A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Returning Home to the Concourse

Andrew Appel is Wave Hill’s Performing Arts Programmer. He writes here about the trolley tour that was part of the grand finale of the series of Cabaret performances that took place place in Wave Hill’s 2008-2009 concert season. 

Sunday, April 19, dawned cool but radiant, perfect for 22 enthused and generous patron-voyagers to rediscover a central boulevard of New York City, before returning to Wave Hill for brunch and KT Sullivan’s cabaret performance in Armor Hall.

I had my pre-conceptions and images of the Grand Concourse and maybe you do, too. They were all seriously challenged when architectural historian Andrew Dolkart provided such incisive commentary for our tour.

I had my pre-conceptions and images of the Grand Concourse and maybe you do, too. They were all seriously challenged when architectural historian Andrew Dolkart provided such incisive commentary for our tour.

There were moments in our voyage, whether in front of the Lorelei Fountain or in the hallways of Dewitt Clinton High School and their inspiring series of WPA murals (“The History of Civilization”), when the Bronx and the Concourse made us feel as if we were in Florence or Rome. 

And there were myths dispelled! The Golden Age of the Concourse was not only a history of Jewish New York but included Italian, Irish and other groups whose spent their youth learning, shopping and playing on this street. Grand Art Deco? Not at all! But touching and evocative domestic and vernacular buildings creating neighborhoods with greater comforts. Parents, grandparents and children still crowded into one or two bedroom apartments but with the added luxury of a private bathroom, gas stoves and lots of natural light.

Did you know that the County Court House, located where the Concourse originally began, has astoundingly beautiful carved relief and sculpture?

Did you know that the County Court House, located where the Concourse originally began, has astoundingly beautiful carved relief and sculpture?

 

All this was a far cry from the tenements from which so many came.  Some of the construction programs were supported by the Rockefellers (Thomas Gardens Apartments), some of them by strange and wonderful organizations like the Secular Jewish Communist Garment Workers……Did you know this?

What we had learned, as we all climbed back into the trolley at our last stop, was that the Concourse had been and probably still serves as a parkway to the American Dream.

Enjoy this a sample of the wonderful shots taken by photographer David Rodgers during the tour.

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