7 Cool Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Bronx

July 17, 2014

The NY Yankees, Julia the Gorilla, and the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden all call the Bronx home, but as the borough named for Jonas Bronck (and affectionately called the Boogie Down) commemorates a centennial anniversary in 2014, there is much more to celebrate than Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden.

We’ve hunted down seven cool things about the Bronx that we bet you didn’t know. Read them all ahead, then venture northward to see them up close and personal.

#1: The Champs-Elysées of the Bronx

Photo of the Grand Concourse via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Yankee Stadium, did you know that one of the main roads leading to the House that Ruth Built was modeled after Paris’ most famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysées? Though considerably longer than its French counterpart, the Grand Concourse was originally designed with separate paths for horses, cyclists and pedestrians. For three days this summer, the full length of the heavily trafficked thoroughfare will be closed to all vehicle traffic as part of “Boogie on the Boulevard”, a recreational event featuring live performances, music, workshops and more.

#2: Outdoor Art Deco Museum

Bronx Courthouse>Bronx Courthouse. Image by Ken Lund / Flickr

And what makes the Grand Concourse so grand? Many might argue it’s the gorgeous assembly of Art Deco and Art Moderne style architecture along those 4 miles – which just happens to be the largest collection of its kind in the whole United States!

#3: Bridges, Bridges, and More Bridges

Photo by Shinya Suzuki / Flickr

The Bronx loves being connected to Manhattan…in fact, more bridges connect the Bronx to Manhattan than any other borough! And one of those bridges, the High Bridge over the Harlem River, is the oldest standing bridge in the city (1843) – yup, older than the Brooklyn Bridge. Built as an aqueduct for a water main (the bridge originally had 15 stone arches to resemble a Roman aqueduct), construction is underway to restore pedestrian access by the end of the year!

#4: Green with Envy

The Bronx Victory Column in Pelham Bay Park, by  olekinderhook / Wikimedia Commons

Central Park is an oasis in the middle of concrete and steel….but it doesn’t even come close to being the city’s largest park. With miles of bridle paths and hiking trails, two golf courses, a breathtaking saltwater shoreline that hugs the Long Island Sound, and a wide and diverse range of plant and animal life, Pelham Bay Park (over three times bigger than Central Park) is one reason why the Bronx is the city’s greenest borough – with nearly 25 percent of its space devoted to parkland.

#5: Poetry in Motion

poe cottage, bronx, edgar allan poe
Poe Cottage by Zoirusha / Wikimedia Commons

“Hear the sledges with the bells Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells! How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle”…(The Bells) .

Those beautiful words by none other than Edgar Allan Poe were written while he lived in a modest cottage in the Bronx from 1846 to 1849. You can still visit the home, aptly named Poe Cottage, and try to figure out the bells which may have inspired him.

#6: JFK Slept Here

5040 Independence Avenue, Riverdale Image via Wikimedia Commons 5040 Independence Avenue, Riverdale. Photo by Anthony 22 / Wikimedia Commons

As a young boy our 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, called the Bronx his home in the late 1920s. The spectacular 20-room, three-story stucco mansion is located at 5040 Independence Avenue in the Riverdale section of Bronx – where JFK attended the elite Riverdale Country Day School and earned a C+ average on at least one report card.

#7: George Washington Slept Here, Too

Van Cortlandt House Museum
Photo of Van Cortlandt House Museum via mtchlra via photopin cc

Built between 1748-49, the historic Van Cortlandt House is the oldest in the Bronx, and provided none other than our first president, George Washington, a place to rest his weary feet at least twice during the American Revolution. Apparently, it did him some good, since from here Washington led troops to take possession of New York City in the last act of the American Revolution!  

So the next time you’re looking for something new to do, check out the Bronx beyond Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden. You’ll find many reasons to celebrate the borough to the north.

[Written in collaboration with Welcome2TheBronx]

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