The Naming of Inwood

3
4778

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

3 COMMENTS

  1. […] 1840:  Builder Samuel Thomson purchases eighty odd acres of land compromising the bulk of site we know as Inwood Hill.  Thomson names the hill “Mount Washington.”  The greater region was more commonly referred to as “Tubby Hook.” […]

  2. Hi Cole,
    When did the Isham Park Pharmacy, in the incarnation shown in your wonderful photo of the signage from the that era represents, end? Edie remembers an Isham Pharmacy with a blue sign in that same location when we first moved into the neighborhood in 1990. Is this accurate?

LEAVE A REPLY