Morningside Heights, Manhattan

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Coordinates: 40°48′37″N 73°57′24″W / 40.8102°N 73.9566°W / 40.8102; -73.9566

"Morningside Heights" redirects here. For the Toronto neighborhood, see Morningside Heights, Toronto. For other uses, see Morningside (disambiguation).
Residential buildings on West 116th Street opposite Columbia University
Broadway at dusk
From the Hudson River

Morningside Heights is a neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, on the border of the Upper West Side and west Harlem. It is usually described as being on the Upper West Side,[1][2][3] but has also been described as part of "Greater Harlem"[4] because of a disputed claim that the Upper West Side goes no farther north than 110th Street.[5][6][7] Morningside Heights is bounded by Morningside Park at Morningside Drive to the east, Manhattanville and Harlem at 125th Street to the north, Manhattan Valley at 110th Street to the south, and Riverside Park at Riverside Drive to the west.[8][9] The main thoroughfare is Broadway.

It is chiefly known as the home of institutions such as Columbia University, Teachers College, Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, Bank Street College of Education, "Grant's Tomb", the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the Riverside Church, the Broadway Presbyterian Church, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Interchurch Center and St. Luke's Hospital. Because of the number of educational institutions in the neighborhood, its nickname is the Academic Acropolis.

The neighborhood is part of the Fifteenth Congressional District of New York, which includes all of Upper Manhattan. Traditionally, Morningside Heights has been heavily Democratic, as has much of the city. The neighborhood's ZIP codes are 10025, 10026, and 10027.


In the 17th century, the land that is now Morningside Heights was known as Vandewater's Heights, named for the landowner.[1] On September 16, 1776, the Battle of Harlem Heights was fought in Morningside Heights, with the most intense fighting occurring in a sloping wheat field that is now the location of Barnard College. A plaque by the Columbia University gate on 117th Street and Broadway commemorates this battle.

Use of the name "Morningside Heights" for the neighborhood arose in the 1890s when development of the area commenced. Although the name "Bloomingdale" was used for the area around the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum – located at the present location of the main campus of Columbia University – other names such as "Morningside Hill" and "Riverside Heights" were used for the area.[10] No single name was commonly used for the neighborhood by the time Columbia University, Teachers College, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and St. Luke's Hospital started construction. Two names eventually gained the most use; "Morningside Heights" was preferred by the two colleges, while "Cathedral Heights" was preferred by St. John's and St. Luke's. After about 1898, "Morningside Heights" became the most generally accepted, although the diocese at St. John's continued to call the neighborhood Cathedral Heights well into the 20th century. The term "Morningside" came from the park on the east flank of the plateau, which was lit up by the rising sun and which was called "Morning Side Park" in 1870 when the city parks commissioner recommended a survey of the land.[9]

Many apartment buildings and rowhouses, amongst the first to use elevators in residential buildings, were built for New York's prosperous middle class in the first two decades of the twentieth century and most of these buildings are still extant.[9] By the mid-20th century the increasing prevalence of Single Room Occupancy (S.R.O.) hotels led to attendant socioeconomic problems and a decline in the neighborhood. Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities presented the neighborhood as a key example of the failure of the urban planning techniques of the era.

In 1947 David Rockefeller became involved in a major middle-income housing development when he was elected as chairman of Morningside Heights Inc. by fourteen major institutions that were based in the area, including Columbia University. In 1951 the organization developed Morningside Gardens, a six-building apartment complex to house middle-income families from all ethnic backgrounds.

The social problems in the area prompted Columbia to purchase much of the neighborhood's real estate, leading to accusations of forced eviction and gentrification. This process reached its nadir in 1968, when protests erupted in both the neighborhood and on Columbia's campus over the university's proposal to build a gym in Morningside Park. Residents alleged that the park's proposed separate entrance for Harlem residents on the lower level of the park was segregated, and that public park space was being annexed by a wealthy private institution. The university was eventually forced to abandon the plan.

However, Columbia University has still expanded its presence in the neighborhood markedly over the last few decades, and gentrification and urban renewal have proceeded apace. In January 2008 the university received approval from the City Council to expand significantly in nearby Manhattanville. In the last decade, some businesses in the area have started using the name SoHa (or "South of Harlem") to refer to the neighborhood,, as seen in the names of Max's SoHa restaurant and the former SoHa nightclub in Morningside Heights.[10][11]


West 121st Street seen from Amsterdam Avenue; Riverside Church is in the background
The real Tom's Restaurant, which appeared in Seinfeld

The label "Academic Acropolis" has been used[by whom?] to describe the area, since it sits on a high natural point in Manhattan and contains numerous academic institutions. Much of the neighborhood is the campus of Columbia University, and the university also owns a large amount of the non-campus real estate. Other educational institutions in the neighborhood include Barnard College, Union Theological Seminary, New York Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Manhattan School of Music, Teachers College, Bank Street College of Education, St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School, The School at Columbia University, Bank Street School for Children, The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine, and for the younger residents, Columbia Greenhouse nursery school.[12] NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies is also located in the neighborhood, directly above Tom's Restaurant in a building owned by Columbia University.

