Born in 1600 in Sweden, Jonas Bronck became a seacaptain in the Netherlands before coming to the New World in 1639. He established his farm about where 132nd Street and Lincoln Avenue in Mott Haven is today, thus becoming the first European settler in the area. He gave his name to the Bronx River, from which the Borough of The Bronx and Bronx County received their names.
An English Puritan who settled in Massachusetts, John Throckmorton became a Baptist and follower of Roger Williams, settling in colonial Rhode Island. When Massachusetts ministers threatened to take over the tolerant colony, Throckmorton took a group of people to settle in The Bronx on the shores of Long Island Sound in 1642. Routed by an Indian attack, Throckmorton left his name in garbled form in Throggs Neck, the place where his settlement was located.
Anne Hutchinson was a dutiful housewife who settled with fellow Puritans in colonial Massachusetts. When she developed her own religious ideas and preached them, she and her family were expelled to a more tolerant Rhode Island. Threatened when the ministers tried to take over that colony, she fled to The Bronx near today’s Co-op City in 1642. Killed in an Indian attack, she left her name in the nearby Hutchinson River and the later parkway named for it.
Thomas Pell, brother of a famous mathematician and diplomat under Oliver Cromwell, purchased all of the East Bronx from the Siwanoy Indians in 1654. He encouraged the establishment of the village of Westchester, near Westchester Square. He left his name in the lands called Pelham, which survives in Pelham Bay Park, Pelham Parkway, the Pelham Bay neighborhood, and Pell Street on City Island.
John Archer, a Dutchman who Anglicized his name, first settled in the village of Westchester (today’s Westchester Square) in 1657 before purchasing all of the West Bronx from today’s High Bridge to 238th Street between the Harlem and Bronx Rivers starting in 1666. He named the vast territory Fordham, after the little village he began at the ford of the Harlem River near today’s 225th Street. The name survives in the Fordham neighborhood, Fordham Road, and Fordham University.
Richard Ponton was one of the first settlers of the village of Westchester, near Westchester Square, in 1654. Although illiterate, his courage and forthrightness made him one of the early leaders of The Bronx. He was regularly entrusted with negotiations with Indians and colonial leaders, and with establishing boundaries of farms and with other settlements. He also served as the first captain of the area’s militia.
John Pell, son of a famous mathematician and diplomat under Oliver Cromwell, inherited the lands in the northeast Bronx called Pelham from his childless uncle, Thomas Pell. He encouraged the settlement of the village of Eastchester in the northeast Bronx, and was so respected by his neighbors that they often used him as a mediator in disputes. He presided over the first county court held at Westchester, today’s Westchester Square, in 1683, and served on the colonial governors’ Council.
Caleb Heathcote came from a family of English merchants and was so respected by many colonial governors that he was allowed to hold several colonial offices at the same time. He settled in the town of Westchester, near Westchester Square, and obtained a charter for it in 1696 making the small rural settlement a borough with the right to elect its own mayor and council, to hold its own court, and to elect its own Assemblyman. Heathcote was chosen mayor each year until he died.
Born in Morrisania in 1671, Lewis Morris, a scholar who owned the largest library in the colony, rose to become the first native-born chief justice of the colony of New York. He also financed John Peter Zenger in founding the New York Journal, and taking a prominent part in the events that led to the establishment of freedom of the press. He was later appointed the first royal governor of the colony of New Jersey. He is buried in St. Ann’s Church on St. Ann’s Avenue and 140th Street.
John Bartow was sent to the New World as a missionary for the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London, and became, in 1702, the first resident minister of any faith in The Bronx. He settled in the town of Westchester, near Westchester Square, and supervised the construction of the first St. Peter’s Church. He also organized the first school to teach reading and arithmetic to the children of the area. He and his family left their name in Bartow Avenue.
Peter DeLancey was the brother of colonial political power, Lieutenant Governor James DeLancey. After his marriage to the daughter of noted botanist and physician, Cadwallader Colden, he moved to West Farms where he operated a profitable saw mill and grist mill along the banks of the Bronx River near today’s Wild Asia exhibit in the Bronx Zoo. He was elected the Assemblyman from the borough of Westchester (today’s East Bronx), and served until he died 18 years later.
Benjamin Palmer of Throggs Neck was one of the colonial Bronx’s early entrepreneurs. When Bronx farmers were forced to pay tolls to bring their cattle and produce to New York City over the King’s Bridge, he formed a group to build a Free Bridge over Spuyten Duyvil Creek in 1759. In the 1760s, he formed a syndicate to build a thriving port city on what he called City Island to capture the trade along Long Island Sound. The American Revolution destroyed his dream, but the name, City Island, still survives.
Grandson of a colonial chief justice involved in the Zenger case that brought freedom of the press to America, Lewis Morris was an early supporter of the American Revolution. He became a general in the county militia, and was elected to the Continental Congress. There, he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After the war, he vainly suggested that Morrisania become the nation’s capital, and built the first Third Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River and Boston Road.
A native of colonial Connecticut, Samuel Seabury came to the town of Westchester, near Westchester Square, as the Rector of St. Peter’s Church. Although he was a Tory in the American Revolution, serving as the chaplain of the Loyalist troops, he accepted the result once the war was over. Since the American Episcopal Church had no bishops, he went to Scotland in 1784 and to be ordained the first Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal of America. Seabury Avenue is named for him.
