This is the first of a series of five in which I try to explicate as best I can the names of the neighborhoods of each borough. Some of them are easily inferrable, while some of them have to be ferreted out, Holmes-like. Tackling the Bronx first, the only mainland borough…
The Riverdale Memorial Tower, Riverdale Avenue and Henry Hudson Parkway
RIVERDALE, NORTH RIVERDALE, SOUTH RIVERDALE
In the mid-19th Century the Spaulding, Dodge, Goodrich and other families (whose names ended up on area street maps) embarked on a real estate venture, calling it Riverdale because of the numerous brooks, streams and meadows in the hilly region.
Fieldston Road north of Manhattan College Parkway
The community, many of whose streets are private (I was discouraged from running a tour there by the neighborhood watch) , is north of Manhattan College, east and south of the Henry Hudson Parkway and west of Broadway. The area was purchased and subsequently developed by Major Joseph Delafield in 1829; he named it for his estate in England.
Edgehill Church, Independence Avenue near Kappock Street
This neighborhood tucked at the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers under the Henry Hudson Bridge has been known as Speight den Duyvil, Spike & Devil, Spitting Devil, Spilling Devil, Spiten Debill and Spouting Devil, among other spellings. In Dutch, “spuyten duyvil,” the mostly-accepted spelling these days, can be pronounced two ways; one pronunciation means “devil’s whirlpool” and the other means “spite the devil.”
In Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker History, a Dutch bugler vows to swim the turbulent waters of (then) Spuyten Duyvil Creek where it meets the Hudson during the British attack on New Amsterdam in the 1660s “en spijt den Duyvil,” or in “spite of the devil.” The Lenape Indians inhabited the land for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived; they called the banks of the creek “shorakapok” or “sitting-down place”. After a few hundred years, the name has been pared down and exists as a street name: Kappock (pronounced kay’ pock).
In the early 20th Century Spuyten Duyvil Creek was dredged and made deeper in order to allow commercial vessels to access the Hudson River via the Harlem River, which took over the creek’s route. This process first made the Manhattan neighborhood of Marble Hill and island, and later part of the mainland — the only bit of Manhattan found there.
The former 50th Precinct building, looking down Summit Place at Kingsbridge Terrace
KINGSBRIDGE and KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS
These neighborhoods take their names from a vanished bridge that spanned a rerouted creek. The story of the King’s Bridge can be found on a grime-encrusted plaque on one of the Marble Hill Houses, on Broadway just south of West 230th Street. The plaque is devilishly hard to read, since it’s out of range of sight from the street; you have to climb the short fence or walk around it. The plaque reads:
“Northwest of this tablet within a distance of 100 feet stood the original Kings Bridge and its successors from 1693 until 1913 when Spuyten Duyvil Creek was filled up.
“Over it marched the troops of both armies during the American Revolution and its possession controlled the land approach to New York City.
“General George Washington rested at Kings Bridge the night of June 26, 1776 while en route from Philadelphia to Cambridge to assume command of the Continental Army.
“This tablet was erected by the Empire State Society Sons of the American Revolution, June 27, 1914.”
Frederick Philipse built the first King’s Bridge, a tolled span over Spuyten Duyvil Creek, in 1693. Benjamin Palmer and Jacob Dyckman built a second bridge in 1759 to avoid paying the high tolls charged by Philipse. During his retreat from the Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776, General George Washington used both the King’s Bridge and Palmer and Dyckman’s free bridge to escape to White Plains. The original King’s Bridge has inspired a network of roads in Manhattan and the Bronx, some surviving, some not, named for it. The span survived till the excavations for the Harlem Ship Canal between 1913 and 1916.
The Rambling House, one of the many bars on Katonah Avenue
This neighborhood is tucked neatly into a wedge of territory between Woodlawn Cemetery, Van Cortlandt Park, the Yonkers city line and the Metro-North Railroad/Bronx river/Bronx River Parkway. Its namesake cemetery was initiated in 1863 from an idea bu Reverend Absalom Peters, a theologian, poet and proponent of the Rural Cemetery movement in which burial grounds became ‘memorial parks,’ places to go and quietly contemplate, away from the clatter of the city. Woodlawn’s name evokes such serenity. The cemetery’s first interment was in 1865.
Mundy Lane, on the Bronx-Mount Vernon city line in Wakefield. The blacktopped section is in the Bronx, while the concrete surface is in Mount Vernon.
