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OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH

27 East 187th Street
1915-17
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

D’AURIA-MURPHY TRIANGLE

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.

ARTHUR AVENUE RETAIL MARKET

2344 Arthur Avenue

Opened October 28, 1941, with “120 stalls for the sale of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and other items sold on pushcarts.” Mayor La Guardia believed that the chaotic street scenes around pushcart markets were bad for the city’s image, that street markets impeded the passage of fire engines and ambulances, and that it would be much easier for the city to regulate and tax vendors if they were in enclosed, city-owned spaces. An often-reproduced photograph from the 1930s shows Crescent Avenue curving into Arthur Avenue, with a view north of the west side of Arthur Avenue. A close look at the photo reveals that the buildings then are the same as the buildings now. What’s different is that the roadbed of Arthur Avenue is covered with crowded stalls selling all manner of foodstuffs. It was precisely to get rid of this that, for better or worse, Mayor La Guardia built the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, and similar markets throughout the city, including the Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side and La Marqueta in East Harlem. Photo courtesy of Bronx Little Italy.

ÇKA KA QËLLU

2321 Hughes Avenue

This new restaurant (pronounced SHA ka chell-OO), which received an enthusiastic review from Pete Wells in The New York Times in 2019, is a rare Albanian restaurant that serves authentic Albanian cuisine, as opposed to Italian cuisine, and reminds us of the significant presence in Belmont of Albanian immigrants. Photo courtesy of Bronx Little Italy.

ROBERTO’S

603 Crescent Avenue

Roberto Paciullo, from Salerno, in Campania in southwestern Italy, opened his eponymous restaurant a few doors from here in 1989, moving to the present location in 2004. Highly recommended by the Michelin Guide, which describes Roberto’s as a “storied Italian-American favorite whose design falls somewhere between a cozy farmhouse and Mediterranean villa.”

Photo courtesy of Bronx Little Italy.

MARIO’S

2342 Arthur Avenue

Mario’s opened in 1919. It received a rave review from Craig Claiborne in The New York Times in 1976, and is known to have served Nelson Rockefeller, Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher, the renowned soprano Anna Moffo, and Clint Eastwood. The restaurant’s renown extended to its mention in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather (1969), though the restaurant’s owners, the Migliucci family, declined a request to have the restaurant appear in the film version. In 2018, John Mariani, the authority on Italian-American food, wrote in Forbes that Mario’s “sets a civilized example for anyone who wants to know what the Italian- American restaurant should be.”

Photo courtesy of Bronx Little Italy.

MADONIA BROTHERS BAKERY

2348 Arthur Avenue

One of the most popular stories one hears on Arthur Avenue is that of how in 1924 the wife of Mario Madonia, the Palermo-born founder of the then six-year-old bakery, still in its original location on nearby Adams Place, gave birth to her youngest son right in the bakery when a car crashed through the front window, sending her into premature labor. The child, Peter Madonia Sr., was incubated in a shoebox placed next to the oven. The bakery is now run by partners Peter Jr. and Charlie La Lima. In 2018, Peter Jr. returned to the family business after a distinguished career as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief of staff and as chief operating officer of the Rockefeller Foundation. In fact, Peter Madonia had once before left public service to steward the bakery. In 1988, his brother Mario, who had run the bakery,died in a car accident, and Peter, who had served in the Koch administration in City Hall, and then as deputy commissioner of buildings and as deputy commissioner of the Fire Department, returned to the bakery in an emergency capacity. In what seems almost like the plot of a Hallmark movie, he now appears to be back for good. Photo courtesy of Bronx Little Italy.

TEITEL BROTHERS

2372 Arthur Avenue

Teitel Brothers was founded in 1915. In a wonderful example of New York’s immigrant synergies, this famous Italian specialty food store was started by an Austrian Jewish family. According to family lore, one of the founding brothers, Jacob Teitel, was a Yiddish speaker who learned to speak Italian before English. There is an inlaid Star of David in the entranceway, installed during the Depression as a show of resistance against the rising tide of facism and anti-Semitism in Europe.

VINCENT’S MEAT MARKET

2374 Arthur Avenue

Vincent’s Meat Market was founded in 1954 and has been in its present location since 1981. It is family owned and operated, and provides high quality, fresh meat and poultry sourced from reputable farms. It appears as the butcher shop where Marty Piletti works in the film Marty. Filmed almost in a documentary style, Marty is one of the most evocative of all New York City films. Written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Delbert Mann, Marty won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Ernest Borgnine, who starred in the title role, won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film tells the story of a lonely, middle-aged butcher who lives in Belmont. At the time, the meat market was called Oteri’s Butcher Shop, and in the film, Marty refers to his boss as Mr. Oteri. Marty opens memorably with a shot of the Arthur Avenue Retail Market.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL

500 East Fordham Road
1929
William H. Gompert

This stately block-long building, with its distyle-in-antis portico, raises its distinctive cupola over Fordham Road. The architect, William H. Gompert (1875-1946), succeeded the long-serving C.B.J. Snyder as the New York City Board of Education architect in 1923, and served until 1927, though several of his designs, including Theodore Roosevelt High School, were not completed until after he had resigned. (A school designed by Snyder may be seen nearby: P.S. 32, at Belmont Avenue and 182nd Street, was built in 1900.)

Gompert, a New York City native, attended Pratt Institute and worked for McKim, Mead & White and for Maynicke & Franke before forming his own firm in 1906. He designed some 170 schools in the five boroughs, including the High School of Music and Art (1924) on West 135th Street, DeWitt Clinton High School (1929) in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx, James Madison High School (1926) at 3787 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, Jamaica High School (1927) in Jamaica, Queens, Seward Park High School (1929) on Grand Street in the Lower East Side, and, possibly his masterpiece, P.S. 101 (1929) in Forest Hills Gardens.

Notable alumni of Theodore Roosevelt High School include June Allyson, once one of the most popular movie stars in the world; Rocky Colavito, the slugging right-fielder who in his major league baseball career appeared in nine All-Star Games; Ace Frehley, lead guitarist of the rock band Kiss; and Jimmie “J.J.” Walker, comedian and star of the 1970s TV show Good Times. Perhaps most notable among the school’s alumni is Chazz Palminteri (b. 1952). Palminteri’s one-man play, A Bronx Tale, premiered off-Broadway in 1989 and is set in Belmont. In 1993, Robert De Niro adapted the play into a movie and a musical version, directed by De Niro, ran on Broadway from 2016 to 2018.