Marble Hill is the northernmost neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is the only Manhattan neighborhood on the mainland of North America. Marble Hill was occupied as a Dutch colonial settlement in 1646, and gained its current name in 1891 because of marble deposits underneath the neighborhood.
Politically a part of Manhattan and New York County, Marble Hill became an island in the Harlem River when it was separated from the island of Manhattan by the construction of the Harlem Ship Canal in 1895. In 1914, the Harlem River was filled in on the north side of Marble Hill, connecting it to the North American mainland and the Bronx. Because of this change in geography, Marble Hill is often associated with the Bronx and is part of two of the latter's Community Board Districts.
Marble Hill has been occupied since the Dutch colonial period. On August 18, 1646, Governor Willem Kieft, the Dutch Director of New Netherland, signed a land grant to Mattius Jansen van Keulan and Huyck Aertsen. This grant had comprised the whole of the present community. Johannes Verveelen petitioned the Harlem authorities to move his ferry from what is now the East River and 125th Street to Spuyten Duyvil Creek because the creek was shallow enough to wade across, thus providing a means of evading the toll. The ferry charter was granted in 1667. Many settlers circumvented the toll for the ferry by crossing the creek from northern Marble Hill to modern Kingsbridge, Bronx, a point where it was feasible to wade or swim through the waters. In 1669 Verveelen transplanted his ferry to the northern tip of Marble Hill, at today's Broadway and West 231st Street.
Two bridges connected Marble Hill with the mainland: the King's Bridge and the Dyckman Free Bridge. In 1693 Frederick Philipse, a Dutch nobleman who had sworn allegiance to the Crown upon the British takeover of Dutch New Netherlands, built the King's Bridge at Marble Hill near what is now West 230th Street in the Bronx. Originally a merchant in New Amsterdam, Philipse had purchased vast landholdings in what was then Westchester County. Granted the title Lord of Philipse Manor, he established a plantation and provisioning depot for his shipping business upriver on the Hudson in present-day Sleepy Hollow. His toll bridge provided access and opened his land to settlement. Later, it carried the Boston Post Road.
In 1758, the Free Bridge was erected by Jacob Dyckman and Benjamin Palmer. It opened on January 1, 1759. Its purpose was to serve the farmers who refused to pay the toll. Stagecoach service was later established across the span. The new bridge proceeded to take much of the traffic away from the King's Bridge.
One of the local visiting spots during this period was a tavern operated by the Dyckman family. They had a tavern called the Black Horse Inn, located just south of McGowan's Pass in what is now East Drive of Central Park, near 102nd Street. The Dyckmans sold the Black Horse to finance a new operation on the west side of Broadway and 226th Street that was to be managed by Benjamin Palmer, who owned property on City Island. It was situated to cater to the traffic from both bridges. In 1772 the Dyckmans sold the tavern to Caleb Hyatt and was known by the new owner’s name as Hyatt’s Tavern at the Free Bridge.
When hostilities broke out at the start of the American Revolution, the Continental Army constructed a fort on Marble Hill as part of a series of forts to defend the area. By November 1776, the fort had been taken over by Hessian forces and renamed Fort Prince Charles in honor of Charles, Duke of Brunswick, brother-in-law to George III. Despite contrary beliefs, the King's Bridge and the Dyckman Free Bridge served as escape routes for the retreating American forces after the Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776. The latter of these bridges was destroyed during the war. In January 1777, an American attack was made in the Marble Hill area against the Hessian occupiers. This particular raid was under the command of General William Heath, which, when the cannons opened up, forced the Hessians to retreat from the tavern to the fort to return fire.
Hyatt's Tavern remained in the Hyatt family until 1807, when it was leased to James Devoe. The building was eventually razed, succeeded by the Kingsbridge Hotel on the east side of Broadway at 226th Street. The hotel had a mansard roof and a central turret. It catered to the anglers and sportsman who came to the area either by the Hudson River Railroad Company or boat service up the Harlem River. One of the meals served at the hotel was turtle dinner, which became a favorite of the guests. The hotel’s business declined when Broadway was widened and interest was lost in the community. The hotel eventually fell into disrepair and was torn down in 1917.
