A Bronx road inspired by the Champs Elysées?

GrandconcoursesignParis’ Champs Elysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, a multilane thoroughfare running about a mile.

And according to articles, books, and the Bronx Historical Society, the Champs Elysées was the inspiration behind the Grand Concourse, the five-mile avenue stretching from Mott Haven to Van Cortlandt Park that opened in 1909.

GrandconcourseIt’s easy to see a resemblance. Both feature wide sidewalks and many trees, and both are framed by beautiful architecture—block after block of circa-1930s Art Deco and Art Moderne residences in the Bronx.

Also, the Grand Concourse was designed by Alsatian-born civil engineer Louis Risse. It’s conceivable that Risse modeled his creation after a French thoroughfare he would likely be familiar with.

But was the Champs Elysées his inspiration? Despite the legend, no one really knows, according to Boulevard of Dreams, a book about the Grand Concourse by Constance Rosenbloom.

“Louis Risse does not mention the Champs Elysées, even in passing, in his detailed description of the thoroughfare he envisioned in the West Bronx,” writes Rosenbloom.

Grandconcoursewiki“Beyond the fact that Risse was a Frenchman who knew the Champs Elysées well from his youth, and beyond the superficial resemblance between the two streets, with their sweeps of roadway and sidewalk demarcated by seemingly endless rows of trees, no evidence exists that the grand Parisian boulevard was in Risse’s mind as he set about creating his own masterwork.”

“Yet, whatever the engineer’s intentions, the two streets share a great deal beyond mere beauty, namely, a more ineffable quality that has to do with their singularly urban environs. Like precious gems enclosed within fine settings, both streets were enhanced by the grand buildings that flank them.”

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4 Responses to “A Bronx road inspired by the Champs Elysées?”

  1. Capt Bobby NYPD Ret. Says:

    Similar, except for the decay,crime, and whatever else is envisioned in the south Bronx.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    It has the potential to be truly beautiful again. If Brooklyn can come back, so can the Bronx!

  3. Ellen Levitt Says:

    I have found lots of former synagogue buildings on or right near the Grand Concourse, which I wrote about in The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011). One former synagogue on the GC had a major fire in 2010, and the sign from the old synagogue became visible.

  4. A Houston Street park inspired by a Paris palace | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] not the first time New York architects were inspired by Europe; the Bronx’s main thoroughfare pays homage to the Champs-Elysees, while Jefferson Market courthouse takes a Bavarian castle as its […]

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