PS 36 MYSTERY, Castle Hill–Unionport

Students, teachers and administrators on PS 36, on Castle Hill Avenue south of the Cross Bronx Expressway, if they even notice them, may be mystified about the carven street names on the corners of the building: “Avenue C,” “8th Street” and 9th Street.” The actual streets are named Castle Hill Avenue, Blackrock Avenue and Watson Avenue.


A clue can be found in this Hyde & Co. map of Unionport produced in 1900. You can find a grid layout west of Westchester Creek, with lettered avenues running north and south, and numbered avenues running east and west.

Unionport, laid out in 1851, was among the first towns in the Bronx to adopt a grid street system, and streets were named simply, by alphabet for north-south streets, by numbers east to west. Avenue A is now Zerega Avenue, Avenue B is now Havemeyer Avenue and so on. Its name seems to have something to do with the navigability of the adjoining Westchester Creek, and at one time it was hoped that a major port could be built here.


PS 36 was completed in 1901 and at that time, the bordering streets still carried their older names. Thus, the Blackrock Avenue side has “8th Street…”


… and the Watson Avenue side carries the name “9th Street.” Both sides have “Avenue C” for Castle Hill Avenue.”

Soon after this, streets in Unionport were given different names and when adjoining neighborhoods were built up they did not extend the Unionport numbering system. In 1895, all of the Bronx became part of New York County, which also included Manhattan at the time, and in time, the house numbering became based on Manhattan’s; west of the Bronx River (and in some cases, east of it) Manhattan’s street numbering system leaches into the Bronx. The Bronx became a borough of its own in 1898, and a county on its own in 1914.

Photos: Gary Fonville


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10 Responses to PS 36 MYSTERY, Castle Hill–Unionport

  1. NY2AZ says:

    I was born & raised in the Parkchester section of the Bronx which is adjacent to this neighborhood. Parkchester was served by P.S. 106 on St. Raymond’s Avenue. Sometime in the late ’50’s P.S. 36 was closed for renovations & it’s faculty & students were reassigned to P.S. 106. Parkchester was a city within a city & we were very provincial so it caused mild culture shock (you had to be there to fully appreciate this). Somehow all survived the ordeal.

  2. Michael Lagana says:

    Another good one from Gary

  3. ron s says:

    Very interesting

  4. John says:

    Westchester Creek and Bronx River have Federally authorized channels. When I was working for the Corps of Engineers we dredged them by Federal contract periodically. With shrinking funds it now depends on how many tons of commerce move through the waterways for a dredging contract to be funded.

  5. Sergey Kadinsky says:

    Very rare find, Gary. I had no idea that The Bronx had its own Alphabet City.

  6. Gary Fonville says:

    Sergio, Kevin wrote the text. I only took the pictures because U had known about those corner blocks for a long time.

  7. Tom says:

    Interesting…so it appears this part of the Bronx went the opposite as did Queens where names changed to numbers when the current grid system replaced the old names that date from when Queens was a collection of local villages? That’s a pretty elementary school.

  8. Martin Abernathy says:

    Memories…I lived in the Castle Hill Houses in the 1960s, and attended kindergarten at P.S. 36 during the 1964-65 school year.

  9. Bernard Negrin says:

    As a member of the class of 1957, I would like to thank you for your research. You answered two of my questions:
    a, When was PS-36 built.
    b. The meaning, with documentation, of the enigmatic carvings.
    Thank you again for this work.
    B. Negrin

  10. J Brown says:

    I lived on what would have been 14th St (Newbold Ave.) and attended PS 36 for only the 7th grade while we waited for JHS 125 to be completed. It was 1951-1952, when the Cross Bx Exwy was beginning to topple houses, cutting through our little ‘towns’ of Unionport and Castlehill. We could see and hear the work being done from the school windows.

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