BRONX RIVER MYSTERY

The Bronx River is New York City’s only true river, beginning as a trickle in Westchester County and emptying into the East River (which is actually a tidal estuary). It formerly turned west and met the Hudson River, but a glacier impeded its progess there during the last Ice Age and the river was thereby diverted south. When Swedish pioneer Jonas Bronck settled in the area of the river in the mid-1600s, the river, which had gone by several Native American names, became known as “The Broncks’ River,” and the “the” has stubbornly remained as a prefix for Bronx borough, as well. Industrialization of the 1800s and 1900s turned the water brackish and unsustainable for life, but groups such as Bronx River Restoration and Bronx River Alliance have helped bring it back. Kayakers can now regularly be seen there, and it looks as wild as it must ever have been on its course through the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. New parks have also sprung up along its banks, as well as reconstruction of older parks such as Starlight Park in West Farms.

Unusual bridges take Gun Hill Road across the Bronx Riverand Bronx Boulevard, which runs alongside it.

What makes them interesting are the inscriptions on the decorative pillars that appear at he beginnings and ends of both bridges. They are marked with the letters “BRPR” and the date 1918. According to the late Bronx historian Bill Twomey, the letters stand for “Bronx River Parkway Reservation.” The Reservation parallels the Bronx River from the New York Botanical Gardens north to Kensico Dam, Valhalla, in Westchester County. It’s a 15.5-mile swath of parkland designed in the early years of the 20th century by the Bronx Parkway Commission.

Architect Charles Stoughton designed many of the bridges and other architectural elements in the BRPR, including this one. With his brother Arthur Alexander in the firm Stoughton and Stoughton, he also designed the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive and West 89th Street.

I walked the length of Gun Hill Road in November 2014, because I felt like it.

11/15/16


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