On the northeast border of Inwood Hill Park runs a sleepy, two-block long street named Indian Road. Today the co-op lined street with its namesake café is well known to residents of northern Manhattan, but there was a time when locals referred to the byway by another name—“Cold Spring Road.”
Sometime after the turn of the century, as real estate developers eyed the unspoiled region, Inwood residents saw a flurry of name changes. Emerson Street became West 207th, Hawthorne Street became West 204th and Cold Spring Road became Indian Road.
Given the history of Native American habitation in Inwood Hill Park the name “Indian Road” today makes perfect sense, as did “Cold Spring Road” for early settlers.
Cold Spring Road took its name from a bubbling spring, which once flowed freely near an ancient Tulip tree in the area now referred to as the Gaelic Field.
Generations of Inwood residents, as well as the Native American who came before them, enjoyed the refreshing waters of the spring at “Cold Spring Hollow.”
“One of the many attractions in the park,” wrote the New York Times in 1923, “is a spring of cold water. Cold Spring Road takes its name from the stream.” (New York Times, June 10, 1923)
So how did the name fall out of use and what happened to the Cold Spring?
Just before the turn of the century Pop Seeley, an old boatman who operated a small marina and concession stand near the spring, did the unthinkable. He cut off access to the spring.
“As this spring interfered with Seeley’s sale of soft drinks to boatmen,” wrote one witness, “he put a padlock on the spring house, and filled in with earth the space where the water appeared outside, so that the overflow runs into the creek below the level of the tide.” (James Reuel Smith, The Springs and Wells of Manhattan and the Bronx, New York City, at the End of the Nineteenth Century)
Not long afterwards a home adjacent to Seeley’s was mistakenly burned down in a case of suspected arson.
“The fire engine had such a time getting there that it did not reach the place until half past four!,” wrote Smith. “Even the next day many believed that it was Seeley’s house which had burned, and the cause of the fire was said to be incendiary resentment over Seeley’s having closed the “Cold Spring.”
So went the spring and so went Cold Spring Road.