After graduating valedictorian at King’s College (now Columbia), Gouverneur Morris of Morrisania became a lawyer and early supporter of the American Revolution. He helped write the state’s first constitution. As a member of the Federal Convention in 1787, he conceived of the Electoral College and wrote the Preamble in the U.S. Constitution. He was U.S. Minister to France in the Reign of Terror and U.S. Senator from New York. The Erie Canal was his idea. Morris High School has his name.
Richard Morris was the brother of Lewis Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and half brother of Gouverneur Morris, a principal framer of the U.S. Constitution. A judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court before the Revolution, he became the second chief justice to serve the new state of New York. He moved from the family home, Morrisania, to live on lands he owned overlooking the Harlem River. That property is today the Morris Heights neighborhood of The Bronx.
Andrew Corsa grew up on a farm where Fordham University stands today. Although his father was a Tory during the American Revolution, when this 19 year-old was asked by George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau to guide them and 5,000 American and French troops to Morrisania to survey British fortifications on Manhattan, he readily agreed. On July 20, 1781, he led them on the Grand Reconnaissance, sometimes dodging cannonballs, and led them back. Corsa Avenue is named after his family.
JOSEPH RODMAN DRAKE
Joseph Rodman Drake was a physician and pharmacist by profession. His passion was poetry, however, and he became one of the new nation’s first literary lights penning light satyric verse. He died young of tuberculosis in 1820 and the age of 25, but his more serious poems remained unknown until his widow published them in 1835. These included the poem, Bronx, which Edgar Allan Poe said was his best. He is buried in Drake Park in Hunts Point, and the Joseph Rodman Drake School has his name.
Mathias Lopez was the first publisher and editor of a newspaper in The Bronx. Based in West Farms, his paper, The Westchester Patriot, not only carried the news, but published literary works and served as an advertising medium for the farmers with land for sale or inns hawking their wares. The paper was short-lived, and only one issue, from 1813, survives, but Mathias Lopez was the first prominent Hispanic to make his mark in The Bronx.
Ezra Cornell was born in West Farms and was the son of a potter who worked in one of the early pottery factories there in the early nineteenth century. They also owned a farm and were known to give some of their fruit to their neighbor, Gouverneur Morris, as a gift. Young Ezra later moved to upstate New York and founded Cornell University.
AUGUSTUS VAN CORTLANDT
Augustus Van Cortlandt was born on his family’s vast farm in The Bronx, and was the last colonial New York City Clerk. When British troops threatened to invade in 1776, he took the city’s records and hid them under the arch of his father’s tomb on Vault Hill in today’s Van Cortlandt Park. There they remained safely, even though that area was the scene of several military engagements. After the war, he returned the records, and lived the rest of his life in his house that still stands in the park.
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS II
The son of one of the principal framers of the U.S. Constitution, and born in Morrisania, Gouverneur Morris II was one of the major entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century Bronx. As Vice President of the New York and Harlem River Railroad, he built the railroad now running along Park Avenue. He promoted Port Morris as a commercial port, and donated land to skilled workers in 1848 to create an ideal workingman’s village if it were called Morrisania. That is today’s Morrisania neighborhood.
JORDAN L. MOTT
Jordan L. Mott purchased land in the southwest Bronx from Gouverneur Morris II in 1841 to create Mott Haven, a nineteenth century version of an industrial park. He established his own iron foundry there, the buildings of which still stand at Third Avenue and the Harlem River. Mott was the inventor of the coal burning stove, considered a major innovation at the time, and was a life-long Democrat, often elected to offices in the town of West Farms. He died in 1866.
Adrian Janes lived on a hill in the northern part of today’s St. Mary’s Park which he purchased from Gouverneur Morris II in 1857. Janes built his iron foundry nearby at 149th Street, Brook, Westchester and St. Anns Avenues. In conjunction with different partners over the years, he made iron fountains, stoves and sinks. However, in 1863, they cast the iron dome of the Capitol Building, and shipped it by sea up to Patomac to put it in place while the Civil War raged. The dome is still there today.
Isaac Johnson purchased a peninsula jutting into Spuyten Duyvil Creek and built an iron foundry there which he ran with his sons. During the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, he supplied the army with munitions. He also built rolling mills on the property. In 1938, the peninsula and the foundry were destroyed to build the Harlem River Ship Canal, but Johnson Avenue still carries his name.
WILLIAM E. DODGE
William E. Dodge, an owner of the vast Phelps-Dodge Copper Company, purchased an estate in Riverdale after the Civil War and built Greystone, a mansion that is now an official New York City landmark. He and his family took a prominent part in Riverdale society and in charitable works. His daughter, Grace Dodge, was a pioneer social worker, and his son, Cleveland Dodge, built Riverdale Neighborhood House.
Robert Colgate was the owner of the Colgate Palmolive Peat Company, now the Colgate Palmolive Company, when he purchased land in Riverdale, and built his mansion, Stonehurst, in 1860-61. Still standing on Sycamore Avenue, Stonehurst is an elegant stone Anglo-Italianate mansion so noted for its classical quality and symmetry that it was declared an official New York City landmark.
