WHEN you are walking (bicycling perhaps) on the Hudson River Greenway in the median between north and southbound lanes of the Henry Hudson Parkway, opposite Fort Tryon Park. you come upon a colonnade of 20 Doric columns supporting a shady canopy. The view is of the Hudson River and New Jersey Palisades, and you can look south to see the George Washington Bridge. It was tabbed “Inspiration Point” when it was built in 1925 and designed by architect Gustave Steinacher. When it was built, it was in Riverside Park opposite Riverside Drive; when the Henry Hudson Parkway was built in 1937, a short laneway allowed cars to park there, but as the Parkway became an ever busier traffic conduit, lanes were added and Inspiration Point became relatively inaccessible. Today it can be attained by walking/bicycling the Hudson River Greenway north from 181st Street or south from Dyckman Street. After several years in disrepair, the Parks Department restored it in the 1990s.
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “Manhattan”, written in 1925, works as a handy dandy travelogue of the five boroughs. But…since it was written over 8 decades ago, some of the landmarks mentioned have modern-day listeners scratching their heads and reaching for their NYC guidebooks! Take the fourth verse….sing along if you want…
We’ll have Manhattan,
The Bronx and Staten Island too,
We’ll try to cross Fifth Avenue.
As black as onyx
We’ll find the Bronix Park Express,
Our Flatbush flat, I guess,
Will be a great success,
More or less.
A short vacation
On Inspiration Point we’ll spend,
And in the station house we’ll end.
But Civic Virtue cannot destroy
The dreams of a girl and boy —
We’ll turn Manhattan
Into an isle of joy!
“Civic Virtue” meanwhile is a large statue of a naked youth astride a pair of writhing mermaids, produced by Frederick McMonnies in the 1920s and placed at Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens in 1941, after a stint at City Hall Park. After Queens politicians complained about his presence, he was packed off to Green-Wood Cemetery and polished to perfection, leaving the fountain structure in Queens behind in ruins.
Fun fact: Sterling Holloway, a familiar face on 1960s TV and the original voice of Winnie The Pooh, introduced the song on Broadway in “Garrick Gaieties” as part of a duet.
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