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The Early History of Morningside Heights

The Early History of Morningside Heights

To the Dutch settlers in the 1700s, the area that we now call Morningside Heights was known as Vandewater Heights–named for land owner Harmon Vandewater. Like much of early New York City, the land was covered in greenery and rural calm. Making it stand out from the rest of the city, Morningside Heights lies on an elevated plateau between 110th to 122d Streets. The area now borders two of the city’s parks.

While mostly calm in the early days of settlement, Morningside Heights did have one violent encounter during the American Revolution. In the fall of 1776, the Battle of Harlem Heights occurred between American and British forces. The fighting primarily took place on what now serves as Barnard College.

Much more familiar with its history, Morningside Heights is known for its buildings and learning rather than violence. Joining Barnard in the community is Columbia (founded in 1754) and Columbia’s Teachers College. In fact, the grouping makes up the highest concentration of historic institutions of higher learning than any other American neighborhood. More institutions would join throughout the later stages of the city’s growth that we will discuss in a later post.

Joining the growing education hub would be several types of exquisite architecture which has helped cement the area as one of the city’s most beautifully designed.