by David Ellis
Broadway is the oldest main thoroughfare running North/South in New York City. So put on a pair of good walking shoes and start exploring every block of this treasured street.
That’s right. Broadway, while running north-south like most Avenues, is actually a Street. Originally the Wickquasgeck Trail created by the Native American population living on this island, Broadway runs 13 miles through Manhattan. Starting at the southern most tip of Manhattan at Bowling Green and going through Manhattan and the Bronx, it ends just past Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County. When Broadway crosses an avenue in Manhattan, there is a square at the crossing. Some of these squares are quite famous: Union Square (Park Ave & Broadway), Harold Square (6th Ave & Broadway) and, of course, Times Square (7th Ave & Broadway).
While traveling Broadway from Sleepy Hollow to Bowling Green would be quite the feat, I’m going to concentrate on the northern portion of Broadway in Manhattan. To begin your exploration, start at the Marble Hill/225th Street subway station in the Bronx. You can walk across the Broadway Bridge over the Harlem River and find yourself at the northern most point of Manhattan in the area of Inwood. If you cross the bridge on the north side you will see Inwood Hill Park, the last wild forests in Manhattan.
Continuing down Broadway, you will pass West 207th Street and see in the distance the tower of The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, surrounded by the lush greenery of Fort Tryon Park.
There are plenty of places to grab breakfast or coffee in Inwood. Or you can stop at Piper’s Kilt (4946 Broadway) for brunch. But be careful of their unlimited drinks — you might forget the rest of your trip!
After your respite, you will cross West 181st Street and enter Washington Heights. If you wish to take a three-block detour and go to Bennett Park at West 185th Street & Fort Washington Avenue, you will see a plaque marking Manhattan's highest natural elevation: a remarkable 265’ above sea level. This park was the location of Fort Washington, the Revolutionary War camp of — you guessed it — General George Washington and his troops.
Back again on Broadway at West 179th Street, you will pass under the George Washington Bridge. This bridge has the greatest vehicular capacity of any bridge in the world, carrying approximately 106 million vehicles per year, making it the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge. While we avoid the traffic by staying on our route, we will pass through the heart of Columbia Medical Center and all of the associated buildings.
A few blocks later at the corner of Broadway and West 155th Street, you will enter Hamilton Heights and see The Church of The Intercession. This beautiful church dates back to 1847. You’ll pop in to the church to gaze at the stained glass windows and return for one of the “Jazz at the Crypt” evenings. Directly across the street is the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, where you can pay your respects at the final resting place of Ralph Waldo Ellison (Invisible Man), Clement C. Moore (A Visit from Saint Nicholas better known as Twas the Night Before Christmas) and former New York City Mayor, “Hizzoner,” Ed Koch.
Stepping back into daylight at West139th Street, you may want to stop for lunch at Picante Bar & Lounge (3424 Broadway) for some authentic Mexican cuisine. They have a small wonderful outdoor street seating and the food, including the freshly made corn tortillas, is amazing.
Walking at a slightly slower pace now that you’ve filled your belly, you’ll enter Morningside Heights. At West 122nd Street you will be on the campus of Columbia University. You’re now at the site of the oldest higher learning institution in state of New York, and fifth oldest in the United States. The University’s doors opened in 1754 and after several moves, landed in its current location in 1897. Take some time to admire the campus. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, modeled the university buildings after those of the Italian Renaissance. The campus now extends down to West 112th Street, but continues to grow with new construction at West 125th Street and Broadway.
Just south of the Columbia campus is the official border of the Upper West Side at Broadway and West 110th Street. Congratulations! You’ve now traveled 5.8 miles of Broadway. And while I highly recommend you continue the rest of the way down Broadway, my tour ends here. You’ll just have to stop by our office at West 113th Street and Frederick Douglass Blvd and let me know what Broadway sights to include in the next blog.