Down there, on old Manhattan,
Where land-sharks breed and fatten,
They wiped out Tubby Hook.
That famous promontory,
Renowned in song and story,
Which time nor tempest shook,
Whose name for aye had been good,
Stands newly christened “Inwood,”
And branded with the shame
Of some old rogue who passes
By dint of aliases,
Afraid of his own name!

-William Allen Butler, 1886

In November of 1864, exactly one hundred and fifty years ago, the name Inwood was bestowed on the northernmost neighborhood in Manhattan.

Change of name from Tubby Hook to Inwood. The Evening Star, November 14, 1864.

Change of name from Tubby Hook to Inwood. The Evening Star, November 14, 1864.

Before 1864 much of Manhattan north of Dyckman Street was affectionately called “Tubby Hook.”

Tubby Hook detail, 1891 map by Frederick W. Beers.

Tubby Hook detail, 1891 map by Frederick W. Beers.

The name change came as a “thirst for self-improvement raged among the villages of the lower Hudson River and many a modest settlement thought to better itself and to rise in the world by assumption of a more swelling style and title.” (Columbia University professor Brander Matthews, Parts of Speech: Essays on English, 1916)

According to “Ballads of Old New York,” published by Arthur Guiterman in 1920, the original Dutch settlers named the area after the rounded, tub-like outline of the inlet at the west end of Dyckman Street.

Guiterman explained, its “appearance alone justified its Old Dutch name ‘Tobbe Hoeck’ – the Cape of the Tub- now rendered ‘Tubby Hook.‘”

An alternate theory, presented by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society in 1917, argued that Tubby Hook was a “corruption of the Dutch ‘t Ubregt Hoek, which was named after one Peter Ubrecht” who ran the local ferry service across the Hudson River into New Jersey.

Regardless of the origin, Tubby Hook sounded too darn Dutch—and, in 1864, the railroads did away with the name all together and renamed the district Inwood.

Tubby Hook Depot, 1907.

Tubby Hook Depot, 1907.

The name change was likely considered as early as 1847 when the opening of the Hudson River Railroad transformed the sleepy fishing village into a proper country town.

How the name “Inwood” was selected has been lost to the ages. Some lobbied for naming the neighborhood “Kingsbridge Heights.”

1885 New York Map

1885 New York Map

According to an account published by C. Benjamin Richardson in 1864 the railroads inexplicably changed the sign at the local crossing. “The eye of the traveler on the Hudson River Rail Road is occasionally attracted by a new sign board at a station, and his ear by a new call by the conductor. The latest transportation is that of time-honored but unromantic, ‘Tubby Hook’ into ‘Inwood.’ Now ‘Inwood’ is a much prettier name…but it is not likely there ever was or would be another ‘Tubby Hook.’”

Many early sources also refer to the area as “Inwood on Hudson.”

Turn of the century postcard depicting Veitch's grocery on Dyckman just west of Broadway. Note the card reads "Tubby Hook" rather than "Inwood."

Turn of the century postcard depicting Veitch’s grocery on Dyckman just west of Broadway. Note the card reads “Tubby Hook” rather than “Inwood.”

Nearly twenty years after Richardson’s description an 1883 poem summed up neighborhood sentiment regarding the name we now take for granted.

“The sun of Tubby Hook has set.
‘T is INWOOD now— and folks forget.”

Tubby Hook today

Tubby Hook today

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Top photo shows grand staircase inside the Hurst residence on 215th Street and Park Terrace East in 1920's. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family) Lower photo taken in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)

Top photo shows grand staircase inside the Hurst residence on 215th Street and Park Terrace East in 1920′s. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family) Lower photo taken in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)

In 1912 an Irish architect named James O’Connor constructed a beautiful brick home on Park Terrace East and 215th Street.

1920's photo of the Inwood home of William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst ancestor JoAnn Jones)

1920′s photo of the Inwood home of William H. Hurst. Note Isham Gardens under construction to the right. (Photo courtesy of Hurst ancestor JoAnn Jones)

Undated photo of the Hurst home.  (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

Undated photo of the Hurst home. Photo is taken from Isham Park looking north to 215th Street. Stone building in the foreground was the Hurst’s garage. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

While O’Connor would later go on to design “Great Gatsby” style playhouse homes for wealthy clients, this particular design had children in mind.

Lots of children.

William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family)

William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family)

Hurst Family portrait June 24, 1924. (Photo from Hurst family)

Hurst family portrait June 24, 1924. (Photo from Hurst family)

William H. Hurst, the President of the New York Stock Telegraph Company, and his wife Minnie, needed an especially large home to accommodate their thirteen kids. The grand home at the top of the newly constructed 215th Street stairs, which remarkably still stands today, suited their needs perfectly.

1915 photo of Hurst home. The Hurst's garage is to the right and behind that the Isham home. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

1915 photo of Hurst home. The Hurst’s garage is to the right and behind that the Isham home. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

The house had a stone garage out back where Bruce’s Garden sits today.  The brick house bordered Isham Park, which had been donated to the city by the Isham family the very year the Hurst’s moved to the neighborhood.

The interior was spectacular.
[click to continue…]

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History of Inwood’s Isham Park

Isham Park, Inwood, New York City

In 1862 a businessman named William Bradley Isham rented a summer retreat in northern Manhattan. He fell in love with the place and returned two years later to purchase the property. What follows is an exhaustive photo essay describing the origins of Isham Park.

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Inwood Hill is a 196-acre park located on the northern tip of Manhattan.  The words “wild” and “untamed” are often used to describe the meandering trails, caves, cliffs and otherworldly geological formations that together make Inwood Hill so unique. The history of Inwood Hill, like that of the surrounding city, is fascinating and can be […]

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The Veitch Collection: Inwood Photographs Rediscovered

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Sometime in the mid-1800′s grocer Robert Veitch opened a general store beside the railroad tracks in a sparsely inhabited region of northern Manhattan known then as Tubby Hook. Veitch’s dry goods store would become the center of commerce, news and gossip in the little hamlet now known as Inwood. The imposing brick building that housed […]

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The Story of Mount Washington: AKA Inwood Hill

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In 1840 a Scotch Irish builder by the name of Samuel Thomson bought a huge tract of woodland on the northern end of Manhattan.  Thomson christened his new estate “Mount Washington” in honor of what had been a Revolutionary War outpost.  On the property, today known as Inwood Hill, Thomson and his wife Ann, would […]

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4930 Broadway: An Inwood Storefront

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Recently, a neighbor asked me to research the southeast corner of Broadway and 207th Street (4930 Broadway).   She was curious what businesses had occupied the corner through the years. Unsure, I posed the question to some longtime Inwood residents via social media.  The responses were so chock full of history that I’ve decided to post […]

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Happy Halloween

Ghost stories and other macabre tales from Inwood, New York City.

Every Halloween ghosts and goblins haunt the streets, parks and apartment buildings of Inwood–just as they have for hundreds of years. Inwood is a spooky place where the spirit of a long dead magician might bump into the specter of a headless Hessian, where a Dutch trumpeter fights with the devil himself and cries from […]

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