This Bronx neighborhood at the city line, bordered by White Plains Road, East 233rd Street and Mundy Lane/Seton Avenue was surveyed in 1855 and given the name of the estate in Virginia where George Washington was born in 1732. His brother William inherited the house after their gather Augustine’s death, naming it “Wakefield.” The house burned down in 1779. Nearby, of course, is the town of Mount Vernon, named for the Washington family residence in Virginia.
PS 15, Dyre Avenue
The further northeast in the Bronx you get to Westchester County, the further into Eastchester you penetrate … Eastchester is a neighborhood in the northeast Bronx that actually used to belong to Westchester County (the Bronx was formed from New York and Westchester Counties and became a county in 1914) and didn’t become a part of New York City until 1895.
It’s not to be confused with the current town of Eastchester which is actually northwest of here, in Westchester County. The Bronx neighborhood of Eastchester, along with Mount Vernon, used to be a part of the town of Eastchester in Westchester, but was annexed by the Bronx in 1895. Who’s on first?
The neighborhood includes Seton Falls Park, where rattlesnakes prowled as late as the 19th Century.
Co-Op City Boulevard
The present-day housing project (really a complete neighborhood) is called Co-Op City because it consists of cooperative apartments:
A housing cooperative, or co-op, is a legal entity, usually a corporation, which owns real estate, consisting of one or more residential buildings; it is one type of housing tenure. Housing cooperatives are a distinctive form of home ownership that have many characteristics that differ from other residential arrangements such as single family ownership, condominiums and renting.
The corporation is membership-based, with membership granted by way of a share purchase in the cooperative. Each shareholder in the legal entity is granted the right to occupy one housing unit. A primary advantage of the housing cooperative is the pooling of the members’ resources so that their buying power is leveraged, thus lowering the cost per member in all the services and products associated with home ownership.
Another key element is that the members, through their elected representatives, screen and select who may live in the cooperative, unlike any other form of home ownership. wikipedia
The project was built along the Hutchinson River on what was known as Pinckney’s Meadows in the colonial era. It remained mostly empty in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, but it burst forth briefly in the early 1960s as Freedomland, a frontier-themed amusement park that ultimately was a financial failure. Co-Op City was built shortly after its demise.
Belden House, Belden Street
From the ForgottenBook: Located on a spit of an island in Eastchester Bay in the extreme northeast Bronx, City Island is a transplanted New England fishing village seemingly beamed into the New York Metropolitan area. City Island was privately owned, first by the Pell family and then by the Palmer family, from 1654 until it became a part of the town of Pelham, in Westchester County, in 1819. The island became a part of New York City in 1895 when parts of the town of Pelham were annexed by NYC, and found itself in the Bronx in 1898 after consolidation, though it was still in New York County (the Bronx received a separate designation as a county only in 1914).
Benjamin Palmer, who owned the island in 1761, thought of it as a potential commercial rival to New York City, and so it picked up a new nickname (it previously had been called Great Minnefords Island). Of course it never rivaled New York City as a seaport but it did develop thriving seaside industries. Palmer’s group laid out streets and established two ferries to the mainland. Palmer, a staunch supporter of the Revolution, engaged the ire of the British, who plundered the island in 1776. Three years later, Palmer and his family were captured and forced to leave the island for Manhattan; he never returned to City Island.
The two World Wars saw City Island become a busy shipbuilding and sailmaking center, adding to its fishing and oyster industries. City Island was an important armament manufacturing center during World War II with the construction of submarine chasers, minesweepers and landing craft. In the postwar era, City Island began to develop as a resort, while island yachtyards Nevins and Minneford produced five America’s Cup winners: the Columbia (1958), the Constellation (1964), the Intrepid (1970), the Courageous (1974 & 1977; media mogul Ted Turner skippered the Courageous in ‘77) and the Freedom (1980). The USA won 24 consecutive America’s Cup yacht race championships between 1851 and 1983.
FNY has done two tours in City Island, in 2002 and 2012. In 2009 a film called City Island was set on and filmed there, featuring Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies. Parts of Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Royal Tenenbaums were filmed in a house on Tier Street that now belongs to the director of the City Island Nautical Museum (who graciously admitted both tours onto her lawn). The island community has been the setting for many other feature films and TV shows.
