Bell Tower Park
Bell Tower Park
Parks named this land on June 18, 1987 in honor of the site’s prominent 500-ton tower and Spanish bell, cast in 1762 for a Mexican monastery. General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) captured this bell during the Mexican War (1846 to 1848). Born in Petersburg, Virginia and a veteran of the War of 1812, Scott was appointed general-in-chief of the United States Army in 1841. Six years later he was named commander of American forces in the Mexican War, where he lead his troops to victory at Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, and Chapultepec. When the bell was first brought back to New York City, it was housed at a fire look-out at Jefferson Market in Greenwich Village. It was later moved to a Riverdale firehouse, where it tolled daily at 8 a.m., noon, and 9 p.m., until it was installed it in its current tower in 1930. Originally located about 700 feet to the north, both tower and bell were moved to the newly constructed Henry Hudson Parkway in 1936.
The bell is housed in a fieldstone and limestone tower, designed by architect Dwight James Baum (1886-1939), and completed on September 17, 1930. A bronze plaque affixed to the structure lists the names of Riverdale, Kingsbridge, and Spuytin Duyvil residents who served in World War I.
Bounded by West 239th Street, Riverdale Avenue, and the Henry Hudson Parkway, the City acquired this site on July 20, 1935, and assigned it to Parks on August 18, 1938, in connection with the construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway. The parkway is named after explorer Henry Hudson (1575-1611), who was hired by the Dutch East India Company to find the fabled “Northwest Passage” believed to lead through North America to the Far East. On September 2, 1609, Hudson’s ship, the Halve Maen (Half Moon) dropped anchor in the lower bay of what is now New York Harbor. Hudson’s last voyage was in 1611, when, after discovering what is now known as Hudson’s Bay and claiming it for England, his crew mutinied and cast him adrift.
In late 1999, Bell Tower Park was named a Greenstreets site. Greenstreets is a joint project of Parks and the New York City Department of Transportation begun in 1986 and revived in 1994. Its goal is to convert paved street properties, such as triangles and malls, into green spaces. Greenstreets-funded renovations at Bell Tower Park include the addition of new bluestone and granite block pavement, World’s Fair benches, and new plantings, including bluebeard, inkberry, lowboy firethorn, and little princess spirea, around the tower. Bell Tower Park is also the site of such seasonal festivities as a Memorial Day ceremony and an annual Christmas tree lighting. During Hanukkah, the Park is the home of the largest menorah in the Bronx.
With its stately tower and surrounding greenery, Bell Tower Park is an historic oasis standing prominently at the intersection of several major thoroughfares.