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Celebration planned for July

Mott Haven historic district of townhouses celebrates golden anniversary

Bronx Times
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A historic district that boasts 19th century town houses and classic buildings is celebrating its golden anniversary.

The Mott Haven Historic District, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Monday, July 29.

The historic district, near Alexander Avenue and parts of surrounding blocks between East 137th Street and East 141st Street, will celebrate with a program that’s still being planned at the Mott Haven Library between 6 and 8 p.m., said Samuel Brooks, Mott Haven Historic Districts Association president.

Brooks, who first moved to the community in 1975, added that another of its historic districts, Mott Haven East, would be celebrating its 25-year anniversary as well. Mott Haven East is situated on East 140th Street between Willis and Brook avenues.

A similar historic district in Greenwich Village consisting mostly of town homes was designated by the city in April 1969, around the same time as Mott Haven’s oldest district, but the Mott Haven district doesn’t receive as nearly as much attention, said Brooks, adding he hopes that this will change.

“Coincident­ly, we are turning 50 and not that many people know this,” said Brooks, adding that obviously Greenwich Village is vigorously celebrating their anniversary, and that the Mott Haven should not be overlooked.

“Some of the town houses or row houses on Alexander Avenue date back to 1863,” said Brooks. “They are some of the oldest row houses in the city.”

The oldest Mott Haven district includes the Mott Haven Library built in 1905 as the first Carnegie Library in the Bronx; the Victorian Gothic St. Jerome’s Church; and the 1920s era 40th Precinct, in addition to the rows of fine homes.

Alexander Avenue was at one point known as ‘doctors row’ for the large amount of physicians calling it home, said Brooks, adding it was also known as ‘politicians row.’

The massive amount of large-scale development in Mott Haven near the waterfront is something that Brooks is keenly aware of as this celebration takes places, with some in the community rightfully concerned about fast rising rents, and others welcoming the new development and the amenities that should follow, he said.

The attention by large real estate interests helped him promote the historic district in Mott Haven without resources that some other historic districts can count on, he said.

He said he formed the association so that people could understand the architectural contribution the borough has made since Jonas Bronck first settled the area in 1639.

“This came from long term residents who truly understand the contribution that the Bronx has made to the architectural beauty of the city,” said Brooks, adding “We have been singing the beauty of the Bronx for a couple of decades”

Trumpeting that beauty has also become easier as the Historic Districts Council, a non-profit advocating for the city’s historical neighborhoods, made Mott Haven one of its ‘Six to Celebrate’ in 2017, he said.

Alexandra Maruri, owner of Bronx Historical Tours and a borough native, has been giving tours in Mott Haven for eight years.

She said that tours with people from around the world are still breaking down negative stereotypes.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Updated 10:11 am, March 7, 2019
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