A little Inwood history

Posted: June 6, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

In my continuing quest to convince taxi drivers and non-New Yorkers that Inwood is actually a part of Manhattan, a little look back at some history of the neighborhood.

And as always, I strongly suggest that people visit the neighborhood today too — it’s not what it was back in these videos and posts, but it remains as unique as ever. And as Law & Order: Criminal Intent explained, there’s even a type of code if you live here (which was don’t talk to the police; so if you do come here and have need to talk to the police, don’t follow the code).

First up, something very close to home: Scouting New York took a trip north and investigated a marble archway from the 19th century that’s still standing — even though it’s now a body shop.

It’s a cool piece and explains the history of the place — the Fury family building is visible as we live right next door. As the site explains, the “archway is the last remaining structure from the Seaman-Drake estate, which used to sit atop the Inwood hills over 100 years ago.” It’s one of those things tens of thousands of people drive by each week but few would ever notice. I live next to it and I hardly ever notice it. This is one tiny spot in New York City. Think how many things like this exist throughout the city — not marble archways in body shops of course, but other unique, fascinating spots that are a part of New York’s past, and, more remarkably, its present.

And now a video that will show why the Notre Dame football team was even more popular than the New York Yankees in Inwood during the 1950s and ’60s. The Irish dominated the place. This is a lengthy video but worth the time.

It’s from 1968 and is titled “Goodbye to Glocamaorra.”

Some highlights?

* The talk of changing demographics. The Irish were on the way out, with “negroes” and Puerto Ricans moving in. It could be startling to a 2013 audience, but one tidbit is something that’s been true forever: Little kids don’t have the prejudices or fears of adults. They haven’t learned them yet — but being around the adults who do hold those beliefs is always part of the cycle.

* 73 Irish pubs in Inwood. 73 Irish pubs in Inwood. And all of them had plenty of patrons. Today there are a handful of Irish pubs in the neighborhood. Every time I’m in one the words “old-school drunk” come to mind.

* Good Shepherd, which is about four blocks south of us, had 14 Sunday masses — nine in the church, 5 in the auditorium, 20,000 Catholics, all of them Irish, packing the pews.

* Cool drive around the area with a younger guy who went to school in nearby Fordham. Talks about the Irish adapting to funeral homes, removing wakes from the homes but then heading off to the pubs when the homes would close at 10. Also mentions the selective morals of the churchgoing folk — strict sexual morals…not-so-strict when it came to drinking and gambling. The guy said he was going off to the army for two years. Wonder if he went to Vietnam. Wonder if he returned.

It’s a different world in Inwood today, and a different neighborhood. The people from that video probably wouldn’t recognize it, though many did stick around. I would have loved living in Inwood back then, but I love it just as much today. Even if there are about 70 fewer Irish bars to visit.

  1. steve h says:

    I lived in inwood from the 40s to the late 60s and still go there often. There were 98 bars and every sport was played in the Bar Leagues. Softball, Football, Ice Hockey, Bowling etc.
    The “main event” was what we called going to Bickfords on Dyckman & Broadway or the Capitol on Broadway and 207th to see the flying sugar bowls and fights after the bars closed at 3 am.

  2. Sean Curtin says:

    I lived in Inwood in the late ’50s and all thru the ’70s.

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