The Bronx’s famous Arthur Avenue continues to be a center of Italian-American New York. With its numerous restaurants, bakeries, and rich history, this small street near Fordham University continues to dazzle tourists and New Yorkers, alike and is sometimes referred to as the “Real Little Italy.” However, what even many New Yorkers may not know is that the famous street has a fascinating history which dates back more than 200 years. Here are ten of of Arthur Avenue’s biggest secrets:
1. The Neighborhood Surrounding Arthur Avenue Was a Tobacco Plant
The Lorillard Snuff Mill, one of the oldest buildings in the Bronx
Arthur Avenue’s long history begins in 1760, when French Huguenot Pierre Lorillard moved to New York from France and began his famous tobacco company, P. Lorillard & Co., which still exists today under the Loews Corporation. In 1778, at the time of the Revolutionary War, Lorillard was killed, leaving the company to his widow and five sons. Following his death, the family moved North to a large section of land along the Bronx River, and opened a new tobacco producing plant. The largest building of the plant, known today as the Lorillard Snuff Mill, is still standing within the walls of the New York Botanical Garden.
For nearly one hundred years, the family owned and operated the tobacco company in the present-day Belmont neighborhood. In 1870, Catherine Lorillard-Wolfe inherited her great grandfather’s vast estate of tobacco manufacturing businesses and—at the time—became the richest woman in America. Upon her acquisition of the estate, she auctioned it off in two sections: the land of the Belmont neighborhood, which was divided by streets and neighborhoods, and the Lorillard Mansion, which became the modern-day St. Barnabas Hospital and Medical Center.