Located in the East section of The Bronx, Van Nest started developing as a family community by the 1890s. Much of its architecture is in the Queen Anne, Italianate, and Art Deco styles and includes brick construction from the 1950s, and a few tenements. Richard Vitacco, leader of the East Bronx History Forum, will work with HDC to promote the overlooked, architecturally significant buildings of the neighborhood.
Parkchester is an extraordinary complex of more than 50 buildings, located on 129 acres of land, three-quarters of which is left to open space. This pioneering housing development influenced mid-twentieth-century thinking on the planning and design of large apartment complexes and is considered a model of good high-density housing. Parkchester features an extraordinary collection of terra cotta details and public sculptures designed by leading artists. In 1978, the Landmarks Preservation Commission conducted a Bronx survey that recommended the designation of Parkchester as a historic district. More than 40 years later, that designation has yet to happen. HDC will continue working with HDC Board Director Susan Tunick and Sharon Pandolfo of The Parkchester Project. The Parkchester Project aims to save the historic character of Parkchester and advocate for its landmark designation.
27 East 187th Street
Anthony F.A. Schmitt
This beautifully preserved Romanesque Revival church, built for a parish founded in 1906, is the spiritual heart of the Belmont community. The twin-towered church has a triple portal, a great wheel window, and superb brickwork. Italian Catholic congregations typically built their churches in either Romanesque or classical styles, as opposed to Gothic, which they associated with Irish churches where Italian immigrants often found a frosty welcome.
The architect of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Anthony F.A. Schmitt, was a Roman Catholic architect with such credits as Holy Redeemer College (1934) in Washington, D.C., the Church of St. Pius V (1906-07) in Mott Haven, and Immaculate Conception School (1901) on Melrose Avenue and 151st Street.
The name “Our Lady of Mount Carmel”–shared by well-known churches in East Harlem and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as well as by the great shrine in Rosebank, Staten Island– refers to the 13th-century appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock in Cambridge, England. She bestowed upon him the scapular (a devotional artifact in the form of a cloth pendant) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In the Old Testament, Elijah lived in a grotto in Mount Carmel in present-day Israel. In the 12th century, the Carmelite Order was founded there.
This block of 187th Street is one of the finest in Belmont. The sidewalks are wide on both sides of the street, the tenement buildings with stores in their bases are beautifully scaled to the street, there are plenty of street trees, and the church lends its special excitement. When one imagines a young Dion DiMucci singing a cappella on the corner near the church, a whole slice of New York’s rich ethnic past comes vibrantly to mind.
Photo by Hugo L. Gonzalez.
Adams Place & East 183rd Street
This irregularly shaped open space, bounded by Crescent Avenue, 183rd Street, Adams Place, and Arthur Avenue, was created in 1918 and named for John D’Auria and Henry Murphy, two young men from the neighborhood who lost their lives in World War I. Within the “triangle” is a large bust of Christopher Columbus, executed in marble ca. 1926 by the famous Bronx-based stone-carver and sculptor Attilio Piccirilli. It was originally placed in front of P.S. 45 at Bathgate Avenue and Lorillard Place, and moved to D’Auria-Murphy Triangle in 1992.
Across Arthur Avenue to the west is St. Barnabas Hospital (now known as SBH Health System). The hospital site was originally the estate of Jacob Lorillard (1774-1839). Jacob’s descendants deeded the land in 1874 to the Home for Incurables, and Jacob’s mansion served as a doctors’ residence until it was demolished in 1932. In 1947 the Home for Incurables changed its name to St. Barnabas Hospital.
This is the southern gateway to the main commercial section of Arthur Avenue. Across Crescent Avenue from D’Auria-Murphy Triangle, Prince Coffee Shop offers a generous sidewalk café, bordered by mature street trees, a surpassingly urbane segue to the bustle of Arthur Avenue.
Photo courtesy of NYC Park Department.