Dyre Avenue Line #5 train overpass at Boston Road and Needham Avenue
Named for its proximity to the town, then neighborhood, of Eastchester and Eastchester Bay and Pelham Bay Park, Baychester remained suburban and even semirural until after World War II when streets were finally paved and homes built. Even today, some of the streets are sans sidewalks. The neighborhood id bisected by the old New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad, which was purchased by NYC in 1940 and made into first a shuttle elevated, then connected to the White Plains Road el at the 180th Street station (see below).
Pelham Bay Park War Memorial
PELHAM GARDENS, PELHAM PARKWAY
Englishman Thomas Pell, a physician, purchased a vast tract of over 9000 acres of land (most of what is now eastern Bronx) from the local Siwanoy Indians in 1654. Descendants of the Pells occupied the tract for nearly 150 years. By 1813 the acreage was sold out of the Pell-Bartow family (Ann Pell had married John Bartow), but in 1836 John’s grandson Robert reacquired the property and in 1842 built the mansion that still stands in Pelham Bay Park today. A small cemetery is also on the property in which is interred Pell family members going back well into the 18th Century.
NYC bought the house from the Bartows in 1888; in 1915 the Pell Mansion underwent a complete restoration by the International Garden Club organization, which continues to maintain the grounds, now numbering nine acres, as a public garden to this day. In 1946 the Mansion opened as a museum exhibiting furniture and painting from the 19th Century.
The town of Pelham in Westchester County, the Bronx and Pelham Parkway (usually abbreviated to Pelham Parkway), Pelham Bay Park, and even Pelham Cemetery in City Island are all named for Thomas Pell.
Gun Hill Road bridge crossing the Bronx River, the site of John Williams’ bridge
The name of this site comes from a bridge across the Bronx River that was named for John Williams. In the 18th century, Williams had a farm on the east bank of the Bronx River in the vicinity of Gun Hill Road and White Plains Road. Some credit him with building the first Bronx River crossing. Though the story remains unproven, his farm was closest to the earliest span, and by the 19th century the bridge and surrounding community became known as Williamsbridge. NYC Parks
The Williams Bridge Metro-North station (spelled with two words) and Williamsbridge Road were also named for John Williams’ bridge.
Catania Shoes, Westchester Avenue near Hobart Avenue
Middletown, south of Westchester Avenue and between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Bruckner Expressway, is a bit puzzling because in the modern era, there are no clear two places it’s in the middle of. Perhaps it was so named because it was midway from the village of Westchester to the Pelham Bridge. The adjoining Stinardtown, just to Middletown’s northeast, was wiped out when Pelham Bay Park was created in the mid-1800s.
This neighborhood east of the Bruckner Expressway where it meets the Throgs Neck Expressway recalls the turn-of-the-20th Century Westchester Country Club that faced Eastchester Bay, on the old Layton estate (for which Layton Avenue is named). That club had disappeared by the 1920s, and has nothing to do with the modern Westchester Country Club.
“American Boy,” Pelham Bay Park
The neighborhoods immediately south of Pelham Bay Park along Eastchester Bay are called Spencer Estates and further south, Country Club. In the 19th Century prominent merchant William Spencer married first one, then another woman from the tobacco-growing Lorillard family. William Spencer was a benefactor of the NY Public Library and son Lorillard Spencer was the publisher ofThe Illustrated American magazine.
East Tremont Avenue and Lamport Place
Fort Schuyler, located on a peninsula that juts into the East River near the Throgs Neck Bridge, and its namesake neighborhood bisected by East Tremont Avenue a couple of miles to the northwest, were named for Revolutionary War general and later US Senator from New York Philip Schuyler (1733-1804; pronounced SKY-ler).
As department commanding General, he was active in preparing a defense against the Saratoga Campaign, part of the “Three Pronged Attack” strategy of the British to cut the American Colonies in two by invading and occupying New York State in 1777. In the summer of that year General John Burgoyne marched his British army south from Quebec over the valleys of Lakes Champlain and George. On the way he invested the small Colonial garrison occupying Fort Ticonderoga at the nexus of the two lakes. When General St. Clair surrendered Fort Ticonderoga in July, the Congress replaced Schuyler with General Horatio Gates, who had accused Schuyler of dereliction of duty.
