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Ask the Historian: Post Your Questions About the Bronx

Monday, August 02, 2010

Curious to know how the Bronx Zoo kept the American bison from going extinct or how hip-hop got started in the Bronx?

All this week, WNYC is collecting your questions about the Bronx and posing them to Bronx borough historian, Lloyd Ultan.

Check back here to see his answers and learn more about New York City's northernmost borough.

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Comments [76]

Rita from Rockland County

I was born in 1951 at Fitch Sanatorium. My mother delivered 6 or her 8 children there. We lived down the street on Loring Place. My parents were graduates of St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School and both sets of grandparents lived in Tolentine. BICs (Bronx Irish Catholics) always told people the parish they were from so even though I remember Fordham Road and University Ave, all references after we moved (I was 6 yrs old) were to Tolentine. My understanding of the sanatorium's later use was that it was a fraternity house for NYU. I also remember the beautiful Hall of Fame grounds NYU had down the road.

I just spent a lovely afternoon on City Island and would recommend this area as a destination. Pelham Park and Orchard Beach nearby bring back childhood memories and make you proud to be from the Bronx. I am glad to learn the truth about the name for the borough; I had only heard about it being a Dutch name and people going to visit the Bronks. My family has degrees from Mt St Vincent, Manhattan, and Fordham and a niece is employed at Bronx Science so the connection to the borough continues!

May. 05 2014 08:21 PM
Glennis from 123 w Bronx

HI

Does anyone know anything more about the Fitch Sanitarium?

Feb. 11 2014 11:00 AM
Barbara from New York

Hi Elinor: I was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y. I checked my baby book and the address was: Royal Hospital, 2021 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York Attending Physician: Dr. Charleston, Family Dr. Dr. Joseph Criscione.

Oct. 02 2013 12:25 PM
Elinor

Does anyone have any information regarding the Royal Hospital on the Grand concourse. I was born there in the early 1940's.
Thank you.

Aug. 14 2013 10:41 AM
Gray B

Let me rephrase my question. Why did they create a new Union facility. It uses to birth babies and now its a doctors office. Do you know any history on it. Thankyou

Aug. 06 2013 11:19 PM
Gray B from bronx ny

What happened to Union hospital of the bronx on 188th. This community doctor's office is new. I was born in 1984 to union hospital that birthed babies.

Aug. 06 2013 11:13 PM
marie petersen-talley from Bronx, New York

i am looking for ino re the Elsie Andrews Dance School that was located on third ave. in the Bronx where I took tap and ballet in the 1950's but can't find any info. how do i find this info? Ms. Andrews was africanamerican and gave many successful shows with black children in those days.Her studio was located not too far from the Patterson Houses.

Mar. 07 2013 06:12 PM
Wellie from NYC.ny

I was born in fitchers sanitarium on university ave bronx ny 1937. How do I get info on md (my cousin) who delivered me. Her name was Edith check. May not be correct spelling.

Feb. 06 2013 10:04 PM
john e. hume from Tallahassee, Fl.

Can you help me ? I was born in the Prospect Sanatorium 4/26/1028. Mother's name: Dorothy. Father's name: John. I'd like to get some information on my mother's health before she died within the year before I was born. I am now 84. My appreciation. Thank you kindly.

Feb. 04 2013 04:08 PM
Christos Mirtsopoulos from Astoria, NY

Years ago in the mid-1950's I lived for three years at 770 Faile Street, not far from Hunts Point Avenue and the IRT Subway Station. My mother used to take me to the movies there, and I am going nuts trying to find the names and locations of three movie theaters that were on Hunts Point Avenue. I want to enter this information in my journal. I remember I saw "The Ten Commandments" at one theater, "Boy on a Dolphin" at another, and "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" at a third. I also recall that my mother used to get free dishes whenever we went to the movies. Can I get any help to obtain this information I seek?

Dec. 16 2012 02:58 PM
Bernadette from Orleans, Ma.

I believe I was born in a place called "Cramer (or Kramer?) Sanitarium" on the Concourse, in 1931. Do you know where this place was, and when it closed? Thank you.

Sep. 10 2012 11:13 AM
Irma from New York

This is for anyone looking for birth certificate records during Fitch Sanitorium days, as I was born in Fitch Sanitorium in 1954. You can contact City of New York, Bureau of Vital Records, Department of Health. My original birth certificate is a microfiche copy and is stamped. I believe all you have to do is submit an online or mail in request and there is a fee, and you should be able to get a copy. If you have questions, google search Bureau of Vital Records or Vital Statistics for their contact information, call them and ask for assistance. It may take a while to receive the document, being these records are on microfiche or microfilm, but you should be able to receive a copy within 6-10 weeks. Hope this helps.