WILLIAM HENRY APPLETON
William Henry Appleton was a major book publisher and seller in New York City when he purchased the Wave Hill estate in Riverdale in 1866. He not only published such noted authors as William Cullen Bryant and Thomas Huxley, he annually published the first American encyclopedia. He also took an active role in Riverdale affairs, helping preserve the Palisades across the Hudson for his neighbors to enjoy, and helping build Christ Church, where he is buried.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Edgar Allan Poe was already a noted literary critic, poet and author when he rented a small cottage in Fordham for $100 a year in 1846. He vainly hoped the fresh air would cure his wife’s tuberculosis. While living in the cottage, he befriended the Jesuit teachers at nearby St. John’s College (now Fordham University), and wrote Annabel Lee and The Bells. The cottage, now in Poe Park, is administered by The Bronx County Historical Society as a historic landmark museum.
John Savage was a poet born in Ireland and an active supporter of Irish independence from Britain. Forced to flee his native country, he came to America and enlisted in the Union army in the Civil War. After the war ended, he moved to a small house in Fordham because that was where Edgar Allan Poe once lived. The subjects of his poems include Irish themes, the Civil War, and a love of nature. Several of these last were written and published while he lived in Fordham.
William Ogden first went West before the Civil War to purchase land for someone else, but stayed to become one of Chicago’s leading merchants and the first mayor of that city. After his term was over, he moved back to the east to look after his many business interests and built Villa Boscobel, a vast estate in Highbridge. General Grant was once his guest. Ogden is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, and Ogden Avenue and Boscobel Place retain his name and the name of his home to this day.
RICHARD MARCH HOE
Richard March Hoe was already the inventor of the rotary printing press and the owner of a company that manufactured them for the use of newspapers when he purchased land in eastern Morrisania in 1851. There, he raised cattle, and planted fruit trees and vegetables. He commuted to his office in New York City daily. When the West Bronx was annexed to the city in 1874, he was an auditor checking the accuracy of the accounts of the old towns. He is buried in St. Ann’s Church.
HENRY B. DAWSON
Henry B. Dawson was a young immigrant from England who became fascinated with American history. Making his living largely as a newspaper editor and journalist, he moved to Morrisania in the 1850s, and began publishing The Historical Magazine from there. In it, he reproduced many early historical documents, and the publication had a nationwide circulation. He also published the first comprehensive edition of The Federalist. Dawson Street is named for him.
Gustav Schwab was an immigrant from Hamburg, Germany, who became the agent for the North German Lloyd steamship lines. He purchased land overlooking the Harlem River in the 1850s and built a mansion that is now South Hall on the Bronx Community College campus in University Heights. The head of a large and convivial family, Schwab was constantly the host for family, neighbors and friends, and he helped build St. James Church on Jerome Avenue and 190th Street.
WILLIAM FREDERICK HAVEMEYER
William Frederick Havemeyer was one of three grandsons who owned the Sugar Trust inherited from their sugar refining grandfather just before the Civil War. Their firm, now Jack Frost Sugar, gave them all enough money to purchase their own estates in Throggs Neck. William served three terms as New York City’s mayor and built the mansion that is now the core of Preston High School on Schurz Avenue. Havemeyer Avenue nearby is named for him.
COLLIS P. HUNTINGTON
Collis P. Huntington made a fortune selling groceries to miners during the 1849 California gold rush. Teaming up with Leland Stanford and others, he built the California Pacific leg of the Transcontinental Railroad. He later owned so many railroads that he could go cross country without leaving his own property. He bought the 33-acre Havemeyer estate on Throggs Neck, where he lived until his death in 1900. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. Huntington Avenue and Collis Place bear his name.
Mark Twain, born in Missouri as Samuel L. Clemens, was already a world-renowned humorist and author when he rented the Wave Hill estate in Riverdale in 1901. His wife was very ill and needed to be close to her New York physician. Twain, however, remained his friendly and cheery self, greeting neighborhood children and hosting his New York literary friends. While there, he wrote some short stories, including Was It Heaven or Was It Hell? The family left there in 1903.
LOUIS J. HEINTZ
Louis J. Heintz managed the Eichler brewery on 169th Street and Third Avenue. In 1889, when New York City did nothing to pave and build streets, he led a group of businessmen and citizens to have the State Legislature create an elected Commissioner of Street Improvements for the mainland. In 1890, Heintz was elected to the job, but suddenly died at Grover Cleveland’s inauguration in 1893. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, and his statue in Joyce Kilmer Park faces the County Building.
HENRI H.T. MALI
Henri H.T. Mali served as the Consul-General of Belgium following the Civil War. As such, he purchased land overlooking the Harlem River and built a mansion on it that is now located just south of the Hall of Fame on the campus of Bronx Community College in University Heights. He was a good and friendly neighbor to those wealthy families who lived in similar mansions nearby, joining in their parties and outings.
LOUIS A. RISSE
Louis A. Risse, an immigrant and an engineer from Alsace-Lorraine, resided in a house on Mott Avenue, today’s lower Concourse. When hunting in the Bathgate Woods, today’s Crotona Park, he got the idea to build a highway on top of a prominent ridge to the west. He got his chance to design his Grand Concourse when he was named official Engineer of the Concourse in 1890. His idea of underpasses at major intersections is still copied. He modeled the street after the Champs Elysees in Paris.
