Series on Series:
The Bronx Literary Tour (92nd St Y)
by Barbara Unger
Join us on a trip back in time to The Bronx as it was during earlier times and see The Bronx as it is today. Hop on the big bus to The Bronx from the 92nd Street Y and revisit the old neighborhood on a Bronx Literary Tour led by Bronx Borough Historian and author of Bronx Accent: A Literary and Pictorial History of the Borough (Rutgers University Press, 2000) Lloyd Ultan and Prof. Barbara Unger, co-author of Bronx Accent. Two tours just concluded in March will be re-offered in October. The tours take place on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a stop for lunch. Relax as Ultan and Unger narrate the history of the borough, highlighted by excerpts from famous works of literature by authors connected to The Bronx.
At several points, we get off the bus and walk to interesting historic sites. Throughout the tours, we stop for comments and questions. You need not be a member of "The Bronx Diaspora" to enjoy the tour, although the tour is of particular interest to anyone who once lived or worked in the borough. While the tours are based loosely on Bronx Accent, the book is arranged chronologically, whereas the tour is geographical. Books are on sale, but you need not buy or read the book in order to enjoy the tours.
Part I of The Literary Bronx will visit sites connected with such authors as Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Kate Simon, Avery Corman, Isaac Bashevis Singer and many others. On this tour, we visit the Northern and Western part of the borough. In Mott Haven, we will see the apartment house where Theodore Dreiser once lived, as well as the street in Kingsbridge which is the setting of his long-unpublished Bronx novel. We will see Twain's magnificent Riverdale estate on the Hudson, stop at several famous Riverdale sites, drive down The Grand Concourse and stop at Poe Cottage and examine Corman's "old neighborhood." We will also see the streets lovingly recalled in Kate Simon's Bronx Primitive.
The tour also takes us to many other literary sites in The Bronx, such as the renowned Concourse Plaza Hotel, The Bronx County Building, and the project where today's hip-hop music was born. Space prevents us from listing the actual itinerary. The tour focuses on the multi-ethnic flavor of the borough. We stop for lunch in the Belmont section of The Bronx, home to many marvelous Italian restaurants. After lunch, we tour the still largely Italian Belmont neighborhood before reboarding the bus. By the time you return at 4 p.m. to the 92nd Street Y, you will have learned more than you ever knew about the City's beautiful Bronx.
On Part II of The Bronx Literary Tour, we visit sites connected with such authors as Sholem Aleichem, Clifford Odets, Herman Wouk, Jerome Weidman, Irving Howe, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, James Fenimore Cooper, Allen Ginsberg and many others. On this tour, we visit the Central and Eastern part of the borough. We tour the restored and new abodes of today's South Bronx, St. Mary's Park, Prospect Ave., Kelly Street, Longwood Avenue and Beck Street, a neighborhood rich in literature and Bronx history. Here many of America's most respected authors were born and grew up. We point out buildings where they lived and about which they wrote.
You will learn about the circle of working-class Yiddish poets who lived near Crotona Park and hear some of their internationally acclaimed poems. We discuss the arson fires of the 1970's and 1980's and show you much of the rebuilt sections that have risen out of the rubble. We make a stop at Charlotte Street, site of the newly suburban South Bronx, with its lawns and back yards and beautifully kept-up private homes. We pass the famed synagogue on Intervale Avenue and drive to the 174th Street Bridge into Pelham section and drive into Pelham Park on our way to City Island, where we stop for lunch at one of the Island's famous seafood restaurants.
On the way to lunch, we take a short tour of City Island and on the way back, we do the same, stopping at the water's edge to review the history of Ann Hutchinson and her doomed colony on the site of today's Co-op City and the legend of Satanstoe related by James Fenimore Cooper. We return along Pelham Parkway to Williamsbridge Road past the famous Co-ops on Bronx Park East. Again, space limits our description of all of the authors and sites covered on this tour.
We end in the Mosholu Parkway Bainbridge Ave. section headed up towards Woodlawn Cemetery to 211th Street, passing many literary sites made famous by contemporary Bronx authors. We conclude at the site that is central to Allen Ginsberg's famous elegy to this mother, "Kaddish." On our way back to the 92nd Street Y, Prof. Ultan gives you a thumbnail sketch of the sites along the Major Deegan, from which we can see Yankee Stadium on our way back to our starting place. You will return having added to your knowledge of The Bronx in history and literature.
While you may sign up for either Part I or Part II independently, you might prefer taking both parts of The Literary Bronx for a comprehensive view of an under-appreciated part of the city that has been home to so many creative and prominent individuals over the centuries.
Lloyd Ultan is the author of six books, including The Beautiful Bronx, 1930-1950 and The Bronx in the Innocent Years 1890-1925. He is a professor of history at Farleigh Dickinson University and has been appointed the Bronx Borough Historian.
Barbara Unger is a poet and professor of English at Rockland Community College of the State University of NewYork. She is the author of a book of short fiction plus five collections of poetry.
For dates and details about the October tours, contact the 92nd Street Y at 415-5500 (1395 Lexington Ave.). For buyer information about the book (96 pp. b/w illus. Cloth $32), write to: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (800) 446-9323.