By SERGEY KADINSKY
Forgotten NY correspondent
One does not need to wear a bulletproof vest to travel on Gun Hill Road, the 3.4-mile north Bronx road running between Mosholu Parkway to the New England Thruway. Kevin Walsh documented unusual sights along its length in a detailed two-part essay in 2015. Things that he missed along the way usually appear in the comments section from our intrepid readers. But sometimes they also miss things worth discussing. On my recent trip on Gun Hill Road, I found three such items in the Williamsbridge neighborhood.
In the title card, here’s one for Frank H. Jump, the city’s fading ads specialist. “Oil heats best. Costs less” on the block between Hull and Decatur Avenues. Oil also heats best in Wakefield, and again in Wakefield. As Gun Hill Road has its name relating to the American Revolution, in Williamsbridge nearly all the streets intersecting it also relate to that war, the exceptions being Jerome Avenue, Kings College Place, Reservoir Place, and Webster Avenue. The Hull here could be Brig. Gen. William Hull. And while the name Decatur is usually associated with the War of 1812’s Commodore Stephen Decatur Jr., his father and namesake commanded ships during the Revolution. Likewise for Perry Avenue and revolutionary Navy Capt. Christopher Perry, whose more famous son rose to the rank of Commodore in our nation’s second war against U.K.
Near the road’s western end is the campus of Montefiore Medical Center, which built its first facility here in 1912. The site of its original Manhattan campus in Hamilton Heights is remembered at Montefiore Square. The forgotten item here is a driveway gate on Gun Hill Road marked as “Steuben and Gun Hill Receiving.” Inside the gate is an old brick building that lines up with the driveway. Go back a few decades when the hospital campus was much smaller. This driveway used to be Steuben Avenue interacting with Gun Hill Road. Its namesake is a German Revolutionary War commander whose name also appears on a playground and street in Brooklyn, and on Staten Island.
In 2015, Kevin walked the north side of Gun Hill Road, where he wrote about Kings College Place. There was never a college here. Rather it commemorates Columbia University’s pre-revolutionary name. What Kevin missed was on the south side of this intersection, a rare explanatory sign describing how Gun Hill Road received its name. The inspiration for this sign is historian John McNamara, who wrote the book on Bronx street names. This sign was designed by Bronx County Historical Society. I would love to see such signs on all streets across the city, but until then we have Forgotten-NY.
Sergey Kadinsky is the author of Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs (2016, Countryman Press) and the webmaster of Hidden Waters Blog.