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Manhattanville Valley

About this listing

Site that has witnessed many historic events

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Manhattanville
Open Space, Gathering Place

Place Matters Profile

On The Web

Erik K. Washington's Book "Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem"


Joyce Hackett (Morningside Heights Neighbors)

From the beginning of our nation's history, this stunning topography, which sits between Morningside and Hamilton Heights, catalyzed and defined some of our nation's crucial historic events. It was at this break in the cliffs that Henry Hudson stopped on the beach in 1609 to buy oysters from the Native American residents.

On September 16, 1776, after being chased across Long Island, through Brooklyn, and across Murray Hill, Washington created a geographical stratagem to thwart his British pursuers; after luring them into the Hollow Way, he drove them south up the Hill and won the first American victory in the Revolutionary War in the Battle of Harlem Heights. Manhattanville was recognized as a town in 1806; in the 1811 Commissioner's Plan it is the only village noted on Manhattan's west side. By 1850, the town was so distinguished as a site of summer residences that it was known as the most scenic promontory in Manhattan, and was the first northbound stop of the Hudson River Railroad.

In 1865, Lincoln's funeral train stopped there. Later in the 19th century, this area became a commercial, transportation and manufacturing hub. In the 1890s the piers served as the port for the stone columns that built St. John the Divine; the rail stop functioned as a cattle market for the Hudson Valley cattle entering the city. The Third Avenue railroad tracks, still evident in the cobblestones, reflect its function as the end of the line for the 3rd Avenue RR, the country's wealthiest service railway company, which laid the city's first crosstown line on Manhattan Street (now 125th Street) after the first electric cable car that ran up 10th Avenue proved such a success. With the improved piers and frequent ferry service, it was known at the turn of the century as the "Gateway to Bergen County"; Henry Roth, in his novel "A Diving Rock on the Hudson," writes of the formative elegant ferry rides he took with a professor who became his lover and writing mentor, from the 125th Street pier up to Bear Mountain.

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