Aug. 08 2012 06:05 PM
Maria Fleetwood from Pennsylvania

I am seeking information for a cousin, who was born if Fitch Sanitarium in the Bronx 12-1938. Iunderstand that it burned to the ground. He was told, when contacting Bureau of Vital Statistics,about the fire & that they had no record of his birth on file. I recently met a woman who was born there in 1955. Between 1938 & 1955 his birth certificate was someplace. Perhaps because he was adopted, they don't release the original form. Somebody has it because he was able to get a Passport. Can you direct me in this search? Many thanks.
Maria

Jul. 25 2012 12:40 PM
melvin Leon from germany

I am looking for information about my grandfather, Sam Leon from the Bronx who was awarded a certificate by the Knights of Pythias back in the 1920s or 30s. We were always told that he had saved a mother and child from drowning in the Hudson and that is why he received it. Would love to know the real story. I can find out a more specific date range if needed. Thanks!

Jun. 23 2012 02:26 PM
cindy

I am trying to get a copy of my birth certificate- i was born in the Fitch Sanitarian in the Bronx- can you tell me if it is a diferent name --I have tried the Dept of Vital Sat. but they say they have no records..
I hope you can help me.
Thank you,

Jun. 21 2012 02:51 PM
lorraine galasso from yonkers, n.y.

i am trying to find a sister that was born in fitch sanitorium in 1949..how can i get this information.

Jan. 24 2012 12:46 PM
Deborah Wright

I am looking for the Obit for Elmer Augustus Dade who died August 1971 in Bronx, NY. I believe he was a vaudeville dancer and one time producer/agent. He was born in Lancaster, Ohio in 1892, lived in Norristown, PA and Bronx, NY, where he died August, 1971. His wife's first name was Ida. Can anyone get a copy of his obit
I will reimburse copy and postage fees. Contact my email to discuss details.

Nov. 02 2011 02:09 PM
Kasey Cavaliere from Monroe County, NY

I would like to find someone to do a look-up for an article in the Bronx Home News in 1924. I have contacted the NY Public Library and they have the required microfilm. I can supply the location in the library and scan the original article for easier searching. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Sep. 23 2011 03:03 PM
Maryann

My aunt's death certificate list place of death as "The Bronx Hospital" with no address; what hospital are they referring to?

Aug. 12 2011 06:25 PM
James from Canton, CT

I was born in a place called Fitch Sanatariam (or Sanatorium) in 1945, at 183rd Street. My brothers, sisters and cousins were all born there.

Jul. 22 2011 12:56 PM
Ruth Miale from New Jersey

My grandfather died in a sanitarium in the Bronx in 1937. Can you help with the name, and any history of the place?

Family stories have it that it was the closest place (200 miles) where he could go to be cared for with advanced oral cancer, that his family could afford at that time.

Jun. 12 2011 03:34 PM
Stanley Elgart from Warrington, PA

Back in the 30's, there was a Jewish Deli owned by "Uncle". We moved out of the Bronx in the early 1940's. It might have been on Faille Street. Our last remaining Band (name of the owner) relative just passed away before we could get the name. The remaining cousins are trying to search the name. Could you help us?

May. 11 2011 08:33 PM
Bob Trivero from Nanuet, New york

Good morning, I am trying to find out information about an old Bronx hospital called Bryant Sanitarium. Where was it? When did it go out of business? Is it now called something else? Thank you. Bob t.

Mar. 13 2011 11:52 AM
tuff truths from never go back

bronx is dead !

no, ammount of lies and rhetoric and spinning of and facts can bring any good to bronX.

you cant markett a toilet and call it heven!

how about turning bronx into a nuclear dump..

i was there a seen bronx go down....

Dec. 16 2010 05:53 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Stephen Witherspoon:

The Bronx County Historical Society will be happy and grateful to receive the donation
of the books of the Parkchester Women’s Club that you describe. In fact, the current
exhibit on display at its Museum of Bronx History traces the history of Parkchester from its founding. You may contact them at - bronxhistoricalsociety.org. or telephone 718-881-8900 and ship the books to its address: 3309 Bainbridge Avenue, Bronx NY 10467.

Aug. 13 2010 03:18 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Stanley Lenkowsky:

The Bronx High School of Science bean a the brainchild of the educator Dr. Morris Meister. He reasoned the the brilliant student in a normal classroom setting was operating under a handicap. Since teachers must teach to the middle of the class intellectually, the brilliant student was never being challengd, and his mind was being wasted. The school began as an experimental division of DeWitt Clinton High School. In the 1930s, DeWitt
Clinton was still an all-boys school (hence Science began as an all-boys school}. Clinton was also then the largest high school in the country with several annexes throughout the city. One of these was a building on 184th Street and Morris Avenue, just to the west of the Grand Concourse. When the school became independent of DeWitt Clinton in 1938, it became the building of the Bronx High School of Science. It moved to the current building on 205th Street and Goulden Avenue in 1958.

Aug. 13 2010 03:17 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan

To Smokey from LES:

This is THE most asked question about THE Bronx! The borough was named after THE
Bronx River. Therefore, it is the borough of The Bronx (River). Hence, the definite
article.

Aug. 13 2010 03:07 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Sister Regina Bechtle from Riverdale:

1. The highest point in The Bronx is in Rivedale on the hill just behind (to the east of) Christ Church, Riverdale.

2. 25% of the landmass of The Bronx is parkland. That is the largest percentage among the five boroughs. How much more that can be found in trees and grass in community gardens and the backyards and front lawns of private homes is anyone’s guess. As a total, however, it is bound to be rather impressive.

