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Alexander Hamilton Bridge, Base - Arch #1 2002

That little slip of a river is the Harlem River. The Bronx is on the left. A hundred years ago, the area that we now call "The Bronx" was simply called "The Mainland" because unlike the other Boroughs of NYC it is not an island but a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides:

The Bronx and Manhattan are separated on the West by the Harlem River. Not exactly a raging river, but enough so that you need bridges to cross from the Bronx to Manhattan. Further up on the Western perimeter is the great Hudson River which separates the Bronx from Jersey -- a foreign country to us Bronx kids. We didn't even consider The Bronx to be a part of New York. Going into Manhattan we say we were "going into the city."

Bisecting the Bronx vertically is the Bronx River. Sometimes this is nothing more than a trickle. But it empties out into the East River on the southern border.

I have a giant map of the Bronx and it's been fun to look at the surrounding islands and try to imagine what they're like:

To the south, the largest Island within the borders of the Bronx is Rikers Island. Rikers, once known as Hulet's is the largest prison colony within NYC with 10 jails that are spread across an area half the size of Central Park.

Riker's and other islands such as Hart Island and North and South Brother Islands, have traditionally been places of exile. Send them your tired, your sick, your criminals, your people waiting for bail to be raised, your huddled smallpox cases waiting to breathe free, the refuge of your teaming shores. And there's Hart Island, where in Potter's Field, those who couldn't even afford the cost of a funeral are buried.

We lived, though I didn't know it at the time, in the section called Morris Heights.

"Richard Morris was the brother of Lewis Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and half brother of Gouverneur Morris, a principal framer of the U.S. Constitution. A judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court before the Revolution, he became the second chief justice to serve the new state of New York. He moved from the family home, Morrisania, to live on lands he owned overlooking the Harlem River. That property is today the Morris Heights neighborhood of The Bronx." Courtesy Bronx Historical Society

 

I offer several Bronx photographs as Note Cards here

All photography copyright Dave Beckerman.