As the Hagstrom map illustrates, the northern arm of Manhattan was developed to a greater degree than Andrew H. Green had envisioned in 1868. While he had wanted to preserve large swaths of land as natural city parks, New York’s strong real estate pressures ultimately covered these areas with city streets, avenues, and buildings. Numbered streets were inserted up to 218th Street on the northern tip, but above 155th Street, the grid begins to disintegrate, broken up by the area’s hills, valleys, and cliffs. Despite the extensive development, Green’s impulse to preserve the natural landscape informed the area’s final plan. Large parks run from Riverside Park along the Hudson River to Inwood Hill Park at Spuyten Duyvil Creek.
In 1895 Green founded the American Scenic and Historical Preservation Society as a national organization to protect historical sites. Green was particularly motivated to safeguard northern Manhattan’s natural landscape, which he described in a 1901 address: “It is the highest, boldest, and most diversified section of our ancient city, and it commands a combined view of land and water, of city and country, unsurpassed in the United States. It is the only portion of Manhattan Island where the shore-line of our beautiful American Rhine has been left in its native picturesqueness, and it is the only portion where any trace of its pristine beauty remains undesecrated and unrased by the leveling march of so-called ‘public improvements.’” Green’s organization and other like-minded groups lobbied the city to preserve the untouched portions of the island’s northern landscape, and their efforts resulted in the founding of Highbridge, Fort Tryon, and Inwood Hill Park. AR