In 1789, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York to the First United States Congress, serving from July 27, 1789, to March 4, 1791. After losing his bid for re-election in 1791, he returned to the State Senate from 1792 to 1797. In 1797, he was elected again to the U.S. Senate and served in the 5th United States Congress from March 4, 1797 until his resignation because of ill health on January 3, 1798. wikipedia
The former Charlie’s Inn, Harding Avenue
Throgs Neck, mainland Bronx’ most southeastern redoubt, was named for a very early British settler, John Throckmorton, who arrived in the peninsula now capped by Fort Schuyler in 1642. Throckmorton, like Anne Hutchinson, had had religious differences with the rigid Puritans of New England, moved to Rhode Island with its founder, Roger Williams in 1636, and later decamped to the Bronx because he may have feared that Massachusetts would invade the tiny colony. Both the aforementioned Thomas Pell and Throckmorton had to pledge allegiance to the Dutch crown before being granted permission to settle. Throckmorton later fled Indian aggression and wound up in Rhode Island again and later, New Jersey.
The peninsula, or “neck” (cf. Little Neck in Queens) was bestowed an abbreviation of his lengthy name and Throgmorton Avenue, also a tribute, is a variant spelling. Throgs Neck is also occasionally spelled with a double g, especially by area residents. The explanation for all this may lie in the fact that in the early days of printing (which in Throckmorton’s day had been an industry for only about a century and a half) spellings were hardly standardized, and wouldn’t be until the days of Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster. However Throgs Neck is spelled, it is a peaceful, tranquil area with a couple of private communities that enjoy terrific views of the water-filled surroundings.
When Silver Beach was initiated as a bungalow colony in the 1920s, just west of Fort Schuyler, it was named for the supposed color of the sand along its East River shoreline. Today the semiprivate community, whose residents formed a co-op arrangement in 1972, enjoy spectacular views of the Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges and the distant Manhattan skyline.
Volunteer firehouse, Edgewater Park
Edgewater Park is a second private community in the eastern Bronx, this one facing Eastchester Bay east of the Throgs Neck Expressway.
What really sets both communities apart from the nearby streets of Throgs Neck is that they are cooperatives — Edgewater Park has 675 single-family homes, Silver Beach Gardens 451 — whose residents own their homes but lease the land from owners’ collectives. Each owner pays a monthly maintenance fee for the upkeep of the streets,beaches and common areas and the signs that proclaim: “Private Property, No Trespassing, No Soliciting, No Loitering.” NY Times
Both Edgewater Park and Silver Beach have unique street lighting and street sign designs different from the rest of NYC.
Pelham Parkway station at White Plains Road
I’m unsure just when the name of Bronxdale was first applied to the neighborhood on either side of Pelham Parkway east of Bronx Park. The mane is straightforward and indicates a dale, or valley. Interestingly, Bronxdale Avenue begins south of the neighborhood and runs southeast to East Tremont Avenue, originally running through swampy territory called Bear Swamp, and Bronxdale Avenue was called Bear Swamp Road until the early 20th Century.
Lourdes recreation, Church of St.Lucy, Bronxville and Mace Avenues
The Allerton neighborhood, bordering on Bronxdale, is named for east-west Allerton Avenue, the main shopping drag, that honors 19th-Century landowner Daniel Allerton, whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. Allertons are interred in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Morris Park Avenue
In 1888, John P. Morris opened the Morris Park Racetrack where this neighborhood eventually wound up, naming it for himself.
From FNY’s Morris Park page:
The name Morris turns up a number of times in the Bronx, primarily from two different families: the Revolution-era Morrises: Richard, who arrived in the 1660s and first settled the South Bronx; Declaration signer Lewis, US Senator Gouverneur, and Robert, who was a 3-term NYC mayor in the 1850s.
The Morris of Morris Park was John A. Morris, whose Westchester Racing Association acquired 152 acres in 1888 on the outskirts of the old Bear Swamp (which was quite literally named) and built a huge racetrack and clubhouse there. As opulent as the racetrack was, though, it was in operation only from 1890 to 1904 (though a vestige of horse racing in the area, the Track Restaurant and Tavern, held down a corner at Eastchester and Williamsbridge Roads some distance from the old track until 1957). The track itself burned to the ground in 1910.
In 1908 the abandoned racetrack became the world’s first formal airfield and the American Eagle, the largest dirigible in history to that time at a full 105 feet in length, was built there, and one of the first gliders, piloted by 17-year-old Lawrence Lesh, was launched from the former track that year. And, in the early 1900s, the old racetrack was also used for speed and endurance races for the newfangled automobile, and a young Swiss driver named Louis once won a gold watch for driving a Fiat a the-record 52.8 MPH there. The driver along with his brother Gaston competed in many road races at the Morris Park track and Gaston won at Indianapolis in 1920. Of course, it was Louis Chevrolet (1878-1941), who ironically sold his share in the Chevrolet Motor Car Company he founded in 1911 to original partner William Durant in 1915, and returned to the racing business, as well as aeronautics. (The gold watch he won had been donated by Walter Chrysler.)
