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Photographs of Construction of Bronx Public Works

 Collection
Identifier: SC Photo-0005
Approximately 696 photographs of plans and construction of the sewer system and public works of the Bronx, New York. From 1893 (mostly early 1900s) to 1935 Photographs and albums are prepared apparently for the Wheeler Engineering Company for jobs for City of New York Department of Sewers, Borough of the Bronx.

Condition: Good. Many with linen or cardboard backing and/or are in albums numbered 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12 (6 albums only), large number of photographs acquired loose are now in mylar sleeves in archival folders. Many of the photographs provide date, place and job information.

Dates

  • 1893-1935

Creator

Physical Description

The approximately 696 black and white photographs are filed in seven archival boxes; six original black paper albums as compiled by Wheeler City Engineer and Surveyors are sorted as originally acquired in two of the total seven boxes. An attempt was made to sort chronologically when possible but the original album collection remains intact regardless of chronology or negative number. Among the photographs is an original typed letter (with carbon reverse image on back) from G.C. & A.E. WHEELER Civil Engineers and City Surveyors explaining information about a negative not included in the collection. The photographs document the building of various public projects including various sewer lines, parkways, bridges, parks and elevated railway lines traversing the Borough of the Bronx.

Extent

7 boxes, 10 linear feet (7 boxes ; 696 items)

Overview

The Borough of the Bronx of the City of New York is bound on the south and southwest by the Harlem River, on the west by the Hudson River, on the north by Westchester County and the east by the most westerly reaches of the Long Island Sound and on the south by the East River. In 1898 the Bronx, formerly a part of Westchester County, was incorporated into the City of New York. It is the only New York City borough on the mainland. In 1848, a physical connection was made between the island of Manhattan and the Bronx with the opening of the High Bridge to carry an aqueduct from the Croton Reservoir and provide a reliable and plentiful supply of water to Manhattan. Another connection was made in 1879 with the Washington Bridge opened as a pedestrian bridge. The dangerously crowded and unsanitary conditions of the tenements in lower Manhattan pressed in on the island population as New York developed as a commercial and shipping center attracting immigrants from around the world. In 1904 the New York subway was expanded up to the Bronx, the migration to the northern suburbs commenced in full force encouraging the building of apartment houses and residences in the bucolic hills and farmlands of the Bronx necessitating the establishment of public works such as sewers, parks and roads to accommodate the burgeoning population. This collection of 696 photographs records in detail the construction of the sewers and parkways in the Bronx during the formative years of the rapid expansion of the City of New York as a world city.

Biographical / Historical

The Borough of the Bronx of the City of New York comprises a land mass of 57.43 sq. miles (148.7 km) is bound on the south and southwest by the Harlem River, on the west by the Hudson River, on the north by Westchester County and the east by the most westerly reaches of the Long Island Sound and on the south by the East River. The Borough of the Bronx is home to many famous institutions such as the Bronx Zoo, Fordham University (opened in 1841), Manhattan College, Woodlawn Cemetery (resting place for Duke Ellington, Herman Melville, Joseph Pulitzer), Bronx Community College home of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans and the New York Botanical Garden founded in 1891 as well as several Colonial houses and farms that were part of George Washington’s campaign and battle at White Plains. In 1898 the Bronx, formerly a part of Westchester County, was incorporated into the City of New York along with the other four boroughs (all islands) comprising the City of New York and in 1914 the Borough also becomes the Bronx County. It is the only New York City borough on the mainland, however, as a result of reducing navigation hazards on the Harlem River near Spuyten Duyvil, the river’s course was straightened in 1895 and the Marble Hill area of Manhattan was separated from the island with the Marble Hill cut (see photo (005-04-60 of the cut). Physically, Marble Hill is 21 acres of Manhattan, now located north of the Harlem River which is considered the border between Manhattan and the Bronx. The former river bed was filled in with the excavation debris from digging the foundation for the Grand Central Terminal. In 1848 a physical connection was made between the island of Manhattan and the Bronx with the opening of the High Bridge built to carry an aqueduct to transporting water from the Croton Reservoir in Westchester County as the first reliable and plentiful source of water for Manhattan island. The dangerously crowded and unsanitary conditions of the tenements in lower Manhattan pressed in on the island population as New York developed as a commercial and shipping center attracting immigrants from around the world. In 1904 the subway was pushed north opening up the Bronx for development especially with the building of apartment buildings, however in the late 19th century the Bronx borough fathers had arranged that one quarter of the land, previously a bucolic landscape of farms and woods, be deliberately preserved as urban development progressed northward. This arrangement is evident in the existing Van Cortlandt Park, Pelham Bay-Split Rock parks, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Zoo, Riverdale Park pictured in this collection of construction photographs. The migration to the northern suburbs commenced in full force encouraging the building of apartment houses and residences in the rural landscape of the Bronx necessitating the establishment of public works such as sewers, parks and roads to accommodate the burgeoning population. This collection of 696 photographs records in detail the construction of the sewers and parkways in the Bronx during the formative years of the rapid expansion of the City of New York as a world city. Many still existing sites, streets, railroad lines, parks and bridges are recorded in this collection of construction photographs in the developmental stages of their construction.

Related Materials

Records of the Olmsted Associates In Library of Congress Box B53, Reel 39 A.E. and C.G. Wheeler (G.C. Wheeler) 1933-1938 (3 folders) See finding aid: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/mss/eadxmlmss/eadpdfmss/2001/ms001018.pdf

Historic American Engineering Record, Bronx River Parkway Reservation The Westchester County Archives http://www.westchestergov.com/wcarchives/ (Series 166: Bronx Valley Sewer Records. 1907-1911) http://www.co.westchester.ny.us/wcarchives/Guide_To_Collections/Series_Description_Listings/series_description_listing_151_175.htm

The Bronx County Historical Society

Reier, Sharon, The Bridges of New York, Quadrant Press Inc., 1977

Physical Description

The approximately 696 black and white photographs are filed in seven archival boxes; six original black paper albums as compiled by Wheeler City Engineer and Surveyors are sorted as originally acquired in two of the total seven boxes. An attempt was made to sort chronologically when possible but the original album collection remains intact regardless of chronology or negative number. Among the photographs is an original typed letter (with carbon reverse image on back) from G.C. & A.E. WHEELER Civil Engineers and City Surveyors explaining information about a negative not included in the collection. The photographs document the building of various public projects including various sewer lines, parkways, bridges, parks and elevated railway lines traversing the Borough of the Bronx.
Status
completed
Author
Eleanor Nothelfer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-4506
610-758-6091 (Fax)