New Yorkers have several nicknames for Morningside Heights: the "Academic Acropolis," "Bloomingdale Village," or as the late George Carlin (who grew up here) once cynically put it "White Harlem." Stretching from West 106th to 125th Streets, Morningside Heights is primarily known as the home of highly revered institutions such as Barnard College
, Columbia University
, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
, Manhattan School of Music
, St. Luke's Hospital, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
, and Riverside Church
A brief history lesson reveals that this neighborhood was the location of the famous American Revolutionary War skirmish known as the Battle of Harlem Heights, which took place on September 16th, 1776. The battle pitted 2,000 Americans under the command of Generals George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, Israel Putnam against an attacking British division of 5,000 soldiers under the leadership of General Alexander Leslie. Although historians generally agree that the battle did not change the relative position of either army, the very fact that the out-manned Americans held off the invading British troops proved to be moral victory, signifying at a crucial point in the war that the British army was not invincible.
The term Morningside came from the park on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, which each morning was the first area to be lit up by the sun and thus called Morningside Park
by the residents at the time. Riverside Park
, an enormous 266-acre waterfront park maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, was created in 1870's and completed in 1910, with the finishing touches being completed by Robert Moses's "Westside Improvement Project" in the 1930's. While obviously overshadowed by New York's Central Park
, both of these parks are much beloved by New Yorkers and tourists alike, and not to be confused with the brand new 20-story Avalon Morningside apartment complex, which offers stunning views of the whole Morningside neighborhood, Central Park
, the East River and beyond.
At the end of the nineteenth century construction began on both St. John's Cathedral and Columbia University's uptown campus, and the neighborhood, previously farmland, became urbanized over the ensuing decades. Generally understood to be an affluent neighborhood in Manhattan, many of the beautiful apartment buildings and row houses in Morningside Heights were amongst the first to use elevators in residential buildings and were built for New York's prosperous middle class in the first two decades of the twentieth century. During the middle of the century, however, largely due to the increasing numbers of Single Room Occupancy hotels (SROs), the neighborhood experienced socioeconomic troubles and fell for a time into decline, with some residents opting to move to affluent suburbs surrounding New York City. In the meantime the neighborhood has rebounded and reestablished its former grandeur with the significant help of major investments and real estate acquisitions by Columbia University
to the north of its existing campus.
Definitely the most famous restaurant in Morningside Heights is Tom's Restaurant
, featured in the song of the same name by Suzanne Vega. It was also the regular locale where the Seinfeld characters gathered for burgers, fries, and coffee. A more stylish choice located high atop Columbia University's Butler Hall would be Terrace In The Sky
has been the original Upper West penthouse restaurant for 30 years. Panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline coupled with cuisine from executive chef Jason Potanovich make Terrace In The Sky a dining experience not to be missed. On Broadway near 114th street, once the legendary haunt of the Beat Generation poets and activists and a famous Columbia University hangout now has a Cuban theme. After years of languishing as burger-n-beer joint with jazz, Havana Central began spicing things up here. Visitors to the neighborhood might want to drop by Amsterdam 106
. Oldsters knew this place as the Night Café, a Columbia-area dive bar to score drugs and chicks, the new versions tends to be a bit more dignified with an evolving personality.
US Civil War history buffs will be interested to know that Grant's Tomb
is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, situated in a prominent location in Riverside Park with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River.
Given the fact that the neighborhood here is primarily residential, the closest accommodations you find in the nearby vicinity would be Morningside Inn
on West 107th Street, which is housed in a pre war building with the old world charm of that era. The nearby Marrakech Hotel
on the Upper West Side
at Broadway and 103rd Street offers enticing Moroccan style accommodations in one of Manhattan's quieter residential neighborhoods.