The Upper West Side (UWS) is a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. It is bounded on the east by Central Park, on the west by the Hudson River, on the south by West 59th Street, and on the north by West 110th Street.
The Upper West Side, like the Upper East Side, is an affluent, primarily residential neighborhood, with many of its residents working in Midtown and Lower Manhattan’s commercial districts. Similarly to the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile district, the Upper West Side is regarded as one of Manhattan’s cultural and intellectual hotspots, with Columbia University and Barnard College to the north and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School to the south.
The Upper West Side is located in Manhattan Community District 7, and its ZIP codes are 10023, 10024, 10025, and 10069. The New York City Police Department’s 20th and 24th Precincts patrol it.
The Lenape people rarely used or traversed the long high bluff above useful sandy coves along the North River. A combination of stream valleys, such as the one through which 96th Street runs, and wetlands to the northeast and east may have shielded a portion of the Upper West Side from the Lenape’s controlled burns; the absence of periodic ground fires results in a denser understory and more fire-resistant trees, such as American Beech.
The Upper West Side-to-be contained some of colonial New York’s most ambitious houses in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, spaced along Bloomingdale Road. In the first half of the nineteenth century, it was increasingly filled with smaller, more suburban villas, and by the middle of the century, parts had become decidedly lower class.
The term “Bloomingdale District” was applied to a section of the Upper West Side – the current Manhattan Valley neighborhood – that was located between 96th and 110th Streets and was bounded on the east by Amsterdam Avenue and on the west by Riverside Drive, Riverside Park, and the Hudson River.
Its name was derived from a description of the area given by Dutch settlers to New Netherland, most likely from Bloemendaal, a town in the tulip region. The name “Bloomingdale” or “the Bloomingdale District” was Anglicized by the Dutch and applied to the west side of Manhattan from about 23rd Street up to the Hollow Way (modern 125th Street). It was made up of farms and villages along the Bloomingdale Road, which was established in 1703. Bloomingdale Road was renamed The Boulevard in 1868, as the farms and villages were subdivided and absorbed into the city. By the 18th century, it had many farms and country residences of the city’s wealthy, one of which was the Apthorp Farm. The Bloomingdale Road was the main artery of this neighborhood, beginning north of where Broadway and Bowery Lane (now Fourth Avenue) meet (at modern Union Square) and winding its way northward up to about modern 116th Street in Morningside Heights, where the road further north was known as the Kingsbridge Road. The road ran through Harsenville, Strycker’s Bay, and Bloomingdale Village on the modern-day Upper West Side.
With the construction of the Croton Aqueduct between present-day Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue in 1838–42, the district’s northern reaches were divided into Manhattan Valley to the east of the aqueduct and Bloomingdale to the west. Bloomingdale was the name of a village in the latter half of the nineteenth century that occupied the area just south of 110th street.
Much of the Upper West Side’s riverfront was used for shipping, transportation, and manufacturing. In the late 1830s, the Hudson River Railroad line right-of-way was granted to connect New York City and Albany, and it soon ran along the riverbank. The creation of Central Park in the 1850s and 1860s, one major non-industrial development, drove many squatters to relocate to the Upper West Side. Parts of the neighborhood deteriorated into a jumbled mess of squatters’ hovels, boarding houses, and rowdy taverns.
As this happened, the old name of Bloomingdale Road was phased out, and the name Broadway was gradually applied further north to include what had been lower Bloomingdale Road. The city started straightening and grading the section of the Bloomingdale Road from Harsenville north in 1868, and it became known as “Western Boulevard” or “The Boulevard.” It retained that name until the end of the century when it was finally supplanted by the name Broadway.
The neighborhood’s development lagged even while Central Park was being laid out in the 1860s and ’70s, then was stymied by the 1873 Panic. The introduction of the Ninth Avenue elevated in the 1870s along Ninth Avenue (renamed Columbus Avenue in 1890) and Columbia University’s relocation to Morningside Heights in the 1890s, using lands once held by the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, turned things around.