3. I have not had the opportunity to take out a ruler and measure he size of privaely-
owned property in all five boroughs of the city. Thus, cannot answer this question with any accuracy. May I suggest that you contact the Bronx Institute at Lehman College?

The people there have accesss to loads of satistics about the city.

Aug. 13 2010 03:06 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Laura Rivera from the Bronx:

Thanks for the validation and the additional information.

Aug. 13 2010 03:04 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Karo:

The birthplace of hip hop is still in The Bronx. While I cannot speak for other parts of the vast USA, I can assure you that The Bronx is just as safe as most parts of the world. As in any crowded urban area, I would suggest you aways be aware of your
surroundings, but you will find the overwhelming majority of the people in any Bronx neighborhood friendly and helpful. Since The Bronx is part of New York City, I
would suggest you park your van in a garage near your hotel or motel (most likely in Manhattan) and travel around the city using the subway, buses and taxis. There will be no place to park your van on the street at the curb. Good luck and enjoy your visit!

Aug. 13 2010 03:03 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Jennefer from Bronx:

Hip hop was born in The Bronx, but the accepted place was the basement room of a high rise apartment house on Sedgwick Avenue just north of the Washington (181st
Street) Bridge over the Harlem River. In 1971, Clive Campbell, using the name
Kool Herc, was acting as DJ for his sister’s party there. He began spontaneously
rhyming during the break (the instrumental portion of the record between the vocals),
while manually “scatching” the record and extending its performance. In subsequent
performances, he attracted lots of followers and immitators.

A second node of hip hop pioneers emerged very quickly around the Bronx River Houses, and it rapidly spread through other parts of The Bronx and beyond.

Aug. 13 2010 03:02 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Arlene from Jerusalem, Israel-formerly of the Bronx:

The moden abbreviations using x (such as pix) date from the twentieth century, especially from the use of tabloid newspaper reporters who needed to save space. The x in The Bronx, however, dates from the middle of the seventeenth centuury and was used as the name of the river. The story, often told and consantly repeated, that The Bronx got
its name becuae people who said they were going to visit the Broncks is really an old vaudeville joke that arose when Jews numbered 49% of the borough’s population. It was common for Jewish people to say they were visiting the Greenbergs or the Schwartzes
instead of the more usual visiting the Greenberg fmily or the Schwartz family.

How many “yuks” the joke produced on the stage is anyone’s guess, but too many people later took the story as the truth. In actuality, the x was an abbreviation used instead of “the Broncks His River” and the borough was named after the river, thus providing it not only with an x at the end, but with the definite article “The” at the beginning.

Aug. 13 2010 02:57 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Jonathan from Riverdale:

Negro Fort was a small earthen redoubt overlooking the original Boston Post Road, now Van Cortlandt Avenue East, on the top the hill of modern St. George’s Crescent just to the east of the Grand Concourse. It was erected in November, 1776 by black laborers
hired by the British, who had recently chased Washington’s army northward and out of
the modern Bronx. There is a record of a small group of about 30 black laborers living
under British protection in the vicinity of the King’s Bridge, and they were the ones
likely to have done the job. The fort was intended as an early warning system for the
much larger Fort Independence (built by the Americans and captured by the British in
October, 1776) to warn of, and to try to forestall, a possible American attack on the larger
fort from the Boston Post Road. It definitely saw action in January, 1777 when American
Major General William Heath attacked it on the way to an unsuccessful seige of Fort
Independence. When an apartment house was erected on the site in the 1930s, some
Revolutionary War artifacts were discovered there.

Aug. 13 2010 02:51 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan

To Larra from the south south bronx!

Thanks for your kind words. The street signs for Third Avenue, as well for any other street, are erected by the New York City. It decides what’s on it. Only recently have the Manhattan avenues been given numbers, rather than named designations.

The Bronx signs are older, and any replacements merely kept them the way they were. The shop Fashion Moda did exist as you describe. Whether it is worthy of landmark status for preservation depends on many factors, including the strictures of the Landmarks Preservation Law. The Bronx Council on the Arts should have a record of the events that took place there that it published in its newletters.

They should indicate where it was
located at any one time.

Aug. 13 2010 02:39 PM
WNYC Newsroom

From Lloyd Ultan:

To Carol Carson from Brooklyn, NY:

The address of Vasa Hall was 120-138 East 149th Street. It was named after the pre-
Napoleonic era ruling family of Sweden and patronized by Scandanavians fom the early
1900s. St. Lucia’s Day, May parties and Christmas “Gloggfests” were held there. There
were smaller rooms for wedding receptions, meetings of fraternal organizations (such as
the Masons and Knights of Pythias), banquets and private parties. Other ethnic groups
used it as well, such as for German masquerade balls and Greek festivals.

The Fitch Sanatorium was privately-owned facility located a few blocks north of the old
New York University (now Bronx Community College} Campus. It was always small, containing only 64 beds. It now no longer exists.