In 1817, Curtis and John Bolton purchased land in the area, laying a road called Bolton Road. Their home was on the south side of the community and had a mill located 350 East of Broadway, which is on property now owned by Metro-North. The Boltons were related to Reginald Bolton, a noted historian of northern Manhattan.
The name of Marble Hill was conceived when Darius C. Crosby came up with the name in 1891 from the 100-to-500-foot-deep (30 to 152 m) deposits of dolomite marble underlying it, a relatively soft rock that crops out in Inwood and Marble Hill, known as Inwood marble. The marble was quarried for the federal buildings in lower Manhattan when New York was the capital of the United States in the 1780s.
Saint Stephen’s United Methodist Church, a community fixture since its 1898 construction, is located at 228th Street and Marble Hill Avenue. It is the third structure of the same name, as well as one of the oldest remaining buildings in Marble Hill. The congregation was founded on Mosholu Parkway in 1826 and was incorporated a decade later, making it one of the earliest religious institutions in the area. It moved to another structure in Riverdale in 1876. The church building was restored in the 1950s, and again in 2010. One of its corners, the one closest to the intersection, has a tall bell tower. There are circular stained glass windows facing both streets. Inside is an Akron Plan-inspired setup with balconies and an auditorium that is laid out like an amphitheater. One of the pastors of St. Stephen's was Reverend William Tieck, who served the church from 1946 to 1977. Tieck was the official Bronx County historian from 1989 to 1996, authoring several books about the Bronx.
After an increase in ship traffic in the 1890s, the United States Army Corps of Engineers determined that a wide canal was needed for a shipping route between the Hudson and Harlem rivers. Such a canal had been proposed since the early 19th century. In the 1810s, a narrow canal had been dug through the south end of Marble Hill at approximately 222nd Street, known as "Boltons' Canal" or "Dyckman Canal".
Construction of such a waterway, the Harlem River Ship Channel, finally started in January 1888. The canal was to be 400 feet (120 m) in width and had a depth of 15 feet (4.6 m) to 18 feet (5.5 m). It would be cut directly through the rock of Dyckman's Meadow, making a straight course to the Hudson River.
The first section of the canal, the cut at Marble Hill, was completed in 1895 and opened on June 17 of that year. Several festivities including parades were held to commemorate the occasion. This rendered Marble Hill an island bounded by the canal to the south and the original course of the Harlem River to the north. The Greater New York Charter of 1897 designated Marble Hill as part of the Borough of Manhattan.
Effective January 1, 1914, by an act of the New York State Legislature Bronx County was created, but Marble Hill remained as part of New York County. Later in 1914, the old river was filled in with 51 acres (21 ha) of landfill, physically connecting Marble Hill to the Bronx and the rest of the North American mainland. Both the King's and Dyckman Free Bridges have now been covered over with landfill. At 210 West 230th Street on the southwest corner of Broadway and 230th is a plaque designating the area as the site of the King's Bridge. The site of the Dyckman Free Bridge is located on the grounds of today's Marble Hill Houses.
Six-story apartment houses were constructed in the 20th century, and in the early 1950s urban renewal came to the area. A complex was built bounded by Broadway, Exterior Street and 225th Street and was called the Marble Hill Houses. This property was acquired by New York City on August 26, 1948. The houses were completed in 1952. Part of the acquisition became the Marble Hill Playground, which is located on Marble Hill Avenue between 228th and 230th Streets. Despite the name, only seven of the 11 towers are actually in Marble Hill; the other four are in Kingsbridge.
Out of Marble Hill's 4,000 households, only 135 lived in private houses as of 1995[update], down from 138 such households in 1989. The majority of Marble Hill's 9,481 residents (as of the 2010 United States Census) live in the Marble Hill Houses. There are also Art Deco apartment buildings lining some streets. These buildings even boast one pedestrian alley, Marble Hill Lane, in a manner similar to in Inwood and surrounding Bronx neighborhoods.
