by Kevin Walsh

If you haven’t been to Parkchester you’re in for a treat. Visiting the Bronx’ s premier apartment complex is an experience that will delight anyone with an interest in urban planning and a sharp eye for detail.

Take the #6 train into the Bronx, exit at the Parkchester station and you will find yourself at Hugh Grant Circle, named for a New York City mayor from 1890-1892 (not the cheeky British actor). Look here on its south side for the façade of the old Circle Theatre, which is now an exercise studio. Cross into Parkchester and choose any street or pedestrian path.


Parkchester was built in 1941 by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company on 110 acres, some of which had been occupied by the New York Catholic Protectorate, a home for poor children. For its time, Parkchester was a pioneer in rental-unit engineering, as it included amenities like gleaming new bathrooms with non-slip bathtub bottoms, double sinks and cabinets in the kitchens — an innovation at the time. The complex boasted a bowling alley, recreation areas, the very first Macy’s branch outlet, and three movie theatres in or near it: The Loew’s American (still there as a multiplex), the Palace and the Circle.

Met Life provided Parkchester with a rather whimsical style. While the tall seven and twelve-story buildings appear somewhat monolithic when viewed from afar, a walk around the complex reveals the friendly face Parkchester presents: its generous employment of colorful, playful terra-cotta statues and sculpture.

Met Life chose Federal Seaboard Terra Cotta Corporation for the project. The company supplied over 500 statues of hula girls, accordion players, farm animals, and other unique accoutrements as doorway ornaments, as well as elaborate designs for theatres and storefronts, some by renowned sculptor Joseph Kiselewski.

Some believe the sculpture at right is a depiction of Mary, mother of Christ. Contrast with the title card (above), a depiction of the “rape of Europa”; in classical myth, Zeus appeared to a maiden he had an interest in, Europa; disguising himself as a bull, he carried her off to the island of Crete.

A Kiselewski sculpture depicts a family above one of the doorways. Animals are well represented at Parkchester.

Senoritas and seals

He resembles Michael Caine in Zulu.

Looks like the fireman is ready to rescue the fair maiden from the ledge.

Snow or rain don’t bother these Parkchesterites. Or Parkchesterers, or Parkchesteri.

Strangely enough, these most beautifully colored figures can be found in a relatively hidden region at the back of the American Theatre.

Some photos by Steve Garza (September 2006) rest by your webmaster (December 2004). Page completed September 25, 2008



Armory Art Show 2012: Bronx Day « The Bronx Socialite March 10, 2012 - 5:35 pm

[…] come across in galleries. Among some of the works-in-progress were sculptures ( similar to the ones found in Parkchester) and large, vibrant floral-quasi-sexual paintings. I didn’t take any pictures here since the […]

Josh Newsteder January 26, 2013 - 7:07 pm

All these works were created by my Grandfather, Raymond Granville Barger.

Myra Alperson March 25, 2013 - 7:53 am

I would love to hear from family members linked to Raymond Granville Barger. I lead food tours all over NYC, and I link the tours to local culture. I led a tour in February ’12 of Parkchester, which drew quite a few folks who’d lived there or had a family connection. I had a great deal of trouble getting information about the sculptures, so I would love to hear from Josh or Amy. I’m scheduling another tour for the spring of 2013. I love Parkchester’s diversity.

Thank you!

AC Pressley February 16, 2018 - 3:14 pm

I’m glad I found this post. I was horrified to see at least two of these statues were destroyed by the contractors who are posting the buildings ant replacing the roofs. I have photos of one. Can anything be done about this/

Hector Ramos September 18, 2018 - 9:02 am

Sad to say these beautiful sculptures created by your grandfather are being destroyed by careless workers on scaffolds doing building maintenance. Just went there to visit my mom and saw the damage that has been done. It is inexcusable

Amey Barger Elias February 2, 2013 - 3:09 pm

Some of the terra cotta reliefs on the buildings re; the
3 Dancers and others, were done by my father
Raymond Granville Barger.
He also did the bronze pieces for the fountain, the
center piece of this wonderful complex. Thank you
for this interest in all these pieces of Art.
Amey Barger Elias

Myra Alperson March 25, 2013 - 7:55 am

Amy – Could you please contact me? As I mentioned in a prior post, I lead food tours in NYC’s ethnic neighborhoods and added a tour last year in Parkchester, where we wandered through the neighborhood (with binoculars) to see the terra cotta sculptures and feasted on Bangladeshi and Mexican food. We also went to see the mural a tthe Emigrant Savings Bank at Hugh Grant Circle.

