We’ve profiled the cast from MTV’s upcoming new show Washington Heights, but after seeing the promos it’s apparent that we missed out on the main character: the actual place the show is about! In that vein I thought I’d put together a helpful post to answer the inevitable question everyone watching the show not from New York City will be asking — Where is Washington Heights?
According to Wikipedia, Washington Heights encompasses the following:
Washington Heights is a New York City neighborhood in the northern reaches of the borough of Manhattan. It is named for Fort Washington, a fortification constructed at the highest point on Manhattan island by Continental Army troops during the American Revolutionary War, to defend the area from the British forces. Washington Heights borders Harlem to the South, along 155th street, Inwood to the North along Dyckman Street, the Hudson River to the West and Harlem River to the East.
Washington Heights is on the high ridge in Upper Manhattan that rises steeply north of the narrow valley that carries 125th Street to the former ferry landing on the Hudson River that served the village of Manhattanville. Though the neighborhood was once considered to run as far south as 125th Street, modern usage defines the neighborhood as running north from Hamilton Heights at 155th Street to Inwood, topping out just below Dyckman Street.
Above is a road map view of Washington Heights showing where it is in relation to the rest of New York City and Long Island. Here is an overhead satellite view:
History of Washington Heights:
The Battle of Fort Washington, which occurred on November 16, 1776, saw Fort Washington fall to the British at great cost to the American forces; 130 soldiers were killed or wounded, and an additional 2,700 captured and held as prisoners, many of whom died on prison ships anchored in New York Harbor. The British renamed it “Fort Knyphausen” to honor the German general who had led the successful attack, and held it for the remainder of the war. The progress of the battle is marked by a series of bronze plaques along Broadway.
The series of ridges overlooking the Hudson were sites of villas in the 19th century, including the extensive property of John James Audubon.
In the early 1900s, Irish immigrants moved to Washington Heights. European Jews went to Washington Heights to escape Nazism during the 1930s and the 1940s. During the 1950s and 1960s, many Greeks moved to Washington Heights; the community was referred to as the “Astoria of Manhattan.” By the 1980/90s, the neighborhood became mostly Dominican.
By the 2000s, after years when gangsters ruled a thriving illegal drug trade, urban renewal began. Many Dominicans moved to Morris Heights, University Heights, and other west Bronx neighborhoods. While gentrification is often blamed for rapid changes in the neighborhood, the changes in population also reflect the departure of the dominant nationality. Even though Dominicans still make up 73 percent of the neighborhood, their moves to the Bronx have made room for more Ecuadorians, according to The Latino Data Project of the City University of New York. The proportion of whites in Washington Heights has declined from 18 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2005.
Noted locations in Washington Heights:
The Cloisters, Audobon Terrace, Morris-Jumel Mansion (oldest home in Manhattan, once served as the headquarters for both sides of The American Revolution), Paul Robeson Home (boxer Joe Louis and musician Count Basie both lived here respectively), Audobon Ballroom (the site where Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965), Little Red Lighthouse.
Just a few notable figures who have called Washington Heights home:
Rod Carew – Professional baseball player
Laurence Fishburne – Academy Award nominated actor
Henry Kissinger – Former Secretary of State
Stan Lee – Creator of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk
Here is one more image (1978) of Washington Heights. This is taken from the top of the New Jersey tower of The George Washington Bridge spanning The Hudson River looking east towards Upper Manhattan. The Little Red Lighthouse is identifiable at the base of the bridge — Washington Heights is at the base of the bridge and right: