Among the very early residents of Morrisania was the Hall family. Henry Bryan Hall was born in London in 1808 and moved to America in 1850 with his eldest son and the following year he sent for the rest of the family and they settled in Morrisania. He was a well-known engraver and portrait artist who enjoyed painting miniatures on ivory but was best known for his engravings. Among his early works produced in England was his portrait of Napoleon III and in America he became famous for his renderings of George Washington.
When he settled in Morrisania, his reputation as a fine engraver followed him. He had eight children, four sons and four daughters and three of the boys, Henry Jr., Charles and Alfred eventually went into the engraving business with him and they kept their office at 22 Park Place. Henry Bryan Hall Junior’s works are often confused with his father’s and it still creates problems for those who study art. All four boys fought in the Civil War and Ernest, liking the military service, enlisted again, this time in the Navy. After being mustered out, he went to law school and became a well-respected lawyer who defended many of the cases against the City of New York. He was elected a judge of the City Court in 1881. Two of the four daughters, Anne and Emily, married and the other two, Alice and Eliza, remained single. Henry Jr. made good use of his Civil War experience by engraving scenes and important military figures from that war. All Hall engravings and paintings are now quite valuable.
An 1871 Morrisania directory lists four Halls from this family. H. B. Hall (senior) is listed as an engraver living on the south side of George Street (now 166th Street) between Forest Avenue and Boston Road. H. B. junior is also listed as an engraver living on the south side of 6th Street (168th Street) in the first house west of Union Avenue. His brother, Alfred, is listed as an engraver residing on the north side of Garden Street (143rd Street) in the sixth house west of College Avenue. Ernest, the lawyer, resided at the south side of Spring Place in the first house west of Boston Road and had his office on the south side of Fifth Street (167th Street) near Washington Avenue. He later also worked from his office at 64 William Street. He died from pneumonia at age 76. Many of the old street names have, of course, been changed.
Henry Bryan Hall Sr. was the most famous of the Hall engravers and he passed away at his Bronx home on April 25, 1884. He had been associated with the Putnam publishing family and was especially noted for engraving important participants in the American Revolution. He died from blood poisoning after an illness of several weeks. Most of his works are in private collections but should you come across one in an art gallery or museum, remember that it was probably created right here in the Bronx.
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