Morningside Park, just beyond the northwest corner of Central Park, is noted for its slender, elongated shape that extends from 110th to 123rd Street. The park, along with the similarly sinuous St. Nicholas Park to its north, were Andrew H. Green’s solutions to the difficult topography of Manhattan’s west side, where a bluff extends northward from roughly 110th Street.
In his 1867 report to the commissioners of Central Park, Green noted the difficulty of executing the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 in this area: “from 110th street north, to Manhattan Valley, the ridge of rocks almost verdureless, mainly between the 9th and 10th avenues, breaks so abruptly towards the east as to render the streets that have been laid over it in rigid conformity to the plan of the city, very expensive to work, and when worked so steep as to be very inconvenient for use.”
In 1873 Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were commissioned to design Morningside Park, but their work was delayed as a result of the economic panic. Fifteen years later, the city asked the designers to modify their plan, which is presented in this map. The outlines of Morningside Park had already been determined by Green’s West Side plan. He eliminated Ninth Avenue between 110th and 116th Streets, where it cut across the ridge, and instead established a new road that curved to the west, along its crest, labeled on the plan Morning Side Avenue West (today Morningside Drive). Below the rocky bluff, Green delineated the park’s eastern edge to accommodate both the site’s slope and the pre-existing grid.
Ninth Avenue, renamed Morningside Park East (today Morningside Avenue), marked the park’s northeastern edge. Where the ridge juts out to the south, from 113th to 116th Street, the road runs diagonally until it intersects Manhattan Avenue. Green laid out this new avenue between Eighth and Ninth Avenues from 106th to 124th Street to alleviate traffic (today it extends from 100th). AR