Norwood, The Bronx (History)

norwoodNorwood is a working class residential neighborhood in the northwest Bronx, New York City. As of the census of 2000, the seven census tracts that make up the neighborhood have a population of 40,748. The area is dominated topographically by what was once known as Valentine’s Hill, the highest point being near the intersection of 210th Street and Bainbridge Ave., where Gun Hill Road intersects, and around the Montefiore Medical Center, the largest landowner and employer of the neighborhood. It borders Van Cortlandt Park and Woodlawn Cemetery to the north, the Bronx River to the east, and Mosholu Parkway to the south and west. Norwood’s main commercial arteries are Gun Hill Road, Jerome Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Bainbridge Avenue.

Due to its use in city publications, subway maps, and local media, Norwood is the neighborhood’s more common name, but the entirety is also known as Bainbridge, most consistently within the neighborhood’s Irish American community-centered around the commercial zone of Bainbridge Avenue and East 204th Street. However, as this Irish community largely fled the neighborhood during the 1990s, the name Bainbridge has accordingly lost a great deal of currency. Even the name Norwood does not carry a great deal of currency as do nearby neighborhoods such as Riverdale and Woodlawn.

Local subway services are the D, operating along the IND Concourse Line, and the 4, operating along the IRT Jerome Avenue Line. It is part of Bronx Community Board 7 and is patrolled by the NYPD’s 52nd Precinct, located at 3016 Webster Ave.

At the time of the Civil War, the area was Westchester County farmland on the border of West Farms and Yonkers. Chief property owners included the Valentine, Varian, and Bussing families. Woodlawn Cemetery was founded in 1863 to the north. Annexed to New York City in 1873 along with the rest of the West Bronx, the area’s character shifted from rural to suburban by the turn of the twentieth century. The neighborhood’s streets in their present form were laid out in 1889 by Josiah Briggs between Middlebrook Parkway (renamed Mosholu Parkway) and Woodlawn Cemetery. Contemporary maps show that it was then considered part of Williamsbridge, with which it continues to share a post office. Williamsbridge Reservoir was opened in 1890 and continued to serve the New York City water supply system until no longer needed in 1934.

The area went through a series of names around the turn of the century, including North Bedford Park, after the neighborhood to the south, and Brendan Hill, after St. Brendan the Navigator and the parish church, established in 1908, that bears his name. The name Brendan Hill was made official by the Board of Aldermen in 1910.[3] Norwood, the name with greatest common currency, is first attributed in the form Norwood Heights-either in honor of Carlisle Norwood, a friend of Leonard Jerome, or simply a contraction of “North Woods”, common to a number of places in the English-speaking world.

In the first half of the twentieth century Norwood shared with the rest of the Bronx a population made up largely of European-origin Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish families affluent enough to leave Manhattan. These populations were joined by Puerto Ricans during the Great Depression and post World War II eras, and, post-1965, by other Latinos (especially Dominicans), Bangladeshis, Albanians, West Indians (especially Guyanese), West Africans (especially Ghanaians), and a new group of Irish immigrants.

Nearby neighborhoods include Bedford Park, Williamsbridge, Olinville, Woodlawn, and Allerton. Norwood is sometimes referred to as a section of Williamsbridge, but given how different Norwood’s adjoining area to the east is, it is difficult to understand how this notion ever came into being. Possible sources of such a misconception could be the shared zip code between Norwood and Williamsbridge (10467) or due to the “Williamsbridge Oval” in Norwood.