It was not until the 1920s that streets were cut through and houses constructed; the neighborhood was not “completed” until the 1970s!
St. Peter’s Church
What is now the Bronx used to be part of Westchester County and was ceded to the City of New York over time. West of the Bronx River (which bisects the borough) was annexed by NYC in 1874 while everything east of the river joined New York County by 1895. Until 1898, when NYC became an agglomeration of five boroughs, Manhattan and the Bronx were the same county: New York County. Finally, the Bronx became a county on its own in 1914. Today, the boroughs are coterminous as Manhattan occupies New York County, Brooklyn, Kings County, and so forth.
Westchester Square, even to the present day, appears to be a small town hub, clustering around the triangle formed by Westchester, East Tremont and Lane Avenues. The “town” has recently celebrated its 350th anniversary, having been settled here, as Oostdorp (‘east village’) by the Dutch in 1654 and taken over by the British with the rest of New Amsterdam in 1664. It became a busy port along Westchester Creek, which hastened its development; by 1693 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was founded. The parish is still in existence. During the Revolution, patriots dismantled a bridge over the creek, delaying British advancement (the present-day bridge carries East Tremont Avenue).
World War I memorial, Castle Hill Avenue and Cross-Bronx Expressway
Castle Hill was named for a slight elevation at what is now Lacombe and Castle Hill Avenues noticed by 17th-Century Dutch explorer Adrian Block, who thought it resembled a castle.
Westchester and Glebe Avenues
Unionport was a mecca for German and Irish immigrants in the mid-to-late 1890s. After the eastern Bronx was annexed to NYC in 1895 the streets were renamed for local luminaries and settlers, and Unionport was absorbed into what’s now Castle Hill. Unionport Road still runs as a main route from Castle Hill through Parkchester to Bronx Park. 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.
Hula girl terra cotta, Parkchester
Parkchester, a large apartment complex (large enough to comprise an entire neighborhood) in the mid-Bronx, is bounded by White Plains Road, East Tremont Avenue, McGraw Avenue and (part of the way) by Castle Hill Avenue. The complex 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.
Its name seems to be an imitation of place names like Eastchester and Baychester.
Mannequins, Westchester and Ward Avenues
The neighborhood is found on the east end of its namesake river (the only true river in NYC) between the Cross Bronx Expressway, Soundview Park on the south and the Bronx River Parkway on the east.
Manhattan view from Bronx River and Cornell Avenues
Bronx historian, the late John McNamara: Isaac Clason was a wealthy merchant whose lands were subdivided into smaller estates. He purchased the east end of Cornell’s Neck in 1793-1794 and lived there for many years. A son, Augustus Washington Clason, had a nearby home which was eventually sold to Joseph J. Husson along with 15 acres of land.” Clason’s mansion eventually became an inn but was razed when the area became a beach club and acquired the name Harding Park.
Bronx River boating, Harding Park
The semiprivate community of Harding Park, located in the southwest end of Clason Point,was named in the Roaring 20s for President Warren G. Harding, who died in office in 1923 during a mostly unsuccessful and scandal-ridden administration. The bungalows are arranged along sidewalk-free streets that aren’t included on official street maps (but do show up on computer maps like Google).
When you think about it, “Soundview” as a name doesn’t make sense. Unless, of course, an adjacent body of water is called the Long Island Sound. It’s a matter of debate where theEast River leaves off and the Long Island Sound begins. I’ve always made it the Throgs Neck Bridge. In the 19th Century, the Sound was mapped as beginning somewhat west of where it does now, and when VClason pount Road was renamed Soundview Avenue in 1918, there was no confusion about it whatever.
Van Nest is an old name and comes from Dutch colonial settler Pieter Pietersen Van Neste, who arrived in North America from Holland in 1647. However, the family is only honored here because of the Van Nest Land & Improvement Company, which began developing the neighborhood in 1892. Scions of the Van Nests became railroad company directors and developers but according to Bronx historian John McNamara, no Van Nest actually lived in the Bronx.
