Podcast: Professor Lloyd Ultan, Bronx Borough Historian (Part 2)

Professor Lloyd Ultan in Bronx Historical Society library.
Professor Lloyd Ultan in Bronx Historical Society library.

Here, at long last, is the second part of my interview with Bronx Borough Historian Professor Lloyd Ultan.
{The first part is here.}

Or download the podcast as an mp3.

Show Notes

00:00 Intro

01:14 What makes the Bronx unique? Its size / parks / types of homes. The Bronx is large enough to be the 6th largest city in America.

02:41 Bronx population is very diverse.

04:45 “The Bronx has always welcomed the other.”

07:03 European immigrants come to the Bronx from Ireland and Germany.

10:00 Eastern European Jews arrive in the Bronx.
Baron de Hirsch Fund established workshops to teach Jewish immigrants industrial skills necessary for living in an urban environment.

11:34 African-Americans and Puerto Ricans arrive in the Bronx.

11:56 In 1980s to 1990s, the Bronx becomes still more diverse.

12:54 Bohemian Community in the Bronx near Fordham in the 1860s:
John Savage, Irish poet
Robert Barry Coffin, writing as Barry Gray, wrote “Cakes and Ale at Woodbine: from Twelfth Night to New Year’s Day”, “Out of Town: A Rural Episode”.

14:15 Edgar Allan Poe lived in Fordham in 1846.

17:08 Small bohemian community of Broadway actors and actresses lived on Wilton Street near St. Ann’s Avenue, west of St. Mary’s Park.

17:50 East and north of Crotona Park, writers gathered in Crotona Park.
These writers were Eastern European Jews who wrote in Yiddish.

18:43 Literary salon in the home of a Bronx dentist and his wife every Sunday.

19:38 Today, artists in Mott Haven
Jazz musicians live on Manida Street in Hunts Point

Additional Resources for topics discussed in this podcast:
The Bronx County Historical Society
Intersections The Grand Concourse beyond 100
New York Public Library: The Bronx on the Web

Books by Prof. Lloyd Ultan
“The Bronx In The Innocent Years, 1890 – 1925”, with Gary Hermalyn (1991 2nd ed).
“The Beautiful Bronx, 1920-1950” , (1979).
“The Bronx: It was Only Yesterday, 1935 – 1965”,  with Gary Hermalyn (1992).
“Bronx Accent: A Literary And Pictorial History of the Borough”, with Barbara Unger (2000).
“The Northern Borough: A History of the Bronx”,  to be released this year.  It is the first single volume on the history of the Bronx since 1912.

This podcast features Creative Commons music:
One for Me” by SackJo 22
Que Pena” featuring Tamy by s.c.mixer

A Special Thank You for all things IT related to:
Colin Turner, Chief urbologist, urbTek, LLC

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An Hour Lost, A Friend Gained

Homemade Banana Cream Pudding at Bruckner Bar & Grill
No complaints from me about the time change. I’m always glad to see the sun set later.

I had a chizzy Sunday brunch at the Bruckner Bar & Grill with artist Stephanie Chisholm. First order of business, to congratulate her on her newly released book Alphabet City!  Animals from A to Z making their way, or “frolicking” as Chiz says, around New York City: on the A train, at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, riding the M96 bus…My favorite is “G”, with Giraffe helping a scared baby monkey clutching the spire of the Empire State Building. I’m smitten with her monkeys. Stephanie had a write up on the uber nesting blog Apartment Therapy — they liked ” V” — Vampire Bat.

Her paintings are joyous.  Alphabet City is for the wee ones, tweens, teens and their parents.

We talked and talked, not even missing the lost hour and shared a bowl of the homemade banana cream pudding. Ohhhh it is good. Instead of a bed of Nilla wafers at the bottom, they’ve pureed them up fine, and mixed them right into the custard.