The Bronx Terminal Market began operation in 1927 a few blocks south of Yankee Stadium. In 1935, an addition was made extending the facility south to 149th Street. In 1955, the Major Deegan Expressway’s elevated portion plunged the market facility into the shadows, but provided additional access for trucks. It served the same function as the Hunts Point Market does today. It was a center for food wholesalers selling to food retailers throughout the city. In the last few decades, it was a center for Caribbean foods.

The much larger Hunts Point market that opened in 1960 made the facilty obsolete, and it was closed and destroyed (except for a portion of the 1935 building) to build the current Gateway Mall on the site.

Aug. 13 2010 02:37 PM
Stanley Lenkowsky

Mr. Ultan:-
I'm curious about the history of the Bronx High School of Science. When was it established, and where was (or were) earlier campuses, before moving up to near Dewitt Clinton?

Aug. 09 2010 09:58 AM
Stephen Witherspoon

Hi Mr Ultan
I have two large scrapbooks from the Parkchesters Womens Club from 1949 to 1950"s. They have many pictures and news clippings from that era. I obtained them from Rix Macdavids daughter Eve who did not know what to do with them. I found your name in todays Post and I think that they would be of interest to you and I would be happy to donate them. Rix Macdavid was known as the father of Parkchester as you probably know. I am his grandson-inlaw.
When I saw these books I thought they were something special as they are full of photos of many of the women in the womens club as well as hand written thoughts of their charitable work.
Please advise.
Thank You

Aug. 08 2010 08:15 PM
Karo

Hi there mr. Ultan

I'm a young woman from Norway, Europe, planning to travel across the Usa for some time. From over here we of course get a really mixed picture of the country, from television, movies, newspapers and so on. But, since my reason for traveling is (writing about) music and music history -I want to visit amongst many,many other places -the Bronx.

So -what can i expect, and is it safe? I'm traveling alone, living in my van (but will use motels in bigger cities) and have no plan of being armed (as i see many other vandwellers are..). The streetlife is what interest me in this part of town, the core of what was the birthplace of hip-hop, is it still there?

Aug. 08 2010 03:52 PM
Carol Carson from Brooklyn, NY

PLease tell what you can about the 120-138 149th Street location, now occupied by Hostas Colege. I lived there from1938-1953 when it was known as VasaTemple or less often Vasa Castle Hall. My father was the superintendent of the building during that time. The ballroom balcony had heraldry decorations with "KP" on it. I was led to believe that the Knights of Pythias had originally owned the building.
During WWII USO Dances, with band leader Ed De Luna were held 3-4 times a week, and the Daily News had Harvest Moon Ball Dance Contests and Golden Gloves Boxing Contests. Other events were held there as well.
I would like to know about Dr. Fitch's Sanatarium where I was born.
I am interested in the old Bronx Terminal market as that was nearby.

Aug. 07 2010 06:19 PM
Jennefer from Bronx

Hi - Was hip hop really born in the projects around E 172nd Street, near Boynton Avenue in the South Bronx?

Aug. 06 2010 10:29 AM
Laura Rivera from the Bronx

Mr. Ultan is right. Union Hospital is now Union Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center look-alike. As a broad-based, comprehensive health care center, Union Community Health Center operates four community-based medical clinics in central and southwest Bronx, and a late night and weekend Rapid Care Program at the former Union Hospital site. Our mission is to provide quality, comprehensive healthcare to a culturally rich, yet medically underserved community. Our goal is to have a positive impact on the health and quality of life of the community that we have served for over a century.

Aug. 05 2010 04:39 PM
Smokey from LES

Why is Bronx preceded by an article and other boroughs are not?

Aug. 05 2010 11:30 AM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Zeno and Johnna Weeks purchased nine acres of land in the village of Upper Morrisania and became innkeepers about 1834. In 1854, Charles and William Weeks added some more acreage that was inherited by their nephew, John Weeks in 1879. When originally built by the city, the road going through the middle of this property was called Clinton Avenue, but it was changed to Weeks Avenue in 1898. Can you find any relatives among these people?

Tom:

On the Cross Bronx Expressway, there is an small overpass called Weeks Ave. Can you tell me how it got it's name? My Great Grandfather Weeks came from West Farms and I am curious to know if there is a connection to his family.

Aug. 04 2010 05:52 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

As with all other natural formations in an urban area, the boulder at Merriam Avenue went the way of all flesh (rocks?). While it would be extremely difficult to trace the precise time and reason for its disappearance, it was most likely because some city agency saw it presence as a danger to the people in the neighborhood and had it removed. It is difficult to believe that a private person or firm could have done it unless there were plans to build on the site that never came through.

toby glickman from Highbridge:

Do you know what happened to the huge boulder that was perched on the cliff behind 1271 Merriam Avenue? In the '40s we children climbed on it, and geology classes from uptown NYU came to study it. It seems to have disappeared.

Aug. 04 2010 05:50 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Crotona Park originated as part of a larger plan to create large parks on the mainland for New York City. In 1874, the city annexed all the land now in The Bronx west of the Bronx River. At the time, John Mullaly, a Catholic immigant from Belfast in today’s Northern Ireland, was the editor of an Irish ethnic newspaper. He stated that since so few people lived in this rural and
suburban area, the city could buy large tracts of land cheaply and convert them into parks. If the city waited for the area’s population to grow, land values would soar, and such parks would become impossible to maintain.

