A Bronx home for former millionaires

Andrew Freedman appears to have been your run-of-the-mill Gilded-Age millionaire. He made his cash in real estate and subway construction; he later owned the New York Giants baseball team and had close ties to Tammany Hall politicians. 

AndrewfreedmanfenceAfter he died in 1915, his will revealed that he wanted his money to go toward establishing a retirement home. A retirement home not just for anyone: It was for millionaires who had fallen on hard times and needed a place to live that afforded the luxury they were used to in their younger years.

The Andrew Freedman Home, opened in 1924, still stands on the Grand Concourse and 166th Street in the Bronx. And grand is the right word. The four-story structure, set back amid a well-tended lawn and partially hidden by a tall iron fence, featured sumptuous parlors, dining areas, and bedrooms. All residents had servants. And everything was free.

Andrewfreedmanhome2

It seems like an elitist idea today. But people then thought there was a need for a poorhouse for rich folks. At the dedication ceremony, the president of the board said:

“It will be a veritable home for ‘gentlefolk’—husbands and wives who, by reason of reverses in the professional and business lives of the husbands, accompanied by advancing age and infirmities, have lost their ability to maintain themselves in the station of life to which they have been accustomed.”

By the 1960s the endowment had run out, and residents were asked to pay rent. In 1982 it was sold to a Bronx senior citizen organization, which began letting older people move in regardless of whether they were ever wealthy.

I’m not sure if anyone actually lives there today. When these photos were taken, the home and grounds were ghostly quiet.

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5 Responses to “A Bronx home for former millionaires”

  1. Laura Simurda Says:

    I lived around the corner from this beautiful building. The New York Times featured an article about Kate Holten who established a talking tree musuem on the the Grand Concourse to commemorate the street’s 100th anniversary. She has an office in the Andrew Freeman Home. There are some pictures but no mention of any residents still living there.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/nyregion/07about.html

    The Bronx Bohemian blog also had an article chock full of iphotos and nfo on Andrew Freedman, the man and the building. According to this, there are still residents on the upper floors.

    http://bronxbohemian.wordpress.com/category/landmarks/andrew-freedman-home-landmarks/

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks for the great links. Not a bad place to have an office.

  3. Laura Simurda Says:

    You are welcome. I love your blog!

  4. Nick Says:

    Thanks for the great article! I’d love to know more about it–where did you find the quote from the board member?

  5. Carolyn O'Donnell Says:

    Really interesting. I find the Bronx and its changing demographics fascinating. Reading Doctorow probably has something to do with it. I’d like to go to a sumptuous retirement home, as opposed to the usual kind, if that’s where I end up. Doesn’t sound like the trustees handled the bequest well – aren’t you meant to manage the money so it doesn’t run out? I was involved with a charity and its running costs were covered by income from investments. Hope there’s enough to stop the building falling down

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