William J. Barry, born in the Bronx, served in World War I as a private with the Company C, 328th Infantry. He was killed in action on October 14, 1918. Before leaving for Europe, Barry lived at 923 Longfellow Avenue. In Barry’s neighborhood, all of the streets bear the names of poets. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was one of the most popular American poets in the 19th century—perhaps best known for “Paul Revere’s Ride.” The poem recounts the story of Paul Revere and his midnight ride, during which he warned Americans of the coming British invasion at the start of the War for Independence.
This small property is located at East 174th Street between Anthony and Clay Avenues. Anthony Avenue was originally called Prospect Avenue, in recognition of the view (or prospect) of the Mill Brook valley. In the 1870s, Charles L. Anthony, for whom it was later named, owned much land above Kingsbridge Road. His holdings extended from Jerome Avenue to Webster Avenue. The name Anthony first appeared in this area in 1668, when Allard Anthony was listed as a local Dutch merchant.
There are two possible explanations for the naming of Clay Avenue. It is generally thought to honor Senator Henry Clay (1777-1852). Clay was a lawyer and senator from Kentucky, and was instrumental in both the Missouri Compromise (1820) and the Compromise of 1850. These were agreements meant to maintain the delicate peace between slave and free states. A local Bronx legend however, offers quite a different derivation for the street name. Claremont Park was once the estate of the Zborowski family. The mansion overlooked the Mill Brook Valley, and was landscaped with sweeping lawns and white marble sculptures of Roman and Greek gods. But construction of the estate was severely held up by the excavation of the Black Swamp near the property. Finally, when the workmen found clay instead of mud—facilitating the work on the swamp—they named the avenue that ran across the swamp Clay Avenue.
This site was dedicated to the honor of William J. Barry by Local Law 137, which was signed by Mayor Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (1882-1947) on November 22, 1940. Today it provides local residents with a convenient place to sit and relax under the shade of the fully mature London plane trees (Platanus acerifolia) or out in the sun by one of the still young gardens.