East 180th Street station, #5 IRT, Morris Park Avenue
West Farms took its name in the colonial era from farms west of the Bronx River, which served as the Bronx’ main geographical dividing line from then on up to the later 1800s. The Bronx became a part of New York City in sections between the years 1874 and 1898: all of the Bronx west of the Bronx River was annexed to the City of New York in 1874, while everything east of the river became part of the City in 1895. Soon after, in 1898, New York City consolidated with the city of Brooklyn and the boroughs of Queens and Staten Island. Though it was already a borough, the Bronx was a part of New York County until 1914 when it became a county in its own right. Today, New York County is coterminous with Manhattan.
East Tremont and Park Avenues
TREMONT and EAST TREMONT
The genesis of Tremont’s name is similar to that of Boston’s: while that city’s Tremont was named for three hills on the originally narrow peninsula where Boston grew and prospered, so the Bronx’ Tremont was named by its first postmaster for three hills in mid-Bronx: Mount Eden, Mount Hope and Fairmount. The main difference is that Bostonians pronounce it Treh’ mont, while Bronxites say Tree’ mont.
Belmont, which takes its name from tobacco magnate Jacob Lorillard’s estate, is famous for its Little Italy centered along Arthur Avenue, with its panoply of small mom and pop shops purveying delicacies, and small, intimate restaurants. Lorillard’s imprint is all over the Bronx; the snuff mill employed on his tobacco farm can still be found deep within the NY Botanic Garden. The Lorillards owned nearly all of what would become The Bronx Zoo, the NY Botanical Garden, and the neighborhoods of Belmont, Bronx Park South and Norwood.
Poe Cottage, Grand Concourse
The name Fordham was given by John Archer, a Dutch settler who had anglicized his name, when he established a community at 225th Street near the Harlem River in 1666. Alternatively, Fordham (house by the ford) originated as either as a reference to its location near a shallow crossing of the Bronx River or as a reference to Rev. John Fordham, an Anglican priest. wikipedia
Bedford, England, inspired the name of the Bedford Park neighborhood when it was conceived and laid out in the 1880s. The British town also inspired the neighborhood’s use of Queen Anne architecture, and some of these grand old homes can still be seen crouching amid the area’s now-predominant multifamily apartment buildings. Norwood was originally part of the Varian family’s dairy farm. The Varians, who produced a New York City mayor, owned the oldest house in the area, which is still standing.
52nd Police Precinct, Webster Avenue
Norwood was originally part of the Varian family’s dairy farm.
The name either comes from “North Woods” or from Carlisle Norwood, a friend of Leonard Jerome, the grandfather of Winston Churchill who owned the nearby Jerome Park Race Track in the 1860s. The neighborhood was laid out in 1889 by entrepreneur Josiah Briggs.
For a couple of decades in the late 20th Century, Norwood and its immediate neighbor to the south, Bedford Park, were major Irish enclaves, after immigrants from Northern Island during the era of The Troubles fled the auld sod and settled here, in Woodlawn Heights to the north, and in Queens’ Woodside. For a time Norwood became known as “Little Belfast” and was a hotbed for supporters of the Irish Republican Army, which sought to sever Northern Ireland’s ties with the United Kingdom by violent means. Eventually the Irish influence in the area lessened, as many Irish returned home to participate in the homeland’s roaring economy in the 1990s and early 2000s. Traces of Little Belfast, though, can still be found along Bainbridge Avenue. Norwood was where the Irish-American band Black 47 first attracted notice. Today Norwood attracts Hispanics, Indians, Asians, and New Yorkers looking for apartment bargains: some are still available for three figures!
Orloff Avenue steps
VAN CORTLANDT VILLAGE
The story of Van Cortlandt Park , ansd the neighborhood on its southwest corner, Van Cortlandt Village, begins in 1699, when future NYC mayor Jacobus Van Cortlandt bought a large tract of the Frederick Philipse holdings in the northern Bronx. The land was originally populated by the local Indians as early as 500-600 years ago.
In 1748, Jacobus’ son, Frederick, built Van Cortlandt Mansion, which still stands today. New York City obtained the land in 1888 and committed much of it to parkland.
The story goes that as buffalo (properly called bison) were overhunted in western states in the frontier era, putting them in danger of extinction, Dr. William Hornaday of the Bronx Zoo acquired a few buffalo and bred them on the zoo grounds. By 1907 the Bronx herd outstripped the Zoo’s resources, so a few bulls and cows were transferred to Van Cortlandt Park. Later that year, they were sent to Oklahoma, where some of the buffalo are still descended from the Bronx specimens.
