Resembling Silver Beach along the southern edge of Throgs Neck, the Bronx community of Harding Park features inlets, reeds, and small houses and bungalows clustered along the confluence of the East and Bronx Rivers, and its topography is also shaped by Pugsley’s and Westchester Creeks.


Rocky shore of the East River; Harding Park bungalows along an inlet

Just a little specification is in order: the small abutment of the Bronx defined by the Bronx River (and Soundview Park which stretches alongside it) Pugsley’s Creek* and the East River is known as Clason (pronounced Clawson) Point, named for an 18th Century merchant named Isaac Clason who purchased what was previously known as Cornell’s Neck in 1793; the land stayed in the family until the family sold it in 1855. Harding Park is the maze of little unnamed streets and bungalows found along Bronx River, Leland, Gildersleeve and Cornell Avenues in the southwest sector of Clason Point. Like Silver Beach and Edgewater Park, it seems independent from the rest of the Bronx, since its street pattern is different and it’s cut off by water from the rest of the borough. It’s very, very odd.

*Nothing to do with the heir to the Addams Family fortune played by Ken Weatherwax; this was a Talman Pugsley, who owned land here in the late 1700s.


Kayaker along East River inlet. The NYC skyline can be seen dramatically from Harding Park.

A hypothetical resident of the planet Pluto, observing the bright dot in what must be a perpetually pitch black Plutonian sky, would have no idea, unless his race had mastered astronomy, that the especially bright dot was in fact the sun around which his planet orbited; similarly, if you were kidnapped, blindfolded and stuffed in a car trunk and dumped in Harding Park, would you have any idea that these distant towers were in the same town as the one where you stand?

The region’s first residents of course were the Siwanoy Indians, who spoke Algonquin. Europeans began settling the region in the early 1600s, and the Cornell family built the first permanent European settlement in the spit of land first known as Snakipins by the Indians, then Cornells Neck and later Clason Point. In the 1640s a series of skirmishes between the Cornells and the Siwanoy, known as the Pig Wars, were led by Wampage, the Siwanoy scahem believed to be the Indian leader who killed Anne Hutchinson and her children in 1643 at Split Rock in the northern Bronx. This act was done, some historians believe, in retaliation for New Netherland governor Willem Kieft‘s February massacres of refugee Weekwaeskeek at Corlaer’s Hook and Pavonia in today’s New Jersey. A passing ship rescued the Cornells, and they persisted, returning to their adopted Bronx home the year after Wampage’s last raid. Britisher Thomas Pell arrived at a treaty in 1654 with several Siwanoy sachems, including Wampage, that the Dutch authorities didn’t recognize. This disagreement was rendered moot in 1664 when the British fleet appeared in the harbor and the Dutch capitulated.


Manhattan appears as a far-off promise to the fishers working the East River. In the foreground we see the the South Bronx Marine Transfer Station, a facility once used by the Department of Sanitation to offload collection trucks into barges for transfer to Fresh Kills. The domed structure to the right is a salt storage dome.

By the mid-1800s, as we’ve seen, the area was called Clason Point. Families such as the Lynches, Ludlows, Schieffelins, and Lelands, some of which are still seen on street signs, all built farmhouses in the area, though its swampy, waterlogged nature made it a non-starter for commerce. (Even today the main shopping area is at a fairly distant remove, along Story Avenue, the Bruckner Expressway and White Plains Road.) Its seaside location and terrific views as shown here made it a logical locale for seaside resorts, dancehalls and amusement parks, of which plenty were constructed in the early 20th Century with an accompanying ferry from College Point, Queens.


Cornell Avenue bungalows


By 1900 the Higgs family maintained a beach and amusement area on the western end of Clason Point, and in the early 1920s Thomas Higgs, who owned about 100 acres of beachfront property, began leasing tents to visitors and the area formalized its own street layout and summer bungalow colony. Good patriots that they were, they named the colony for the US President at the time, Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923). After World War II these became permanent year-round residences due to a housing shortage, eventually sheltering over 250 families.


Though Robert Moses attempted to tear down what he called the “Soundview Slums” (Moses didn’t like anything that wasn’t a Corbusian-esque housing project or an expressway; his Utopia would have been a city composed of residential skyscrapers connected by superhighways), Harding Park survived, but became City property in 1979.


