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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

100 years of anything but solitude: The Bronx celebrates a centennial of sorts

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
Photo courtesy of the Bronx Historical Society
Johnson Avenue, looking north from 230th Street, in 1925.
Photo courtesy of the Bronx Historical Society
Bronx Borough President Douglas Mathewson in 1914.
Photo courtesy of the Bronx Historical Society
The Johnson Avenue retaining wall on West 228th Street and the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, the present-day location of the JFK Campus and IN-Tech Academy.
Postcards courtesy of Thomas Casey/Kingsbridge Historical Society
The Broadway Bridge as viewed from the Manhattan side in 1902.
Postcards courtesy of Thomas Casey/Kingsbridge Historical Society
A trolley on Broadway and West 242nd Street in 1952, the final year it graced the streets.
Postcards courtesy of Thomas Casey/Kingsbridge Historical Society
St. Stephen's Church in Marble Hill in 1908.
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The year 1914 saw a Bronx poised for change as the country prepared to enter World War I. Borough President Douglas Mathewson pursued progressive change while Mayor John Purroy Mitchel — a 34-year-old known as the “Boy Mayor of New York”— fought police corruption.

The Bronx was a borough of industry, powered by the Johnson Iron Works in Spuyten Duyvil. Riverdale was a place of woods and wealth dotted with private houses and mansions, according to Bronx Historical Society director of museums and curator Kathleen McAuley.

While the borough itself is over 300 years old, this year marks a century since the Bronx gained county status.

“People decided to celebrate the distinction,” said Ms. McAuley.

The historical society’s own centennial celebration comes in the form of an exhibit giving an overview of the Bronx’s past 100 years. 

It will open to the public on Saturday, April 26.

The exhibit juxtaposes the Bronx of old with the modern locale. Ms. McAuley said it also emphasizes the borough’s efforts to fight against negative stereotypes that were particularly strong in the 1970s. 

She hopes the exhibit will open people’s eyes to changes the Bronx has seen over the past hundred years.

Ms. McAuley said, “I appreciate how optimistic the borough is today — much more than it has been in a long time.” 

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