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Monday, September 22, 2014

Devoe Park

Five-acre Devoe Park in the University Heights section of The Bronx dates to 1913-1915, when land acquired by the city beginning in 1885 was laid out with trees, curving paths, lawns, bushes, an iron pipe fence – you know, the usual stuff you have in parks – along with, according to the Parks Department website, thousands of tulip bulbs.

Tulips make perfect sense here since the original First Dutch Reformed Church used to stand on the site. Built in 1705, and "said to be the oldest Bronx church with a regular ministry," its building has been replaced twice. Among many prominent names, Alice (Mrs. Edgar Allan) Poe was a member. To be truthful, on my visit I didn't notice any Dutch Reformed Church. What I noticed (and visited, but that's another story) was Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Catholic Church, nicknamed the "cathedral of The Bronx" because of its size. Here it is through the trees of the park:

devoe park saint nicholas of tolentine church

The tall trees in the next photo are pin oaks planted in 1995 during a reconstruction of the park. They make a nice change from the London plane trees Robert Moses planted all over the city. The short bushy tree on the right is, I believe, a scholar tree, also dating from 1995.

devoe park bronx pin oaks and scholar trees

There was definitely some lying around going on in the park on the warm weekend of our visit…

devoe park bronx

…and plenty of sitting, lounging, eating – all those "passive enjoyment" activities parks are meant for…

devoe park bronx

But there was action as well.

devoe park bronx

The playground itself, though, was quiet, allowing me to enjoy the sight of its vaguely walrus-shaped boulder to my heart's content.

devoe park bronx

Devoe Park is named for one of the area's prominent 17th century Dutch families (there's a Devoe Avenue as well), but the ghostly Devoes don't have a museum or a preserved manor house. Just a humble but very nice neighborhood park.

Could do worse.

Sadly and not surprisingly, this being New York City, a Google search starting with "Devoe Park" suggests "Devoe Park shooting" which turns up this news about the recent conviction in a nearby 2011 triple shooting (and double murder). Let's hope any more shooting around this pretty park is done with cameras only.

devoe park bronx

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Poe Park

poe park poe cottageEdgar Allan Poe lived the last few years of his life in a small house in the then-rural Bronx. He'd moved there with his ailing wife in the vain hope that the country air would give her TB-wracked lungs some more breathing room. After her death in 1847 the famous but still poor writer and his mother-in-law stayed in the house until his own demise in 1849.

Decades passed, The Bronx urbanized, and apartment buildings crowded around the old house until its own destruction seemed inevitable. Fortunately for posterity, funds were raised to move the house, now called Poe Cottage, a few blocks away into a small park beside the Grand Concourse now known as Poe Park.

Newly restored, the house still stands there today, not just the preserved home of a famous American but a reminder of what The Bronx was like not so long ago.

A couple of the furnishings inside actually belonged to the Poes. One is the mirror (above right). Visit, then walk the neighborhood and picture the writer heading west and over the High Bridge on the lonely walks he used to take.

poe park poe cottage

Poe Cottage is open for tours. And while you're in Poe Park, don't miss the Visitor Center, designed by Toshiko Mori. An art exhibit that happened to be in residence during our visit offered not only art but free drinks and potstickers.

As I always say – or think, anyway – you never know what you'll find when you visit New York City's far-flung parks. Sometimes even free food!

poe park poe cottage

The rest of the park is unspectacular – some grass and trees, a playground, rest rooms, and a gazebo you can't get into.

poe park poe cottage
poe park poe cottage

But Poe Cottage is must-visit for lovers of historic houses, literary history, or both.

poe park poe cottage

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Aqueduct Walk

Aqueduct Walk in The Bronx is part of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The trail marks the path of the Croton Aqueduct, New York City's main source of drinking water for many years, completed in 1842 and used until the 1950s.

Considered as a park, the Walk resembles, conceptually, the High Line, the painfully popular converted elevated train track on the west side of Manhattan – old infrastructure adapted and repurposed.

The Old Croton Aqueduct starts north of the city in Croton, Westchester County. A gravity-fed tube built on ancient Roman principles and dropping 13 inches per mile, it runs for 41 miles, terminating in Manhattan where it deposited water in two reservoirs, one where Central Park's Great Lawn is today, the other where the main branch of the New York Public Library and Bryant Park are today.

The aqueduct's existence isn't evident along its whole path in today's New York. But up in the Bronx, you can walk right along a pretty sizable length of the historic water tunnel. The brick structure to the right in the first photo below is, I think, the aqueduct itself. In the second photo, I believe we are walking on top of it. If I'm wrong, I trust some kind reader will alert me.

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