The gateway to Morningside Heights by public transportation is the Red line, Number 1 subway stop of 110th Street. Upon arrival, you will find a treasured 24-hour grocery store, Westside Market, and a bustling intersection of residential, school, and retail activities. Here is where you begin your tour and your exploration of Morningside Heights.
First stop: the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.
After starting off at a prominent building at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, you may want to take a detour to appreciate the architecture of the residence buildings in the neighborhood. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip on to the third stop, by simply walking north to West 116th from the Cathedral to Columbia University.
We recommend this stop if you’d love to view the neo-Renaissance apartment buildings Morningside Heights is home to. The buildings feature marble lobbies, town houses with stained-glass windows and elegant accouterments that were built to set the style for the homes of the rich that were built later along Park and Fifth Avenues. The apartment buildings in the area feature beautiful marble lobbies that are extravagant and luxurious.
The Hamilton’s entrance at West 114th Street, at 420 Riverside Drive, features a huge elegant marble lobby with beautiful stained glass windows recently recreated by one of the building’s resident owners welcomes all who enter. Even the internal halls are carefully appointed, with original wrought iron railings and marble steps.
Equally impressive are the grand lobbies at The Ramona, located at 528 West 111th Street between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway; and The Rockfall, located at 545 West 111th Street, between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway.
The building facades of Morningside are just impressive, with The Britannia, at 527 West […]
Starting at the 110th Street subway stop, you can begin your tour by walking east along 110th Street to Amsterdam Ave and going north to West 111th Street. You’ll hit the Peace Fountain at St. John the Divine first, and by walking further east you will find yourself in front of the Cathedral itself.
The cathedral, designed in 1888 and begun in 1892, has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. Originally designed in the Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival styles, the plan was changed after 1909 to a Gothic Revival design. After a large fire on December 18, 2001, it was closed for repairs and reopened in November 2008. It remains unfinished, with construction and restoration a continuing process. Among the largest churches in the world, the Gothic and Romanesque-style architecture also features an immense Guastavino tile dome. The Cathedral is home to the American Poets Corner, an altarpiece by Keith Haring, stained glass with images of inventors and artists, as well as wandering peacocks. The cathedral is additionally a major center for concert musical performances and its expansive exhibits shape contemporary discourse around art, social justice, and environmental themes.
At the west end of the nave, installed by stained glass artist Charles Connick and constructed out of 10,000 pieces of glass, is the largest rose window in […]
Located next to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the Peace Fountain was built in 1985 by Greg Wyatt to depict the struggle of good and evil, shown by the archangel Michael vanquishing Satan.
The Peace Fountain was sculpted by Cathedral Artist-in-Residence Greg Wyatt to mark the 200th anniversary of the Diocese of New York in 1985. The 40 foot-high bronze sculpture weaves together several representations of the conflict between good and evil. Above, the Archangel Michael embraces one of nine giraffes (said to be the most peaceful of creatures) after his defeat of Satan. Below, the lion lies down with the lamb. The fountain’s spiraling base takes inspiration from the double-helix of DNA. On either side of the fountain, moon- and sun-like faces direct their gazes toward and away from Amsterdam Avenue.
Around the fountain’s basin are a series of small bronze animal sculptures created by K-12 students from New York City and tri-state area public, private, and parochial schools. Collectively known as the Children’s Sculpture Garden, they represent the diverse community the Cathedral strives to serve and represent.
Greg Wyatt is a sculptor and teacher who works primarily in bronze, emulating the tradition of Western realist sculpture and infusing it with his own spiritual and physical energy. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and appears […]
On your visit to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, be sure to check out the oldest building in Morningside Heights: Ithiel Town Building.
Named for its designer, Ithiel Town, the Town Building is the oldest existing structure in the neighborhood of Morningside Heights. Town was the architect of Federal Hall and St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery, both still standing in southern Manhattan. The Town Building predates the Cathedral—it began as the Leake & Watts Orphanage, which opened in 1847, when the area was largely rural and agricultural, separated from the urban crush. The Orphanage moved to Yonkers when the Cathedral purchased the land in 1887.
The Town Building is a monumental Greek Revival temple, with two wings flanking its neoclassical facade of Ionic columns and triangular pediment over a raised portico. The columns are molded stucco over brick, with carved wooden capitals. The building’s east wing was removed in 1950 to create more open space on the Close. The remaining structure received much-needed repairs during a major restoration project, which ran from 2006 to through 2012.