Private residences in Marble Hill include detached single- and two-story houses. It is not uncommon to see a detached house next to a multilevel apartment building in Marble Hill. The neighborhood is described as cozy, with neighbors watching out for one another, and a sense of "community spirit." The blocks of Marble Hill with these single-story houses were described as a "well-kept secret": relatively cheap, with ample space and a backyard. One reporter wrote of these houses, "Where else in Manhattan can you find a six-bedroom, three-story house on a quiet, tree-lined street with an attic, a basement, an enclosed front porch and a pretty facade for sale for $174,000? Or a three-family house with six bedrooms on an architecturally magnificent street with an asking price of $295,000?"
Many of the neighborhood's streets were named for Dutch settlers to Marble Hill. For instance, Teunissen Place, a dead-end alley off Terrace View Avenue to the neighborhood's west, is named after Tobias Teunissen, a wool washer from Leyden, Holland, who came to the area in 1636. He applied for and received a land grant to live in Inwood near 213th Street. Occasionally he had worked on the De La Montagne farm, which was located in what is now the Harlem section of Manhattan.:98 Teunissen was killed in an Indian raid in 1655, and his wife and child were held hostage until they were ransomed by the Dutch authorities. The Dyckmans and the Nagles, who owned land in Inwood, purchased the Teunissen property in 1677.:356
Adrian Avenue is named after Adriaen van der Donck, an early lawyer in New Amsterdam. With permission, he bought a strip of land from local Native American tribes in 1646. This land stretched from Spuyten Duyvil to present-day Yonkers along the Hudson coastline.
Van Corlear Place, which comprises half of a U-shaped street curving around Marble Hill, has detached one- and two-family homes in addition to a few brick townhouses. It was named after Anthony Van Corlaer, a messenger of New Amsterdam Governor-General Peter Stuyvesant who was sent to the mainland Bronx for backup soldiers following reports of attempts by British forces to seize New Amsterdam. In Washington Irving's book A History of New York, van Corlear is said to have drowned while crossing Spuyten Duyvil Creek. The street's name is misspelled.
Jacobus Place, the other half of the U-shape that includes Van Corlear Place, has both a large brick apartment building and freestanding private houses with diverse designs. It is named after Jacob (Jacobus) Dyckman, the owner of the Dyckman Tavern and a sponsor of the Dyckman Free Bridge.
Fort Charles Place remains as a token of the Hessian-named Fort Prince Charles, noted above.
The River Plaza, a shopping mall located on 40 West 225th Street between Broadway and Exterior Street and overlooking the Harlem River, opened in August 2004. It is the commercial center for Marble Hill. It cost $90 million and has a floor area of 235,000 square feet (21,800 m2). Its original anchors were Target, Marshalls, and Applebee's. The mall, which has an open-air format in which the passageways between stores are outdoors, has a 640-space parking lot on the roof. In 2002, before construction, developers purchased adjacent land from six owners, with the largest building on these lots being a deteriorating, 3 1⁄2-floor, 326,000 square feet (30,300 m2) warehouse owned by NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital. Since the building could not be renovated cheaply enough, it was demolished. The mall was built on a foundation of soft soil and a shallow water table, so builders had to place 1,500 concrete-capped steel piles into the soil. The finished building was designed to retain views of landmarks like the George Washington Bridge and the Empire State Building. The mall's exterior details are reminiscent of the skyline of New York City.
John F. Kennedy High School was built in the former riverbed on the western side of Marble Hill, and was opened in September 1972. Beginning in fall 2002, smaller high schools were established within the campus. Due to poor academic performance in the 2000s, as well as a series of violent crimes at the school (including the murder of a student), the New York City Department of Education made a decision in fall 2010 to close the school, phasing out one grade per year until 2014. It closed down in 2014, and six smaller, specialty high schools now occupy its campus: four public, two charter. Four of these schools were founded in 2002, while the other two were established in 2011 after the decision was made to close John F. Kennedy High School.