Van Cortlandt Park is marked by rocky outcroppings made mostly of gneiss, a metamorphic rock with a distinctive banded texture. Streaks of mica can be found in the rocks, as well as quartz. Van Cortlandt Park’s Northwest Forest contains the park’s older-growth trees, featuring red, white and black oak, hickories, beech, cherry birch, sweetgum, red maple and of course, the incredibly tall and straight tulip trees. Fauna fans won’t be disappointed either as owls, bats, chipmunks, woodchucks and large gypsy moths, rabbits, raccoons, opossums and coyotes are all here and accounted for.
Van Cortlandt Park is divided by no fewer than three major roadways, the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Mosholu Parkway and the Major Deegan Expressway, yet is large enough to accommodate them all without losing its distinctive rural character. The 1997 John Muir Nature Trail as well as the Putnam Railroad and Croton Aqueduct Trails run through the park.
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
This neighborhood is set on high bluffs overlooking the Harlem River. The “University” is, or was, New York University, which had a substantial campus in the neighborhood which in turn became home to the Bronx Community College. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, an outdoor portico featuring 97 busts of notable American men and women, is a fascinating attraction here that most New Yorkers have no idea exists.
Shuttleworth Mansion, Anthony Avenue and Mount Hope Place
This mid-Bronx neighborhood is named for one of the trio of now-leveled hills from which Tremont and Tremont Avenue also take their names.
Mount Eden Avenue
Another of the Tremont trio of hills, this one is named for an early 19th-century property owner, Rachel Eden.
Lorelei Fountain, Kilmer Park
CONCOURSE and CONCOURSE VILLAGE
These neighborhoods, famed for Art Deco and Moderne high rise apartment buildings, are named for the roadway that vertically bisects them, the Grand Boulevard and Concourse, designed by French-born engineer Louis Risse.
The Grand Boulevard and Concourse marches north from the Major Deegan Expressway to Mosholu Parkway through Mott Haven, Concourse Village, Mount Eden, Mount Hope (the Concourse is constructed on a hill), Fordham, and Bedford Park.
Eleven lanes wide from 161st Street north to Mosholu, the GB&C (shortened to Grand Concourse for the benefit of sign makers and cabbies) was built, from 161st Street north, in 1909 by engineer Risse. In 1927, it absorbed Mott Avenue, which ran from 138th north to 161st, and the older street was widened. The Grand Concourse became the Bronx’s showpiece as the Bronx County Courthouse, Yankee Stadium, and an array of elegant apartment buildings were constructed along its length. The Concourse and surrounding streets are a wonderworld of Art Deco…spend an afternoon along its length and observe the sumptuous buildings.
The Concourse is dominated by two separate architectural trends. The Art Deco style, characterized by highly stylized and colored ornamentation, ironworked doors, colorful terra cotta and mosaics, originated at the 1925 Exposition Internationale in Paris. Art Moderne, noted for its striped block patterns, cantilevered corners, stylized letterforms and generally streamlined appearance, first gained wide notice at the 1937 Exposition.
The neighborhood, park, and parkway are named for Polish immigrant Martin Zboroski’s 19th Century estate, Clermont.
Herman Ridder Junior High School, Boston Road and East 173rd Street
CROTONA PARK EAST
Crotona Park is nowhere near the Croton Aqueduct, which runs through the western Bronx; it was named for a colony in ancient Greece famed for Olympic athletes. It was purchased from the estate belonging to Andrew Bathgate in the 1880s; a dispute with the Bathgate family prevented the new Crotona Park from being named for them. Bathgate Avenue today remembers these early Bronx gentry.
Longwood Park was an 1870s estate owned by Samuel B. White, and Hunts Point was formerly a collection of country estates owned by the Casanovas, Barrettos, Spoffords, Failes, and other wealthy families, many of whose names now grace street signs.
In the late 19th Century Longwood and the surrounding area was subdivided into residential lots. A group of now-landmarked brownstone buildings was developed by Warren C. Dickerson for landowner George Johnson between 1897 and 1901 consisting of parts of Beck, Kelly and Dawson Streets and Hewitt Place between East 156th Street and Longwood Avenue. Designated a New York City Landmark District, its buildings are marked by their eclectic peaks and roof embellishments.
