Inwood Manhattan: A Community’s Past Impacts its Present

Central Park has Trees but Inwood Manhattan has a Forrest

A search on Wikipedia reveals that Nestled at the northern tip of Manhattan, Inwood stands as a testament to New York City’s rich tapestry of history. From legends of early colonial purchases to remnants of wartime encampments, this neighborhood offers glimpses into the past that deeply influence its present character. Here in New York City, as communities come together to celebrate October chilling fun with Mentalism and more, these days more than ever it is relevant to look at the past.

One of the most enduring tales surrounding Inwood is the 1626 transaction between Peter Minuit, the director general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, and the indigenous Lenape people. For 60 Dutch guilders and, as legend has it, some trinkets, Minuit secured the island that would become the bustling metropolis of Manhattan. While the authenticity of the ‘trinkets’ part of the story is debated, its echo adds to the allure of the locale. At the southern tip, Minuit went on to establish New Amsterdam, laying the foundations of modern-day New York City.

However, it’s Inwood Hill Park that arguably holds the deepest historical resonance for the community. Housing a plaque on a rock believed to mark the very spot of Minuit’s legendary purchase, the park stands as a bridge between the past and present. It isn’t just a marker of ancient commerce; it’s also the last natural forest in Manhattan, a verdant reminder of what the island might have looked like before urbanization.

Fast-forwarding to the American Revolutionary War, Inwood bore witness to another significant chapter in American history. During the British occupation of Manhattan, an encampment sprawling over the area between 201st and 204th Streets along Payson Avenue housed Hessian troops. These German auxiliaries, hired by the British, have left an indelible mark on the neighborhood’s lore.

Things seem to appear out of nowhere in a community when you look at its past. And it was only in the early 20th century, nearly 150 years after the war, that this encampment’s remnants were unearthed. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of local archaeologist and historian, Reginald Bolton, a series of digs around Inwood in 1914 revealed the long-lost camp. This discovery bridged the gap between generations, allowing present-day residents a tangible connection to the Revolutionary era.

The 1906 construction of the 207th Street station, now serving the 1 train, further transformed Inwood. What was once an expanse of undeveloped fields soon became a bustling part of the city, drawing in residents and weaving a new urban fabric into the old.

Inwood’s past is not just a series of events; it’s a living narrative that continues to shape its present. The legends, discoveries, and infrastructural developments are more than mere historical facts. They contribute to the neighborhood’s unique identity, influencing everything from community events to local stories passed down through generations.

As Manhattan continues to evolve, Inwood stands as a reminder that a community’s roots run deep. Its tales of transactions, wars, and urban development are not just stories of bygone days but are narratives that give meaning and context to its present day.