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What do the New York Public Library Lions, the Capitol Dome and the Abraham Lincoln statue have in common?

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Fifth Avenue,Statues - New York Public Library - Lions, Digital ID 1558545, New York Public LibraryThey were all made in the Bronx. The New York Public Library Lions (1911) and the Abraham Lincoln statue (1923) at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers in their studio on 142nd Street near St. Ann Avenue. The cast iron dome (1858) crowning the Capitol Building in Washington was cast by the James & Kirtland Foundry located in the vicinity of St. Mary's Park.

The Borough of the Bronx recently celebrated its 40th Annual Bronx Week. Part of the celebrations included a “Highlights of the Bronx” lecture at the Bronx Library Center by the expert on the Bronx—Professor Lloyd Ultan. Prof. Ultan is the Bronx Borough Historian. A prolific writer of Bronx history, it is always a pleasure to listen to Prof. Ultan, as he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the Bronx. He does have the gift of making history alive and exciting.

Here are some other phenomenal facts I learned about the Bronx:

  • The Bronx has the largest collection of art deco residences in the world.
  • Built in 1895, the Van Cortlandt Golf Course is the first municipal golf course in the nation. It was rebuilt in 1899 to full 18 holes, extending to 120 acres. The golf course became a model for other municipalities across the US.
  • The Belmont Stakes originated in the Bronx in 1867 at the Jerome Park Racetrack. It was held there annually until the racetrack was closed in 1890.
  • Mott Haven is named after Bronx resident Jordan L. Mott who invented the coal burning stove.
  • Two of America’s Founding Fathers were from the Bronx—Lewis Morris was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris was one of the drafters of the constitution. He coined the phrase “We the people.”
  • The Kennedy family resided in the Bronx in the late 1920s. John F. Kennedy attended and graduated from Riverdale Country School. He campaigned in the Bronx in 1960 telling residents he was from the Bronx.
  • Jerome Avenue is named after Bronx resident Leonard W. Jerome who was the maternal grandfather of Winston Churchill.

Many of the historical facts mentioned can be confirmed in Prof. Ultan’s latest book The Northern Borough: A history of the Bronx (2009).

The book is replete with many fascinating facts about the Bronx. Copies are readily available for borrowing at the New York Public Library.

And as a Bronx Librarian, I’d like to add one additional phenomenal fact:

  • New York City’s first municipal green building is… The Bronx Library Center—the main public library in the Bronx, which boasts a rare collection of books on Bronx History. If you would like to learn more about Bronx history, please visit us at 310 East Kingsbridge Road, close to Fordham Road and Poe Park. You can also search the catalog at http://www.nypl.org/collections

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