Tag Archives: Bronx

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 3

The Bronx In 1897 and Its Beautiful Homes – They Gave Way For Progress

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concluding our series on the Bronx from 1897 we look at the final set of photographs excerpted from the 1897 book The Great North Side.

The editors stated purpose in publishing the book was “to attract population, capital, and business enterprise to the Borough of the Bronx.  It is not issued in any narrow sense with the desire of building up this borough at the expense of the other boroughs, for the reader will observe that the writers evidence an equal pride in advantages distinctively the possession of the Borough of Manhattan. We are first of all New Yorkers — citizens of no mean city — and proud of the fact. But our particular field of activity is the Borough of the Bronx, and we know that whatever tends to the upbuilding of this borough redounds to the credit, prestige, and glory of our common city.”

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Fordham Heights Bronx 1897

The editors of The Great North Side really never saw the realization of their goals. The population increased and the borough was developed, but not in the way they envisioned.

What was once a roomy  borough with splendid homes and wide open spaces became overdeveloped. The construction of the subway in the early part of the 20th century brought land development, a building boom and hundreds of thousands of people to the Bronx.

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

By the 1930s many of the fine old homes had been demolished and large parcels of land were subdivided and developed with apartment buildings.

John Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

John S. Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

In the 1950s Robert Moses cut the Bronx’s jugular. Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway bulldozed a wide swath of the Bronx destroying thriving neighborhoods and essentially splitting the Bronx in two halves.

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 2

The Bronx In 1897 – Beautiful Streets and Homes Part 2

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Poet Ogden Nash once quipped, “The Bronx? No thonx.”

By 1964, Nash had changed his mind and said “I can’t seem to escape the sins of my smart-alec youth. Here are my amends. I wrote those lines, ‘The Bronx? No thonx!’ I shudder to confess them. Now I’m an older, wiser man I cry, ‘The Bronx, God bless them!”

Many people deride the Bronx without actually setting foot in it. In the 19th century, no such derision existed. The Bronx’s reputation as a great place to live and work was justified.

Let’s continue our look at the Bronx in 1897 from the book The Great North Side.

The following words were written for the book by Albert E.  Davis, architect & and a North Side Board of Trade organizer:

“The conditions which caused over-crowding on Manhattan Island do not exist on the North Side. It contains about two-thirds of the combined area of both, is broader and less closely confiued by water, and has unlimited room to expand northward into Westchester County whenever the growth of the city demands it.”

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

“Hence, while the state of affairs below the Harlem was perhaps the natural outgrowth of the necessities of restricted area, it is absolutely unjustifiable and positively wrong to thus crowd the habitations of human beings where there is so much room to spread out, and the price of land is still low.”

Hugh Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hugh N. Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

“There are many attractive residence streets and avenues on the North Side, only a few of which can be here alluded to. Mott Avenue, a very pretty thoroughfare lined with fine old trees which arch over the roadway, starts in the business section of Mott Haven, just below the 138th street station, and extends northward along the westerly ridge known as Buena Ridge to 165th street. Mott Avenue will form the entrance to, and part of the Grand Concourse which is to be the finest boulevard in the country. Walton Avenue, on this ridge, is also a residence thoroughfare.”

Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 1

The Bronx In 1897 – A Borough of Beautiful Homes

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY 1898

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY in 1898. This view is looking east from Sedgwick Avenue towards Loring Place along West 183rd Street, (formerly Hampden Street). Every house in this photo is now gone, replaced by apartment buildings. The sole remaining structure is the stone wall on the right.

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

For almost anyone who grew up in the Bronx before World War II, they will recount happy memories of neighborhoods brimming with life and full of possibilities. But no one alive today remembers the Bronx when it was mostly undeveloped in the late 19th and early 20th century. Open land and spacious elegant houses dominated the landscape.

The Bronx was a conglomeration of about 50 villages, most of them rural in nature. In the grainy photographs you are about to see, many of the settings look like they could be in Ridgefield, CT or Smalltown, USA – but not the Bronx.

Now, with all the modern apartment buildings, public housing projects and ugly highways that have sprouted up in the last 60 years, these views of the Bronx will come as a surprise to many.

The book where these photographs originally appeared is The Great North Side or Borough of the Bronx by editors of The Bronx Board of Trade. After looking at these photographs, one thing is for sure: the Bronx will never again look as it did in 1897.

