On February 25th, Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan spoke with much humor about the place where he’s lived his whole life. He’s been the official historian for eighteen years, or as he explained: “Traditionally Bronx historians enter vertically and leave horizontally.”
The Bronx got its name from an immigrant Swedish farmer, Jonas Bronck, who lived there in 1639. At that time, he and his family were the only residents. When people visited, they’d say, “We’re going to the Bronck’s farm. Later the name was shortened to the Bronx instead of the Bronck’s.
The Bronx is 42 square miles with a population of 1.4 million. Residents hail from every continent and Montefiore Hospital is the largest employer, giving Ultan the excuse to say, “The Bronx has a sick economy.”
His historical highlights were equally captivating. In the early 1920’s, Italian immigrants in the Bronx sculpted 26 pieces of Georgian marble into what would become the Lincoln Memorial. In 1921, the New York Yankees moved to the Bronx, and in 1973 the Bronx gave birth to Hip-Hop!
Ultan then bragged about the great wonders of the Bronx. The Bronx Zoo is the largest urban zoo in the world. The New York Botanical Gardens has lush, gorgeous grounds. It also has the last remaining part of the original forest that once covered New York City. City Island is “a little bit of New England in the Bronx,” with yacht clubs and restaurants offering oh-such-succulent seafood. The “real Little Italy” is on Arthur Avenue, where Mike of Mike’s Deli shows you how to make mozzarella.
The Grand Concourse, a magnificent boulevard designed by Louis Reis with the Parisian Champs Elysees in mind, is surrounded by the largest collection of Art Deco homes and apartment buildings in the world. The Fieldston neighborhood is where many of Manhattan’s 19th century moguls built their country estates. These dazzling, single-family “castles” are still lived in today.
The Professor ended his talk with one last humorous quip: “If you have any questions, throw them at me and I’ll duck!”