It's Lin-Manuel Miranda's world now, and we just live in it. That's why everyone knows about Washington Heights by now, right? Well, as it turns out, this northern Manhattan neighborhood, which I thought I knew pretty well after all these years in New York City, has a large park I wasn't aware of – a park where scenes from the film version of In the Heights were shot.
J. Hood Wright Park lies in the West 170s, overlooking the Hudson River and across the island (which is quite narrow up here) from the High Bridge.
This view of the George Washington Bridge from the overlook at the northwestern corner of J. Hood Wright Park will situate you:
Movie fame aside, the park's most notable features are its outcroppings of Manhattan schist.
This mysterious gentleman (yes, it's yours truly) can't resist schist outcroppings.
This rock bed even has room for a tiny pond:
And then there are those that just refuse to get paved over. Schists that resist.
Aside from that, the park is mostly gently undulating terrain of grassy fields and trees. (Bare, since it was February, except for the occasional evergreen.)
I demanded Mrs. Odyssey pose with this wriggling tree:
Up at the overlook towers the sculpture 3000 A.D. Diffusion Piece by Terry Fugate-Wilcox. Installed in 1974, it bides its time here for the year 3000, by which point its magnesium and aluminum plates are expected to have diffused – that is, fused together. As Radiolab's Jad Abumrad described the piece back in 2011 (when it was slightly less diffused):
"It’s about 30 feet tall and it’s driven down about 150 or 200 feet into this hard, ancient bedrock that can survive a nuclear blast." He added, "There’s something about living in a city like New York where the only constant is change, and then sitting in this park and looking at this sculpture with a quality of timelessness."
True. But to me, it's the schist itself, the bedrock, that suggests timelessness.
Because it's so high and narrow, the sculpture is tough to get a picture of. Even the artist's own website almost throws up its hands at the task. But that's OK – it's not exactly a thing of beauty.
Beautiful, though in their humble way, are the stone structures that house bathrooms, park offices, and recreation centers in many New York City parks. Like this hexagonal one, here at J. Hood Wright.
Part of the J. Hood Wright Recreation Center, it dates from 1936, 11 years after the city acquired the land for a park. (Its cupola was restored in 2013.) The acreage had been owned by Hood, a banker (Drexel, Morgan & Co.), philanthropist, and "railroad reorganizer" (whatever that is), who had begun as a dry goods clerk in his native Philadelphia. He lived in a mansion at 175th Street and Haven Avenue, according to the Parks Department website.
Hood applied some of his wealth toward the public good – a library, a hospital – but arguably even more important was his donation of his land, so that it could eventually become this nice 6.7-acre park with really fun terrain.
All photos © Critical Lens Media