Countless poets have wandered New York’s streets. From Federico García Lorca’s lonely adventures in Columbia University subway stations to Allen Ginsberg’s hallucinations on the Upper West Side to Walt Whitman and Thoreau’s respective meanderings along the East River, New York has been a stomping ground for many of the world’s most famous literary minds. Read on to discover various places these poets spent their time and mined for inspiration, and to find quotes and poems that mention places in New York where you can go in order to feel like you yourself are part of a network of rich literary history.
1. Edgar Allan Poe’s Croton Resevoir
During his residency at Fordham in the mid-1800s, Edgar Allan Poe often took long, contemplative walks, but not across the High Bridge that connects Washington Heights to the Bronx, as it has widely been reported. We debunked that myth when we discovered that the walkway was completed after he died. Where he did amble was on the top of the Croton Distributing Reservoir which once stood where Bryant Park and the New York Public Library are today, bounded by 40th and 42nd Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues.
In his Doings of Gotham column for the Columbia Spy in 1844, Poe wrote of the stunning view from atop the reservoir walls:
When you visit Gotham, you should ride out the Fifth Avenue, as far as the distributing reservoir, near forty-third street, I believe. The prospect from the walk around the reservoir, is particularly beautiful. You can see, from this elevation, the north reservoir at Yorkville; the whole city to the Battery; with a large portion of the harbor, and long reaches of the Hudson and East rivers. Perhaps even a finer view, however, is to be obtained from the summit of the white, light-house-looking shot-tower which stands on the East river, at fifty-fifth street, or thereabouts. The reservoir was demolished in 1900.
Other famous Poe haunts include Mount Tom on 83rd Street and Claremont, where Poe would look out over the Hudson, and the Edgar Allen Poe cottage in the Bronx. For a more in-depth look at Poe’s journeys in New York City, check out this article.