I would love more information on the production of the terra cotta sculptures.

Thank you.

Myra Alperson

Anonymous April 1, 2016 - 10:02 am

Myra, I believe your father deserves an article in Wikipedia. I would be willing to do the grunt work of writing and posting but I would appreciate any sources you could provide.

Brandenburg April 1, 2016 - 10:05 am

Dear Amey Barger Elias,

I sent the message to Myra by mistake. To repeat, I believe your father and his work merit an article in Wikipedia. I would be willing to do the grunt work of writing and posting but I need sources which you probably have (publications, books, articles, etc.). Please contact me.


Lois Bogwald Vitiello May 20, 2017 - 8:41 am

SUCH TALENT !!! The genes have most definitely passed on down to you and to your gifted children as well ❤️❤️❤️

Mary February 16, 2013 - 8:31 pm

I love these photos. I grew up roller skating in Parkchester (60’s) and I remember that odd passage behind the Lowe’s American and the sculptures. My family lived on McGraw Ave before Parkchester was built,I have photos of MGraw Ave as a field with buildings in the distance that were the Protectorate.

Joan February 26, 2013 - 2:51 am

We lived in 1520 Archer Rd with the sculpture of the woman holding the child by the arms. I have just started a (I hope) series of drawings on these great little art works of memory. The Circle was a place of wonder at Christmas & Easter — and, of course, THE spot for the photos! Thanks for this article on a wonderful place to grow up.

Phil Lohman February 23, 2015 - 9:08 pm

2/23/15 Hey Joan, Here it is 2 years after your post and I wonder if you receive these replies. I was rummaging around this evening and googled “Parkchester” where I once lived and linked from there to the sculpture of Joseph Kiselewski and saw the one of the woman holding the child and it brought me back to my childhood. We lived at 1520 from the early 40’s to the late 50’s in apartment 5D. Any recollections of folks from there and then? My mom was Ella and dad was Sid. I went to P.S. 102 and then P.S. 36. …Phil

Bronx Statues, by Carole Howard | Second Wind Publishing February 23, 2014 - 8:51 am

[…] [If you’d like to know more about the statues of Parkchester, including some great pictures, you can read this article.] […]

Jag April 3, 2014 - 7:19 pm

I lived at 1590 Metropolitan Ave. The Lowes American was a grand Theatre. I would love to see some photos of the beautiful Art Deco Interior. I was always intrigued by the rear of the building as well. Especially The iron balcony/ fire escape that ran across it.
Any photos of the cool tunnels, stairways and gargoyles in Parkchester?

Sonia July 4, 2014 - 7:21 am

Parkchester is a gem of a place to live in many respects especially with its beautiful, whimsical Terra Cotta and colorful sculptures. We, as a community are trying to keep and preserve the Bow Tie (Loew’s) American Theater Art Deco design landmark.

Thank you for the beautiful photos.


carol turk seskin May 31, 2015 - 2:33 pm

loved seeing all these photos. it is true – growing up there (we lived in 1936 e. tremont ave) seemed to make us unaware of the beauty of the neighborhood. guess we just took it for granted. thank you for reminding us of our wonderful years there.

The Parkchester Information Network January 27, 2016 - 7:09 am

Lovely Parkchester area photos.
The four quadrants of the development were divided into two entities: Parkchester North Condominium comprising the North Quadrant and Parkchester South Condominium comprising the East Quadrant, West Quadrant and South Quadrants.
If you ever take a trip to Parkchester, I suggest you start with Parkchester South for shopping and dining venues. Head to the North for sight seeing, ex. statues, and meeting the locals.

Hector Ramos September 18, 2018 - 9:17 am

What an outrage the wantonly distructiive way Parkchester has allowed the so called maintenance to treat the sculptures on the buildings. They have completely destroyed many and with them they have destroyed much of what made Parkchester so special. They should be replaced as soon as possible!

Bruce Bassman May 14, 2017 - 1:55 pm

This stuff is absolutely great and Parkchester is still a jewel in its way. I am proud to say contemporaries art the time also appreciated them very much. Thank you for posting and the information. Bruce Bassman here, 99 Met. Oval from 1941 to 1988.

