COMMUNITIES THAT MAKE UP DISTRICT 7
Each neighborhood within our District displays rich and unique characteristics. Please see below some of the organizations and groups that serve this community.
About 150 years ago, Bedford Park began as an area of farmland owned by Leonard Jerome-- Winston Churchill's grandfather. Leonard W. Jerome sold the Bedford Park tract in the 1850s and he and August Belmont, Sr. began to build the Jerome Park Racecourse, which is now the Jerome Park Reservoir. Twenty years after the sale a group of developers built a suburban retreat community made up of 40 suburban homes and named it Bedford after the London suburb.
In the early 1900s Bedford Park became more than just a suburban retreat as the Italian and Irish immigrants who helped build the Jerome Park Reservoir started to call the neighborhood home. The Reservoir project was completed in 1906, in 1914 the Grand Concourse was completed and in 1917 the extension of the Jerome Avenue subway line combined to make Bedford Park a fixture in the Bronx.
Today, Bedford Park is home to a number of prestigious high schools, colleges, and some of the oldest churches in the city which reflect the diverse population that started this community.
Some of the churches in the area include the Bedford Park Congregational Church which dates to 1882 and was designated a City Landmark in 2000, the Roman Catholic Church of St. Philip Neri which was a mission church for immigrant Italian laborers, who also worked on the construction of the Jerome Park Reservoir and the Convent of Mount St. Ursula, established in 1892 (today standing as The Academy of Mt. St. Ursula, an all-girls prep-school.)
The schools and colleges in the area include schools located in the area referred to as the Educational Mile, which included three high schools (Walton, DeWitt Clinton, and the Bronx High School of Science) along with the Bronx campus of Hunter College (now Lehman College). Currently, the Walton Campus houses four high schools (Discovery, Kingsbridge International, Celia Cruz High School for Music, and the High School for Teaching and the Professions) and one secondary school (International School for Liberal Arts). Two of the nine specialized high schools in New York City are in the area, which includes Bronx High School of Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College.
The Fordham section of the Bronx first began its expansion in the 1930s when many middle and working-class Jewish families moved to the area, attracted by the modern housing and convenient subway access to business districts in Manhattan where they could work and shop. However, in the 1970s a wave of arsons ravaged a number of low income communities in New York City, including and most notably, a large number of the residential structures in Fordham were left seriously damaged or destroyed. Most of the working-class families that had once called Fordham home now moved to the suburbs or retired to Florida.
Since then, many of the abandoned tenement style apartment buildings have been rehabilitated and designated low-income housing. Also many subsidized attached multi-unit townhouses and newly constructed apartment buildings have been or are being built on vacant lots across the neighborhood. Today, the city continues to revitalize this area of the Bronx and current initiatives within the Fordham neighborhood are aimed at promoting shopping centers and attempting to attract entrepreneurs and residents looking to decrease their cost of living as rents continue to skyrocket in Manhattan. Fordham Road is not only the longest shopping strip in the borough but has also become the site of major economic improvement and development with a constant influx of new businesses and developments.
Fordham is also home of the Bronx Library Center, which initially opened its doors in 1923 but in order to expand services and meet the needs of an increasing population the branch went through several renovations. The original building located on Bainbridge Avenue was renovated and reopened in 1956 but in November of 2005 it closed it doors to make way to a new and improved library center. In 2006, the New York Public Library System opened the new Bronx Library Center on Kingsbridge Road. The Library Center boasts an expanded size, both in square feet and in volumes as it replaced the Fordham Library Center, which was half its size, and held only one third of the new library's collection.
Among the area's historical sites, American poet Edgar Allan Poe's cottage, where he spent his final years, is still standing in Poe Park. Other landmarks include the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University, the New York Botanical Garden founded in 1891 and the Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States.
JEROME PARK RESERVOIR
The Jerome Park Reservoir was originally the Jerome Park Racetrack, built by Leonard W. Jerome, a successful stock speculator and an avid sports man, alongside with his brothers and financier August Belmont. The Jerome Park Racetrack opened on September 25, 1866 and in 1867 it held the Belmont Stakes, one of the three major horse races that constitute the Triple Crown, and it remained there until 1890 when the city condemned the property to build the Jerome Park Reservoir.
In 1906 the Jerome Park Reservoir was completed, it was built to hold water conducted to the city by the New Croton Aqueduct. The reservoir held 773 million gallons of water when it was filled in 1905. It covers 94 acres and has a circumference of two miles, bordered by a series of elegantly crafted stone walls. The City of New York acquired Jerome Park, which surrounds the reservoir, on June 3, 1895 and officially opened it as a park on April 4, 1940. Today the Reservoir distributes 10 to 30 percent of the City’s water and it has become the center of further community concern over talks to build a water filtration plant.
The area that stretches from Reservoir Avenue along Goulden Avenue to Mosholu Parkway South is known as "Education Mile" consisting of the Walton Campus, Lehman College, Bronx High School of Science, High School for American Studies, and DeWitt Clinton High School.