Non-academic landmarks in Morningside Heights include the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Grant's Tomb, Riverside Church, Interchurch Center, Corpus Christi Church, International House, and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Tom's Restaurant, on Broadway at 112th Street, was featured in the 1980s song, "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega, an alumna of Barnard College. Later, exterior shots were used on the television sitcom Seinfeld as a stand-in for the diner hangout of the show's principal characters. Further north, the West End Bar served especially as a meeting place for writers of the Beat Generation in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as for student activists prior to, during, and after the Columbia University protests of 1968. The bar's jazz room was run by jazz historian and DJ Phil Schaap for 17 years. In the late 2000s, the establishment was absorbed into a Cuban restaurant chain, Havana Central, and became known as Havana Central at the West End.

The area is served by the New York City Subway at the Cathedral Parkway – 110th Street and 116th Street – Columbia University stations of the New York City Subway's IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line (1 train). New York City Bus service includes the M4, M5, M11, M60 SBS, and M100 routes.


The neighborhood is divided between the 69th and 70th Assembly Districts, with the 69th represented by Democrat Daniel O'Donnell and the 70th represented by Democrat Keith L.T. Wright, in the State Assembly.[13][14] In the State Senate, the neighborhood is split between the 30th District, represented by Democrat Bill Perkins, and the 31st District, represented by Democrat Adriano Espaillat.[15][16]

In Congress, the neighborhood was part of the district represented by Jerrold Nadler until 2002 redistricting moved it into Charles Rangel's Harlem-based district. The 2012 redistricting process moved the bulk of Morningside Heights into the new 10th Congressional District, largely represented by Nadler.[17]

Notable residents[edit]

Several famous neighborhood residents have lived in Morningside Gardens, an experimental co-op project built in 1957 between 123rd and LaSalle Streets, and Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues. Many professional African-Americans moved to Morningside Gardens to maintain roots with the black community of Harlem and to enjoy the benefits of a safe and integrated community.

Many people have resided in the area while attending or teaching at Columbia University. Several, however, have had significant engagements with the neighborhood itself:

Other notable residents include:



  1. ^ a b Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (1995). The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300055366. 
  2. ^ – "Morningside Heights, Manhattan : NYC Tourist Guide"
  3. ^ Adam Shepard (November 11, 2007). "The Dish: Five Guys, Lunetta, Community Food, ilili, Mason Dixon, Blue Ribbon Sushi". Eater NY. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ "No Longer Majority Black, Harlem Is in Transition"New York Times, January 5, 2010
  5. ^ – "Community District Profiles" – New York City's The Department of City Planning
  6. ^ – New York Magazine Neighborhood Profile: Upper West Side
  7. ^ – Morningside Heights, Manhattan, Real Estate Buying Guide (New York Times)
  8. ^ "Neighborhood Profile" – New York City Real Estate
  9. ^ a b c Dolkart, Andrew S. (1998). Morningside Heights: A History of its Architecture and Development. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07850-1. 
  10. ^ a b Leslie Albrecht (1 May 2012). "From Bloomingdale to SoHa: One UWS Neighborhood's Quest for a Name". DNA Info. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Nina Siegal (31 October 1999). "Suddenly Hot: Uptown Has Its SoHa". New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Columbia Greenhouse, "one of America's oldest nursery schools"
  13. ^ New York State Assembly - Member Section. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  14. ^
  15. ^ District 30 | New York State Senate. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  16. ^ District 31 | New York State Senate. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  17. ^ New congressional districts shape Rangel race, moving Columbia out of district | Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  18. ^ "Famous Morningside Heights Residents (At One Time Or Another)". Retrieved 2012-10-25. 
  19. ^ Remnick, David (2010). The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4000-4360-6. 
  20. ^ Smith, Elizabeth A. (June 7, 2010). "Bragging Rights: President Obama Studied Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  21. ^ "A Fitzgerald Chronology, University of South Carolina ..Fitzgerald, February 1919". Retrieved 2014-06-11. 


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