NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods: Little Ireland in Woodlawn, The Bronx

Welcome back to our new Untapped Cities series on NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods, where we delve into long standing ethnic enclaves.  

irish flag-woodlawn-bronx-little ireland-brennan ortiz-untapped citiesIrish and American flags representing the neighborhood pride in Woodlawn. Photo via amNY.

Little Ireland
Woodlawn, Bronx

In the northern Bronx, just above its namesake cemetery and east of Van Cortlandt Park, you can find New York City’s own Little Ireland. The neighborhood of Woodlawn Heights or simply Woodlawn, as it is better known, has been a destination for the Irish exodus in New York City. Though originally populated by Germans, Woodlawn is now predominantly Irish with its share of Italian-Americans as well. It is here that you’ll find the greatest abundance of four-leaf clover insignias on storefronts in all of the city. 

woodlawn-little ireland-bronx-new york city-irish-untapped cities-brennan ortizBustling Katonah Avenue. Photo via Tracy’s New York Life.

Although Woodlawn has its definitive borders, the Irish community itself is present on both sides of McLean Avenue, which serves as the border between New York City and Yonkers. Both areas, however, are nearly indistinguishable when judging from their inhabitants, businesses and neighborhood character. The majority of residents have lived here for generations, making it home to both an Irish-American and Irish immigrant population. The neighborhood’s proximity to Manhattan, along with the variety of imported Irish products available have long been attracting its inhabitants from across the ocean. An Irish presence can also be found in other neighborhoods, such as the Bronx’s Riverdale and Norwood, and Manhattan’s Inwood.

celtic house-woodlawn-bronx-untapped cities-brennan ortizThe popular Celtic House on Katonah Avenue. Photo via The Front of The Bus.

The neighborhood can be a trek to access depending on your method of transportation. Woodlawn is best reached by vehicle or by the swift Metro-North Harlem line, which stops at East 233rd Street near the Bronx River Parkway. The number 4 subway line also stops at the southern part of Woodlawn Cemetery, though it is a distance from the neighborhood’s center. Once in the vicinity however, be ready to indulge in the many Irish locales. The commotion can be felt on Katonah Avenue, the main commercial district dotted with Irish pubs, cafés, restaurants and even shops specializing in authentic Irish imported goods and gifts.

cemetery-woodlawn-little ireland-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizTombstones throughout Woodlawn Cemetery. Photo via Animal New York.

Apart from the Irish festivity opportunities, Woodlawn also pampers its locals with green space found in the bordering 1,186-acre Van Cortlandt Park. If spooks intrigue you, then check out the famous Woodlawn Cemetery with its grand mausoleums and eerie tombstones surrounded in greenery. The cemetery hosts guided walking tours and is the final resting ground of notable figures such as the Olmstead brothers and Latin artist Celia Cruz. If it’s Irish style partying that you’re craving, be sure to stop at the Rambling House or The Tombstone Saloon. When hunger strikes, Mary’s Celtic Kitchen and Patrizia’s Of Woodlawn will satiate any palate. There’s also the Woodlawn Arts and Music House sure to satisfy local artists. Whatever the itinerary, a trip to Woodlawn’s Little Ireland is sure to impress those looking for traces of Ireland in the big city.

Get in touch with the author: @Bronxiite

4 Comment

  • To the author…those are not 4 leaf clovers…they are shamrocks!

  • Thank you for recognizing this fine neighborhood, hidden away in North Central Bronx. As public relations officer of our community association , please note the following:

    About the Woodlawn Heights Taxpayers & Community Association:

    YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION WORKING FOR EVERYONE IN WOODLAWN FOR MORE THAN 118 YEARS!

    Woodlawn Heights Taxpayers and Community Association, Inc.
    Association’s First Meeting Held on May 10, 1895

    The Woodlawn Heights Taxpayers and Community Association, Inc. held its first meeting on Thursday, May 10, 1895 at Varian Hall. This Association grew out of two smaller groups operating in the Woodlawn Heights area, namely the Central Improvement Association of Woodlawn and Woodlawn Improvement Association.

    These two groups met on Thursday, April 25, 1895 and decided to appoint a committee to arrange for consolidating the two Associations. At this meeting, a gentleman named Mr. Powers, was elected President. Thirty four votes were cast. Twenty-four votes for Mr. Powers and 10 for Mr. Forsyth. The following month, the first meeting was held on May 10, 1895, thereby launching the Woodlawn Heights Taxpayers and Community Association as an active, civic association.

    The first action the Association took was to appoint Mr. Powers delegate and send him to Albany to protest the five-cent fare bill on the Harlem Railroad. The “said expenses” were not to exceed $25.

    The next action requested as many members as possible to attend a protest meeting at the Mayor’s office on Friday, May 17, 1895 at 11 a.m. The Association was fighting against the granting of new land to be purchased by the city for the benefit of the Trolley Rail Road Line.” The original minutes of these two meetings are part of the archives of the Association.

    The Association grew throughout the years, tackling the concerns and issues facing the people of this rather bucolic community.

    To this day, Woodlawn maintains a small town quality, geographically separated by the Woodlawn Cemetery to the South, Van Cortlandt Park to the West, the Bronx River to the East and the county of Westchester to the North.

    However, despite this apparent isolation, the Association is involved with the same quality of life issues facing every neighborhood in the Bronx.

    “To make Woodlawn a better place in which to live,” is the rallying cry of the Association. This has been the major concern of the members of the Association throughout the years.

  • Informative article, love to check out new neighborhoods. BTW, I believe the spelling is “Olmsted”.