Sergeant Johnson Triangle
This triangle is named in honor of Sergeant Charles J. Johnson (1894-1918), the only New York City fireman to be killed during World War I. Sergeant Johnson worked on Engine 58, serving West 115th Street, until September 23, 1917, when he enlisted in the 306th Infantry of the 77th Division. On October 14, 1918 at the Battle of Argonne Forest in France, he was killed in action at the age of 24, four weeks before the Allies and the Germans signed an Armistice ending the hostilities.
This land was acquired by condemnation on December 27, 1909. The City paid the then very substantial sum of $167,062.83 to acquire the property. A fence was erected around the triangle, and paths were laid out in a formal crossing pattern. In 1928, the City erected a large, neo-colonial comfort station, complete with a bronze plaque in the waiting room that commemorated the year the building was erected and the names of contemporary public officials. The City assigned the triangle to Parks in 1938. It was named after Sergeant Johnson in 1940 by the City Council. To accompany the new name, New York Fire Department Post 930 erected a stone monument in his honor at the corner of Fordham Road and Southern Boulevard. In 1962, the comfort station was torn down, and the monument was moved during construction. It now stands in the Fire Department’s training center on Randall’s Island.
Bordered by East Fordham Road, Southern Boulevard, and Crotona Avenue, Johnson Triangle sits amidst some of the Bronx’s most important institutions. To the east is the world-famous Bronx Zoo. One of the first zoos to house and display wildlife in naturalistic settings, it was founded by the New York Zoological Society in 1895 and opened its doors in 1899. It has since been renovated several times, adding new and innovative exhibits. To the east is the New York Botanical Garden. Established in 1891, the Garden was built on the grounds of the old Lorillard Estate, and uses some of the estate’s extant buildings. Some of its highlights include the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, often cited by critics as the most beautiful Victorian glass hall in the United States, and 40 acres of virgin forest. To the west and north is Fordham University, founded by Bishop John Hughes in 1841. Originally called St. John’s College, the school renamed itself Fordham University in 1907 after the old Fordham manor that once occupied the area. The Fordham manor was named by its original owner, the Dutch Settler Jon Arcer, who named it Forham manor after Saxon words meaning “houses by the ford (or wading place).”
Sergeant Johnson Triangle’s center is planted with shrubs and trees, which make the square shady and pleasant, even on a hot day. Benches and metal pipe fencing surround the plantings, along with a concrete sidewalk. Amidst several busy thoroughfares and three major Bronx institutions, Sergeant Johnson Triangle stands as a green island of calm.