HENRY MITCHELL MacCRACKEN
Born in Ohio the son of a Presbyterian minister, Henry Mitchell MacCracken became the Chancellor of New York University. He built the university’s Bronx campus (now Bronx Community College) and, in 1900, started the Hall of Fame for Great Americans there. He named the neighborhood University Heights and got the city to name University Avenue. He moved into today’s MacCracken Hall and took an active part in the cultural life of The Bronx, saving the grave of poet Joseph Rodman Drake in Hunts Point.
LOUIS F. HAFFEN
Trained as a civil engineer, Louis F. Haffen became the second elected Commissioner of Street Improvements for the mainland in 1893. This office was the model for the borough presidency, and he was elected the first Bronx Borough President in 1898, serving until 1911. As a such, he opened streets, mapped the area, and built the courthouse on 161st Street and Third Avenue. He was named the Borough Engineer in the 1920s. When he died in 1935, the entire borough went into mourning.
Aspiring novelist Theodore Dreiser came to The Bronx in the first decade of the twentieth century. He first lived in a boarding house in Kingsbridge, and then in Mott Haven on Mott Avenue, now the lower Concourse. To support himself, he got a job working as a switchman for the New York Central Railroad. He soon returned to his native Midwest, where he wrote Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, but his Bronx experiences were posthumously published as a novel.
Born Solomon Rabinovich in Ukraine, Sholem Aleichem became known worldwide as the Yiddish humorist who wrote the stories upon which the musical Fiddler on the Roof is based. In 1914, he moved to a townhouse on Kelly Street in Hunts Point, where he finished a series of stories, Mottel, the Cantor’s Son, commenting on the Jewish American scene, and a play, Hard to Be a Jew. He often greeted admiring guests who also accompanied him on the subway downtown. He died in The Bronx in 1916.
J. CLARENCE DAVIES
J. Clarence Davies was a major real estate broker in The Bronx in the early decades of the twentieth century. From his office overlooking Third Avenue at the Hub, he advertised and promoted The Bronx as a place to live and to do business. It is partly through his efforts that numerous apartment houses and office buildings were constructed and filled with tenants. He contributed to the population boom in the borough that first reached a million people in 1925.
JOHN A. MORRIS
John A. Morris, who made a fortune in running the Louisiana State Lottery, purchased a 140-acre estate in Throggs Neck in 1865, and had a passionate interest in raising and racing horses. In 1888, he bought land bounded by Pelham Parkway, Williamsbridge Road, Bronxdale Avenue and the railroad tracks to build Morris Park Racecourse. Opened in 1890, it hosted the Belmont Stakes until 1903, and inaugurated the Eclipse Stakes. It was closed in 1910 to create the Morris Park neighborhood.
ARCHER MILTON HUNTINGTON
Born in 1870, the son of railroad magnate and Throggs Neck resident, Collis P. Huntington, Archer Milton Huntington took a keen interest in cultural activities in the early twentieth century, especially in preserving the heritage of American Indians. It is partly through his efforts that the Museum of the American Indian was founded in northern Manhattan, and that part of the collections were housed in The Bronx. Educated in Spain, he also founded the Hispanic Society of America.
Inocencio Casanova was a late nineteenth century importer who occupied a mansion on Hunts Point that he called Castello de Casanova. An early and ardent supporter of Cuban independence from Spain, it is reputed that his basement was used to hide arms that were taken on board boats at the East River near his home to be smuggled into Cuba. Although he never lived to see a free Cuba, Casanova Street in Hunts Point bears his name.
Arthur Murphy came from a Fordham Irish family and grew up to be an ardent Democrat. In 1904 and 1905, he served in New York City’s Board of Alderman, and was elected again in 1907, 1908, and 1909. When The Bronx became a county in 1914, the Bronx County Democratic Party had to be organized, and Arthur Murphy was chosen its first county chairman. He died in that position in 1923, and Arthur Murphy Square in his old district at Third Avenue and 181st Street bears his name.
Born the daughter of William E. Dodge, owner of the Phelps Dodge Copper Company, Grace Dodge grew up in the family’s Greystone mansion in Riverdale. She became a pioneer in the new field of social work in the late nineteenth century, and a warm advocate of vocational education. She was instrumental in establishing the School of Social Work at Columbia University. Grace Dodge Vocational High School on Crotona Avenue in The Bronx honors her memory and life’s work.
John Kieran grew up on Kingsbridge Terrace in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of The Bronx in the 1890s, and was fascinated by the wildlife that abounded in his neighborhood and in nearby Van Cortlandt Park. He became a journalist and a nature writer, penning the authoritative Natural History of New York City. He lived the last years of his life in Riverdale, and a nature trail in Van Cortlandt Park bears his name.
Bashford Dean lived in Wave Hill in Riverdale, and was enamored of the life, literature, art and armor of the Middle Ages. While teaching at Columbia University, he amassed a huge armor collection, and built the Gothic-styled Armor Hall as an addition to Wave Hill in 1928 to house it. Upon his death, his vast armor collection was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and forms the solid core of its armor exhibit today.
