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Do You Remember

I was wandering around Woodlawn Cemetery a few years ago whiling away some time before a luncheon up on McLean Avenue.  Quite by chance I came upon the Henry Bruckner gravesite on Clover Avenue (also known as West Border Avenue).  Knowing the man’s background, I snapped a photograph of his memorial in case I ever had to refer to it. 

There are still some old-timers who refer to Bruckner Boulevard as Eastern Boulevard, an old name for this historic roadway.  Eastern Boulevard dates back to the late 1800s and it was extended east in 1895 over-riding the existing roadways in between the southern and eastern portions of our borough.  Several months after Borough President Henry Bruckner passed away in 1942, the name of the boulevard was changed to honor his memory.

Henry Bruckner was born in the Bronx on June 17, 1871 and tried his hand at a few different jobs before establishing a soda water company with his brother, John, in 1892.  It was located at 410 East 161st Street east of Melrose Avenue and not far from where he was born.  Henry was not totally satisfied with his lot, however, and soon decided to run for public office while also working at his beverage company.

He ran for the New York State Assembly but served only one year, 1901, before quitting and taking a position as the Commissioner of Public Works under Borough President Louis Haffen.  He became associated with Tammany and that cemented his relationship with the insiders of City Hall.  He held his commissioner post until 1912 at which time he was elected to the United States Congress for the 22nd District.  He served from 1913 to 1917 when he decided to leave congress and run for the borough presidency.  He became Borough President in 1918 and served until 1933. 

Henry Bruckner passed away from chronic nephritis (kidney failure) at his 858 Grant Avenue home on April 14, 1942.  He was 70 years old.  Although he had problems with the Seabury Commission, it did not stop his friends from calling for a special honor for the man who had dedicated his life to serving the constituents of the Bronx.  Just three months later, on July 29, 1942 the name of Eastern Boulevard was officially changed to Bruckner Boulevard.  

Henry Bruckner was waked at a funeral chapel on the Grand Concourse off 182nd Street and a High Mass was held at St. Angela Merici Roman Catholic Church located on Morris Avenue at 163rd Street.  The New York Times reported that 1000 people, including Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and a host of local politicians, attended the Mass.  Bruckner’s wife, Helen, passed away in 1930 but he was survived by three sons, Henry Jr., John and William as well as his brother Frank and his sister Annie.  Bruckner Boulevard has since become Bruckner Expressway, and we’ve all traveled upon it many times but now you know why it’s so named. 

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