One of the parks in Washington Heights that is little known for its enjoyment and view of the George Washington Bridge is bordered by Haven Avenue, Cabrini Boulevard, 177th Street and 178th Street. Many motorists pass it daily on the off-ramp from the bridge or pass it by when they have to use the Henry Hudson Parkway from 177th Street. What is even less known is the fact that at one time there used to be a restaurant there, and its historical significance to the area.
The Arrowhead Inn on 178th Street and Haven Avenue was opened in 1908 by restaurateur Ben Riley. Riley came from Saratoga, New York, to start a business in New York City. One of the delicacies on the menu was frog’s legs, which was introduced to patrons who frequented the Inn. Such notables as “Diamond” Jim Brady and W.C. Fields were regulars. The Inn was also headquarters for a local automotive club.
The Arrowhead Inn was at a strategic location. Originally known as Depot Lane, 177th Street was a thoroughfare for traffic to and from a train station for the New York and Hudson River Railroad Company, which was organized in 1847 and laid tracks along the Hudson River for service to and from Albany, thus giving the street its name. Near the station was the West End Hotel in what is now Fort Washington Park.
Riley sold the property to developers in 1923 and the restaurant was dismantled. He moved the restaurant to Riverdale Avenue and 246th Street in the Bronx, sold the property again, and relocated to Yonkers where the Arrowhead Inn was destroyed by fire. Riley died soon after.
While in Yonkers, the Arrowhead played host to various groups and functions. On April 20, 1939, former Mayor of Yonkers Leslie Sutherland was honored at a testimonial dinner. The Riverdale Temple held services at the Arrowhead in 1947 until they found a home for the Synagogue.
The 177th Street site of the former Arrowhead Inn had been selected for apartment residences from the 1930s to the 1960s. The buildings were razed and the land became a parking lot. In time the land was purchased by the Port Authority to be used as a park and off-ramp for the George Washington Bridge. The ramp connects to the West Side Highway and to 178th Street for local streets.
There is a sculpture within the part of the park surrounded by the off-ramp, which is called “Large Hybrid.” This 12-foot sculpture was created by Richard Hunt and is on loan to the community from the New Paltz Gallery. It looks like a metal tree, but upon closer inspection one can make out animal heads amid the branches.
On Cabrini Boulevard and 177th Street is a vest pocket playground. Its blue benches and wrought iron sculpture can be enjoyed by those who use it as an oasis in a noisy area. A fence has been constructed so that small children can be observed with ease. Within this park is a marker which reads, “This plaque is in memory of the significant civic achievements made by Louie Stern on behalf of the Washington Heights Community, November 1969, Port of New York Authority, Chamber of Commerce of Washington Heights.” Mr. Stern was a member of the Washington Heights Chamber of Commerce in the 1940s.