GROTE Street twists and turns through Belmont, the section of the Bronx most famed for the restaurants of Arthur Avenue and Dion DeMucci, who racked up hits in the 1960s with and without the Belmonts. The name of the street does not honor former Mets All-Star catcher Jerry Grote, who pronounced his name to rhyme with Brody. Rather, it was named for musician and member of the Bronx Board of Trustees Frederick Grote, who rhymed his name with boat.
Along with the northern leg of Third Avenue as well as East 182nd Street, Grote Street is actually the defunct southern end of Kingsbridge Road, which today ends at East Fordham Road and Bainbridge Avenue. Grote Street creates an oblong park plaza with Garden Street at Crotona Avenue called Whalen Grove; the Parks Department website is silent on the origin of this name but we can assume it was named for a different Whalen than Whalen Park in Norwood and Whalen Street in Riverdale, each named for two different people. Like many Irish names, Whalen can be spelled in alternate methods; I have cousins named Whelan, with the “e” coming first, but both are pronounced “whale” with an “n” at the end. Both are likely simplified spellings of the original name in Irish.
As for Garden Street, it comes in between East 182nd and 183rd, along with Grote, and so never got a number in the 19th Century when Manhattan east-west numbered streets were extended into the Bronx. It is named for South Carolinian attorney Hugh Garden, who was appointed by Confederate sympathizer (it is surmised) NYC Mayor Fernando Wood to what was called a Special Reception Committee.
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My suspicion is that somebody’s having fun with a play on words, and that that square is named for Grover Whalen, a city official during the Hylan, Walker and La Guardia mayoralties.
Well, the spelling of Whalen/Whelan in Irish is Faolain (properly with a diacritical mark over the a). I’ve seen a number of different pronunciations. My late mother, who spoke Irish, pronounced it “FWEE-lan,” such as when she’d mention the author Sean O’Faolain. You can see how Whalen/Whelan might have evolved from that.
If you come across a NYC Department of Parks plaque that provides a novel, or unusual, place name, it is likely from the tenure of Henry Stern. Commissioner Stern held that title from 1983 to 1990, and returned for another run from 1994 to 2000. After Robert Moses he was the longest serving Parks Commissioner in the City of New York. Henry is often described as “whimsical”, as can be seen in the names he created for many playgrounds and small parks, some of which were former traffic triangles. He also bestowed nicknames on Parks Department staff members. His love of animals can be found when you see little animal features in the design of fences in playgrounds.
Stern was a true friend of the parks
Kind of unrelated, but still The Bronx. Does anyone know where Bronx Terrace is or was?