A beautiful day in the neighborhood! Our Greeter leader Dan Abetelli arranged that for us – in terms of the weather and also in what he showed us.
As we walked in Mott Haven, Dan shared some history. From 1860-1880, the area was settled by Irish and German immigrants. It was named for Joseph Mott who owned an ironworks factory. The neighborhood was made up of big, industrial buildings.
Our first stop was the public library, built in 1905 and endowed by wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie who funded over 3000 public libraries throughout the United States, Britain, Canada and other English-speaking countries.
Our library was the first one to be built in the Bronx, and not surprisingly, it resembled Carnegie’s mansion on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Inside was a study in contrasts: an early 20th century radiator was right in the middle of the room, while everyone was working away on laptops!
Even more contrasts: many of the splendid old brownstones are being torn down and replaced by modern mid-rise buildings, eight to ten stories high. Still other brownstones are being kept alive, renovated inside and out.
Serious gentrification began after 2000. Mott Haven is now home to some of the most glorious murals on building exteriors anywhere. For example, the outside of Zaro’s bakery is ablaze with a vibrant mural. Art galleries are opening everywhere, including BronxArtSpace at 305 East 140th Street.
On Lincoln Avenue, we passed what used to be the Estey Piano Company and the Haines Piano Company, both built in the mid-1880s. Steinway still has a factory there, while the other two piano buildings have undergone major transformations. Today these buildings include artists’ lofts, apartments, and small business spaces.
We passed many neighborhood restaurants that seemed like social gathering places for local residents. Not only do they serve good food, but for those with an appetite for jazz, they serve that on weekends as well. We stopped in at the Port Morris Distillery and saw their whiskey-making equipment.
Because of the renovations and gentrification, this very old part of the Bronx is attracting young, upwardly mobile people. Even better, the rents remain on the low-ish side. Residents say these rents are also beautiful works of art!