New York is one of the most visited and recognizable places on the planet. The Upper West Side, New York’s number one neighborhood, is in many ways the heart of the city. Sandwiched between two majestic parks, the Upper West Side offers a rich blend of architecture, culture, shopping, and entertainment. This article explores 7 less known facts about this stately neighborhood.
#1 A village was put down to make way for Central Park
Way before the brownstones and banks moved in, this neighborhood was an open, ‘barren’ land marked with vegetable gardens, occasional shanties, and huge rock outgrowths. Morningside Heights – currently a separate neighborhood – was once part of the Upper West Side and was a famous rural farm at the time of the revolutionary war.
Between 1825 and 1857, the area was known as Seneca Village. This was a safe, small, enclave of several hundred people that was established by liberated black folks. When construction commenced on Central Park back in the 1850s, the village was brought down and its residents displaced.
#2 Both Beresford and San Remo were sold in the 1940s
The Upper West Side is famous for its elegant, ornate apartment blocks, including the Dakota, the Beresford, Ansonia, San Remo, and El Dorado. Synonymous with luxury and attracting who’s who resident, both the Beresford and San Remo are located on 145 Central Park West. Around the time of the Great Depression, these buildings were not so swanky and even had problems finding steady owners. By 1940, the San Remo and Beresford were sold away in one package for just $25,000. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
#3 Columbia University is located where a former asylum for the insane sat
About 26 acres of land surrounding 116th Street used to host the Bloomingdale Asylum. Open between 1821 and 1892, this was the only insane asylum of its type in the entire state. Various reports seem to claim that the kind of care provided here was indeed questionable. In 1872, a New York Tribune journalist infiltrated the facility and documented serious abuses, including blind men that were beaten by angry keepers. According to the journalist – Julius Chambers – there were also cases of brutal treatment, filthy baths, foul food, and very vulgar attendants. Columbia acquired the real estate in 1982 and utilized some of the existing buildings. Currently, all that still remains of the old facility is Buell Hall, which is the site where wealthy male clients were treated.
#4 A little Tudor village sits on 95th Street
On the west 95th Street, close to West End Avenue is an iron gate that opens into a tiny movie set-like street that is landmarked by Tudor-style homes. There’s also Pomander Walk, a complex built back in 1921 to model a London play stage set. This Tudor village boasts a total of 27 homes and boasts elegant street lamps, flower boxes, and well-manicured shrubbery. Unfortunately, it’s only open to residents, so you’ll need to have a friend there to experience all this drowsy English village awesomeness.
#5 The Dakota is haunted
You probably are going to resist this one, but wait until I present the facts. There are numerous reports that the Dakota – a 132 years old structure – is haunted by a number of spirits. Residents have reported seeing a little blond haired girl, and a young boy in a brown suit. There’s also the ghost of John Lennon, which some residents say they have seen.
#6 Best collection of tulips in all of NYC
You probably have seen one of those huge flower beds in Brooklyn and the New York Botanical Gardens. But the West Side Community Garden, situated on West 89th and 90th Streets, has an outstanding collection of tulips. This privately operated garden is entirely run by volunteers. It used to be an empty lot till the 1970s, and now includes a vegetable garden, an amphitheater, and a flower garden. Every April, this UPW garden hosts the Tulip Festival as thousands of blooming flowers blast the garden with color.
#7 Some of the best NYC movies have been filmed here
Did you watch ‘You’ve Got Mail’? Well, this NYC-centric movie was staged right here in Upper West Side. This New York neighborhood tends to be very photogenic, attracting filmmakers from all over the country. Other notable movies that have been staged here include Black Swan, Ghostbusters, and Michael Douglas’s Fatal Attraction. Even better, these are just but a few of the many movies that highlight Upper West Side’s cinematic appeal.