Despite serious opposition from an incredulous establishment, Mullaly was able to get the state to establish a commission (with himself as secretary) to purchase such lands. Mullaly insisted that costs would be even cheaper because the natural lay of the lands for the proposed parks were so perfect that no expensive landscaping would be necessary.

Thus, in one fell swoop in 1888, the city acquired Van Cortlandt, Bronx, Pelham Bay, Crotona, Claremont and St. Mary’s parks and the routes of Mosholu, Pelham and Crotona parkways.

Crotona Park had been the Bathgate Woods, owned by Dr. James Bathgate. It was well-known at the time for its wide variety of trees and as the nesting ground for thousands of birds. There was no change to the landscape, except for some minor additions over the years. Major changes came under the administration of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses who added the playgrounds and other active recreation places and the massive pool.

As for where to live, each neighborhood has its own attractions and its own strengths. Enjoy exploring them!

nigia Stephens from Bronx NY:

What is the history behind Cratona Park? It's a gem. I grew up near it but I know only that it looks great now. It would be one of the few reasons I'd plan to stay here and not rent out my co-op to move out. The park is like a mini Prospect Park. Did Holmstead design it? By the way, who designed Van Cortland? PS. What is your ideal place to live if you want to stay in The Bronx?

Aug. 04 2010 05:49 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

While there is some evidence uncovered by archaeologists of American Indian presence in the area, it is very difficult to find any material from any era on a rocky outcropping such as Spuyten Duyvil Hill. Artifacts on land are most often found in bottom land soil were it is more likely the stuff would be preserved by additional dust and mud accumulating above it.

As for ‘Nipnichsen,” all American Indian names were uncovered about 100 years ago by Alanson Skinner, who became the leading authority on the subject. Books and articles written by others accepted his findings. However, about two years ago, some ethnic scholars discovered that Skinner simply made all of the names up himself. That puts all such names into grave doubt.

One further thing: Isn’t anyone born in America from any ethnic group by definition a Native American?

Nick Dembowski from Riverdale:

I have heard many accounts of a Native American village named "Nipnichsen" that existed on Spuyten Duyvil hill in the time of Henry Hudson. Was any archeological evidence of this village ever discovered?

Aug. 04 2010 05:41 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

“The Bronx — The ‘Definite Article’: suits me! But wouldn’t it also apply to The Hague in the Netherlands, the Vatican, and The Dalles, Oregon?

mira barelli:

The place needs a slogan:

"The Bronx - The 'Definite Article' "

Try it on........

Aug. 04 2010 05:38 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Morrisania and Morris Heights were, indeed, named after the wealthy Morris family that produced Gouverneur Morris. Gouverneur Morris was not really the financier of the American Revolution, but his boss, Robert Morris (no relation), was.

Gouverneur, probably the most accomplished member of the family, was a principal framer of the United States Constitution, U.S. Minister to France during the Reign of Terror, Senator from New York and first chairman of the Erie Canal Commission.

His half-brother, Lewis, signed the Declaration of Independence. Their grandfather, another Lewis Morris, was the first native-born chief justice of the colony of New York and the first royal governor of New Jersey (hence Morris County and Morristown in New Jersey).

The Morris holdings grew through the colonial years. Generally, their Manor of Morrisania ran eastward from the Harlem River at today’s High Bridge to modern Intervale Avenue about two blocks south of Crotona Park, then south to the East River. It is impossible in this limited space to give a complete and satisfying story of all the great members of the family and their accomplishments through the centuries. May I suggest that you purchase a copy of my book, The Northern Borough: A History of The Bronx, from its publisher, The Bronx County Historical Society. The Morrises and their holdings occupy a central place in several chapters, and his may answer many of your questions about them.

Charles Zigmund from Carmel NY - Bronx-born:

I believe Morrisania and Morris Heights were named for the extremely wealthy Morris family, which produced Gouverneur Morris, a major financier of the American Revolution, a founding father and later a European diplomat of the infant nation. I would like to know the location and extent of this family's original holdings, how they came by it, how they amassed their enormous wealth, what their business interests were and anything else you can tell me about them. Thanks.

Aug. 04 2010 05:36 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

The Williamsbridge Reservoir was completed in 1882 and served its function until it was converted into a playground by Robert Moses and opened as such in 1937. It led to the formation of the Norwood neighborhood because of the availability of water. It is likely that much of the area served by the Kensico system today was served by it then.

Bryan Diffley from Pelham NY:

Mr. Ultan, the Williamsbridge Playground was a reservoir fed from the first Kensico dam, north of White Plains in Westchester County. What is its history and what area was served by its water.

Aug. 04 2010 05:33 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Before there was a Major Deegan Expressway, the natural topography created high cliffs leading from the land shortly beyond the Harlem River shoreline. It was impossible to create a normal street in many places. To enable people to get to and from the river shore, about 100 years ago the city erected step streets. These steps often bear street names, and some have entrances onto their landings from apartment houses that were erected there in subsequent years. In most cases, apartments hem them in. It appears to motorists whizzing by on the highway that the steps actually come from the buildings themselves. But they predate the buildings.