In 1963 Frederick Philipse, a local British Lord, erected the King’s Bridge which spanned from the now filled Spuyten Duyvil Creek parallel to what is now West 230th Street and Kingsbridge Avenue, and thus the Kingsbridge area was named. This bridge was the first to connect the Bronx with Marble Hill once part of the island of Manhattan. Kingsbridge was part of the town of Yonkers until 1874 when it was annexed to New York City.
The Kingsbridge Heights area is bordered by Kingsbridge Road to the north, Fordham Road to the south, Jerome Avenue on the east, and the Harlem River on the west.
One of the most prominent structures in the Kingsbridge Heights area is the Kingsbridge Armory, a Romanesque fortress built in 1917 to house the National Guard Artillery when they relocated from Manhattan. Being the size of four football fields, the immense brick building took the title for the largest freestanding building in the world in 1917, and it is still believed to be the world’s largest drill hall. The buildings on the outskirts are an active recruiting station for the National Guard.
Today, the armory, which covers the entire block from Kingsbridge Road and 195th Street to Reservoir and Jerome Avenues, sits empty. Since 1994, city officials and community leaders have been pushing for redevelopment of this architectural landmark. Community Board 7 is taking a lead role in this process and ensuring that the armory not only preserves its architectural and historical essence but that this building which has been the site for sports events, concerts and movie films becomes a place that will serve the needs of the community.
Mosholu is an Algonquian word (the language of some North American Indian groups) that means “smooth stones” or “small stones” for the nearby creek now known as Tibett’s Brook. The Parkway began in the late 19th century when New York City bought several underdeveloped lands in the Bronx to build park space and parkways, namely VanCortlandt, Claremont, Crotona, Bronx, St. Mary’s, and Pelham Bay Parks and the Mosholu, Crotona, Bronx and Pelham Parkways between 1888 and 1890.
The movement to create more parks in the city began in 1881, when John Mullaly, a former newspaper reporter and editor, and a group of citizens concerned with widespread urban growth, formed the New York Park Association. The group’s lobbying efforts helped the passage of the New Parks Act in 1884, which funded the acquisition of several major underdeveloped lands with the purpose of creating parks and parkways.
Today Mosholu Parkway connects the Bronx Park to Van Cortland Park and stretches from Allerton Avenue to Gun Hill Road, with an extension north through Van Cortland Park. Frisch Field a baseball field named after 1948 in honor of Frank “Fordham Flash” Frisch a major league baseball player, manager, Fordham University alumnus and Bronx resident, is located at Mosholu Parkway and Webster Avenue by Botanical Square. There is also the Mosholu Playground located at Mosholu Parkway South and Bainbridge Avenue. The south end of the parkway borders the New York Botanical Garden, an internationally renowned public garden and research institution housing one of the largest collections of plant specimen in the world.
Some New York City landmarks in this neighborhood include the 52nd Police Precinct on Webster Avenue and Tracey Towers, two of the largest buildings in the Bronx, located at the intersection with Jerome Avenue.
Norwood began as a dairy farm owned by the Varian family. It is commonly believed that the neighborhood’s name comes from the name “North Woods.” In fact, several Revolutionary War battles were fought in this once densely wooded area and the foreign heroes of the time have been immortalized in the names of several Norwood Streets (DeKalb [Germany], Rochambeau [France], and Steuben [Germany]).
For a couple of decades in the late 20th Century, Norwood became known as “Little Belfast” after a large number of immigrants from Northern Ireland settled in the area. The area was also known as Bainbridge after the commercial area of Bainbridge Avenue and East 204th Street.
Today, Norwood is home to several landmarks such as the prestigious Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center, built in 1912 and is the Bronx’s largest private employer. The Williamsbridge Oval Park, also known as the Oval or Oval Park, is also a central feature in this community. In 1888, there was a Reservoir built in this area but it became too small for the city’s needs and was eventually turned into a park and recreation center. Other New York City landmarks in the Norwood neighborhood include the Valentine-Varian House, which houses the Museum of Bronx History; and the old Williamsbridge Reservoir Keeper’s House, which was bought and restored by the Mosholu Preservation Corporation for use as a community space.
Several modern day icons such as baseball Hall of famer Frankie Frisch, award winning director Rob Reiner and fashion icons Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren have called Norwood their home.
In 1894, New York University established a spacious campus in the Bronx and the chancellor of the school, Henry Mitchell MacCracken, worked diligently to name the surrounding area University Heights. His work paid off since more than 100 years later, the area is still called University Heights. In 1973 New York University sold the campus to the City University of New York and renamed it Bronx Community College.
In addition to being the site of historic buildings, Bronx Community College is the first establishment to have a “Hall of Fame.” What the College named “The Hall of Fame of Great Americans” is an outdoor arcade that runs for 630 feet over the highest elevation in the Bronx, that houses 98 busts of the country's greatest politicians, scholars, teachers and authors, created by some of the country's most noted sculptors even the name plates under the busts were made by Tiffany Studios.
University Heights is also home to several schools, parks and grand churches such as St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church which was established in 1906.