A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the directional signs pointing to a nonexistent NY Central Railroad station at the East 149th Street station in the Bronx, where the Manhattan east and west side IRT subway lines come together for a transfer. The station was the first one constructed in the Bronx. Until the 1920s, the part of the station serving #2 trains was called the Mott Avenue stations, and there are still several mosaic Mott Avenue signs on the platform walls that are now covered over by metal signs. These mosaics were still uncovered in the late 1990s, when I got photos of them, and more can be seen at the NYC Subways site.
Jordan Mott built a tremendously successful iron works beginning in 1828 (the iron works continued to 1906), centered along the Harlem River from about 3rd Ave. to E. 138th St. His handiwork is still seen all over town on airshaft and manhole covers built by the Mott Iron Works. Mott 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.
In 1850, Mott drew up plans for the lower part of the Mott Haven Canal, which followed an underground stream parallel to Morris Ave. and east of the Harlem River. When completed, it enabled canal boats using the canal to go up as far as 138th St., encouraging the local industrial development. It has since been filled in. Residential neighborhoods, such as the one that forms the Mott Haven Historic District, are not common in Mott Haven. After 1856, Mott Haven joined with several other villages to form the town of Morrisania, although the area still continues to be known by its original name.
The remaining Mott Iron Works buildings are still standing west of 3rd Ave. between E. 134th St. and the Harlem River, and one is still marked with its old name.
Whither Mott Avenue? In 1909 the original section of the Grand Concourse was constructed between East 161st Street and the Mosholu Parkway. South of that, there was a fairly busy avenue running south from East 161st to East 138th called Mott Avenue. In 1927, the decision was made to extend the Grand Concourse south, in a rather narrower version incorporating the roadbed of Mott Avenue. Thus was the name eliminated from street signs and road maps, but not the subway station for several more decades.
There’s a brick building at the SW corner of “The Conk” and East 149th Street, a modest building that’s one of the last that’s not one of the more recent Hostos Community College campus structures. It may have been a substation containing electrical equipment but I am unsure. It’s marked by some terrific green and buff terra cotta identifying the station below as Mott Avenue, and it’s the last remnant of the station and street name.