Posts Tagged ‘Bronx history’

A Bronx road inspired by the Champs Elysées?

April 15, 2013

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.”

A Bronx park memorializes three dead presidents

February 20, 2013

Is this a scene from the South Bronx, or a small town in middle America in this circa-1910 postcard? It’s the former, of course—a view of a pocket park called McKinley Square, at 169th Street and Boston Road.

Hard to believe how old-timey the Bronx looked then. Just one automobile can be seen in the distance. Telephone poles dot the sidewalks, a liberty flag post stands tall, and there’s an ad for Zeman chocolates (bon-bons!) on the side of a row of tenements.

McKinleysquarebronxpostcard

Just after the turn of the century, the square was named for President William McKinley, cut down by an anarchist’s bullet in Buffalo in 1901.

But he’s not the only president memorialized here. Three oak trees (they must be the ones in the postcard) planted during a dedication ceremony were named Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, “after the three martyred presidents,” a 1903 New York Times article tells us.

Postcard via Bronx history site ouroldneighborhood.com


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