A Pioneering Westchester Development
Bronxville Ridge was the pioneer development in our neighborhood, which took off in the 1920s.
Designed in the Eclectic English Tudor style by the noted country club architect Clifford C. Wendehack the buildings were originally known as “Country Club Apartments at Fleetwood Hills.” The site featured many mature trees, which Wendehack insisted be carefully maintained during construction to enhance the architecture and landscaping that were all part of his plan. (The masthead of this website uses Wendehack’s original conception of the property.) The developers were trading on Wendehack’s name and noted there were six golf courses in the immediate vicinity.
Construction began in 1924 on six buildings ranging from 806 to 840 Bronx River Road. The developer, Parkway Apartments, Inc. employed Senasqua Construction Company to build the complex. The original construction included garages on the property where CVS now stands, and there were tennis courts behind 828 on land that was later taken by the state for the construction of the parkway interchange.
Built as rental apartments, construction took two years and by September 1927 the New York Times noted that, “one of the most interesting developments in Westchester is Fleetwood Hills set on a wooded hill in a pleasantly rolling countryside.” The Times further noted that, “the Tudor style of Architecture…harmonizes gracefully with the country setting. There are landscaped gardens with old and fully grown trees.” The rental agent, Mr. Blaine Ewing of Ewing & Ives, Park Avenue New York, noted that tennis courts are provided for residents and all the apartments have wood burning fireplaces and private garages.
By September of 1927 all but four apartments had been rented encouraging the developers to acquire twenty acres of land across the street. A five-room apartment rented for $1,800 to $2,400 per year! A model apartment was furnished by Mrs. Charles Bradley Sanders, who was the Martha Stewart of her day and the author of Better Homes in America. Mrs. Sanders chose the early American style for the model apartment. Mr. Ewing was quoted at the time as saying these six buildings are only phase one of development that will create a new city in Westchester.
In March of 1927, several prints of Bronxville Ridge were featured in the prestigious journal, The Architect. Before that, two artist renderings were featured in The American Architect, June 1926.
The 1930's through the 1970's
The first six buildings were to be phase one of a much larger development but the Great Depression and later World War II intervened. Development returned to the neighborhood after World War II and much of the property not in the immediate footprint of the buildings was sold off or taken by the State for parkway expansion. The Cross County Parkway was begun in the 1930’s with WPA money and crept wider and wider into the 1970’s with evermore land needed for the interchange. A graceful stone arch bridge, part of the original construction carrying the Cross County over Midland Ave, is still in use. The garage property was developed into shops and offices with an A&P. The A&P was in the space where today’s CVS and 7-11 are located; you can still see the trademark A&P roofline if you look across the street from Starbucks. By the late 1950s Bronx River Road was completely built out and looks remarkably similar today.
Driving Area Development
Two main forces drove development in the area; the opening of the Bronx River Parkway and the completion of the Broad Street viaduct in 1923, which connected a rural area Yonkers with an equally rural area of Mount Vernon. The viaduct incorporated the new Fleetwood Station on the New York Central Harlem Line making commuting a breeze with just a walk around the corner. The viaduct is still in use today. It was built at a cost of $36,000 with the expenses shared in a four-party agreement between the cities of Yonkers and Mount Vernon, the Railroad and the Bronx River Commission. The impetus for the viaduct was to eliminate the grade crossing of Fleetwood Ave over the railroad and to fly the road over the new Bronx River Parkway. (Originally, Fleetwood Ave continued across the railroad and Bronx River meeting Midland Ave at approximately where the Cross County entrance ramp is today; Broad Street dead-ended at the railroad on the Mount Vernon side. The Yonkers side of Broad Street was a small dead-end road called Vermont Ave.)
Designed for Manhattan Convenience
In the 1920’s as today, access to a short and easy commute to Manhattan was significant factor to the developers in selecting the property. In the early 1920’s mid-town Manhattan was just beginning as a business center with the railroads development of Grand Central air rights into a commercial area. Early advertisements note the 28-minute commute to Grand Central via electric trains and the easy access to the Bronx River Parkway. One advertisement in the New York Times sung you’re “35 minutes from Broadway in your own automobile.”
Fleetwood: What’s in a Name
There are competing stories as to the origins of the name Fleetwood for the new station. Reference can be found to the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon dating back to the 1880’s when the New York City Charitable Commissions set up the Chester Crest Home for Intemperate Men. The Chester Crest home stood on a large property North of Board Street in Fleetwood much of which is covered today by the Cross County Parkways and several apartment complexes. Railroad men tend to keep place names once established and the Fleetwood Crossing most likely gave its name to the station built on the Viaduct to eliminate that crossing.