AK:

Traveling on the Major Degan highway you see staircases that lead seemingly to the highway from the side of apartment buildings-what was their original function? Where did they originally lead?

Aug. 04 2010 05:31 PM
Sister Regina Bechtle from Riverdale

Mr. Ultan, I have several questions for you.
1. What is the highest point in the Bronx?
2. How does the amount of green space in the Bronx compare with other boroughs?
3. I heard that Mount Saint Vincent (the property at 263rd St. & Riverdale Ave. that is home to the Sisters of Charity & the College of Mount St. Vincent, and where I happen to live) is the largest privately owned parcel of land in the city. True?

Many thanks for sharing your vast knowledge with all of us.

Aug. 04 2010 03:40 PM
Larra from the south south bronx!

Dear Mr. Ultan,
This is so fascinating, thanks for sharing your expertise with us! I live at the intersection of 147th and third avenue, and I have two questions:
First, upon moving to the area I was informed third avenue is always spelled out, to differentiate it from 3rd avenue in Manhattan, and the street signs I have noticed seem to bear this out, was this a conscious decision somewheres along the way, or an organic evolution?
Second, I read in 'The Mott Haven Herald' that there was a shop in this location called Fashion Moda where Stefan Eins, the operator of the space, brought together artists, musicians, breakdancers and the trendsetters of the era into a diverse collective art space. Do you know where this was located and or have any details about this place? It should be preserved, maybe as a satellite to the Hollis Burgers and Hip Hop Museum in queens!

Aug. 04 2010 08:52 AM
Arlene from Jerusalem, Israel--formerly of the Bronx

In response to the Bronx, with an "x"--many words in English, especially today, in the internet age, have a shortened ending, such as "pix" (picks, pictures). It's also the outcome of hearing and not reading. What is interesting about the Bronx is that it is the only borough with "the" preceding it. I was told (by my father, who loved NY history) that it was named after Jonas Bronck's family and was referred to as where "the Broncks" lived. That's why there's an "x." Bronck alone would not create this ending.

Aug. 04 2010 02:02 AM
Jonathan from Riverdale

On old maps of the Revolutionary War period, I have seen a "Negro Fort" near Kingsbridge Road, perhaps near Poe Park. I can't be sure of the location because there are no other roads. What was this fort? Which side did they fight on? Do we know the actual location?

Aug. 03 2010 04:41 PM
Charles Zigmund from Carmel NY - Bronx-born.

I assume this is where one may ask a Bronx question. It says "comments" but there is no place I can find that says "leave a question." In common with scores of websites, the designer of the page has not followed through on or thought through her/his page functionality.

Anyway, to get to my question: I believe Morrisania and Morris Heights were named for the extremely wealthy Morris family, which produced Gouverneur Morris, a major financier of the American Revolution, a founding father and later a European diplomat of the infant nation. I would like to know the location and extent of this family's original holdings, how they came by it, how they amassed their enormous wealth, what their business interests were and anything else you can tell me about them. Thanks.

Aug. 03 2010 09:23 AM
Bryan Diffley from Pelham NY

Mr. Ultan,
The Williamsbridge Playground was a reservoir fed from the first Kensico dam, north of White Plains in Westchester County.
What is its history and what area was served by its water.

Bryan Diffley

Aug. 03 2010 06:56 AM
nigia Stephens from Bronx NY

What is the history behind Cratona Park? It's a gem. I grew up near it but I know only that it looks great now. It would be one of the few reasons I'd plan to stay here and not rent out my co-op to move out. The park is like a mini Prospect Park. Did Holmstead design it? By the way, who designed Van Cortland?
PS. What is your ideal place to live if you want to stay in The Bronx? I'm thinking around 225th and higher or near Einstein Hospital on the "far side". I've been in and out of the South Bronx all my life. This is the best I've seen it in years. It's affordable to own a place but, it's still pretty backwards in comparison to the rest of the city.

Aug. 03 2010 01:29 AM
AK

Traveling on the Major Degan highway you see staircases that lead seemingly to the highway from the side of apartment buildings-what was their original function? Where did they originally lead?

Aug. 02 2010 11:53 PM
mira barelli

The place needs a slogan:

"The Bronx - The 'Definite Article' "

Try it on........

Aug. 02 2010 09:23 PM
Nick Dembowski from Riverdale

Professor Ultan,

I have heard many accounts of a Native American village named "Nipnichsen" that existed on Spuyten Duyvil hill in the time of Henry Hudson. Was any archeological evidence of this village ever discovered?

- Nick

Aug. 02 2010 09:11 PM
toby glickman from Highbridge

Do you know what happened to the huge boulder that was perched on the cliff behind 1271 Merriam Avenue? In the '40s we children climbed on it, and geology classes from uptown NYU came to study it. It seems to have disappeared.

Aug. 02 2010 07:39 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Thank you for your kind words. It good to know there are enthusiastic Bronxites like you out there. Good luck with your son. Make him proud of his birthplace!