The Town Building is the home of the Cathedral’s Textile Conservation Lab, as well as Cathedral Community Cares (CCC), the Cathedral’s social service and neighborhood outreach arm. In addition, it contains choir rehearsal rooms, a sacristy, and a parking lot coop that serves as home base […]
After taking in the magnificence of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the buildings in the neighborhood, your next stop involves more artistic and creative appreciation. Continue north on Amsterdam Avenue until West 116th Street, and enter the Columbia University campus to turn your attention to the splendor and academia that permeates the air in Columbia University. Columbia University was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.
Today, Columbia University is an international center of scholarship, with a pioneering undergraduate curriculum and renowned graduate and professional programs. Among the earliest students and trustees of King’s College were John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States; Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury; Governor Morris, the author of the final draft of the U.S. Constitution; and Robert R. Livingston, a member of the five-man committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. After the American Revolution, the University reopened in 1784 with a new name—Columbia—that embodied the patriotic fervor that had inspired the nation’s quest for independence. In 1897, the university moved from Forty-Ninth Street and Madison Avenue, where it had stood for fifty years, to its present […]
Founded in 1913, the Maison Française of Columbia University is the oldest French cultural center established on an American university campus. It is a meeting place for students, scholars, business leaders, policy-makers and all persons seeking a better understanding of the French-speaking world. The Columbia Maison Française fosters intellectual and cultural exchange between the United States and France, Europe, and the French-speaking world. Its rich program of events stimulates debate, spotlights innovative scholarship, promotes dialogue across disciplines, and contributes to international and cross-cultural understanding. Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, playwright Eugene Ionesco, French mime Marcel Marceau, Marshal Joseph Joffree (a French general during World War I), and others performed and spoken at the Maison Française in the past.
Now that you’ve finished visiting the distinguished Columbia University, head to Broadway. There you’ll find examples of New York’s infamous food truck scene – an excellent dining option for the walking tourist! Grab a cup of coffee and a snack and then plot your next stop on the tour.
You can either continue your Morningside tour north along Broadway or north along Claremont Avenue.
For your FIRST OPTION, our recommended route, you’ll leave Columbia from the exit by Earl Hall and cross the street to stop by the beautiful gates of Barnard College.
Barnard College is one of the nation’s most prestigious women’s colleges and a member of the Seven Sisters. Barnard College today is known for its alumni and their leadership in arts and politics. Notable alumnae include: Joan Rivers, Cynthia Nixon, and Martha Stewart.
From Barnard, you’ll find another prestigious academic institution in the neighborhood by walking north along Amsterdam Ave to 120th Street, where you will find yourself at Union Theological Seminary.
Union Theological Seminary
Union Theological Seminary, the next stop of your tour, is located in one of the most intellectual streets in the United States, Seminary Road, which is so named for Jewish Theological Seminary and the Union Theological Seminary. For more information on Seminary Road and its context as an academic hub among […]
Morningside Heights has been nicknamed the Academic Acropolis, for the vast amount of academic institutions in the area. Many of the academia in the area is founded on religious bases, especially the two giant institutions of religious leadership, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the Union Theological Seminary (UTS).
The two institutions are prominently located on your walk by continuing northeast on Broadway to West 122nd. There you will reach one of the most exciting corners of multi-disciplinary academic collaboration. West 122nd is also known as Seminary Row, and is home to eleven of the academic institutions in the neighborhood. On the western side of Broadway is Union Theological Seminary, the current stop of your tour.
Jewish Theological Seminary
On the western side lays the Jewish Theological Seminary, at 3080 Broadway, which houses more than 425,000 volumes, making it the largest and most extensive collection of Hebraic and Judaic material in the Western Hemisphere. The Seminary trains rabbis, cantors, scholars, educators, communal professionals, and lay activists that serve as leaders of Conservative Judaism, the vital religious center for North American Jewry, and society as a whole.
Corpus Christi School
Nearby Seminary Row lays Corpus Christi School, on West 121st between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade Catholic school that has served the families of its community and the diverse community of […]
By walking to the intersection of 120th to 122nd Streets between Claremont Avenue and Broadway, you will find yourself in front of your fifth stop: the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Be sure to explore the other institutions in the area, as per our blog post, as Union Theological Seminary and the other higher institutions of learning in the area have come to be famously known as the Academic Acropolis.
