Should you find yourself on Riverside Drive at 121st Street on Sundays at 10.30am, 12.30pm, or 3pm, you will be treated to a free concert – a very loud concert provided by 74 bronze bells, including a 20-ton monster that is the heaviest bell ever cast, presented to Riverside Church by John D. Rockefeller in memory of his mother. The bells are installed in a carillon that rises 392ft above the city, gracing New York with a skyscraper bell tower that is, quite fittingly, the world’s tallest. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and other world figures have spoken beneath the church’s acres of stained glass.
Sakura Park, at the base of the tower, is one of the prettiest patches of greenery in New York, and with its tidy gravel paths and orderly rows of trees, seems like an elegant square in Paris. In fact, a soft gray Parisian melancholy washes over this quiet stretch of Riverside Drive, providing suitable surroundings for Grant’s Tomb, the somber mausoleum of the Civil War general and 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.
Just up the street is a more humble, yet touching memorial ‘to the memory of an amiable child … 5-year-old who fell to his death from these rocks on July 15, 1797.’
The schist that begins to emerge in the neighborhood becomes more pronounced the farther north you go. By 181st Street, the island’s rocky underpinnings erupt in a tall cliff that was a strategic stronghold during the Revolutionary War, when patriots lost the Battle of Fort Washington from ramparts that are now outlined in granite blocks.