GEORGE W. PERKINS
George W. Perkins was a partner of J.P. Morgan’s and moved to Riverdale in 1893, buying Wave Hill, adding to its grounds and landscaping them. He was deeply involved in conservation efforts, including the creation of Palisades Parkway in New Jersey and a campaign to maintain Central Park. In 1912, he supported fellow-conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt, in his third party Bull Moose campaign for the presidency, serving as his campaign manager.
Henry Bruckner was a partner in the Bruckner Brothers Soda Company of The Bronx. Their best-selling product was named U-No-Us. He was also a politically active Democrat, serving as an Assemblyman in 1901, and as a Congressman from 1913 to 1917. He resigned the last post after his election as Bronx Borough President, and served in that office from 1918 to 1933. Widely popular, he retired only because of illness. Bruckner Boulevard and Expressway bear his name.
GEORGE HERMAN (BABE) RUTH
George Herman (Babe) Ruth, born in Baltimore, reached the highest level of his fame as a slugger for the New York Yankees in the 1920s and ‘30s. He ability to hit home runs not only changed the nature of baseball, but enabled his employers to build Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built. While playing for the Yankees, Ruth resided in an apartment on Gerard Avenue and 169th Street. When he died in 1948, his body lay in state in the Stadium, and Babe Ruth Plaza outside was named for him.
Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse of baseball, played more consecutive games for the New York Yankees than anyone else. A mainstay at first base, home run hitter, and modest and lovable guy, the world was shocked when he had to retire in 1939 because of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He served his remaining years as a Youth Commissioner, counselling troubled youngsters, including Rocky Graziano. He lived in Riverdale in those years. Lou Gehrig Plaza and Lou Gehrig School bear his name.
FIORELLO H. LA GUARDIA
Fiorello La Guardia has the reputation of being the best mayor in the history of New York City, serving three terms in the 1930s and ‘40s, and earlier in Congress. He first lived on University Avenue in The Bronx as a newlywed. While mayor, he once used the Bartow-Pell Mansion in Pelham Bay park as a summer office and residence. After retirement, he moved into a home in Riverdale on 252nd Street. He is buried in a simple grave in Woodlawn Cemetery.
EDWARD J. FLYNN
Born in Mott Haven and graduating from Fordham University, Edward J. Flynn gained national fame as the greatly successful chairman of the Bronx County Democratic party, effectively ruling as a political boss, a title he relished. The phrase “In like Flynn” comes from his ability to choose the right candidate and winning. He was instrumental in the election of both Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and served as Democratic National Chairman in 1940.
JOSEPH V. McKEE
Joseph V., McKee was a teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School, but became a politically active Democrat. He served as an Assemblyman from 1918 to 1923. In 1926, he was tapped to serve as President of the Board of Aldermen with Jimmy Walker as Mayor. When Walker was forced to resign in 1933, McKee became the Mayor of the city. Since there was then no official mayoral residence, he lived in his apartment on the Grand Concourse and 162nd Street his entire term of one year.
Born in Hunts Point, but growing up in Soundview, Helen Kane became the symbol of a 1920s flapper. She became a widely-known singer, with kewpie-doll looks and a doll-like voice. Nervousness led her to add the nonsense phrase “boop-boop-de-doop” to her songs, and she was nicknamed Betty Boop, a name later applied to a cartoon character that mimicked her style.
Born in 1878, Harry Carey grew up on City Island. In the early years of silent film production, he became one of the leading men in cowboy movies. He was also one of the few silent actors to make the transition to sound films. John Wayne so admired Harry Carey that he based his own acting style on Carey’s, and even got a part for him in one of his pictures when the older actor’s career had faded. Harry Carey died in 1947.
The eldest brother of a family of sculptors immigrating to America from Pisa, Italy, Attillio Piccirilli was the most accomplished of them all. The brothers built a studio, living above it, on 141st Street between St. Ann’s and Willis Avenues. Widely known for their monumental marble sculptures, Daniel Chester French chose them to carve his design for the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial. Attillio did the head and hands. The others did the rest and installed it in place.
Franz Sigel was a German nationalist who fled to America when the liberal 1848 revolution failed there. He became a German language journalist and a general in the Union Army on Tennessee front in the Civil War. In the early twentieth century, he moved into a house on Mott Avenue, now the lower Concourse. When he died in 1906, a cortege several blocks long followed the hearse to his burial in Woodlawn Cemetery. Franz Sigel Park on the Grand Concourse and 158th Street bears his name.
Born in Spain to an operatic family, Adelina Patti was trained in Italy to become one of the major sopranos singing Italian opera. Her sweet voice landed her a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, and her beauty made swains swoon. In 1902, she moved into a house on Matilda Avenue in Wakefield. There, she inspired two neighbors, Harry Armstrong and Richard Gerard, to write the song, “Sweet Adeline,” which became a favorite of barbershop quartets and other harmonizing groups.
A player for the New York Yankees in the 1930s and ‘40s, Charlie Keller was known for his abilities to make base hits and home runs, as well as for being a superb defensive outfielder. He was called “King Kong” Keller because of his talents and his hulking physical appearance. While playing for the Yankees, Keller lived in an apartment on the Grand Concourse at 166th Street, and became a well-known neighborhood figure as he walked to work every day to nearby Yankee Stadium.