Nearby private schools include Horace Mann School, Riverdale Country School, and Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Nearby parochial schools are Good Shepherd, located in Inwood, and St. John's and Visitation, located in Kingsbridge.
The Marble Hill Nursery School, in the Marble Hill Houses, is privately operated with some funding with the city.
In 1905–1906, the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad built the Marble Hill station as a replacement for the former Kingsbridge Station used by an affiliate known as the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad. The station was relocated from the east side of Broadway to the west side in the late-1970s and is now served by the Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line, which provides commuter railroad service to Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan, locations in the Bronx, and points north. The station is at the bottom of a substantial cliff.
The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) extended their Broadway–Seventh Avenue line, now part of the New York City Subway, from 145th Street to 242nd Street in 1906. As part of the construction, the IRT built a station at 225th Street. That station is currently served by the 1 train.
The United States Census Bureau defines Marble Hill as Census Tract 309 of New York County. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 8,463 on a land area of 0.3065 km² (0.1183 sq mi, 75.7 acres). Because Marble Hill is legally part of Manhattan, residents who serve on jury duty go to the courthouses at Foley Square in lower Manhattan. Marble Hill is represented by the offices of City Council District 10 Manhattan as well as elected officials in both Manhattan and the Bronx. Bronx Community Board 8 oversees the day-to-day operations of Marble Hill.
On March 11, 1939, as a publicity stunt, Bronx Borough President James J. Lyons planted the Bronx County flag on the rocky promontory at 225th Street and Jacobus Place. Lyons proclaimed Marble Hill as a part of the Bronx and demanded the subservience of its residents to that borough, saying it was "The Bronx Sudetenland," referring to Hitler’s 1938 annexation of a region of Czechoslovakia. The incident was met with boos and nose-thumbing by 50 residents of Marble Hill. Since then, more lighthearted "annexations" have occurred.
Residents of the neighborhood wished to remain residents of Manhattan, and petitions and signatures were gathered to be sent to Governor Herbert H. Lehman to ensure that Marble Hill remain part of Manhattan. In 1984, in response to one Marble Hill resident's refusal to serve on jury duty for a murder case in Manhattan that year, the matter was settled when the New York Legislature passed legislation declaring the neighborhood part of Manhattan. The confusion was so great that when New York City Councilman Guillermo Linares was elected as Marble Hill's representative in 1991, he originally thought the neighborhood was part of the Bronx.
Marble Hill residents remain part of a political district that includes the northernmost areas of Manhattan (Washington Heights and Inwood), but city services – for example, the fire and police departments – come from and are located in the Bronx for reasons of convenience and safety, since the only road connection to the rest of Manhattan is a lift bridge, the Broadway Bridge. However, medical services are provided from Manhattan Island, and medical vehicles come from Columbia University's Allen Pavilion, also known as the Allen Hospital, a satellite facility of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
The United States Postal Service assigned Marble Hill and Spuyten Duyvil the ZIP code 10463 – the "104" prefix is used for Bronx localities, while "100" through "102" are reserved for Manhattan addresses[a] – although mail can be addressed to either "New York, New York" using the USPS designator for Manhattan, or to "Bronx, New York" as long as the ZIP code is accurate.
In 1984, area code 718 was created out of area code 212 for the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island; in 1992, the Bronx and Marble Hill were added. Marble Hill residents fought to retain the more prestigious 212 area code but lost. This was mainly because New York Telephone persuaded officials that, since Marble Hill's trunk line is wired into the Bronx's line, it would have cost too much to rewire it. Marble Hill, unlike the rest of Manhattan, is in area code 718 (now also served by three overlay codes: 347 and 929 for the outer boroughs, and 917 for the entire city), but residents are listed in both Bronx and Manhattan telephone books.
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