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Accompanying the photographs, also taken from The Great North Side are the words of Egbert Viele (1825-1902), the famous engineer, surveyor and mapmaker. Viele’s genuine adulation for the The Bronx is readily apparent.

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

“The North Side of New York, i.e., the territory above the Harlem River, bears a similar relation to the city at large that the Great West does to the country — a land of great promise of infinite possibilities, and the seat of future empire.”

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

“No city in the world has such a wealth of public parks and pleasure grounds as lie within its area; no city in the world has such natural and economical advantages for commerce, or on so grand a scale.”

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

“None has a more salubrious climate, or such a variety of surface, nor has any other city such abundant facilities of passenger transit and land traffic.”

Continue reading

Jerome Avenue, The Bronx In 1914 and Today

Jerome Avenue In 1914 and 102 Years Later

bronx-jerome-avenue-from-clarke-place-looking-north-march-1914It was reported that since 2010 the Bronx is the fastest growing county in New York State.

Believe it or not, this bucolic scene shown above, from March 1914, is in the Bronx at Jerome Avenue looking north from Clarke Place.

I have not been able to identify the lone building on the left.  Besides some telephone and telegraph wires, Belgian block paved streets and trolley tracks, modernity had not yet touched most of the Bronx. The population according to the 1915 police census was 649,726.

In 1914 the Bronx was prosperous and living there was considered to be a sign of upward mobility.

Fast forward 102 years later. Below is the same street from about the same spot.

bronx-jerome-avenue-from-clarke-place-looking-north-200-photo-google-mapsJerome Avenue was transformed by the construction of the El in 1917 and 1918, darkening the street, but fostering a building boom. Continue reading

Part 2 – An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman Talks About: Dating, Restaurants, High School in The Bronx, The Advertising World, Getting Published and Having His Books Adapted To Film

We continue our interview with Avery Corman, author of the new book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (Barricade Books) 2014, and his story of growing up in the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Divided into 5 parts the first two parts of the interview can be seen here.

In part 3 Avery Corman discusses dating, blind dates, sex, going to the movies, the differences between eating out and restaurants, dessert havens like Krum’s, Addie Vallins and Jahn’s and the coming of television.

Part 4 Avery Corman recalls his high school years at DeWitt Clinton High School and his decision to go to New York University. Upon graduating Continue reading

An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman, Author of Kramer vs. Kramer, Talks About His Latest Book: My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir

My Old Neighborhood RememberedThe neighborhood is the Bronx. The time is World War II and the post war years. And the writer is Avery Corman. His newest book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (2014) Barricade Books, is his first non-fiction book and is filled with wonderful recollections of growing up.

After graduating college Corman was working on the fringes of advertising and with the encouragement of a friend, Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns; I’m Not Rappaport; etc), he took a stab at writing a book. That effort was published as Oh God! A Novel (1971). After that hurdle Corman never looked back and he became a full-time novelist. Oh God! was eventually made into a very popular movie in 1977 starring George Burns and John Denver.

Some of Corman’s other acclaimed novels include The Bust-Out King (1977), The Old Neighborhood (1980); 50 (1987); Prized Possessions (1991); The Boyfriend from Hell (2006) and his most famous work, Kramer vs. Kramer (1977) which was adapted into a movie in 1979 and was the winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Avery Corman’s success must partially stem from his middle-class upbringing in the Fordham section of the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s, where he admits he was not the best student when it came to math and science, but did well in the humanities and was surrounded by a loving, extended family.

My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir is more a series of vignettes rather than a straight autobiography and that style comes off well. Corman shares his memories of childhood during World War II up until he becomes a successful author in the late 1960’s. He paints beautiful word pictures, sometimes tinged with sadness, of growing up in a wondrous place that no longer exists. Most of the stories offer short bursts of family life, games, food, education, sports and all the things that contributed to making the Bronx a special place to grow up in.

Corman’s stories resonate with a tender glow of friendships, family and the feeling that neighborhoods were once really neighborhoods, where the familiarity of rituals, people and places were ingrained in the surroundings.

Here are parts one and two of an exclusive interview with Avery Corman.

Part I, Avery Corman talks about what made the Bronx a special place during the war. His unique living situation and school life.