3 years later, though, in 1982, Harding Park Homeowners Association, the first cooperatively owned low and moderate-income community in the city was formed. Harding Park now appears as if it will carry on in the future indefinitely with its city views, great fishing, and relative privacy.


Leland Avenue along Soundview Park leads into the heart of Harding Park.


Bronx River Avenue curves around the bungalows, but despite its name, does so here along the East River.


The NY Botanical Garden (also in the Bronx) has sponsored a roadside garden along Leland Avenue.


ForgottenFan consensus seems to be that this is a ’53 or ’54 Pontiac Catalina with 60s Buick Riviera tires.


White Plains Road, which eventually gains an el and becomes the main shopping drag to Bronxdale, Williamsbridge and Wakefield, begins here in Clason Point.

However, it doesn’t go to White Plains.

The New York Times profiled the area in November 2004…

There were numerous ferries, and during Prohibition, gangsters unloaded bootlegged hooch. Boatyards lined the shore, and the Castle Hill Pool was an immediate hit when it opened in 1927. Clason Point …once boasted an amusement pier said to rival Coney Island, according to an area historian, Arthur Seifert, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 70 years.

“When I moved here in ’33, there were still farms,” he said. “I remember trying to plow the field behind a horse.”

The farms are gone and so are most of the boatyards, but entertainment possibilities abound. The Y.M.C.A. on nearby Castle Hill Avenue has indoor and outdoor pools, the Harding Park Homeowners Association is building a new community center and the Point Yacht Club still flies its burgee from the tip of Clason Point. It was a few blocks away, on stage at the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club on Randall Avenue, that Jennifer Lopez first strutted her stuff. Every spring, proceeds from the Kips Bay Decorator Show House benefit this center, which has the area’s only ice rink. 

The “entertainment possibilities” are unintentionally amusing, seeing that we just got through with District, Meatpacking, but anyway, the YMCA offerings are more your webmaster’s speed, and I’m more likely to gain ready admittance there.



22 Responses to HARDING PARK, BRONX

  1. Don Malone says:

    Great story! I am researchering my Cornell family and enjoyed the site. Below is the description of the grant. Relative of Ezra Cornell founder of Cornell Univ. and also William Ellery of Rhode Island, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
    Thomas Cornell came to America about 1633 with his wife and most, if not all, of his children. He is first found in Boston. In September1638 Thomas Cornhill “was licensed upon tryal to keepe an Inn.
    On 25 July 1646 he received a grant in New Amsterdam which became known as “Cornell’s Neck”. Governor Kieft described it as running “from the Kill of Broncks land, east southeast along the River.” The property ran from the mouth of Westchester Creek for two miles along Long Island Sound to the Bronx River, and two miles deep to what in 1902 was the village of Westchester. It was the third grant recorded in Westchester County, NY. On 15 April 1667 this land was confirmed by patent of Colonel Nicholls to his grandson, William Willett. In this deed, the land is described as “a cetaine Parcell of Land, contained within a neck, commonly called and knowne by ye name of Cornell’s Neck, lying and being upon the Maine, toward the Sound or East River, being bounded to the West by a certain Rivolett which runs to the Black Rock and so into Bronckse Creeke or Kill. Then the Neck stretching itselfe East South East into the Sound is bounded to the East with another Rivolett which divides it from the limits of West Chester and a line being run from the head of each Rivolett wherewith a narrow slip, the said Neck is joined to the Maine Land, it closes up the Neck and makes the North bounds thereof.” The “Rivolett which runs to the Black Rock” was known as Barrett’ Creek in 1912, and there was a bluff of black gneiss at the southeastern part of the neck where it joined the Bronx River. Thomas was at Portsmouth again, a member of a coroner’s jury, in 1653, probably driven from New York again by warring Indians. His will, dated 5 December 1651, left all his real estate to his wife Rebecca. He probably died in 1655.

    • Bill Barrett says:

      Would you be related to a Peter Griffin Cornell?

