Primarily a residential neighborhood, Hamilton Heights has a mix of brownstones, walk-ups and older apartment buildings, together with more luxurious apartment and condo buildings situated along Riverside Drive. Known for being a working class neighborhood in the past, now there are many artists, teachers and actors making their homes in Hamilton Heights.
Hamilton Heights has a diverse population that prides itself on being a tight-knit community, one where neighbors know and respect one another, work together on issues that confront the community, support each other in difficult times, and spend time together socializing at block and seasonal parties.
Although there are many types of public transportation available, the area subway stops may require a bit of a walk, so you will need to plan for this time in your commute.
Hamilton Heights has a definite family-oriented vibe, and there are many playgrounds and activities for children. Additionally, you can find child daycare at reasonable prices. Riverbank State Park has many activities and recreational opportunities geared toward children.
Although there are plentiful places to shop for groceries, everything from the bigger national chains to the neighborhood bodegas and delis, they are starting to show the impact of gentrification in the higher prices they are charging, especially for organic products.
Riverbank State Park. This unusual State park was actually built on top of a sewage treatment plant. It was recently renamed Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in honor of a New York State Assemblyman. It is designed to imitate Japanese rooftop parks, and is unique in the Western Hemisphere. It is positioned 69 feet above the Hudson River and comprises 28 acres of indoor and outdoor recreational, athletic and cultural experiences. There are five major buildings which include a skating rink that is used for both roller skating (summer) and ice skating (winter), an Olympic-sized pool, an 800-seat theater that hosts art exhibits and multi-media entertainment, a 2500-seat athletic venue, and a 150-seat restaurant, that boasts a menu featuring Puerto Rican cuisine. Outside, there are multiple tennis, basketball, and handball courts, a softball field, a combination football/soccer field, a 400-meter running track, and both lap and wading pools. Down at the water level, there is a 400-seat amphitheater. There are also playgrounds, picnic areas, and a children’s carousel. Located at 679 Riverside Drive.
Hamilton Grange National Memorial. You will find the Federal style mansion that was originally built on the 32-acre estate that was owned by Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, and the first Secretary of the U. S. Treasury. As the neighborhood has gone through changes, the mansion has been moved twice, finally settling in its current location in St. Nicholas Park, near the City College of New York. The mansion was completed in 1802. Unfortunately, Hamilton only lived there two years, before succumbing to a gunshot wound he sustained in a duel with long-time rival Aaron Burr that took place on July 11, 1804. Hamilton died the next day. Hamilton named the mansion “The Grange,” in tribute to his ancestral estate in Scotland. Despite its moves, the mansion is still located within the confines or Hamilton’s original 32-acre estate in the neighborhood. Hamilton was an avid gardener, and the landscaping around the mansion in its current location closely duplicates Hamilton’s original landscaping, including a circle of 13 sweet gum trees, which Hamilton had planted to honor the 13 colonies that were the foundation of the United States. Located at 414 W 141st Street,
The Little Red Lighthouse. You will find the last remaining lighthouse in Manhattan tucked under the George Washington Bridge. Dwarfed by the imposing presence of the bridge, this 40-foot-tall, bright red lighthouse was originally erected in Sandy Hook, NJ in 1889. It was moved to its current location in 1921 to aid navigation past Jeffrey’s Point on the Hudson River. With the lights of the bridge sufficiently illuminating the area when it was completed in 1931, there was no longer a need for the lighthouse, and it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard and almost removed. The public, however, had other ideas. They raised a great hue and cry in support of keeping the lighthouse intact under the George Washington Bridge. In 1942, a children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, was written by Hildegarde Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward. The book gave the lighthouse a real personality, one that both children and adults could identify with. Based on an outpouring of concern, including letters and money, the Little Red Lighthouse was saved. Located in Fort Washington Park, on Riverside Drive.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion. Was built in 1765, making it the oldest house in Manhattan. Originally, the mansion sat on 135 acres that touched both the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, occupying the space between approximately 140th and 180th Streets. Due to its high vantage point, you could see both Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as the full expanse of New York harbor. In 1776, General George Washington used the mansion as his headquarters during the Battle of Harlem. When Washington left the city, the British and Hessian armies commandeered the property. During the 1880s, the property around the mansion was sold off and townhouses were built almost right up to its doorstep, leaving only two acres surrounding the mansion itself. This area still looks almost exactly the way it did in the 1900s, as the buildings are protected from restoration that doesn’t match the era in which they were built. Located at 65 Jumel Terrace.
What You Might See
Hamilton Heights is a popular area for street vendors selling their wares. You can find some great bargains if you can recognize quality merchandise and are willing to negotiate.
There are two popular Farmers’ Markets that operate in Hamilton Heights from mid-July through the last week in November. On Wednesdays, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., you can visit the Farmers’ Market at 143rd Street and Hamilton Place. The second Farmers’ Market is held on Saturdays, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., at 145th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. Fresh veggies and handmade goods are in plentiful supply at both markets.
What’s In The Future
The impact of gentrification has residents in Hamilton Heights worried. The sense of a tight-knit community, the neighborliness where neighbors know each other and take care of each other, is one of the most valued aspects of living in this area. As the Millennial generation moves into the area in increasing numbers, it is uncertain as to whether they will become involved in the community, taking pride in its diversity, history, and traditions.
Hamilton Heights is an area in transition. There are many new restaurants and bars opening there, but with each such opening, older businesses are closing their doors for good, due to ever-increasing rents. Being a largely middle class neighborhood, the gentrification is driving prices of goods, services and real estate up to the point where the cost of living in the area is prohibitive to many long-time residents. As these older residents move out, landlords are raising rents, helping to create a spiral of inflation in the area.
With little vacant land or untenanted buildings available for new development or repurposing, growth in Hamilton Heights is coming in the form of renovation of existing properties. Basements are becoming prime real estate for boutiques, cafes and other small businesses desiring to establish themselves here. As apartment and multi-family buildings come up for sale, investors are snatching them up and converting them to high-end condos.
What You Might Not Know
An intriguing example of neo-Gothic architecture, the buildings on the campus of the City College of New York are made from Manhattan schist stone, which is the bedrock of the entire island. The stone came from an unusual source. It was repurposed from the stone that was excavated when the subways in Lower Manhattan were built.
Hamilton Heights was named after Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who owned 32 acres of farmland property where Hamilton Heights is located. Hamilton was also the first U. S. Secretary of the Treasury. The Federal style mansion he had built for himself has been preserved as a museum, known as the Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
What We Love
It is hard to beat the sense of community that you will find in Hamilton Heights. It is a great neighborhood for families and children. Crimes have decreased by 77.1% in all categories between 1990 and 2018, according to the 30th Precinct, that patrols Hamilton Heights. You will love the large apartments that can still be found at reasonable prices. There is a rich cultural diversity that is expressed in art, music and the soul of the community, itself. It feels almost like a small village in the heart of a big city. If you enjoy interacting with neighbors and being actively involved in the creation of community you live in, then Hamilton Heights could be the ideal neighborhood for you.