Sure Tom has a River (https://bit.ly/2PSbQvd) and Hugh L. Carey has a tunnel (https://bit.ly/2PmMy7l), but why does Arthur get an avenue??
What is that all about?
Let’s find out.
Arthur Avenue is named for Chester A. Arthur, the twenty-first President of the United States. Arthur became President in 1881 after the assassination of President James Garfield. Arthur would serve until 1885.
Prior to his becoming President, Arthur was an attorney and politician. He died in 1886 after suffering from kidney disease most of his presidency. Sadly he is offen referred to as the most forgotten president by historians.
The twenty-second president is one whom I become more closely associated with recently, Grover Cleveland (https://bit.ly/2LLSGUp).
So why, was this seemingly unknown president given such an honor?
Well, that answer is actually relatively simple.
The land that surrounds Arthur Avenue in the Bronx was historically farmland. It was originally owned by the Lorillard family who had a tobacco production there. Their home was called “Belle Mont”; Italian for beautiful hill. Their home sat on the spot on the hill where St. Barnabas Hospital is now located.
Towards the late 1870s the Lorillard family sold and donated much of their land to the City of New York where the Bronx Zoo and NYC Botanical Gardens are now.
In a solemn stipulation, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe asked that the street that ran through her family’s previous mansion be named for her favorite President. You guessed it; Chester A. Arthur. The reason why she felt that way remains a mystery.
During the mid 1900s many more Italian immigrants started to move out to the Bronx from the Lower East Side of Manhattan where it was becoming overcrowded to have more room and fresh air.
In order to establish a cleaner, more organized place for immigrant push carts vendors to function in, Mayor LaGuardia christened the Arthur Avenue Retail Market in 1940, a place that is still very much operational today. There you can find anything you need from florists, pork stores, fish market, and gourmet deli products. The list goes on and on.
The influx of Italian and Italian Americans in this area is why you can still find pasta made by hand and pastries made the way ancestors did. This is why this area is still a big draw. In many places you have to preorder the items you are hoping to pickup. Once such is example are the calzones sold by Catania’s.
This section of the Bronx is still known as Belmont and still considered to be an authentic “Little Italy”. By this I mean that it is unchanged by tourists or those who come from all over to sample all this area has to offer.
For those of you who are Bronx Tale fans you will be excited to note that actor Chazz Palminteri is from this neighborhood, which is probably why Borgatti’s storefront has its own role in the theater production.
Similarly, Joe Pesci was discovered in a restaurant nearby while he was working in a restaurant when Mr. Robert DeNiro had stopped in for a bite.
In 2016 the American Planning Association paid tribute to the importance of Arthur Avenue by naming it one of America’s Greatest Streets. The Association grants this title to streets that have a historical and cultural impact as well as an important place in current culture.
I think that pretty much sums it up.
Hopefully this Find Out Friday will foreshadow some very delicious weekend plans for yours truly since its been waaaaay too long since I have spent some time with Chester A. Arthur’s, Avenue.
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