Contributed by Elizabeth Lorris Ritter
Well, it was another full day of uptown tourism with my Peeps©!
We started our afternoon at the Trinity Cemetery, a former Revolutionary War battleground (there’s a marker for the Middle Redoubt, where occurred “some of the fiercest fighting of the battle of Washington Heights”) and now “home” to the remains of Ralph Ellison and Jerry Orbach, whose remains were hard to find among hundreds of similarly-faced above-ground crypts.
A massive sinkhole kept us away from the grave of Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (AKA “Twas the night before Christmas…”) but we enjoyed strolling amidst the lovely ground (and dodging fallen tree limbs from this weekend’s nor’easter) while paying our respects to The Astors and John James Audubon. My Peeps were particularly moved by the monument’s reference to their own kin!
Although the sun makes it difficult to read the inscription on Ed Koch’s grave (yes, you read that right!), I include it in our travelogue anyway: there’s something ironic (and even a little creepy) about a non-living creature visiting the tomb of a real person who’s not-yet-dead.
Leaving Trinity Cemetery, where Eliza Jumel is buried, we headed over to the Jumel Terrace Historic District, where she had lived.
First stop: Sylvan Terrace, the one-block landmarked street of twenty 1882 wooden row houses connecting St. Nicholas Avenue and Jumel Terrace at what would be W. 161st Street.
The street is carved out of the estate surrounding the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house, built in 1765 for British colonel Roger Morris and his American wife, the wealthy Mary Philipse, as a summer retreat. They abandoned the home for England with the outbreak of the Revolution. General Washington headquartered there during the fall of 1776. After the war it became a tavern along the Albany Post Road: a marker in the back says we are “11 miles from N. York.”
In 1810 French wine merchant Stephen Jumel and his wife, the former Elisabeth Bowen, bought the house; they are rumored to have offered Napoleon safe haven, and furniture in one of the bedrooms is believed to have been his. After Jumel died, his widow – the “wealthiest woman in America” – married former Vice President Aaron Burr, who years earlier had killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
My Peeps wanted to check out the fancy historical rooms, but animals aren’t allowed in the rooms with period antiques; however being chicks, they were allowed in the kitchen.
Across the street, at 555 Edgecombe Avenue, is the former home of such luminaries as Paul Robeson, Constance Baker Motley, Thurgood Marshall, Count Basie, Lena Horne and Joe Louis. The lobby has a beautiful Tiffany glass ceiling. And every Sunday afternoon, jazz musician and playwright Marjorie Elliot hosts Parlor Jazz in her living room.
Leaving “the triple nickels,” we walked towards Broadway, past Jumel Terrace Books, uptown’s “only antiquarian bookshop.” It’s a truly unique place, specializing in local Colonial/Revolutionary history as well as African and African-American arts & letters, but it’s only open by appointment and serendipity, and my Peeps, were not so lucky as actually to meet the fabulously interesting and gracious owners, Kurt Thometz & Camilla Huey.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we thought to go to Coogan’s for a pint. On the way, we passed the lovely old (1906) 34th Hook & Ladder / 84th Engine Company on 160th Street; an old German synagogue that’s now a church on W. 161st Street; and the Audubon Ballroom, on Broadway at W. 165th Street, where Malcolm X was assassinated.
When we got to Coogan’s, the joint was hopping, even without bunny Peeps! So many options of draught from which to chose, but ultimately we settled on a pint of half-n-half, perfectly poured by our bartender, Tim.
Looks like Coogan’s proprietor, Peter Walsh and some of the St. Patty’s day revelers made a new friend; everyone wanted their pix taken with my Peep!
On the way home my Peeps took a quick peek into the Track & Field Hall of Fame at the Armory on Ft. Washington Ave.; lots of memorabilia, including Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medal.
At day’s end, we watched the shadows grow long over the urban landscape from a high rooftop – note the Highbridge Tower and the United Palace Theatre’s steeple to the left and center-right, and the GWB bus terminal in the middle slinking like a dragon – as the sun went down over the Hudson River, dipping behind the GW Bridge.
A long, but interesting and fun-filled day!
The next afternoon we went up to Inwood Hill Park to check out some of the sites. There’s Columbia University’s hometown pride mark on the rocky cliffs of Marble Hill, and of course the Shorakkapoch Rock, which marks the site where (legend has it) “Peter Minuit in 1626 purchased Manhattan island for trinkets and beads then worth about 60 guilders.”
My Peeps paid respects to Inwood heroes of 9/11 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, where a cross-beam from the Twin Towers rests in the memorial garden.
We headed down Broadway to the Dyckman Farmhouse hoping to catch a game of “Nine Peeps Morris,” but food (oops, I mean “animals”!) aren’t allowed in the farmhouse itself. But we did get to go into the Hessian hut, a reproduction of the small shelters built by the German mercenary soldiers throughout upper Manhattan during the Revolution.
And then back to the southern Heights, to the Hispanic Society of America, which we’d meant to visit the other day. Here are my Peeps with El Cid.
We rounded out the day with visit to the local constabulary, to report the tagging of my car by some would-be graffiti “artist(s)”; the Officers at the 34th Precinct were very helpful.