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Perry Avenue row houses landmarked

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For Grace Siemer, the nine Queen Anne-style row houses on Perry Avenue, shaded red brick and tan, will always represent peace and tranquility. Siemer associates the houses, built between 1910 and 1912, with her escape from E. 165th Street near Yankee Stadium to a pastoral Bedford Park.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Perry Avenue row houses between Bedford Park Boulevard and E. 201st Street the city’s 100th historic district on Tuesday, December 15. Siemer, 79, lives in a co-op apartment building at the corner of Perry Avenue and E. 201st Street.

“I guess the houses remind me of the quiet times,” she said. “We moved here 40 years ago, when the south Bronx was in turmoil. We found this lovely, tree-lined street. Bedford Park felt like the country.”

Bedford Park resident Anthony Rivieccio harbors a similar fondness for the Perry Avenue houses. Rivieccio was in his teens when he and his family abandoned E. 167th Street and headed north. That was three decades ago.

“We got on the bus,” Rivieccio said. “Back then it went up Perry Avenue. I fell in love with the neighborhood. I thought we were in the country.”

Bedford Park, named for a London suburb, sits atop a former racetrack. Its first houses, large Queen Anne-style cottages, were built in the 1880s when commuter trains reached the neighborhood. In 1910, Bronx builder George D. Kingston bought the nine Perry Avenue lots and hired architect Charles S. Clark to design the houses.

The three-story dwellings, which boast fieldstone walls and small front yards, were meant for middle class families; many were originally owned by German immigrants. When new, the wood-frame houses included four bedrooms, two bathrooms, cellars, laundry areas and servants quarters.

Although the neighborhood sprouted large apartment buildings in the 1920s and 1950s, Perry Avenue’s sloped slate roofs, splayed lintels, iron cornices and three-sided porches remain. The houses “have hardly changed…[and are] a vivid reminder or the origins of Bedford Park,” Landmarks chairman Robert Tierney said. They “retain the architectural details and suburban character that existed nearly a century ago,” Tierney added.

The Perry Avenue houses constitute the Bronx’s tenth historic district. Also on December 15, the Landmarks Preservation Commission heard proposals to designate as landmarks the Dollar Savings Bank on Third Avenue in the Hub, the Noonan Plaza Apartments in Highbridge, the Haffen Building on Third Avenue in Melrose and the former Union Reformed Church, now the Highbridge Community Church, in Highbridge.

Siemer applauded the Perry Avenue designation.

“The future is bright for our neighborho­od,” Siemer said. “The houses are so beautiful.”

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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