The Bronx: An Architectural Marvel
If New York City is a magical wonderland, then the Bronx is a faerie forest; containing great fey mysteries and terrible hidden monstrosities all at the same time. Once the site of the first German settlements in the New World, the Bronx is now known as the birthplace of Hip-Hop and home of the Yankees. Despite being a major cultural hub of NYC, the Bronx is still treated like a fallout zone; a place where families go to cheer on sports heroes or visit some of the most famous conservation sites in the country, but which otherwise must be avoided like the plague. What they fail to realize is that the Bronx holds a vast cultural history; a history which was built into the roots of the borough brick by brick.
As a Bronxite, I am somewhat offended by these fair-weather friends to the borough, but I can’t place the blame entirely on them. Crime in the Bronx is on the rise this year, with multiple high-profile cases appearing on local news. Despite the fact that national crime rates are down, taxable business sales grew by 60 percent since the end of the economic recession, and private sector employment has risen by 21 percent over 10 years, the media continues to promulgate the old stereotype of the Bronx as a warzone. I invite you to come and see what the Bronx truly has to offer. For over 200 years, the Bronx has been a place for working class people, ethnic minorities, and immigrants. As such, it houses some of the most architecturally complex neighborhoods in the city. I’d like to extend a huge “thank you” to the Lehman College Art Gallery and CUNY for the amazing glut of information and photos in the “Bronx Architecture” online companion for their Public Art in the Bronx cultural project.
Gould Memorial Library/ Hall of Fame Terrace- Hall of Fame Terrace and Sedgwick Avenue
Designed by Stanford White in 1899, this opulent memorial to robber baron Jay Gould sits within the quite confines of the BCC campus.
Fordham University- Fordham Road between Webster Avenue and Kazimiroff Boulevard
Founded by Archbishop John Hughes, Fordham University’s most historic architecture was built over the course of 10 years by Hughes’ brother-in-law William Roderigue.
Poe Cottage/Park- 2640 Grand Concourse & Kingsbridge Road
Writer of the Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe settled down in what was once the natural beauty of the Bronx. Now his cottage home sits along the strongest cultural vein in the Bronx: the Grand Concourse.
Kingsbridge Armory- 29 Kingsbridge Road, between Jerome and Reservoir Avenues
Built in 1912 to forestall public unrest, the massive palisades of this training center for WW1 soldiers reach far above the adjacent 4 train station.
Paradise Theater- 2405-2419 Grand Concourse and 187th Street
Once a hub of activity on weekend nights, now a place of worship for Baptist evangelicals, Paradise Theater opened to massive success in 1929. It later closed but was reopened for more holy purposes in 2012.
Woodlawn Cemetery- Webster Avenue and 233rd Street
Opened in 1865, due to health laws prohibiting more burials in Manhattan, Woodlawn Cemetery has become a major, macabre characteristic of Bronx life. Pretty much anyone who enters or exits the city from the Bronx has born witness to the theatrical Gothic arches and pinnacles.
St. Ann’s Church and Graveyard- 295 St. Ann’s Avenue between E. 139th and 141st Streets
The oldest existing church in the Bronx, this 1840’s building served parishioners from the lauded manufacturing districts around Hunt’s Point and Morris Point.
Longwood Historic District- Between Longwood Avenue and E. 156th Street
This long span of 2 and 3 story houses was built at the turn of the last century. These Warren C. Dickerson inventions all bear consistent design details and has gained preserved landmark status since the 80’s.
614 Courtlandt Avenue Building- 614 Courtlandt Avenue
This Mansard-style German cultural building was built in 1870 by a local businessman. It once housed a tavern and assembly rooms for the first German-Americans, today it rests alongside an empty lot in an increasingly anachronistic setting.
Former Bronx Borough Courthouse- Between E. 161st Street and Brook Avenue
Composed of thick granite stone, this classically designed building first arose in 1914 after a protracted 9-year construction. Closed by the city in 1977, the building ended up on the Landmark Conservation societies most endangered sites list. It was recently purchased and leased to a tenant, but you never know if the fragile interior will survive the incoming bureaucratic rat-race. Now may be as good a time as any to visit before it disappears.
I hope this article services any wanderlust you may have, and dispels any of your presumptions about the Bronx. Thanks again to the Lehman College Art Gallery for information and select images. Visit their incredibly detailed site for more info.