Jake LaMotta rose from the streets of The Bronx to become the Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World in 1949. Some of his early club fights were staged in the Coliseum off West Farms Square. A battling bruiser with the nickname of the Raging Bull, his winnings enabled him to purchase a home in Pelham Parkway. He lost his title in 1950 to Sugar Ray Robinson, then the reigning Welterweight Champion. LaMotta’s life was made into a screen biography starring Robert DiNiro.
Charles Buckley, a gruff amateur boxer, became the Bronx County Democratic Chairman when Edward J. Flynn suddenly died in 1953. He first served as a member of the city’s Board of Aldermen from 1918 to 1923, then as a member of Congress from 1935 to 1963 representing the northwest Bronx. He became chairman of the powerful House Public Works Committee, funneling some important federal projects into the borough. As County Chairman, he was instrumental in the election of John F. Kennedy.
June Allyson grew up in Throggs Neck. Handicapped as a youngster by an attack of polio, she battled back from the crippling disease to become a dancer, making it big in some MGM musicals of the 1940s. After her marriage to Dick Powell, she became a dramatic actress of note both in movies and on her husband’s television show. Always pretty and perky, she still makes appearances on television in commercials.
Born Bernie Schwartz, Tony Curtis grew up on the streets of Hunts Point. His athletic good looks landed him a job in Hollywood as an actor, specializing in romantic leads, tough guys, and swashbucklers. Whether playing a medieval nobleman or a Roman slave of Greek origin, he never lost his Bronx accent. His comedic talents were showcased in such films as “Some Like It Hot,” where he played opposite Marilyn Monroe. He has lately shown another talent as an artist of oil paintings.
Herman Wouk grew up in Hunts Point in the 1930s and ‘40s. His service in the Navy in World War II provided some basis for his great novel, “The Caine Mutiny,” and for the later “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance.” His experiences in The Bronx, however, provided memorable scenes in two other novels, “City Boy,” and “Inside Outside.” With a great productive output, Herman Wouk is considered a major American novelist today.
Born Salvatore Lombino in 1926, Evan Hunter attended Evander Childs High School. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Hunter College in The Bronx in 1950, he taught in the city’s high schools and that became the basis of his first and most successful book, “The Blackboard Jungle.” He published other books and articles, using other pseudonyms. For a series of detective novels based in a fictitious 87th Police Precinct, he uses Ed McBain.
Al Singer grew up in Hunts Point in the 1920s. Always a “tough guy” and a powerful puncher, he became a professional boxer. In 1930, he unexpectedly won the Lightweight Championship of the World in a bout against Sammy Mandell. His claim on the title was short-lived, however, when he lost it in his next bout against Tony Canzoneri. He returned to Hunts Point, however, keeping the young neighborhood toughs, who never dared to cross him, in line.
WALTER H. GLADWIN
Walter H. Gladwin was the pioneer black politician in The Bronx. First elected to the New York State Assembly in 1954, representing Morrisania, he served until 1957, when he became the first black judge of the Bronx Supreme Court. Gladwin is also noted for his contribution to furthering peaceful race relations in the borough by establishing and heading the Bronx Urban League.
Ivan Warner was one of the first black politicians in The Bronx. He was elected to the New York State Assembly from Morrisania in 1958, replacing his mentor, Walter H. Gladwin, and serving until 1960. In 1961, he became the first black person from The Bronx to enter the state Senate, where he remained until 1965, when he became a respected judge of the Bronx Supreme Court.
Hank Greenberg grew up on Bronx Park East, and attended James Monroe High School. He was easily the most accomplished player on his high school baseball team, playing first base and hitting home runs on the Catholic Protectory field, where Parkchester is today. He became the first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, hitting more home runs in the American League than anyone else in 1938, 1940, and 1946, hitting an incredible 58 of them in 1938 alone.
Born in Italy, and a friend of Puccini, Arturo Toscanini was a world-renowned opera conductor before becoming the leader of the New York Philharmonic orchestra. On retirement, he became the leader of the NBC Symphony, an orchestra assembled just for him, where he broadcast classical music from the 1930s to the ‘50s. Known for his perfectionist streak, he was the epitome of a conductor. As head of the NBC Symphony, he lived in Wave Hill in Riverdale until the Villa Toscanini was built there for him.
Carl Reiner, born in The Bronx in 1922, grew up in the Tremont area. A man with a ready wit, he became a writer and performer in early television in the late 1940s with Sid Caesar on “Your Show of Shows.” He continued to live in The Bronx, where his son, Rob Reiner, was born in 1945. Reiner later branched out into the movies, becoming a producer and director, and well as serving those functions and as an actor on television comedies.
Born in 1920, Red Buttons grew up on the streets of The Bronx to become a Catskill Borscht Belt comedian. His wisecracks and animated comedy got him on early television variety shows and his own show as well. He displayed unexpected dramatic acting talent in the film “Sayonara,” which brought him the Oscar for best supporting actor. He never forgot his Bronx origins, often returning to his favorite Kosher delicatessen on Bainbridge Avenue for a meal.
Born Anna Maria Italiano in 1931 and growing up in Throggs Neck, Anne Bancroft wanted to be an actress even as a young girl. She achieved her wish both on the Broadway stage and in the movies. Her most memorable role was that of Annie Sullivan, the woman who taught Helen Keller, in “The Miracle Worker.” The astounding performance brought her the Academy Award Oscar as best actress for 1962.
