Posts Tagged ‘Mott Haven’

The Bronx: once “the most Jewish borough”

May 8, 2011

When you think of Jews in New York, the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, and the Upper West Side come to mind.

But in the middle of the 20th century, the Bronx had more residents of Jewish descent than any other borough.

In 1930, about 49 percent of the Bronx was Jewish, according to the Bronx County Clerk’s Office, mostly centered in South Bronx neighborhoods and along the apartment houses of the Grand Concourse.

[Above: a daycare center today, but a synagogue decades ago on Crotona Park East]

A New York Times article put it at 37 percent in 1945; has the high at 57 percent in 1930 in the South Bronx.

“There were four synagogues organized within two blocks of Third Avenue before 1900 (before the elevated was completed in 1902). By 1910, thirteen had been organized in the same area and that constituted almost 40 percent of all the synagogues in the South Bronx.”

[Above: an abandoned synagogue at 1835 University Avenue]

After World War II, Bronx Jews split for the suburbs. The borough’s ethnic makeup quickly changed; by 1960, it was two-thirds Black and Hispanic.

[Right, an empty synagogue at 1650 Morris Park Avenue]

[All photos from]

Queen Anne beauty in the South Bronx

September 5, 2008

Venture to the Mott Haven section of the borough (it’s just one 6 train stop out of Manhattan), and an architectural treasure awaits: a row of 10 narrow townhouses featuring eclectic gables, cornices, warm brick, and tall chimneys.

Built in the 1890s by developer Edward Bertine, the row—spanning 136th Street from Willis Avenue to Brown Place—is known as the Bertine Block and, since 1994, was officially dubbed the Bertine Block Historic District. 

This one, number 422, has what may be original stained glass:

Mott Haven has more to offer, such as its own historic district and some gorgeous townhouse blocks along Alexander Avenue. Check them out here.

The prettiest block in the South Bronx

May 25, 2008

The first Bronx subway stop on the 6 train from Manhattan leaves you a block from 138th Street and Alexander Avenue. Once known as “Doctors Row” and “The Irish Fifth Avenue,” Alexander Avenue between here and 141st Street boasts gorgeous row houses dating to the 1870s. 

If you swoon over original details and don’t mind living sandwiched between a couple of housing projects, this could be the block for you.

Though now considered part of the catch-all South Bronx, the neighborhood is in the tiny Mott Haven Historic District. Once a thriving community dominated by Mott Ironworks and piano factories, Mott Haven fell victim to the usual urban blight in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1990s, antique shops, lofts, and a couple of cafes on nearby Bruckner Boulevard have helped revive the area. It feels pretty safe, yet reports of the neighborhood’s Soho-fication are, well, premature. Luckily, remnants of old Mott Haven still remain, like this piano ad.

Check out the brick sign on the old Mott Ironworks building, on the Harlem River. J. L. Mott is Jordan Mott, an industrialist who bought the land from the Morris (as in Morrisania) family in 1828.