Crotona Parkway Malls
These malls are named after Crotona Park, the largest park in the southern portion of the Bronx, and the sixth largest park in the borough. The City of New York acquired the property for Crotona Park from Andrew Bathgate as part of the consolidation of the Bronx park system in 1888. Even before the City acquired the land, the Bathgate family allowed the public to picnic by their lake (now called Indian Lake). The park was to be named after the Bathgates until a Parks engineer had a spat with the family and instead named it Crotona, after Croton, a Greek colony known for its athletes. Croton is also the name of the old New York City aqueduct. The name proved prescient, as the parks’ athletic facilities have played host to many future athletes, including baseball great Hank Greenberg.
Although known as the Crotona Parkway Malls, these malls are actually located between Crotona Parkway and Southern Boulevard. The land for Crotona Parkway was acquired by the city in 1888 to build a road connecting Crotona Park and Bronx Park, running to the east of Southern Boulevard. The parkway opened in 1910, replacing an unpaved road known as Penfold Street. Southern Boulevard was created as a grand throroughfare in the 1870s. It was designed to extend north from East 133rd Street and Third Avenue and to run alongside Crotona and Bronx Parks to its terminus, the New York Botanical Garden. It now becomes Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Boulevard at that point.
Bronx Park was named after the 17th century settler Jonas Bronck (1600-1643) by the New York State Legislature on June 14, 1884. In 1898, the City of New York allotted over 250 acres to the New York Zoological Society to build a park to preserve native animals and promote zoology. The Wildlife Conservation Park, better known as the Bronx Zoo, opened in 1899 and remains one of the largest wildlife conservation parks in the United States, housing 4,000 animals representing more than 650 species. In 1891, another 250 acres were allotted to the New York Botanical Society. The New York Botanical Garden was modeled after the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England and has become one of the most distinguished gardens in the world.
In the mall between East Tremont Avenue and East 178th Street stands a stone obelisk commemorating a tragic moment in Bronx history. On March 20, 1990, a fire broke out in the Happy Land Social Club, killing 87 people. In 1995, a memorial sponsored by the Bronx Borough President was erected in the mall opposite the remains of the social club to honor the deceased. The obelisk is constructed of smooth-honed rose granite. It is nine feet six inches tall and three feet wide, and it stands on a pedestal one foot three inches tall and five feet wide.