Born in 1931, Hal Linden grew up in The Bronx to become one of the best known actors in the country. Few know that he also appeared in musicals on Broadway and has a pleasing singing voice. For instance, he starred in “The Rothschilds.” He is better known for his television comedies, especially for the series, Barney Miller, set in a police precinct.
Born in 1943, Penny Marshall grew up in the Mosholu Parkway area, where her mother ran a dance school on nearby Jerome Avenue. Her comedic acting talent was first showcased when she got the part of Laverne on the television show Laverne and Shirley, a project produced by her older brother, Garry. She later branched out into producing and directing several successful motion pictures.
Growing up on Mosholu Parkway, Garry Marshall was probably drawn to show business by the fact that his mother ran a dance school on nearby Jerome Avenue. He first became a producer and director of television situation comedies, notably “Happy Days,” and, later, “Laverne and Shirley,” which starred his sister, Penny Marshall. He also produced and directed several motion pictures.
Frank Gilroy grew up in the Morris Heights neighborhood of The Bronx, and first saw motion pictures in the area’s Park Plaza theater on University and Tremont Avenues. He became a playwright and screenwriter. His most notable effort is “The Subject Was Roses,” about a post-World War II Bronx Irish family coping with alcoholism. He is still active writing more plays for stage and screen.
A Bronxite from the Italian-American center of Belmont in The Bronx, Chazz Palminteri always wanted to be an actor. Finding his prospects limited because of lack of exposure, he wrote a powerful play based upon his Bronx experiences, “A Bronx Tale,” and had it produced on Broadway only on condition that he starred in it. It was later made into a motion picture, in which he played a different role. That launched his acting career, and Palminteri has already appeared in other movies.
Lawrence Gerosa was a Bronx businessman who headed his own gypsum company on Hunts Point. In fact, Gerosa Gypsum Company was the largest concern of its kind east of the Mississippi River. He became politically active as a Bronx Democrat, and successfully ran for the post of Comptroller of city of New York, serving under Mayor Robert Wagner. As the city’s fiscal watchdog, he was known for his fiscal integrity.
Colin Powell grew up on Kelly Street in Hunts Point and was graduated from Morris High School. He entered the ROTC in City College, graduating as an army Second Lieutenant. Powell’s intelligence, courage, and personality led to a rapid rise inthe ranks. After serving in Vietnam, he was named the National Security Advisor and later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he directed the Gulf War. He was the first black person to hold either job. He retired a four-star general. In 2001, he became the Secretary of State in President George W. Bush's administration.
Calvin Klein grew up in the Mosholu Parkway area of The Bronx. He always wanted to design clothes, and gained fame when he established his own company. From designing dresses, he branched out into jeans, underwear and fragrances. His name became internationally known, partly through his unusual television and print ads featuring particularly attractive models. He is considered a major fashion designer today.
Ralph Lauren grew up in the Mosholu Parkway area of The Bronx. He became involved in the fashion industry and began to design his own line of clothes. From dresses, he branched out into men’s clothing and home furnishings. He is known for his elegant, but sporty, look symbolized by his Polo label. He is considered to be one of the world’s leading fashion designers today.
E.L. Doctorow grew up in the Bronx neighborhood near Mount Eden Avenue and the Grand Concourse on Eastburn Avenue in the 1930s. One of the country’s leading novelists, he first came to the public’s attention with his novel, “Ragtime,” which was made into a motion picture. More recent novels, such as “World’s Fair” and “Billy Bathgate,” are based on the Bronx experiences of his youth.
Avery Corman grew up in the Bronx area around Kingsbridge Road near Jerome Avenue. He became a writer, and his probably best known for his screenplay, “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Soon afterward, however, Corman wrote a novel, “The Old Neighborhood,” about the place where he grew up. The central character returns to Kingsbridge Road to find his roots and his bearings, getting to know the new people there, who also participate in the same activities he did as a youngster.
Rosalyn Yalow lives in a house in Kingsbridge, where she raised her children, and participates in the neighborhood life. A trained physician and intelligent researcher, she also used the laboratory of the Kingsbridge Veterans’ Hospital to develop a test for the early detection of cancer that saved millions of lives. For this, she was awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize for Medicine. She is currently conducting more research in the Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx.
Joyce Hanson grew up in The Bronx, and became interested in literature and writing. She became interested in penning books for children, and rose to become one of the few black women in the country in that field. Her stories are drawn from her experience growing up in The Bronx. Today, she is not only a successful and prize-winning author, but is considered by her peers to be among the best writers of children’s literature.
Nicholasa Mohr grew up in The Bronx in Puerto Rican family. She became interested in writing, and authored several short stories for children based on her experiences growing up in the borough. Through her writing, she has gained a national reputation as a leader in the area of children’s literature. Many of her stories show charm and considerable humor about the human condition and the differences in cultural outlook.
NATE (TINY) ARCHIBALD
Few urban youngsters playing basketball on city streets realize their dream of becoming a professional basketball player, but Nate Archibald of The Bronx certainly did. He earned his nickname of Tiny as a parody of his great height, which made him a basketball star. As a member of the Kansas City team in the National Basketball Association in 1973, Archibald scored 2,719 points for an average of 34 percent, making him the scoring champion of the league that year.