In part II Corman Continue reading

Proposed Bridges Of New York City In 1911

In 1911 The Proposed McCarren Bridge Was To Replace The “Old” Brooklyn Bridge So It Could Be Reconstructed

Existing and Proposed Bridges New York City 1911

Existing & proposed bridges New York City 1911 – note the four lower Manhattan bridges instead of three (click to enlarge)

From the New York Tribune of January 1, 1911 comes this illustration showing New York City with its existing bridges and some proposed new ones.

Sandwiched very tightly between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge  connecting lower Manhattan with Brooklyn, is a proposed new bridge which was to be called the McCarren Bridge named after “Long Pat” McCarren (1847-1909) a state senator who was Brooklyn’s Democratic political boss during the late 1800’s.

Once the proposed McCarren Bridge became a reality, city engineers planned to close and rebuild the Brooklyn Bridge.  The engineers feared that the increase in heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge would necessitate additional strength being added, otherwise a support or cable might give way causing a horrible catastrophe.  Borings were even made at the site, but the McCarren Bridge was never built.

Other proposed bridges in the illustration show the Hell Gate Bridge which was begun in 1912 and completed in 1916.

Further north on the Harlem River connecting upper Manhattan with the Bronx is another proposed bridge that was never built nestled between the University Heights/West 207th Street Bridge and Washington Bridge. This bridge would have been located at 177th Street in the Bronx and was to be called The Morris Heights Bridge. Continue reading

Honoring Lou Gehrig, His Monument Unveiled – 1941

The Day The Yankees Paid Their Final Tribute To The “Iron Horse”

This monument ceremony seen below was supposed to take place July 4 1941, on the two year anniversary of Lou Gehrig Day in 1939.

Many baseball fans know that the New York Yankees began the tradition of Old-Timers Day with a ceremony on July 4, 1939 to honor Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse.” On that day, the Yankees brought together Lou’s old teammates to show their deep admiration for a man who exemplified everything the Yankees were about. At the last minute Gehrig was asked to say something to the packed house at Yankee Stadium.

The words he said, now known as, “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech, live on in immortality because it was completely spontaneous and from the heart.

What you may not know, is that you really have never heard or seen that speech.

You have only seen or heard small portions of Gehrig’s speech, because believe it or not, there is not one extant movie or audio recording of Gehrig’s complete speech. Only snippets.

As incredible as it sounds with all those newsreel cameras present to record the activities at Yankee Stadium, no complete version of the speech has surfaced in all these years. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #4

Public Schools In The Bronx In The Early 20th Century

Most of these postcards are from between 1905 -1925.  Some public schools were quaint schoolhouses as the Bronx was rural in most areas.

Click on any image to enlarge

PS 7 in Kingsbridge or referred to here as Kings Bridge.

PS 44 Prospect Avenue and East 176th Street Continue reading

One of the Strangest Deaths in New York’s History

Girls Chase A Boy to Give Him Birthday Kisses… and He Dies

Woodlawn Cemetery Is The Final Resting Place of George Spencer Millet Who Had One Of The Strangest Deaths In New York’s History

Woodlawn cemetery 1909 Gravestone of George Spencer Millet died while evading girls kisses on his birthday at Metropolitan Life Building

There is a book called Woodlawn Remembers: Cemetery of American History by Edward F. Bergman (North County Books, 1988.)  The book is mostly comprised of beautiful full page color and black & white photographs of monuments, tombstones and mausoleums with one page of text describing each person profiled.  The cemetery is located in the northern part of the Bronx and is on my shortlist of unusual places I recommend to visit in New York.

The book is fascinating to be sure. It covers many of the interesting and important historical figures at Woodlawn. But one story not mentioned, is the life and death of George Spencer Millet (misspelled as George Millitt by The New York Times in the story at the end of this article) who is interred at the cemetery.

Millet’s story is briefly recounted in Permanent New Yorkers A Biographical Guide To The Cemeteries of New York by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall (Chelsea Green 1987.) This book contains photographs too, but has more detailed biographies than Woodlawn RemembersPermanent New Yorkers also covers the entire New York area, not just focusing on the two most famous New York City cemeteries, Woodlawn and Greenwood. I highly recommend both of these out-of-print books.

It was February 15, 1909 and Millet must have been a very good looking boy, because when the girls he worked with at The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company found out that it was his 15th birthday, they all insisted on giving him a kiss. Continue reading