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Social Geography

Washington Heights Borders

The boundaries of Washington Heights, have long been debated. In the past, some have said that the site has run as far as south 125th Street, but currently the site’s limits are accepted as North of 155th Street, running north to about Dyckman Street. The area runs, east to west, from the Harlem River to the Hudson.

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Washington Heights is accessible by all forms of transportation. Bridges play an important factor in the movements of Washington Heights. Most widely known of its bridges, is the George Washington Bridge (GW Bridge), which connects to New Jersey. It was named after the Founding Father whose name was on the famous Fort in the area. That fort played a major role in the Revolutionary War. Near the GW Bridge, is the GW Bridge Bus terminal, which provides transportation to and from NJ.I-95 also partially runs through Washington Heights, on the west side.

Photo By Sara Gershon

On the eastern side of Washington Heights, there is the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and a piece of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. High Bridge is also in Washington Heights and is the oldest bridge to span the Harlem River. It is a pedestrian bridge, but has been closed since the 1970’s. Though, it is rumoured there will be a restoration project coming soon.

Aside from the bridges, there are subways and buses. The A,C, and 1 train all stop throughout Washington Heights.

Finally one of the most notable things about Washington Heights is that several of its streets are “Step Streets.” Due to its hilly topography, Washington Heights’ streets are sometimes nothing more than a staircase, the largest of which can be found at 187th street, topping off at 130 steps. There are elevators located at 181st Street Subway Station if you aren’t up to the challenge of climbing that step mountain.

Photo by Marcela Villa


Present (Taken from the 2000 Census of the area)

The racial/ethnic breakdown :

74.1% Hispanic

13.6% white (non-Hispanic)

8.4% black (non-Hispanic)

2.1% Asian/Pacific Islander

Historical Glance


The original settlers of Washington Heights were the Native Americans, who remained settled on the land even after the Dutch purchased the Island of Manhattan. The Wiechquaesgeck tribal group, the natives of the Fort Tryon Park area, remained a visible, but minority, presence until the 1930’s. It was not until the late 17th century that the Dutch settlers were able to lessen the presence of the natives in the area.

At the turn of the 20th century, the area was mostly settled by Irish Immigrants and remained so for about 30 years. It wasn’t until the period of Nazi rule over various portions of Europe in the 1930’s, that many Jews came to the area. This was the start of a relatively regular change in the groups of people calling the Washington Heights area home.

About 20 years later, in the 1950’s, and continuing to the 1960’s Washington Heights became known as the “Astoria” of Manhattan because of its large Greek population. Concurrently, a large Cuban and Puerto Rican population also settled into the area. By the 1990’s the residents were largely Dominican, and that is the largest majority until this day. Recently though, there has been movement of Dominicans to neighborhoods further north in Manhattan as well as The Bronx. There is currently a trend of Mexican and Ecuadorian’s moving into the area.

Image can be found at


Points of Interest

Washington Heights is home to many exciting places to visit. Aside from the three sites we have chosen to spotlight, there are other interesting and impressive sights to check out while visiting! Below, you will find brief descriptions of some of the notable locations, as well as links to the three points of interest we have spotlighted.

The Hispanic Society of America

This museum is home to the second largest collection to El Greco and Goya art in the world.

The Paul Robeson House

This landmark has been home to several notable African American figures, including Paul Robeson, Count Basie, and Joe Louis.

The Audubon Ballroom

This is the site where Malcolm X was assassinated.

The Little Red Lighthouse

The Morris-Jumel Mansion

The Highest Point in Manhattan

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