Ed Kranepool grew up in the Bronx, attending James Monroe High School. As a member of the baseball team, he surpassed Hank Greenberg’s high school home run record there. Immediately upon graduation, he signed to become a member of the expansion New York Mets during their first year, thus being one of a handful of athletes who went directly from high school to playing on a major league team. Although never exhibiting the promise of his high school days, he stayed with the Mets for years.
Bobby Bonilla grew up in a Bronx Puerto Rican family, and rooted for the National League New York Mets. As a youngster, he dreamed of becoming a baseball star and playing for his favorite team. In this case, dreams do come true. The Mets acquired him for his home run hitting abilities, but he was later traded. Although a major league star, he has never forgotten his Bronx origins, and returns home often to work with youngsters.
One of the leading supporters of the American Revolution, John Adams was elected the second President of the United States. His daughter married Captain William Smith, and they owned a farm in Eastchester, at today’s Boston Road and Connor Street near Co-op City. In October, 1797, President Adams, on his way to Philadelphia for the opening of Congress, stayed at the Bronx farm waiting out a yellow fever epidemic. For several weeks, he governed the country from The Bronx.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
John F. Kennedy grew up in The Bronx in the late 1920s when his father was a Wall Street speculator. He lived in Riverdale on 252nd Street and Independence Avenue and attended the Riverdale Country School. When he was running for President in 1960, at a big rally on the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road, he admitted that he came from The Bronx.
Born in 1923, Regina Resnik, a City Island resident, had the gift of a great mezzo soprano voice. This gift got her a job at the Metropolitan Opera. Thus, she became one of the first Bronx-raised divas. Her most memorable years at the great opera house came in the 1950s and 1960s, when she would star in several French language productions.
Roberta Peters, born in 1930, grew up near the Grand Concourse and attended Joseph Wade Junior High School. Her parents recognized her great soprano voice and paid for singing lessons that made her a professional opera singer. Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, suddenly taking over for an ailing lead player, made her an overnight sensation and a star. Appearances on television variety shows in the 1950s made her a nationally-known personality.
A quiet Burmese diplomat, U Thant was suddenly thrust into the international spotlight when he was chosen the third Secretary General of the United Nations in the wake of the accidental death of Dag Hammerskjold. As Secretary General, he obtained a residence in the Riverdale neighborhood of The Bronx. At the time of the first Bronx Week celebration in 1971, at a fair in the Bronx Zoo, he publicly proclaimed himself a Bronxite.
Born in 1942 and raised in the Mosholu Parkway area, Robert Klein graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School. A ready wit, he honed his comedic skills in a stand-up comedy act that brought him his first fame appearing on television variety shows. He always wanted to be an actor, however, and appeared on Broadway in the musical “They’re Playing Our Song.” He never forgot his Bronx roots, and wrote the song, “The Bronx is Beautiful This Time of Year,” which he uses in his act.
Bill Finger (1914-1974) was the primary co-creator and original writer of Batman. However, cartoonist Bob Kane took full credit for Batman, causing Finger to remain anonymous to the public for most of his career; to this day, only Kane is listed as creator. Finger lived most of his life in New York, in the Bronx from the late 1910s to approximately 1943. During his Bronx years, Finger designed Batman’s now-iconic costume, wrote the first and many of the now-classic Batman stories, and created or co-created characters including Robin, Joker, Catwoman, and Penguin—characters so prevalent in pop culture that even people who have never read a comic book can identify them. It was also in the Bronx where Finger created the Batmobile and named Gotham City. Poe Park was one of the prime locations for their inspiration. After decades of denying Finger’s role in the creation of Batman, Kane attempted to make amends in a 1989 autobiography.
Historian, publisher, educator, CEO of The Bronx County Historical Society, and president of the History of New York City Project. Doctorate from Columbia University, editor/author of 125 publications on urban history, geography, education, natural history and exploration, Dr. Hermalyn is the project editor of ten volume The United States Supreme Court ten volume series, the 4 volume Life in The Bronx series, and the six volume Roots of The Republic, author of Morris High School & The Creation of The New York City Public High School System, co-author of The Bronx in The Innocent Years, Birth of The Bronx, The Bronx It Was Only Yesterday, and Time & The Calendar, editor of American Metropolis: A History of NYC, Centennial of Greater New York, Hudson River: Inspiration and Challenge, New York City at the Turn of the Century, Tunneling to the Future an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of New York City, and a Centennial Historian of New York City. Dr. Hermalyn also leads study expeditions in tri-state regions' waterways producing monographs and videos.
Lloyd Ultan, The Bronx Borough Historian, is a professor of history at the Edward Williams College of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, New Jersey and a Centennial Historian of New York City. He served as president of The Bronx County Historical Society from 1971 to 1976, and is the author of articles and books on Bronx and American history, including The Beautiful Bronx, The Bronx In The Frontier Era, Presidents of the United States, Legacy of the Revolution: The Story of the Valentine- Varian House and co- author of the Life in The Bronx book series and is founding editor of The Bronx County Historical Society Journal.
To visit The Bronx County Research Library and Archives, call (718) 881-8900