Hoe Garden honors Colonel Richard Morris Hoe (1812-1886), a member of the prominent Morris family, which owned large portions of the Bronx and Westchester Counties during the 17th and 18th centuries. Hoe’s opulent residence, Brightside, part of the vast Morris estate, remains standing on today’s Southern Boulevard. The mansion came into possession of Bronx officials when the Hoe family sold off the colonel’s holdings in 1897. An edifice of Gothic Revival style, it served for many years as Temple Beth Elohim. Today, it is the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bright Temple.
In 1847, Hoe was granted a patent for the rotary printing press. Ten years later, The New York Times was using the Hoe Printing Press to make 20,000 impressions an hour. He was also instrumental in bringing Jersey cattle to the United States in the early 1850’s. This breed of dairy cattle from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel galvanized the milk industry in New York. After his death in 1886, Hoe was buried alongside Morris family members at St.Ann’s Episcopal Church in Old Morrisania. The church, a New York City landmark, was named for Ann Randolph Morris, the mother of Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) and a descendant of Pocohantas.
Hoe Garden is bounded by Hoe Avenue amd Aldus Street, appropriately named for an innovative printer of an earlier era, Aldo Manuzio (1449-1515), an Italian publisher more commonly referred to by his Latin name, Aldus Manutius. His Aldine Press was one of the earliest publishing companies to use the newly invented Gutenberg printing press and was responsible for reprinting dozens of classic Latin and Greek works. He also published contemporary writings – the works of Erasmus, for one.
Parks acquired the Hoe Garden property on July 17, 1979. It remained unnamed until 1987, when it was officially designated Hoe Park. The South Bronx Open Space Task Force, an umbrella organization formed by a coalition of neighborhood groups committed to greening the environment and expanding recreation facilities, assisted Parks in revitalizing this property.
The proposal was funded by grants from the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service of the United States Department of the Interior through the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. It presented a plan for the development and revitalization of fifteen vacant lots throughout the South Bronx as public gardens with community participation in design and maintenance. In 1996, Commissioner Stern renamed the property Hoe Garden.