The name Manhattan is a Native American word that translates to ‘island of many hills’. To most visitors though, and to those few residents who’ve never had opportunity to use the GW bridge, the island of Manhattan is perceived as flat! No fault of theirs really – the city’s urban development in the early 19th-century ensured that much of the island’s topographical variations were evened out.
Washington Heights and Inwood, the northernmost neighbourhoods on the island, are remnants of that undulation, and little known ones at that. A stroll or bike ride through them reveals not only what the island would have looked like pre-development, but also many a hidden treasure. Towards the end of summer this year, I set out to find out just that!
11 miles after leaving my house on a warm Sunday morning, I made my first stop at 156th & Broadway. There, occupying a full city block sits Audobon Terrace, a complex of eight early 20th-century Beaux Arts buildings, named after John James Audobon, a French-American ornithologist, on who’s land the structures stand.