by Kevin Walsh

IT’S been awhile, maybe a couple of years, since I’ve been in Mott Haven. I’ll admit, since the pandemic began and crime increased in 2020, discretion has been the better part of valor for me and I have avoided subwaying it into a number of regions that I had had no compunction of entering before that fateful year. I’m hoping that the virus lessens and safety increases in the coming years so I can again stroll, as bold as brass, into whatever area I please. I’ll admit, though, I was very rarely accosted before 2020, as I do not present as a figure with anything worth robbing.

I have previously made a number of forays into this southernmost Bronx neighborhood and one Forgotten Tour has noted its historic treasures that include a colonial-era church and a number of former piano factories; Mott Haven was once NYC’s piano manufacturing capital. However, I had not encountered this painted ad at #120 Bruckner Boulevard between Brook avenue and Brown Place for Schorsch Paper Bags, which housed the manufacturer between 1913 and 1951, when the firm met its end. I do not know if the name is pronounced “skorsh” or “shorsh,” and I’m a proponent of simplified spellings at least where names are concerned.

The Indispensable Walter Grutchfield explains that the firm was founded in Tribeca in 1901 and had a number of Manhattan addresses before settling way uptown in this spot in 1913. During the paper bag company’s tenure here, the name of the street was changed twice, from East 133rd to Eastern Boulevard to Bruckner Boulevard, the latter in 1944.

You know, I’ve met the Indispensable One only once, in passing, at one of Frank Jump’s book events several years ago, and I’d really like to pick his brain on his research methods, which must include a lot of picking around in dusty tomes in library basements, otherwise known as my element. His information on the Schorsch family is a master class in research. We probably won’t see Grutchfield’s like again. Thankfully, I believe his archives are in the possession of my partner organization, the Greater Astoria Historical Society: but they should really also find a home with an entity like the New-York Historical Society.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Peter January 12, 2023 - 12:44 am

Going by an October 2022 GSV image the sign is holding up really well.

Richard Hlavacek January 12, 2023 - 3:24 pm

The amazing development in this area includes several enormous buildings clearly visible from the Harlem River Drive. Interestingly enough, the Regional Development Plan from 1929 imagined a similar development in Superman style Art Deco buildings as “Gateway to the Bronx”. BTW, I took your Mott Haven tour a few years ago. Fascinating area.

punto January 12, 2023 - 12:29 pm

Walter Grutchfield’s late wife Martha (if memory serves – it was a while ago), was a colleague of mine in the music division of the NY Public Library. Walter accompanied his wife to a conference of music librarians that I attended in the early 2000s and we were introduced. At the time, I did not know of his particular area of expertise, so there was no way I could have learned what his searching secrets were. It would have been a most interesting conversation if I had known,Though Martha was a cataloger and not reference/research oriented, she may have had some bearing on his amazing fact finding ability.

Sunnysider January 12, 2023 - 12:46 pm

You are braver than me. Nowadays, I would not venture into Mott Haven without Charles Bronson as my bodyguard. The 70s are back baby!

Joe+Brennan January 13, 2023 - 9:57 am

I wanted to suggest ” skorsk ”
But a source on says it’s a “germanized” spelling of French Georges, so it’s shorsh. That’s one less thing I didn’t know.

chris January 14, 2023 - 6:36 am

I remember in the early 60s a sign for horse stables was uncovered when
the building next to it was razed for a hi-rise in Murray Hill.It had a huge
painted wagon wheel(for people who couldnt read)and and the orange and
black colors were largely still intact.Then the hi rise went up and it got covered
up again.Its probably still there.

mike January 15, 2023 - 9:39 am

Alexander Ave and Bruckner Blvd is the new Bronx restaurant row. And don’t be afraid to visit.

Kaila January 17, 2023 - 9:10 am

Wow! I am around the area, and I often take strolls and usually encounter beautiful churches and many factories. Cool to see you were in the area, I remember taking a stroll and noticing the former factory myself. Hope to attend an in-person tour if they ever began again! 🙂


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.