First, the position of Bronx Borough Historian is established by state law. Borough Historians are appointed by the respective Borough Presidents and serve at his or her pleasure. I cannot create a successor, but I would like to see a person who is enthusiastic about The Bronx and the heritage of its people and is eager to pass along his knowledge so that people can pass it onto future generations as a legacy. I think I may have found such a person in Angel Hernandez, who is now the Educator of the Bronx County Historical Society. Even he will admit he is not ready yet, but, given time, I am sure he will be.

When anyone tries to deprecate The Bronx, I always try to emphasize the positive. I then say,”How could you live there?” I reply “How could you not? Look at all the advantages we have in The Bronx: 25% of our landmass is parkland, and our 1,400,000 people would make The Bronx the sixth largest city in the United States if it were a separate city on its own. We have the world-renowned Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. We are the home of the New York Yankees who have won more world championships than any team playing any sport anywhere in the world. The first municipal golf course in the country opened in The Bronx, and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans on the Bronx Community College campus was the first hall of fame of any kind in the country. The Bronx is the borough of universities, with 14 institutions of higher education, and it has the Bronx High School of Science that has graduated more Ph.D.s among its alumni than any other high school in the nation. The Bronx has very friendly people that originated from every inhabited continent on earth.”

Rossalind from Co-op City:

what would you like for the next borough historian - (if ever there is one) to go forward with? what would you like for us to say to people when we are asked about our overly stereotyped in a negative way borough, "How is it there, how do you live there, isn't it dangerous?" i've always felt like we were on the back burner as far as the city as a whole is concerned.

Aug. 02 2010 05:59 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Yes, indeed, The Bronx is experiencing a renaissance, although you would never really know it if you read most of the articles in the daily newspapers or followed the local television news shows. Since the 1990s, the burned-out, rubble-strewn South Bronx has disappeared. The area is covered with one- two- and three family town houses, co-ops and condominiums, all built at the behest of the people who lived there through the devastation.

There is now more home ownership in the South Bronx than at any time in history. Crime has plummeted to the point where the Bronx County Jail south of Yankee Stadium was closed in 2002 because there were too few inmates to run it economically. The structure has since been torn down and replaced with a large shopping mall complex. Artists have moved into renovated old factory buildings in Mott Haven, and 19th century townhouses in Mott Haven and Hunts Point are attracting new residents from Manhattan.

Does The Bronx still have problems? Of course it does! But every place always has some problems wherever it is located. Compared to what The Bronx was like in 1977, it sure has experienced, and is still experiencing, a renaissance.

Matt Newton from Woodlawn:

In the introduction to the story on WNYC this morning, it was mentioned that Dr. Ultan believed the Bronx was experiencing "a renaissance", but there was no mention of this in the story. Is it true that the Bronx is experiencing such a renaissance, and if so, could you elaborate?

Aug. 02 2010 05:55 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

There are no plans for further subway construction in The Bronx, although the MTA is building the Second Avenue subway in Manhattan in fits and starts. The so-called Burke Avenue extension of the Concourse line was provided for. The current 205th Street station (the last stop) has a tunnel that continues eastward for some distance that was meant to eventually go under the Bronx River and Burke Avenue to at least White Plains Road. For decades, residents of the northeast Bronx were demanding some subway service and the projection was that this line would eventually go there. However, the New York Westchester and Boston Railway went bankrupt in the late 1930s and Mayor La Guardia purchased its right of way in The Bronx as a cheaper alternative. It first opened in 1941 as a shuttle connecting Dyre Avenue with the 180th Street station. It is now part of the number 5 line of the subway.

Joe Adams from Bergen County, NJ:

When the Independent subway line was opened, Bronx residents felt cheated with only a relatively short line under the Concourse (as opposed to miles and miles of new routes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens) To appease them, the were told that the line would be extended eastward to Burke Avenue. Of course, that never happened. Are there any plans extant for Bronx subway construction?

Aug. 02 2010 05:51 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Majora Carter grew up in Hunts Point and moved when devastation hit the area. In 1995, enrolled at NYU to earn a master’s degree in creative writing, she found it impossible to stay in expensive Manhattan and also spend money for tuition. She moved back to Hunts Point to a townhouse on Manida Street. She found the artists, writers, and people with energy and optimism living there to her liking, and decided to purchase the house in which she lived. She soon became a leader in trying to improve the community, especially through the organization she helped found, Sustainable South Bronx. She is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant, using this as added leverage to campaign for new parks and better facilities for Hunts Point residents and for residents of nearby areas.

jim:

what can you tell me about the history of Majora Carter in the Bronx?

Aug. 02 2010 05:48 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

How wonderful it is to her from you. Believe it or not, I remember you well from the “good old days.” Union Hospital opened in 1912 on the site just recently vacated by Fordham Hospital at 260 East 188th Street near Valentine Avenue. The medical facility on the site today calls itself the Union Community Health Centers, so I believe you can say that a medical facility bearing the name “Union” is in the same location. All the best!

