Tubby Hook: Now Known as Inwood

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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, more than one hundred and fifty years ago, the name “Inwood” replaced the old familiar “Tubby Hook” on maps detailing the northernmost neighborhood in Manhattan.

Detail from 1819 Randel Farm Map.  Note Tubby Hook featured in upper right.
Detail from 1819 Randel Farm Map. Note Tubby Hook featured in upper right.

The decision, likely at the bequest of the railroads, shocked local residents.  Tubby Hook had been the name of the neighborhood since as long as anyone could remember.  The name appeared on maps, census reports and directories.

1836 Colton map.  Note Tubby Hook  between Fort Tryon and Fort Cock Hill (now Inwood Hill).
1836 Colton map. Note Tubby Hook between Fort Tryon and Fort Cock Hill (now Inwood Hill).

The renaming of the neighborhood must have caused quite a stir.

Postcard from Robert Veitch's Dyckman Street dry goods store.
Postcard from Robert Veitch’s Dyckman Street dry goods store.

Nearly a half century after the name change dry goods merchant Robert Veitch proudly advertised his Dyckman Street shop as the “grocery of Tubby Hook.”

Changing Times

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.

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)

Detail of 1832 David Burr map.  Note Tubby Hook along the bank of the Hudson River (Then the North River).
Detail of 1832 David Burr map. Note Tubby Hook along the bank of the Hudson River (Then the North River).

Theory One

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.‘”

Theory Two

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.

Tubby Hook Depot, 1907.
Tubby Hook Depot, 1907.

Tis Inwood Now

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

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.”

One for the Poets

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.”

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