlem has become a predominantly African-American neighborhood. This is especially true in the 1920s and 30s. The area experienced a high rate of crime and poverty following the Second World War, when New York City on the whole experienced deindustrialization, as manufacturing jobs moved to other less expensive location. The area has however experienced an upswing following New York City’s revival towards the end of the 20th century, and this has translated in the gentrification of some parts of Harlem.

Harlem covers 3.871 sq mi (10 sq km) and has a population of 216,000 (2011 estimate). The area defined as Harlem is bordered by the Harlem River and East River to the east and the Hudson River to the west. It is south of 155th Street, with Washington Heights to the north. The southern part of Harlem is bordered by Washington Heights (at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), Central Park (at Central Park North), and the Upper East Side (at 96th Street).

Harlem itself comprises East Harlem, Central Harlem and West Harlem, and each of these are subdivided smaller neighborhoods and districts.

Places in East Harlem

East Harlem is located north of Upper East Side. It is also called Spanish Harlem, El Barrio and Italian Harlem. This area has the largest Latino community in New York City. The main group are people of Puerto Rican descent, with substantial populations of Latin Americans and African Americans. It is bordered by the Harlem River to the north, the East River to the east, East 96th Street to the south, and 5th Avenue to the west.

Places in Central Harlem

Central Harlem is bounded by 110th Street, St. Nicholas Avenue, 155th Street and 5th Avenue.

  1. Astor Row
    Semi-attached row houses on the south side of 130th Street, among the first speculative townhouses built in Harlem.
  2. Strivers’ Row
    Neighborhood of three rows of townhouses in western Harlem for upper middle class whites, and constructed between 1891 and 1893.

Places in West Harlem

West Harlem is located north of Upper West Side. It is bordered by St Nicholas Avenue, 123rd Street, the Hudson River and 155th Street.

  1. Hamilton Heights
    Neighborhood between Manhattanville to the south and Washington Heights to the north, and includes Sugar Hill.
  2. Manhattanville
    Neighborhood to the north of Morningside Heights, bounded by the Hudson River, Hamilton Heights and Central Harlem.

Places of Interest to visit in Harlem

  1. Abyssinian Baptist Church
    One of the most famous activist churches in Harlem.
  2. Adam Clayton Powell Jr State Office Building
    High-rise office building named after the first African-American to be elected to Congress from New York.
  3. Apollo Theater
    A famous music hall in Harlem, with almost exclusively Black performers.
  4. Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
    Research center and archive of information on people of African descent worldwide.
  5. Blockhouse
    A small fort on the northern part of Central Park, the oldest structure in the park.
  6. City College of New York
    The oldest of the City University of New York’s 23 institutions of higher learning.
  7. Cotton Club
    Famous night club in Harlem.
  8. Duke Ellington Circle
    Traffic circle to the northeast corner of Central Park.
  9. Dunbar Apartments
    1926 housing project by John D Rockefeller Jr to provide housing for African Americans.
  10. El Museo del Barrio
    Museum showcasing the Latino culture of East Harlem.
  11. Frederick Douglass Circle
    Traffic circle on the northwest corner of Central Park.
  12. Graham Court
    Historic apartment block in Harlem commissioned by William Waldorf Astor.
  13. Hamilton Grange National Memorial
    Site preserving the early 19th century home of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the country.
  14. Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts
    Performing arts center in Spanish Harlem.
  15. Harlem Children’s Zone
    Non-profit organization to help poverty-stricken children and families in Harlem.
  16. Harlem Hospital Center
    Teaching hospital in Harlem.
  17. Harlem School of the Arts (HSA)
    Art school for students of all ages.
  18. Harlem YMCA
    Notable YMCA and landmark in Harlem.
  19. Hotel Theresa
    Hotel built in 1913 that was a center of black life in Harlem.
  20. James Bailey House
    Castle-like house at 10 St Nicholas Place, built in 1886-88 for James Bailey of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
  21. Jumel Terrace Historic District
    A row of 49 residential houses built between 1882 and 1909. It includes the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
  22. La Marqueta
    Marketplace under the Metro North railway tracks.
  23. Langston Hughes House
    Italianate style house built in 1869.
  24. Lenox Lounge
    Bar founded in 1939 on Lenox Avenue in Harlem.
  25. Manhattan Avenue-West 120th-123rd Streets Historic District
    District with 113 historic rowhouses built between 1886 and 1893.
  26. Mink Building
    5-story red brick structure in the German-American style built in 1905.
  27. Minton’s Playhouse
    Jazz club on the first floor of the Cecil Hotel founded by Henry Minton in 1938.
  28. Morningside Park
    30-acre (12 hectare) public park at the border between Harlem and Morningside Heights.
  29. Morris-Jumel Mansion
    Built in 1765, this is the oldest house in Manhattan.
  30. Mount Morris Park Historic District
    16-block district in east central Harlem with houses built in the late 19th and early 20th century.
  31. Museum of the City of New York
    Art gallery and history museum showcasing paintings, drawings, and other items related to New York City.
  32. New York College of Podiatric Medicine
    The first podiatric medical school in the United States.
  33. Riverside Drive Viaduct
    Viaduct built in 1900 in Harlem.
  34. Rucker Park
    Basketball court in Harlem that has produced many NBA players.
  35. Savoy Ballroom
    Medium-sized ballroom and popular dance venue in Harlem.
  36. St. Nicholas Historic District
    District comprising 130 buildings designed in 1891 in Harlem.
  37. Studio Museum in Harlem
    An American contemporary art museum, the first devoted to the art of African-Americans.
  38. Sylvia’s Restaurant of Harlem
    Also called Sylvia’s Soul Food, this is a soul food restaurant founded in 1962 by Sylvia Woods.
  39. West 147th-149th Streets Historic District
    District with 60 historic buildings including a school and a stable, built between 1894 and 1905.

Getting there

  • Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters: take the A train to 190th.
  • Inwood Hill Park: Take the A train to 207th.
  • Trinity Cemetery: Take the 1 train to 155th.
  • Morris-Jumel Mansion: Take the C train to 163rd.

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