Diane Guidera McNicholas:

I am a former student of yours-Edward Williams College, class of 1966. My parents were raised in the Bronx, and I was born in Union Hopital. Is this hospital still in existence? Where is or where was it located?

Aug. 02 2010 05:40 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

The elevated subway stop at the West Farms entrance to the Bronx Zoo was meant to be the terminus of the original subway line to serve The Bronx that entered the borough under 149th Street in 1905. The contract the City had with the IRT stipulated that all lines were to terminate at the city line. The IRT did not want to build all the way out to the northern reaches of nowhere, so they tried to circumvent this requirement by ending the lines at the southern ends of the great Bronx parks. They could justify this with Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Parks, since their northern edges were at the City line anyway. But the City balked at the Bronx Park terminus since that park did not go all the way to the City line. The IRT was forced to build an extension that ran up White Plains Road to near the City line.

The station at the Bronx Zoo remained. It was convenient to use it to prevent all the trains on that line from running the entire distance northward with what were originally so few people on board. Besides that, the zoo was a popular destination, especially in summertime.

By 1941, the situation changed. The population of the northeast Bronx had grown,and the takeover of the New York Westchester and Boston Railway to become the Dyre Avenue line (then run simply as a shuttle) increased the use of the 180th Street station where passengers transferred. Thus, shortly after World War II, service to the Bronx Zoo ceased and the station and the elevated section of the line leading to it were destroyed.

adam wolf from bronx:

the number 2 line and the number 8 line both had stations at the bronx zoo they are on a 1939 subway map but i cant find any info on them my address is 1366 purdy st 62 bx ny thanks

Aug. 02 2010 05:34 PM

From Lloyd Ultan:

Your question is really two questions. First, why does The Bronx have an x when Jonas Bronck did not. When Jonas Bronck died in 1643 at the age of 43, the only thing to be named for him that retained its name over the centuries was first called “Broncks His River.” Very quickly, those people who wrote laboriously with a quill pen abbreviated it to be simply “the Bronx River.”

You note the name was attached to the river, not to the land. This leads to the second question as to when the land was named The Bronx. The land became a part of Westchester County in 1683 and was eventually divided into several towns and parts of towns. In 1874, the area west of the Bronx River was annexed to New York City. In 1895, the area east of the river was similarly annexed. In 1898, the city annexed Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and decided to set up the borough system. It was decided the two areas previously annexed should also become a borough. But it never had a name before. Looking at a map, the “city fathers” saw the Bronx River coursing right through the projected borough’s center. So, they named it The Bronx after the river.

Bjorn Hallsson:

How and when did the 'x' in The Bronx become officially adopted in the name of the borough?

Aug. 02 2010 05:30 PM
Tom

On the Cross Bronx Expressway, there is an small overpass called Weeks Ave. Can you tell me how it got it's name? My Great Grandfather Weeks came from West Farms and I am curious to know if there is a connection to his family.

Aug. 02 2010 04:37 PM
Rossalind from Co-op City

what would you like for the next borough historian - (if ever there is one) to go forward with? what would you like for us to say to people when we are asked about our overly stereotyped in a negative way borough, "How is it there, how do you live there, isn't it dangerous?" i've always felt like we were on the back burner as far as the city as a whole is concerned...thanks for the great facts...the puffed cereals and lincoln! fabulous - that's good artillery!!!
muah
love u and love the bronx
thanks for everything
Rossalind and RossAllan(my one year old son born at home(coop city) on purpose)

Aug. 02 2010 02:23 PM
Joe Adams from Bergen County, NJ

When the Independent subway line was opened, Bronx residents felt cheated with only a relatively short line under the Concourse (as opposed to miles and miles of new routes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens) To appease them, the were told that the line would be extended eastward to Burke Avenue. Ofcourse, that never happened. Are there any plans extant for Bronx subway construction?

Aug. 02 2010 11:29 AM
Matt Newton from Woodlawn

In the introduction to the story on WNYC this morning, it was mentioned that Dr. Ultan believed the Bronx was experiencing "a renaissance", but there was no mention of this in the story. Is it true that the Bronx is experiencing such a renaissance, and if so, could you elaborate?

Aug. 02 2010 08:52 AM
jim

hi - what can you tell me about the history of Majora Carter in the Bronx?

Aug. 02 2010 08:50 AM
Bjorn Hallsson

How and when did the 'x' in The Bronx become officially adopted in the name of the borough?

Aug. 02 2010 08:49 AM
Diane Guidera McNicholas from I

Mr. Ultan,
I am a former student of yours-Edward Williams College, class of 1966. My parents were raised in the Bronx, and I was born in Union Hopital. Is this hospital still in existence? Where is or where was it located? My husband and I frequently go back to the Belmont section to eat. I was raised on 181St. and Hughes Ave. How nice to hear your voice this morning on NPR.
Sincerely,
Diane Guidera McNicholas

Aug. 02 2010 07:19 AM
adam wolf from bronx

the number 2 line and the number 8 line both had stations at the bronx zoo they are on a 1939 subway map but i cant find any info on them my address is 1366 purdy st 62 bx ny thanks

Aug. 02 2010 06:00 AM

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