Facts

Upper West Side New York

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.

Bracketed by Central Park and Riverside Park, Upper West Side is a leafy residential Manhattan neighborhood. It is characterized by twin-towered apartment buildings and often depicted on movies and TV shows. Upper West Side is the neighborhood where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan lived in You’ve Got Mail. It’s common to see families pushing strollers or walking dogs here. Upper West Side also has a deep sense of culture. There’s the American Museum of Natural History, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Beacon Theatre, as well as numerous eateries, shopping and nightlife opportunities.

Landmarks in Upper West Side

If you are an architecture buff, the Upper West Side has no shortage of landmarks. The Eldorado, Majestic, San Remo, and Century Apartments that were built in the 1930s all dot the landmark here. Other apartment complexes include the Ansonia, the Dakota, the Apthorp and Beresford. From elegant row houses to neoclassical monuments of worship and museum, the Upper West Side boasts incredible architectural riches.

Entertainment spots

The Upper West Side is a highbrow entertainment hotspot. The Lincoln Center (16.3-acre complex) hosts the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and at least 8 other performing arts organizations. Visitors here can relax by the fountain on the campus’s extensive plaza before or after each show. Along Broadway stands the Beacon Theatre. This is an art deco music hall that first opened its doors in 1929. One of the area’s foremost landmarks, Beacon Theatre has hosted legends such as Michael Jackson, Allman Brothers, and the Rolling Stones. Close by in uptown is the Symphony Space, where several theatres showcase dance, music, comedy, readings, screenings, drama, and more. Whether you’re looking for an electrifying jazz session or a vibrant literary salon, the Upper West Side has got a lot to offer.

Brunch locations

The Upper West Side neighborhood has numerous brunch spots to complete its homey, residential feel. Feeling very hungry? Grab generous portions of popular menu items at the Good Enough to Eat joint on Columbus Avenue. There are waffles stuffed with bacon, sharp cheddar, and many other options to lift your spirits. If you’d like to get a real feel of Manhattan, head to Sarabeth’s. This is an upscale, green-awning classic that specializes in fun twists. Other mentionable brunch spots include the Caffe Storico, which is located inside the New York Historical Society. Barney Greengrass and Zabar’s are both excellent places to grab the classic New York morning meal – bagels and lox!

Upscale dining opportunities

The Upper West Side is a well-acknowledged upscale dining center. There’s a long list on the menu if you are looking for an awesome place to sit down for a lovely dinner. Tessa and RedFarm are among the most favorite picks in the area. The Leopard at des Artistes and Bar Boulud are two more places that need no introduction. Jean Georges is one of the top-rated French restaurants in the world. Tom Valenti’s Ouest has red leather booths where you can relax as you sip a martini. Farm-fresh dishes are also available here. The Fish Tag is a renowned Mediterranean seafood spot, while the Time Warner Center hosts acclaimed restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Per Se, and A Voce Landmarc. Indeed, there’s not enough space on this page to explore all of Upper West Side’s finest dining spots.

Vibrant nightlife

Upper West Side has plenty of nightlife for your adventurous side. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center serves live jazz every night and offers fantastic soul food and drinks. Another great place to enjoy jazz while you eat is Cleopatra’s Needle – located at 92nd Street along Broadway. Their mostly Middle Eastern menu is very popular. At The Dead Poet, cocktails are named after authors, so you can gulp down Robert Frost or Edgar Allan Poe. If you’re looking for an open-air bar, there’s no better place to be than the Boat Basin Café.

Shopping

Some of the busiest commercial shopping strips in Upper West Side include Broadway, Columbus Avenue, and Amsterdam Avenue. Zabar’s – located on Broadway – opened its doors back in 1934 as a counter for smoked fish. Today – it’s a major spot where folks stop for bagels, coffee, knishes, homemade soups, and fish. Across the street at Westsider Rare and Used Books is a haven for bookworms. Here, you can find some very rare selections. Knitty City is the place to be if you need tools to complete any type of project. Across the American Museum of National History is the 79th Street Greenmarket, where you can stock up a week’s worth of fresh produce.

Recreation

The Upper West Side is one of the city’s best green spaces. Its literary sandwiched between stunning waterfront views and green spaces. Riverside Park sprinkles in some green along the Trump-constructed condos that loom overhead. It’s one of many extended parks and paths along the Hudson River that go all the way downtown. All this scenic stretch is calibrated by running and biking paths, playgrounds, tennis courts, cafes, public art, and baseball fields. In warmer months, the Manhattan Community Boathouse offers free kayaking tips from the 72nd Street Pier. New York’s most popular park, Central Park, run’s alongside Upper West Side’s eastern boundary. Central Park offers immense recreational opportunities, from the 55-acre Great Lawn to the Shakespeare Garden and Strawberry Fields.