Tuesday, August 30, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Morningside Park Stairs c. 1889

A photo from 1889 shows what appears to be a just completed Morningside Park that does not even have trees planted.  The 116th stairs apparently had just been finished but the park itself looked like it needed a lot more work to get it to a more natural state.  In the distance, one can see that Manhattan Avenue had been pretty built up at the time but Morninside Avenue itself still had open plots of land. As can be seen in the more current photo, tall trees line hill of the park and provide plenty of shade for the South Harlem outdoor green space.

116th Street Stairs, Morningside Park, 1889 via the Digital Collection at the Museum of the City of New York


  1. Amazing. It looks like the staircase to nowhere.

  2. Yes, fabulous shot.
    Clearly before the completion of much of the park. Even the parapet rail along Morningside Drive is missing in this shot.
    The photo does dramatically illustrate the impetus for the park overlooks. The views to the east were (and are!) spectacular. Vaux and Olmsted always intended to keep the tall trees on the lower level of the park so that these views would remain unobstructed. This design intent was most dramatically foiled at 116th street by the Carl Schurz Monument (dedicated 1913) in which the view became Carl and one has to climb on the monument benches to get a glimpse of the view the park designers wanted to dramatize.
    Today the most unobstructed (and thus a favorite) overlook is the one at 117th Street.

  3. Fascinating. I think most anyone would assume that the area where the park is had never been cleared of trees. Obviously this was not the case!