Kingsbridge Heights Community Center

Kingsbridge Heights Community Center

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This community center, located at Summit Place and Kingsbridge Terrace, was assigned to Parks on September 18, 1979, by the Division of Real Property. Prior to its role as a community center, the two-story brick building was used by the New York City Police Department as the 50th Precinct House. The building was designed in 1900 by architects Arthur J. Horgan and Vincent J. Slattery, and completed in 1902.

The center, along with the surrounding Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood, is named after the historic King’s Bridge that once spanned Spuyten Duyvil Creek at what is now West 230th Street and Kingsbridge Avenue. Originally constructed in 1639 as a toll bridge by local landowner Vredryck Flypson, King’s Bridge was the first bridge to connect Manhattan with the mainland, and was used extensively by both the American and British forces during the Revolutionary War. In 1916, Spuyten Duyvil Creek was filled in and the bridge was torn down.

Before it was renamed in 1903, Kingsbridge Terrace was known as Natalie Avenue, in honor of Natalie Lorillard Morris. Natalie was the wife of Lewis Morris (1726-1798), a wealthy landowner and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Morris family once owned more than 2,000 acres of land in what is now called the South Bronx. Richard Morris, great-grandfather of Natalie’s husband, settled the land with his brother Lewis around 1670. The younger Lewis’ half-brother, Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816), was perhaps the greatest Morris of all. Witty and urbane, he was renowned as an eloquent speaker, brilliant writer, prominent politician, and major intellect. Despite a career that included a stint in the Continental Congress, several years in the United States Senate, and a ambassadorship to France, Gouvernour Morris’ greatest achievement was to write the final draft of the United States Constitution, giving the document its coherent form and elegant language. The neighborhood of Morrisania, Morris High School, and several streets and buildings in the area have names inspired by the family.

Natalie was born into the Lorillard family, owners of P. Lorillard and Company, a firm that produced chewing tobacco, or “chaw,” and snuff at a mill opened along the Bronx River in 1792. At the end of the 18th century, the mill was producing more tobacco than any other facility in the country. In 1895, the New York Botanical Garden acquired the Lorillard mill and converted it into a restaurant. During the early 20th century, most of the property along Kingsbridge Terrace belonged to Harry B. Thayer, who is famous for making the first transatlantic telephone call from New York to London in 1923.

Today, the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center offers a wide array of services, including Headstart and Early Headstart programs for children, as well as after-school games, tutoring and summer camp. The center also offers young people college and vocational instruction, and provides senior citizens with lunches, recreation, health screening, and escort assistance.

Council Member Israel Ruiz, Jr. and Mayor Giuliani provided $73,802 for a reconstruction of the first floor bathrooms and floor repairs in 1996, and $241,000 for work on the exterior cornices of the community center in 1997. In 2000, Council Member Adolfo Carrion, Jr., funded $147,536 for the reconstruction of the roof.

Park Information

Directions to Kingsbridge Heights Community Center

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