On May 24, 1626, according to legend, Peter Minuit, the director general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, bought the island from the Lenape Indians for 60 Dutch guilders and, the story goes, some trinkets. On the southern tip of the island Minuit founded New Amsterdam. A plaque (on a rock) marking what is believed to be the spot of the sale is in Inwood Hill Park, the only natural forest left in Manhattan.
During the British occupation of Manhattan in the American Revolutionary War, there was an encampment containing more than sixty huts occupied by Hessian troops between 201st and 204th streets along Payson Avenue. The camp was discovered in 1914 by local archeologist and historian Reginald Bolton after a series of digs around the neighborhood.
Inwood was a very rural section of Manhattan well into the early 20th century. Once the IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line, the modern 1 train, reached Inwood in 1906, speculative developers constructed numerous apartment buildings on the east side of Broadway. Construction continued into the 1930s, when the IND Eighth Avenue Line, the modern A train, reached Dyckman and 207th Streets along Broadway and the large estates west of Broadway (Seaman, Dyckman, Isham, etc.) were sold off and developed. Many of Inwood’s impressive Art Deco apartment buildings were constructed during this period. The area around Dyckman Street and 10th Avenue formerly contained a stadium called the Dyckman Oval, with a capacity of 4,500 spectators, which hosted football games, boxing matches, and Negro League baseball games until it was replaced by public housing in the 1950s.
The residents of Inwood were substantially of Irish descent for much of the 20th century. The neighborhood exhibited a strong Irish identity with many Irish shops, pubs, and even a Gaelic football field in Inwood Hill Park. The second largest group during this time was the Jewish population (an extension of the large Jewish population of Washington Heights).However, in the 1960s-1980s, many Irish and Jewish residents moved out of Inwood to the other boroughs and the suburbs (Riverdale) in a pattern consistent with overall trends in the city at that time. During the same period that the Irish were leaving Inwood, there was a dramatic rise in the number of immigrants from the Dominican Republic to the area.
Today, Inwood has a predominantly Dominican population in the areas east of Broadway. Hispanic residents make up 74 percent of Inwood’s population, as a whole, according to census data. A few Irish remain in the blocks near the Church of the Good Shepherd at Isham Street, though even its Mass services are now offered in Spanish nearly as often as in English. The YMHA remains, but the former synagogues have now been converted to churches and other uses.
Institutions and landmarks
Most visitors get their first glimpse of the neighborhood when visiting the area’s best known cultural attraction, The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. This branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is devoted to Medieval art and culture, and is located in a medieval-style building, portions of which were purchased in Europe, brought to the United States, and reassembled. Whether the museum itself is actually located in Inwood depends on one’s definition of the neighborhood boundaries but its tower dominates the skyline of the area and the museum can be easily accessed via steep pathways leading up from Dyckman Street.
From Inwood Hill Park, one can view a 100-foot (30 m)-tall Columbia “C” painted on the face of a rock outcropping across the Harlem River on the Bronx shore. This collegiate logo has been in place for approximately a half-century, though it is not clear who exactly maintains the painted letter in the present day. Looking west from Inwood Hill Park across the Hudson River, one can view the New Jersey Palisades. Looking east from Inwood, the former NYU campus in University Heights, Bronx, now Bronx Community College, towers above the east end of the University Heights Bridge.
The local hospital in Inwood is the Allen Hospital, a satellite facility of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
The oldest building in Inwood is the Dyckman House, the oldest farmhouse in Manhattan, on Broadway at 204th Street.
A farmers’ market takes place on Isham Street on Saturdays, year-round.
Bridges spanning Spuyten Duyvil Creek include the Henry Hudson Bridge, the longest fixed arch bridge in the world when built in 1936, and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a railroad swing bridge reconstructed numerous times since originally opening in 1849. Road bridges are the Broadway Bridge and the University Heights Bridge, both important local structures.
The Seaman-Drake Arch, located on Broadway near 216th Street, is one of only two free-standing arches in New York City. It was built in 1855 of local Inwood marble.
Inwood is very large in area for a Manhattan neighborhood, and its real estate rents and values are sharply bifurcated between east and west. According to the US Census, the districts east of Broadway are predominantly lower-income. This area is also more industrial and commercial and has fewer parks and street trees. Real estate values and rents are correspondingly lower than the area west of Broadway. Almost all of Inwood’s co-ops and all of the private houses are located on the west side of Broadway.
Inwood Hill Park, on the Hudson River, is a largely wooded flagship city park. It is known for its caves that were used by the Lenape before Europeans arrived, and the last salt marsh in Manhattan. Birdwatchers come to the Park to see waterbirds, raptors, and a wide variety of migratory birds. The wooded section, consisting mostly of abandoned former summer estates, features the last natural forest standing on Manhattan Island. A busy ballfield complex, tennis courts, three playgrounds, a waterfront promenade and extensive hiking trails are also prominent components of the Park.
Columbia University’s 23-acre (93,000 m2) athletic fields have been located in Inwood since the 1920s. They are known today as the Baker Athletics Complex, though locals still use the historical name of “Baker Field”. The football stadium within the complex, officially Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, can accommodate 17,000 fans and was noted by Sports Illustrated as “one of the most beautiful places in the country to watch a football game” due to the scenic views of the Henry Hudson Bridge and the New Jersey Palisades from the home stands.In January 2014, a new one-acre park called Muscota Marsh opened to the public between Inwood Hill Park and Baker Field as part of an agreement with the city for the development of the Campbell Athletic Center at West 218th Street and Broadway. This waterfront park was built by Columbia and is jointly administered by the city parks department and the university.
Other parks in or adjoining Inwood are Isham Park, Sherman Creek Park (Swindler Cove), Fort Washington Park, Fort Tryon Park, and Highbridge Park. The Lt. William Tighe Triangle, aka the Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden (RING), is the northernmost piece of Ft. Tryon Park and lies at the confluence of Riverside Drive, Dyckman Street, Broadway, and Seaman Avenue. It is Inwood’s oldest community garden, having been founded in 1984. Bruce’s Garden is another notable community garden, located in the northeast corner of Isham Park.