Gouverneur Morris Triangle
Gouverneur Morris Triangle
A prominent statesman, writer, and diplomat in Revolutionary New York, Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) was perhaps the greatest member of the Morris dynasty. The grandson of the first governor of New Jersey and the half-brother of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Gouverneur Morris authored substantial portions of the U.S. Constitution, giving the document both coherency and elegance.
Born in Morrisania, then the estate of the Morris family, Gouverneur Morris graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University). He was admitted to the Bar and served on New York’s Provincial Congress from 1775 to 1777 obtaining a provision for religious tolerance in the first state constitution.
From 1778 to 1789, Morris served in the Continental Congress. When he failed to win re-election, he moved to Philadelphia to practice law during which time he wrote a series of essays on finance. One of these argued for a decimal currency system (money based on units with 100 parts) which, with some reworking by Thomas Jefferson, became the basis for the currency system still used in the U.S. today.
Morris served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, arguing in favor of centralized government and recommending that the president serve a life-term and have the power to nominate senators. From 1792 to 1794, Morris served as American Ambassador to France, witnessing the French Revolution first hand. His Royalist sympathies (he tried to aid Louis XVI’s escape from the country) placed him at odds with the new Republican government of France and he was recalled.
In 1809, at the age of 57, Gouverneur Morris married Ann Cary Randolph and they had a son, Gouverneur, Jr (1813-1888). In 1841, in memory of his mother, Gouverneur, Jr., erected St. Ann’s Episcopal church at St. Ann’s Avenue and East 140th Street. New York City annexed the town of Morrisania in 1874. Sections of the original Morris estate are now Crotona and St. Mary’s Parks.
The junction of Jackson Avenue, Bruckner Boulevard (previously Southern Boulevard) and East 138th Street forms the land that is now Gouverneur Morris Triangle. Jurisdiction over this property was given to the office of the Bronx Borough President in 1896. In 1929, the City Department of Public Works erected a comfort station on Morris Triangle which was closed in 1956.
In 2001, Gouverneur Morris Triangle was renovated with city funds, as part of the Greenstreets Project, a joint effort by Parks and the 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.