The Bloomingdale neighborhood is located between 96th Street to 110th Street from Riverside Park to Amsterdam Avenue. Its name comes from a Dutch town near Harlem known as Bloemendael. Columbia University is situated to the North in Morningside Heights and the greater, Upper West Side is located to the South. At the time that Manhattan was first settled, this area was a far wilderness, relative to the colonial city center. In the late 1600s, English governors granted land to settlers, which ultimately became long held family farms. The main road that runs through Bloomingdale today is Broadway, but it was originally Bloomingdale Road, a meandering road that followed old Indian trails, and was the route north to Albany.
In 19th century, Bloomingdale served as a summer residence for a number of families who built majestic residences with views of the Hudson River. The Croton Aqueduct was built in 1837-1842. The Hudson River Railroad tracks followed in 1849-1851. These networks intersected and ultimately broke up the large farms and estates. By the turn of the 20th century up to the First World War, speculative building peaked. Bloomingdale became a fashionable address for wealthy corporate executives, lawyers and, increasingly, members of the performing arts circle.
Things weren’t always pleasant, however. Crowding in nearby public housing projects and economic decline in the 1970s led to the neighborhood becoming a forgotten land. Well into the 1990s, few people wanted to venture north of 96th Street. Today, however, Bloomingdale is home to a vibrant, diverse community, restaurants of all nations and local and national chain stores.
NOTE: This walking tour is Noreen Whysel’s final project for Researching Local History: Cities and Towns, a Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science course, taught by Nancy Friedland, Librarian for Film Studies and Performing Arts, Columbia University Libraries.