Morningside Park

Location: W 110 St to W 123 St, Manhattan Ave to Morningside Ave, New York, NY 10026

With its convenient location in the heart of Northern Manhattan, only a few blocks from Columbia University, Riverside Park, St. Nicholas Park, the Apollo Theater, and the northern tip of Central Park, Morningside Park NYC is a narrow strip that stretches 13 blocks through the neighborhoods of Harlem and Morningside Heights. Morningside Park New York blends dramatic landscaping with the pleasures of a community park. Built on a steep incline, multiple playgrounds nestle at the bottom of its cliff-like hillside, and visitors pause along its heights to take in a unique view. Winding paths bordered with flowers and trees lead to a cascading waterfall, across from which local teams play on its baseball fields. On Saturdays local farmers sell their goods in an outdoor market.

Morningside New York is named for the sunny eastern side of the cliff that separates Morningside Heights from Harlem. It is one of four designated Historic Harlem Parks. The others are Marcus Garvey, St. Nicholas and Jackie Robinson Parks.

In 1867, Andrew Haswell Green, Commissioner and Comptroller of Central Park, recommended that a park is located in Morningside Heights. He argued that it would be "very expensive" and "very inconvenient" to extend the Manhattan street grid over the area’s severe topography. Landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (co-designers of Central and Prospect Parks) submitted a proposal for the park in 1873 but it was rejected!  Fourteen years after their original proposal was rejected, Olmsted and Vaux were hired in 1887 to continue improvements to Morningside Park. They enhanced the park’s natural elements by planting vegetation tolerant of the dry, rocky environment. Two paths—one broad, one meandering—traversed the lower portion of the park. Retained as a consultant, Vaux saw the work to completion in 1895, the year he drowned in Gravesend Bay. Parks Superintendent Samuel Parsons Jr. wrote of Vaux’s work, ". . .perhaps Morningside Park was the most consummate piece of art that he had ever created."

The park’s design continued to evolve in the 20th century. Monuments installed in and around the park included Lafayette and Washington (1900) by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the Carl Schurz Memorial (1913) by Karl Bitter and Henry Bacon, and the Seligman (Bear and Faun) Fountain (1914) by Edgar Walter. Between the 1930s and the 1950s playgrounds, basketball courts, and softball diamonds were constructed in the east and south parts of Morningside Park.

In 1968 student and community protests halted construction of a large gymnasium in the park intended for the use of Columbia University and the public. The excavated foundation crater was converted into an ornamental pond and waterfall in 1989-90 as part of a $5 million capital reconstruction of the park from 110th to 114th Streets. The project also included installing new play equipment, creating a picnic area, planting new trees, and rebuilding the ballfields.

If you’d like to visit Morningside Park, just hop on our Uptown and Harlem tour and hop off at Stop #22 Morningside Heights. It’s a short walk from there.

 

This page was edited by Steven Thomas