We took a walk down Bruckner Boulevard. Less and less to see on this stretch of Bruckner Boulevard these days. Most of the antique shops were closed (’cause it was Sunday?) and some spaces vacant inside. And I was shocked to see the “Available for Lease” sign on the window of the ground floor space at Lincoln Avenue. The Bronx Museum of Arts Project Space is there no more?? I recently read in the Bronx Times that artists are leaving South Bronx neighborhoods Mott Haven and Longwood for Wakefield, Highbridge and Westchester Square. Delicate times we are in.

We stepped into Haven Arts gallery to see the exhibits there. “DEADLY4MULA”, a graffiti exhibit is up. Tags and graffiti pieces painted directly on the walls by young artists from Bronx high school Millennium Art Academy, are side by side with veteran graf writers. Paintings, photographs and sculptures are mounted on the tagged walls.

Also on exhibit, various “Homeless and Hungry God Bless” signs once held by homeless street beggars but purchased by artist and Haven Arts Gallery owner, Barry Kostrinsky.

At the back of the space, is a large wooden platform and ramp set up for in line skating we were told. I would love to see that.

I deeply enjoyed the Polaroid photographs in the grouping “Last Gasp: The Passing of Polaroid Film” by J.C. Rice and Barry Kostrinsky. [Titled “Last Gasp” because Polaroid went bankrupt and stopped producing the film last year.] I have expressed before in this blog how much I love Polaroids. I love that kind of hazy dreamy quality the photos have–a bit out of focus like a memory.

They had all kinds of vintage Polaroid cameras in a bookcase on display. Fabulous! And what made Steph and I utterly gasp, was the pair of Sylvania Blue Dot flash cubes there on the shelf. I have not seen those for years and years!! Wow! I will never forget those cubes burning the center of my forehead when it rotated around. So old school. But so fun to remember.

Make sure to visit the bathroom in Haven Arts, even if you don’t have to go. It is, its own gallery space and should not be missed.


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Bronx Time Capsule

Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building
Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building

Time Capsules strike me as small townish and a bit old fashioned.  Maybe my second grade drawings are buried in one somewhere in the prairie town where I grew up outside of Chicago.  So I was quite surprised to discover a time capsule marker on the grounds of the Bronx County Courthouse. It was buried there during a ceremony on December 19, 1989 to commemorate the 350th anniversary since Jonas Bronck first arrived. And it is scheduled to be unsealed in 2089 after 100 years in the ground.

Bronx Life Time Capsule Ceremonies Program
Bronx Life Time Capsule Ceremonies Program

What are among the books, newspapers, posters, photographs, letters, video tapes, audio cassette tapes and lapel buttons buried there?

Autographed copies of World’s Fair and Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow. Inside Billy Bathgate, Mr. Doctorow had written, “Dedication: Is there still reading? And will you understand this? Or will you read it all too well and smile for the primitives we were.”

Drawings from children at P.S. 83 in the Bronx on the topic “What I like about The Bronx.”

A Bronx telephone and address directory.
A list of churches, schools, funeral directors and hospitals in existence for up to 100 years in 1989.

A 30cc syringe with articles and texts reflecting the concern for drug abuse, spread of AIDS and the improper disposal of such medical devices with respect to protecting the environment.

A subway token.
A quarter, dime, nickel and penny.

Letters from President George Bush, Colin Powell, David Dinkins (then Mayor Elect) and Arne Thoren, the Swedish Consulate General congratulating the Bronx on its anniversary .

Oral histories and impromptu interviews with the Bronx people, community leaders and elected officials.

A New Yorker cartoon with caption:  “Hear this. The new ‘in’ place is the Bronx.”

The bill for the Time Capsule and a brochure on how it was made.

Borough President Fernando Ferrer’s business card and his cigarette lighter, donated upon his cessation of smoking December 1, 1989.

Newspaper clipping about the burial of the Bronx Time Capsule
Newspaper clipping about the burial of the Bronx Time Capsule

The marker is on the northeast corner of the Bronx County Courthouse Building on the Grand Concourse side near East 161st Street..