Do You Remember

The dome of the United States Capitol Building in Washington D. C. is in the process of being installed in this government photograph. It was manufactured in the Bronx.

It is amazing how many readers told me that they were unaware that the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was crafted right here in the Bronx by the Piccirilli family.  It got me thinking about some of the other important historical sites and works of art created in our borough.  Did you know, for instance, that the dome of the Capitol Building in Washington, D. C. was also made here in the Bronx?  It was crafted on Westchester Avenue by the Janes and Kirtland Foundry which was located between Brook and St. Ann’s Avenues just opposite the railroad freight yards. 

The company was established in 1844 at the corner of Reade and Centre Streets in Manhattan.  When the order came in for the dome of the Capitol Building, however, they knew they needed a far more expansive foundry.  Thus it was that they moved to the area we now know as the Bronx in 1857 just to create this huge cast-iron dome.  It weighed a stupendous 8,909,200 pounds and required steam powered derricks to emplace it.  It was finally hoisted into position in 1863 and the 19 foot 6 inch bronze statue called “Freedom” by Thomas Crawford was placed at its apex. 

The dome is one of the many features in our capitol created at Janes and Kirtland.  They also created the ceilings of the Senate Chamber and the House of Representatives and the Congressional Library.  Other buildings in Washington, D. C. housing the work of the Bronx foundry are the General Post Office, the Treasury Building and the Patent Office. Their work can be found throughout the country and closer to home are the iron bridges in our Central Park.

Throughout the world, from Cuba to China and from Haiti to Hawaii, the work created at Janes and Kirtland found a home.  It appears that you’ll find a little bit of the Bronx no matter where you roam.  One of Adrian Janes’ partners, William Beebe, also invented Beebe’s Ranges which became quite the rage after the Civil War.  It’s also interesting to note that many of the cast-iron ornamental animals they created, especially the dragons and stylized dogs, were shipped directly to China.  One would wonder if any made their way back to America in succeeding years to be sold as original Chinese art.  Who would know that they were actually made in the Bronx? 

Adrian Janes lived in a fine mansion off St. Ann’s Avenue in what became St. Mary’s Park.  The estate was called Janes’ Hill.  His son, Edward, eventually took over the proprietorship of the company.  Think of this pioneer Bronx family when you pass that way again or visit Washington, D. C. and should you have any very old cast-iron ornaments in your garden or garage, perhaps they’re Bronx originals. 

More from Around NYC