In the 20th century, Union was world-renowned as a center of liberal Christianity and neo-orthodoxy, in addition to being the birthplace of the Black Liberation Theology, Womanist Theology and Mujerista Theology movements. Union houses the largest theological library in the Western Hemisphere.
The brick and limestone English Gothic architecture, by Francis R. Allen (1844–1931) and Collins, completed in 1910, includes the tower, which adapts features of the crossing tower of Durham Cathedral. The Seminary is also adjacent to Teachers College, Barnard College, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Manhattan School of Music and has cross-registration and library access agreements with several of these schools.
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is a seminary and a graduate school of theology established in 1836 by founders “deeply impressed by the claims of the world upon the church.” Union prepares women and men for committed […]
Moving on from the academic institutions in the neighborhood, head up to Riverside Drive along West 122nd to view International House and take in the greenery of Sakura Park.
Situated at 500 Riverside Drive, north on Riverside Drive, International House is the first building to the north of the church adjacent to Sakura Park. International House or I-House is a private, non-profit residence and program center for graduate students, scholars engaging in research, trainees and interns. International House’s 700 resident members live in a diverse residential community that promotes mutual respect, friendship, and leadership skills across cultures and fields of study.
Among I-House’s alumni have been some outstanding and accomplished figures of global renown that reflect the House’s diverse community, including Nobel prize winners and heads of state as well as award-winning authors, singers and actors.
Once you’re at International House, simply walk a little farther north to Sakura Park for a leisurely walk in the park.
The park owes its name to the more than 2000 cherry trees delivered to parks in New York City from Japan in 1912. The ideal time to visit the park is during April, when on your walk through the park you’ll be surrounded by the cherry tree blossoms. On your visit to the park, look out for it idyllic gazebo, its play area for toddlers, […]
Once you’ve explored Sakura Park, you can head over to General Grant’s Tomb by crossing the street into Riverside Park. The park’s entrance is located at the intersection of Riverside Drive and West 122nd Street, and you can take the steps up to the final resting place of President Ulysses Simpson Grant and his wife, Julia, is the largest mausoleum in North America, and the sixth stop of your tour. General Grant’s Tomb is located inside of Riverside Park, with an entrance north of the Interchurch Center, on your western side.
The General Grant National Memorial visitor center is open Thursday through Monday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Free talks are available to the public at the visitor center, Thursday through Monday, at the following times: 11:15 AM, 1:15 PM, and 3:15 PM.
The architect of the monument, John H. Duncan, envisioned “a Monumental Tomb, no matter from what point of view it may be seen.” The structure symbolically faces south. Once you walk inside of the tomb, pay attention to the mosaic murals, designed by Allyn Cox in 1966, which feature three lunettes. Near the tomb are mosaic benches, bursting with color and innovative design.
Exiting from General Grant’s tomb, you cannot miss the Riverside Church, located on Riverside Drive and 120th Street where Harlem and the Upper West Side meet. Riverside Church is located right next to Sakura Park, and across the street from the Riverside Park entrance you used to look around General Grant’s Tomb.
You can’t help but admire the Church’s famous large size and elaborate Neo-Gothic architecture. But the church has a social justice history that extends beyond its beauty. The church is two blocks south of Grant’s tomb and was the site of Jackie Robinson’s funeral service in 1972. It was described by The New York Times in 2008 as “a stronghold of activism and political debate throughout its 75-year history … influential on the nation’s religious and political landscapes.” It has been a focal point of global and national activism since its inception.
The Church commits itself to welcoming all persons, celebrating the diversity found in a Congregation broadly inclusive of persons from different backgrounds of characteristics, including race, economic class, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, family status and physical and mental abilities. Members are called to an individual and collective quality of life that leads to personal, spiritual and social transformation, witnessing to God’s saving purposes for all creation. The Church pledges itself to education, reflection, and action […]
Located on West 122nd Street between Claremont Avenue and Broadway, the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) is a world famous music conservatory. The school offers degrees on the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels in the areas of classical and jazz performance and composition. Offering hundreds of concert presentations and community events each year, Manhattan School of Music is a vigorous contributor to the cultural fabric of New York City and an important player on the world stage. Now home to 900 students from over 40 countries, the School is a thriving international community of artists. As MSM continues to grow, its focus remains the same as it was during its founding: the education of tomorrow’s leaders in the arts.
The Manhattan School of Music regularly hosts musical events in the evening, and it is definitely worth giving their calendar a look before you head over, as most events are free and open to the public, and are a great way to wind down during the evening after your tour of the neighborhood.