by Kevin Walsh

THERE”S a lot going on in this scene in The Hub region of the Bronx, looking south on Elton Avenue toward where it meets Third Avenue (in the Bronx, 3rd Avenue is spelled out “Third” on street signs as a rule). Bill Mangahas of the official MTA Subway Calendar fame supplied the picture. We know the photo was shot before 1973, as that year the Third Avenue El ended service running from 149th Street north to the White Plains Road el at Gun Hill Road; it was the last remnant of Manhattan’s Third Avenue El, which had been built in the 1880s for steam engines.

I was quite surprised to learn, relatively recently, that the then-Department of Traffic experimented with Westinghouse Whiteway lamps on the dwarf poles under the Third Avenue El for a few blocks. At this time, mercury bulbs were still relatively dim and crime was ramping up, so the more bulbs the merrier; Whiteways carried 3 or 6 merc bulbs, I forget exactly how many. In Manhattan, Whiteways were used on 3rd and 9th Avenues, as well as the City Hall area and other locales around town. The El also had ancient castirons lurking under there, too.

Last but not least we see an Alexander’s franchise, which was founded by George Farkas in 1928, opening a store on this very same Third Avenue, naming it for his father. At its peak Alexander’s would get to 16 franchisees including the most famed on the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road. The flagship Manhattan location was on 59th Street, competing with the more upscale Bloomingdale’s. Alexander’s foundered in the early 1990s despite the efforts of one Donald Trump, who purchased 20% of the company in 1988.

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Andy October 31, 2021 - 9:36 am

Third Avenue Elevated reached 149th Street in 1887, as an extension of the Manhattan route, and was called the Suburban Rapid Transit Company. By 1891 the line reached Tremont Avenue, and in 1902 the north terminal was at Bronx Park just north of Fordham Road. A further extension under the Dual Contracts took the line to Gun Hill Road in 1920. Electric trains replaced steam in 1902-03.

When the first IRT subway reached 149th and Third in 1904, the area truly became the “Hub” of Bronx retail business. Transfers between the el and subway were originally done using paper tickets, but in 1927 an enclosed building with an escalator was built between the two stations, making the transfers easier and safer by keeping heavy crowds of transferees off the street. The escalator remained in service until 1973. When I was a faculty member at Morris High School, 1971-74, I sometimes transferred between the #2 train and the elevated.

Ģaryu October 31, 2021 - 4:45 pm

In 1965, I remember purchasing a portable GE transistor radio from Alexander’s for about $15. In 1965, $15 was big bucks for a 13 year old

Jeff B. October 31, 2021 - 10:45 pm

I’ll narrow down the time frame of the picture to between 1970 and 1973 based on the silver and blue R-12’a running on the El. Alexander’s also had a branch in Paramus, NJ, approx. 9 miles west of the GW Bridge. It was famous for it’s huge Mural created by Stefan Knapp tat faced Route 4 West. https://so-many-ancestors.blogspot.com/2015/05/alexanders-mural.html

Jerry Friedman November 1, 2021 - 8:00 am

Looking at Google streetview at the current scene, I “wandered” over to nearby East 151 Street, where it looks like the old red brick road surface really, really is trying to come back! Looking pretty good as of September 2021….


Tal Barzilai November 3, 2021 - 12:53 am

Is Alexander’s still around today or did they go out business some time ago?

Kevin Walsh November 3, 2021 - 10:24 am

long gonzo

Allan Berlin November 3, 2021 - 2:37 pm

The stores are long gone but the company still exists as a real estate investment group.



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