Postcard from New York Public Library
Just north of the Cross Bronx Expressway, on the east side of Third Avenue, lies Tremont Park. Today, Tremont Park is merely a vestige of its former self. Until the destruction wrought by Robert Moses and the Cross Bronx Expressway, Tremont Park was connected to Crotona Park. It was the center of Bronx political life for almost half a century.
Beginning in 1897, Bronx Borough Hall graced the heights of Tremont Park. The building was designed by George B. Post in the Federal Style using yellow brick. In 1898, the first Bronx Borough President, Louis F. Haffen, was inaugurated in the building, which housed the borough’s government (except for the parks department). One entered the building by walking up a set of grand staircases facing Third Avenue, which were erected in 1899. Within a couple of decades residents and officials alike were calling for a new hall to showcase the bourgeoning borough. By the early 1930s, the the naysayers were successful in their quest and a new, more modern Borough Hall was constructed around a mile south on Grand Concourse.
With the new Bronx County Courthouse building, Post’s structure became obsolete and obtained the moniker “the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse.” The building was largely forgotten and by the 1960s, the borough’s Marriage License Bureau was all that remained. Neighborhood groups sought to have the building demolished, but preservationists were successful in getting the building landmarked on October 26, 1965.
Like many other New York City landmarks, a designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission was not enough to stave off its destruction and demolition. The designation was overturned by the Board of Estimates (the precursor to the City Council) at the behest of Bronx Borough President Herman Badillo. By the end of the decade, a fire rendered the building structurally insecure and it was razed.
There have been plans to renovate the site of the former Bronx Borough Hall, although to date, none have come to fruition. Today, only the stairs remain, often littered with hypodermic needles—a sad reminder of another lost New York City landmark.