Freeman Triangle is named for a mid-19th century Bronx academic, Norman K. Freeman. Dr. Freeman was a visiting physician at St. John’s College, now known as Fordham University, from 1845 through 1850. Freeman left St. John’s College to found the Union School in 1853 and began his long tenure as a member of the Bronx Board of Education that same year. In 1854, he left the Union School to become clerk at the Board of Education, a position that he held for the next twenty years. While serving there, Freeman strongly supported New York City’s annexation of West Farms and Morrisania. He recognized that these areas were becoming densely populated due to their proximity to Manhattan, and were thus becoming closely stitched to the City. While in the Bronx, Freeman lived in a mansion at 1534 West Farms Road. He moved out in 1891, dying soon after. A nearby road was renamed Freeman Street after his death.
Bishop John Hughes founded St. John’s College in 1841, and future New York archbishop John McCloskey served as its first president. In 1846, the school was near bankruptcy and control was transferred to the Jesuits. Under Jesuit supervision, the college operated primarily a seminary during the 19th century; but in 1905, St. John’s established a medical and law school. The school was renamed Fordham University in 1907 to reflect its location in Fordham Manor. Today, Fordham University educates over 13,000 students each year at campuses both in the Bronx and at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
The City transferred this triangle to Parks on January 1, 1938. Originally it was just a granite block with benches, but Parks had added linden (tilia spp.) trees in the past few years. In 1996, Parks Commissioner Stern named the property Freeman Triangle.