Carole Goldman August 5, 2017 - 5:11 am

Bruce Bassman..i lived in 99 Met Oval 5C in 1941 went to PS 102 and 36. This whole post is blowing me away. I became an artist and i think it was because of my loving all the sculptures and our wonderful sprouting water creatures in the Oval
My name then was Becker .. Carole Becker and my cousin Howard Peretz lived in 89 Met Oval. Oh wow what a long time ago

Zachary (George) Sahker January 26, 2018 - 3:10 pm

Was gainfully employed at the Parkchester News on Metropolitan Ave.., and The Chester House, ever since I had working papers at 14.The RKO theater on Castle Hill Ave was a favorite destination. Lived at 1507 Met, 2140 E Tremont, 1680 Met and 2055 St. Raymonds Ave. Moved out of the latter as soon as my folks got their three bedroom. Still in touch with many of my friends who lived there or in close proximity to Parkchester. Never regretted having been raised there, but my heart always called out for the West.

Maureen January 26, 2018 - 10:06 pm

Parkchester was certainly a wonderful place to grow up. These beautiful sculptures gave us an appreciation and an introduction to art without our realizing it. Thanks for the great memories.

Marianne January 27, 2018 - 11:26 pm

I grew up on St. Lawrence Avenue, outside of Parkchester but spent much time at the Loew’s American, Chester House bowling and the library upstairs in the same building. My first job while still in high school was at Woolworths…many great memories.

Myra Alperson May 1, 2018 - 9:16 pm

I would still love to know which came up with the idea for the sculptures? We know who created them but clearly someone had a special vision. They really add so much character to Parkchester.

Tori July 23, 2018 - 2:28 pm

Ah, I’m so glad I found this post! I’ve been wondering about the statues since we moved here. They are quite mistifying.

Hector Ramos September 18, 2018 - 9:24 am

Sorry to let you know Tori but as I just visited my mom in Parkchester two days ago the beautiful statues are being destroyed by careless maintenance workers on scaffolding I would say at least ten have been totally destroyed. What outrageous carelessness and indifference. What made Parkchester so special is destroyed

Helene August 8, 2018 - 4:01 pm

Grew up in the late 40’s, 50’s, 60s and early 70’s. Still had relatives there till only a few years ago. 1560 Met Ave had/has a black bear cub on top of a pillar right in front of the building. I loved all the sculptures and I loved living in Parkchester. Worked at Lerner’s. I had a coat on layaway there! It was my first “by myself” big purchase and I was 14 y/o. Still talk to some of my friends and will never forget the many with whom I’ve lost touch. It was a beautiful, fun place to grow up and I still walk the paths and back entrances in my dreams.

David Boritz September 8, 2018 - 12:16 pm

Dave says:
Sept 8 2018
I grew up in Parkchester from 1941 until around 1970 there was a group of us who always hung out in the oval. I remember when I used to go to the handball courts there was a giant base ball field that was dirt. Eventually they tared it over. I also remember that during the summer they had little swimming pools. Which they eventually turned into shower pools for the kids. Those were the best years.

Robert Arthur King September 22, 2018 - 6:39 am

The building details on the Parkchester Houses need to be landmarked and saved at all cost. these details are unique are one of a kind. I have photographed many of these details as well as from other buildings in New York City and in Europe, while many of the buildings have been demolished these details need to be saved. If some buildings are to be demolished the details should be saved and donated to a museum. NYC Landmarks Commission needs to take action as soon as possible.

Joe Longo April 5, 2019 - 12:10 pm

I am writing an article about Parkchester in the 1950’s and am interested in getting recollections from people who lived there and/or grew up there during that time period. I would appreciate any recollections. Thanks

Mary-Jane March 23, 2020 - 10:51 pm

My family lived at 2001 McGraw Ave and then 2049 McGraw from 1940’s through 1950’s. We were so fortunate to grow up in Parkchester at that time! We had neighborhood playgrounds supervised by attendants who scheduled activities from ping pong tournaments, hop scotch, dodge ball, potsy, and what did we call the game that required bottle caps filled with melted crayons? Was it skully? If yes, I wonder where the nname came from? We climbed monkey bars, played paddle tennis and waded in our ankle depth pools. And then there were the special celebrations involving costumes, contests and parades. There was great excitement on field days when children from all the quadrants came together in competition. And our lucky parents! They never had to plan play dates for us nor did they worry about our safety when we left our aapartments. They were truly the good old days!

Barbara L. Lindenbaum Gideon April 3, 2022 - 9:33 pm

Parkchester and I are the same age! Our first Parkchester apartment was at 1680 Metropolitan Avenue from about 1942 to 1943. I had an uncle and aunt in the same building, and I also remember a few other families that lived there at the same time. In 1943 we moved to 28 Metropolitan Oval and l lived there until 1959, my parents a few years more. I attended PS 106, Olinville JHS 113, and CCHS. It was a great place to grow up: part of NYC, but a world of its own.


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