Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inwood Hill Park

Location:   Northwestern Manhattan Island 
Year:   1926

Inwood Hill Park occupies the extreme northwestern tip of Manhattan Island, fronting on the Hudson River and the Harlem River. The park occupies a portion of the neighborhood of Inwood, an area which lies north of far more famous Harlem. Due to the quirks of geography, Inwood has always had a distinctly different "feel" than most other Manhattan neighborhoods, being more akin to the residential areas of Brooklyn and Queens than the bustling streets of lower Manhattan.

Hilly, heavily wooded, and only partially developed for urban dwellers, Inwood Hill Park is unique, not only among New York City parks, but among all the parks in the world. 

The park itself was established in 1926. Prior to that, the land was part of several large private estates.

The landforms within Inwood Hill Park were heavily glaciated, and evidence of the last Ice Age surrounds the park's visitors. Within its 200 acres lies the last remnant of the primeval forest that once covered all of Manhattan Island. Eastern Hemlocks once throve there (killed by a blight, they are being reintroduced), and the Bald Eagle has likewise been reintroduced to the park, once part of its native range.

Visitors to Inwood Hill Park get to experience what New York City was like before there was a New York City. The only remaining salt marsh on Manhattan Island lies within the park, as do a series of caves once occupied by prehistoric man, and later the Lenape Indians. 

Archaeological digs in Inwood Hill Park are a rich source of finds, allowing social scientists to understand the lifestyle of the earliest Manhattanites.  

The park is also the site of the purchase of Manhattan Island by the Dutch (for 24 guilders) from the Lenape in 1626, though the nearly 300 year old tulip tree that marked the spot died in 1938. Other trees in the park are far older, and some are over four feet in diameter. 

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