The region’s odd street layout… streets sort of undulate, twist and turn…was, in part, defined by the now-underground Sacrahong Brook, whose route is now nearly exactly copied by Intervale Avenue.
Former American Bank Note Building, Lafayette Avenue/Tiffany Street
Hunt’s Point had been first settled by Thomas Hunt in 1670; the Hunts joined the Morrises as the Bronx’ foremost landowning families in the colonial era. Hunt’s Point (not to be confused with Hunter’s Point in Queens) has been home to the New York City Terminal Market since 1965; much of the city’s fresh produce is purchased by merchants here. The former Fulton Street Fish Market relocated here from its long-standing facility on South and Fulton Streets in mid-2005.
Church of Saint Augustine, East 166th Street
MORRISANIA, MORRIS HEIGHTS, PORT MORRIS
Much of the southern Bronx was once owned by the colonial-era Morris family.
Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) half-brother of Lewis Morris, was a political leader, diplomat, U.S. Senator, and American ambassador to France. He was an outspoken opponent to what he termed ‘unchecked popular democracy’. His son, G. Morris II, sold the estate to Jordan Mott.
Gouverneur Morris was outspoken and brash – nonetheless, he became ambassador due to his through knowledge of the French language and its nuances. In his youth, he would drive teams of horses without the benefit of reins, yelling and cracking a whip instead, but one day one of his teams ran off and he was dragged, winding up with a crushed leg. For the rest of his life he hobbled along on a wooden leg, like a Dutch predecessor, Peter Stuyvesant.
Lewis Morris (1726-1798) was an ardent supporter of American independence and served in the Continental Congress from 1775-1777, and in the NY state legislature between 1777 and 1790. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. His great grandfather (Richard, died 1672) had immigrated to New York through Barbados after being part of Oliver Cromwell‘s army in the English Civil War of 1648. He purchased the first tract of land in the Bronx that became the basis for the Morrisania manor. wikipedia
Also interred here is Judge Robert H. Morris (1802-1855), a three-term mayor of New York City from 1841 to 1844.
H.W. Wilson publishing company tower on University Avenue
The neighborhood arrayed east of where High Bridge ends at University Avenue and West 170th Street is named for the structure that bridged the Croton Aqueduct across the Harlem River. When High Bridge was built between 1837 and 1848 by architect John Jervis it actually connected two separate towns, since that area of the mainland would not become a part of New York County until 1874.
Originally, High Bridge featured massive stone arches (like Roman aqueducts had) for its entire length. The arches survive on the Bronx side, but the steel span was constructed in the 20s to allow navigation on the Harlem River. Water was carried in two 33”-diameter pipes, later replaced by a more massive 90” pipe. It was able to conduit as much as 24 million gallons of water per day.
High Bridge has featured a walkway since the 1860s, although it never had roads for auto or horse traffic. Edgar Allan Poe, a Bronx resident toward the end of his life, enjoyed frequenting the bridge. The walkway features attractive cast iron hand railings and interlocked red brick paving stones, along with views of High Bridge’s neighboring spans across the Harlem, the Alexander Hamilton and Washington Bridges. In 1960, the walkway was closed because of vandals throwing objects from the bridge onto boats plying the Harlem River.
High Bridge was rehabilitated (with higher fences) and reopened to the public in the summer of 2015.
Original Bronx Borough Courthouse, Third Avenue and East 161st Street
19th-century surveyor Andrew Findlay was Scottish-born and was a fan of the fiction of Sir Walter Scott, so this small neighborhood adjoining the first Bronx Borough Courthouse was named for one of Scott’s novels, Melrose Abbey.
Third Avenue and East 150th Street
One of the Bronx’ busiest shopping districts is at the confluence of Third, Willis and Melrose Avenues, as well as East 149th Street. In addition the IRT subway joined several trolley lines as well as the 3rd Avenue El once upon a time.
Estey Piano factory, Bruckner Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue
Jordan Mott built a tremendously successful iron works beginning in 1828 (the iron works continued to 1906), centered along the Harlem River from about Third Avenue to East 138th Street. His handiwork can be still seen all over town on airshaft and manhole covers built by the Mott Iron Works. Mott had bought the original property from Gouverneur Morris II in 1849; Morris was asked if he minded if the area was called Mott Haven, a name it had quickly acquired. “I don’t care…while [Mott] is about it, he might as well change the Harlem River to the Jordan.” The iron works produced practical and ornamental metalwork used worldwide.