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Getting to the Bottom of Manhattan's Inspiration Point

Friday, July 22, 2011 - 03:00 PM

Inspiration Point (photo by Kate Hinds)

Biking along the Hudson River this weekend, I stopped at a structure I'd always wondered about -- it looks like a cross between a Greek temple and a grape arbor. (It's just north of another thought-provoking structure - the Little Red Lighthouse, which sits under the George Washington Bridge.) Did the Romans originally settle Manhattan? Did some enterprising New York City company try to get into the wine industry at some point? I asked around.

 

And it was the New York City Parks Department who provided an answer. According to their website:

"Inspiration Point Shelter, on Henry Hudson Parkway at 190th Street, opened in 1925 as a resting place for pedestrians and leisure drivers. Designed by architect Gustave Steinacher in 1924, the neoclassical sitting area opened a year later and quickly became a favorite of Hudson River tourists."

It was a stopping point for drivers and walkers along the Riverside Drive, and at one point, wrote Christopher Gray in his 1989 book Changing New York: The Architectural Scene, (hat tip to the Parks Department for the source), the structure originally had bathrooms and a roof.

But after Robert Moses built the Henry Hudson Parkway in the 1930s, Inspiration Point was cut off from the rest of Manhattan -- and it began decades of decline. Gray wrote: "Increased traffic turned what had been a walking/driving experience into a no-man's land for pedestrians. The walkway is now overgrown...and the shelter itself now suggests despair...whole sections have fallen off or hang precariously at the edge. Water damage has buckled the elegant coffered ceiling and most of what remains looks like driftwood scavenged from a lost civilization."

The city renovated the structure soon after Gray's book was published -- although the bathrooms and the roof were permanently done away with. It remains under the control of the Parks Department. And now Inspiration Point can be easily accessed -- by bike or on foot -- via the Hudson River Greenway. I can vouch that it provides a welcome bit of shade on a hot July day -- not to mention a great view of the river and the New Jersey Palisades.

 

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