A Bronx Tale

Who Was Jonas Bronck?

New York’s most northern borough of Bronx County, most commonly referred to as The Bronx, goes all the way back to Jonas Bronck, a Swede who settled near the Harlem River in 1639. As a sea captain Bronck’s arrived, with his wife Antonia Slaghorn, servants, and cattle, to America in his ship named De Brant Van Troyen (The Fire of Troy).

Bronck’s purchased 500 acres of the hills and meadows north of the meeting of the Harlem and the East rivers known as “Aquahung.” It later became known as “Bronck’s Land.” He purchased this land from the Dutch West India Company. However Bronck’s also paid two Indian Sachems for the land. That was the custom of the time. He paid for the land by giving something that would be of great value to the Indians.  It is not known what was traded as payment for the land.

He went on to build his home and farm on that land. He used the farm to grow tobacco. During that time tobacco was one of most profitable plants being grown. The house, called “Emmanus”, was located on what today is the neighborhood of Willis Avenue and 132nd Street. Bronck’s died in 1643 at 43 years-old.

The land was eventually passed on to Lewis Morris and Captain Richard Morris. Morrisania in the Bronx and Morristown in New Jersey are named in their honor.

The Bronx River

When he died only the Bronx River had been named after him. What is now known as “The Bronx” was originally part of Westchester County. The river is approximately 24 miles long.  It rose from the Kensico Reservoir located in Westchester County.  In 1885 the river was cut off from its natural headwaters.

The river runs past White Plains, then southwest through the northern suburbs, passing through Edgemont, Tuckahoe, Eastchester, and Bronxville. It divides Yonkers from Mount Vernon, and flows into the northern end of The Bronx, southward through Bronx Park, New York Botanical Garden, and the Bronx Zoo and continues through urbanized areas of the South Bronx where it divides East Bronx from West Bronx.

The Birth of the Borough Called “The Bronx”

According to the Bronx County Historical Society’s website, “in 1874 the towns of Morrisania, West Farms and Kingsbridge, all of which were west of The Bronx River, were annexed to the City of New York. (Until this time, New York City had consisted solely of Manhattan.)” It goes on to read that “in the 1890s there was strong support in parts of Eastchester, Pelham, and the village of Wakefield for consolidating with New York City the area east of The Bronx River.”

In 1898 New York City implemented the borough system. Since The Bronx River ran through the northern part of the borough all of those areas previously annexed created the borough of The Bronx.

“The Bronx” By the  Numbers

The Bronx is forty-two square miles long. It is the only borough that is connected to the mainland. The Bronx is located north of Manhattan and Queens and south of Westchester County.

According to Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008: “While the Bronx has an area of only 42 square miles (109 km2), it has more residents than the 665,000 square miles (1,700,000 km2) of Alaska and Wyoming combined.” The Census Bureau estimated that the population of The Bronx on July 1, 2009 was 1,397,287.

Comparing density of population Bronx County is the third most populated County coming behind New York County (Manhattan), and Kings County (Brooklyn), and coming ahead of Queens County.  It is also the fourth-most-populated of the five boroughs and the fourth-largest in land area.

The Bronx County Historical Society lists of the twelve colleges and universities in that reside in The Bronx. They are Fordham University, the Maritime College of the State University of New York, three branches of the City University of New York (Lehman College, Bronx Community College, and Hostos Community College), the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the College of Mount St. Vincent, Manhattan College, Mercy College, the College of New Rochelle, Audrey Cohen College and Monroe College.

The Bronx opened its first public high school, Morris High School, in 1897.

Tremont

The name of Tremont, which came about in the 1800’s, came from the neighborhoods surrounding it: Mount Eden, Mount Hope, and Fairmount in the west-central Bronx. According to the Lehman College Art Gallery Website the prefix “tre” stands for three and the “mont” stands for mount. It came about from a postmaster named Hiram Tarbox to make it easier to work the daily routes for mail.

According to the New York Department of City Planning, Tremont starts at 183rd Street in the north to Southern Boulevard in the east. Then from Crotona Park, 173rd Street, and Mount Eden Avenue and Parkway in the south (running exactly 2 blocks south of the Cross Bronx Expressway), and Jerome Avenue in the west. To the north is the Fordham section, to the east is West Farms, to the south is Morrisania, and to the west is University Heights.

Edwin Shuttleworth and the Shuttleworth Mansion

Edwin Shuttleworth was a dealer in stone who decided to have the mansion built using the type of stones he sold. This would become the Shuttleworth’s new home.

Known as the Edwin and Elizabeth Shuttleworth House it was built by the architects Neville and Bagge. Neville and Bagge built to a large extent on the west side of Upper Manhattan.

The mansion was built to fit in to the Bronx terrain at the time. David Bady, a writer for the Lehman Arts gallery, wrote that “Its square plan aligns itself with the frontage of its neighbors, while its asymmetrical elevation places the larger tower and the extended veranda at the pivotal corner. As large and ornamental as many isolated manor houses, it opts for the amenities of village life.”

Bady, when describing the mansion, goes on to say that it is: “derived from French Renaissance chateaux, with cylindrical towers topped by “candle-snuffer” conical roofs standing at either corner of the Anthony Avenue facade.”

He goes on to further say that the “stairs from the street reach a raised veranda and the central doorway, where stone caryatids, representing classical deities, support a florid carved entablature with dolphin-shaped consoles and a Pan-faced keystone.  Thin columns carry the porch to the right around the larger tower and onto the Mount Hope Place side of the house, where carving appears again in two portrait roundels.”

He describes the portraits as “(A woman’s face is set between the tower’s upper windows, a man’s—apparently, Shakespeare’s—lower down along the side.) The walls of the house are built in alternating courses of large and small rough-faced stone blocks, joined with red mortar.”

At that time The Parks Department preferred curving streets and irregular blocks that followed the broken landscape and maintained the character of an upper-middle-class suburb. The exceptional rectangular streets were limited to villages like Fordham, Tremont, and Mount Hope.

Before the mansion was built farms, estates, and garden-surrounded villas were the norm.

In 2007 it was sold by the broker team of Shebrelle Hunter-Green and Adrian Thompkins of The Corcoran Group’s Harlem office.  It was sold for a reported $675,000.

When speaking about the mansion Hunter-Green said “”A property like this comes along once in a lifetime. It is a reminder of how glorious the Bronx once was and will be again as its renaissance develops, much like what has taken place in Harlem.” Her associate Thompkins added that “not only is this mansion a piece of Bronx history, it is precious to the seller who called it home for more than 70 years and a dream house for the buyers.”

In the article titled “Buyers vowing to return historic Bronx mansion to former glory” written for Real Estate Weekly on August 29th the mansion is described as a house with “an exquisite exterior featuring ornately carved sculptures, stately turrets and stained glass windows and doors. Interior highlights include tin ceilings, a serpentine staircase, figurines and lamps from the 1890s, pocket doors, hand carved fireplaces and built-in cabinets.”

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