Hugh J. Grant Circle
Hugh J. Grant Circle
This park was named after former New York City Mayor Hugh J. Grant (1857-1910) on December 5, 1911 by the Board of Aldermen. A native New Yorker, Grant was educated in Catholic schools in the United States and Berlin before attending Columbia University Law School. His father, the owner of several west side taverns, helped Grant make connections with many local Irish-American organizations that aided his political career. Backed by Tammany Hall, Grant became a New York Alderman in 1882, sheriff of New York in 1885, and finally mayor in 1889. Inaugurated at only 31 years of age, Grant is remembered as New York City's youngest mayor.
Grant is also known for his opposition to the state's intervention in city business, an issue that led him to oppose the acquisition of Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks. He believed the parks were too expensive to acquire and develop and too inaccessible for most New York City residents to justify their purchase. Grant may be the only person who fought against parks who nonetheless has a park named after him.
Bounded by 177th Street, Virginia and Westchester Avenues, Hugh J. Grant Circle is located in the eastern Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester. This area is famous for having once been the site of the New York Catholic Protectory, a trade school for "wayward boys" opened by the Christian Brothers in the years after the Civil War. The school featured a farm, a bakery and printing, carpentry, shoemaking, and tailor shops. Parkchester was also the site of one of the first large-scale housing developments in America that was not also a city. Between 1938 and 1942, Metropolitan Life Insurance named their 129-acre, 12,723-unit development "Parkchester" after the nearby neighborhoods Park Versailles and Westchester. Metropolitan Life sold Parkchester in 1968.
The streets adjacent to the circle have their own ties to New York City history. In pre-Revolutionary times, Westchester Avenue connected the Manor of Morrisania to the town of Westchester. Legend has it that Virginia Avenue, which was Gray Avenue until 1924, was named by a surveyor who wished to commemorate his birthplace, Stratford, Virginia.
The circle is on what was once a tract of farmland owned by the Pugsleys, an early 19th century Bronx family. The land became part of the Cobb and Larkin family farms in the late 1800s, until the City acquired it incrementally in the first decade of the 20th century. New York City acquired Hugh J. Grant Circle on May 2, 1904 through condemnation procedures. The circle was gradually reconstructed in conjunction with the Cross-Bronx Expressway and incorporated into long-term plans for the neighborhood’s development. The park reopened on July 21, 1956. Today the park remains a green oasis in the midst of several major thoroughfares.