Places that Matter

Audubon Park

Residential neighborhood on John James Audubon's former estate
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

A small neighborhood within the larger Washington Heights community, Audubon Park's growth and development demonstrates upper Manhattan's transformation from a bucolic rural setting to a thriving, diverse urban area. Today it is home to both a strong residential community as well as to the Audubon Terrace Historic District, a grouping of major cultural institutions.

During the 18th century a portion of the Battle of New York was fought in the area that is now Audubon Park. Later, in the mid-19th century, the well-known naturalist John James Audubon had a country estate here. In the late 1800s many other wealthy New Yorkers also had homes in the area including George Bird Grinnell, who is known as the father of the American Conservation Movement.

With the extension of the subway to 157th Street in 1904, developers began to build large luxury apartment buildings in Audubon Park--many of which remain to this day as a mix of cooperatives and rentals. In the same year philanthropist Archer M. Huntington founded the Hispanic Society of American and commissioned his cousin, architect Charles P. Huntington, to design a gallery and library for it in the midst of the Audubon Park neighborhood. This institution was soon joined by a number of others including the American Numismatic Society, the American Geographical Society, the Museum of the American Indian, and the Spanish-language church Our Lady of Esperanza--all designed by Huntington. In the early 1920s the National Institute of Arts and Letters also moved into the complex to a building designed for it by the firm of McKim, Mead & White. All these buildings share a similar Italian Renaissance Revival style and are grouped around a central plaza. Together they are listed as both a New York City Historic District and a National Register Historic District.