What was once the entrance to a grand mansion is now a hidden gem in Fort Tryon Park: the Billings Arcade, an arched passage with a remarkable past.
Wandering through the park's lush pathways to find these stunning remains is a great way to spend a summer day–and take some memorable pictures.
The photogenic arcade was once part of Tryon Hall, a mansion built by wealthy horseman Cornelius K.G. Billings to be close to the racetrack (today’s Harlem River Drive). Construction on the $2 million estate began in 1901 and was completed in 1907.
In 1917, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. bought the property, but the life of Tryon Hall was short-lived: it burned down in 1925.
Soon after, Rockefeller incorporated the land into what would become Fort Tryon Park. Today, the portico–as well as the entrance to the driveway and a nearby gatehouse–are almost all that's left of the Billings Mansion.
To explore the arcade yourself, take the A train to the 190th Street station and use the Fort Washington Avenue exit to head north toward Fort Tryon Park. (Update 10/20: Due to elevator work at the station, this exit is currently closed; consider getting off at 181st Street and taking the bus the rest of the way.)
Enter Fort Tryon Park through its main southern entrance at Margaret Corbin Plaza. Take the first path on the left and head down toward the Billings Lawn.
The arches are completely hidden beneath the lawn. To reach them, follow either of the two paths at the bottom of the slope.
One takes you down two sets of narrow stairs (pictured above on the right). The other on the left serves as an alternate route with fewer stairs. The Billings Arcade is all the way at the bottom, parallel to the West Side Highway.
Don't want to take the steep stairs back to the top? Follow the path all the way through the arches, leading you to yet another route that connects to the top of the lawn.
All photos: Morgan Mackey