      • S. says:

        Hi Bill,
        I’m related to Cornells and Griffins.
        Jedediah Cornell Sr. 1825-1905 married Annastasia S. Griffin 1836-1913
        I’m not sure if/ where Peter Griffin Cornell fits in.
        email me at: lilylu8675309@gmail.com

      • bill e. says:

        i lived in hrding park from 1945 till i married in 1968. iknew the biordan family and thier bar as well. my aunt by marriage divorced my uncle and married the youngest riordan brother. it was a scandal t o sy the least

  2. WALTER says:


  3. Pingback: The Bronx Bloggers | Let’s Go Hiking (and Biking)!

  4. Pingback: Welcome2TheBronx | 13 Facts & Tidbits About The Bronx That Makes Us Awesome

  5. Christine Cathcart says:

    I live on Barrett Avenue, Puglsey Creek, moved there 1953 I loved it and all the children in the area. We were safe as our neighbors watched out for us. I never worried about walking home from Scared Heart Church Gym after Basketball practice even when it was 10:00 at night. It was clean because we all pitched in and kept it that way. My mom made a beautiful garden on Lacombe and Barrett, everyone came to take their easter pictures there is wast huge and very colorful. Mrs Crocitto made another in front of her home 454 Barrett. I left in 1968 to raise a family of my own but went back on a regular basis until my parents sold the apartment house only one there, all the others were private homes. I have fond memories of Harding Park as I hung out there with my friend Helena Kanski, we use to play ball at the old firehouse. We did not have cell phones to txt we use to shout out at each other from the street. Summer was the best we went swimming in the Sound you could see your feet it was very clean.

  6. Pingback: Let’s Go Hiking (and Biking)! - All Day I Dream of Travel

  7. Jack Donaghy says:

    excellent info! i did not know the name ‘harding park’ although i’ve bicycled through this area countless times en route to city island and/or orchard from midtown east. thanks for this, and your love of nyc!!!

  8. MT says:

    I lived on Pugsley Ave. from 1957 to 1970, and my mother was born there. The place has changed, and not for the better.

  9. Joe Colao says:

    I remember the creek going to Lacombe Ave. There was a factory that produced round automobile mirrors. ..we would fling them like frisbies. The Wheeler Boat yard was nearby building world known yachts. Word has it that Jackie Gleason’s boat was being built there when the entire boat yard burned.
    I remember Farmers Hill were Monroe Projects were built. I remember cisterns deep into the ground to collect irregation water.
    Funland on Buckner Blvd. Getting laid at Black Rock! Walking to school through the dumps.
    Swimming under the houses built on stilts….and of course you would swI’m as fast as you possibly could when you would hear the toilet flush through an ope pipe!

  10. thomas kilgallen says:

    born in 1953 lived at716 Harding Park it was a fascinating place to spend your childhood

    • Bob says:

      Hey Tommy- long time- we went to Holy Cross together.. glad to see you online. I stay in touch with Ronnie B .

    • Laura George says:

      It sure was Tommy, the best place ever!

      • Charles says:

        I also went to Holy Cross school in the late 70’s and early 80s. I live on Underhill ave and really loved the Harding Park Clason Point. I have great memories and still have life long friends in the area.

    • Mary says:

      Was wondering if you recalled 712 Harding Park? My aunt and uncle lived there and I recall such fond memories of visiting them there. Harding Park holds such great childood memories for me.

  11. Peter O'Hare says:

    I lived on Leland Ave from 1947 (born there ) thru 1968 ! I worked summers at Castle Hill Beach Club for 5 years ( 61 thru 66) .
    It was a good area to grow up in . While most people were technically poor , almost everyone was employed, most working for the city’s uniformed services ; cops, fireman , sanitation and Transit !
    It was like a world unto itself ! Truly ” The Old Neighborhood ” ! West and Siurh of Bruckner Blvd was like another country !

  12. Geri says:

    The best! When I dream, I am usually at 336 Theriot Ave. they say you always dream about the place you felt the safest. It was a great place to grow up! Holy Cross, PS 69, Harry’s, Rays, larrys Toy Store, Tony’s & Jerrys, Marguerites, the Beach movie, Sullivan’s, the Wall, Ozzie, I can go on and on!

  13. Dolly Packard says:

    Actually, it was Arthur Godfrey’s boat that burned during the Wheeler Boatyard fire. MY husband met him. He was sitting in the back of his unfinished boat, playing the euke. His diesel engines were being installed.My husband still has some teak wood, that was discarded after the fire. My grandmother, uncles and aunt owned houses in Rudd Place, on O’brien Ave, off Soundview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.