Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx

Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx

Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx

Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx

Synopsis

Stretching over four miles through the center of the West Bronx, the Grand Boulevard and Concourse, known simply as the Grand Concourse, has gracefully served as silent witness to the changing face of the Bronx, and New York City, for a century. Now, a New York Times editor brings to life the street in all its raucous glory.

Designed by a French engineer in the late nineteenth century to echo the elegance and grandeur of the Champs Elysées in Paris, the Concourse was nearly twenty years in the making and celebrates its centennial in November 2009. Over that century it has truly been a boulevard of dreams for various upwardly mobile immigrant and ethnic groups, yet it has also seen the darker side of the American dream. Constance Rosenblum unearths the colorful history of this grand street and its interlinked neighborhoods. With a seasoned journalist's eye for detail, she paints an evocative portrait of the Concourse through compelling life stories and historical vignettes. The story of the creation and transformation of the Grand Concourse is the story of New York--and America--writ large, and Rosenblum examines the Grand Concourse from its earliest days to the blighted 1960s and 1970s right up to the current period of renewal. Beautifully illustrated with a treasure trove of historical photographs, the vivid world of the Grand Concourse comes alive--from Yankee Stadium to the unparalleled collection of Art Deco apartments to the palatial Loew's Paradise movie theater.

An enthralling story of the creation of an iconic street, an examination of the forces that transformed it, and a moving portrait of those who called it home, Boulevard of Dreams is a must read for anyone interested in the rich history of New York and the twentieth-century American city.

Excerpt

Here are two scenes of life in the middle of the last century on and near the Grand Concourse in the borough of the Bronx in the city of New York.

One scene takes place a few years after the Second World War in a tiny candy store called Philly’s, on Sheridan Avenue near 165th Street, just east of the broad, tree-lined boulevard that cut a majestic north-south swath through the borough. It is a September afternoon, and the place is jammed. Children are lined up along the lunch counter and bunched together near the candy counter, agonizing over what to choose among an array of liberty streamers, twizzlers, and malted milk balls. a trio of housewives, laden with shopping bags from Alexander’s and Loehmann’s, the emporiums up on Fordham Road, stop by to grab a quick cup of coffee before heading home, most likely to an apartment with a sunken living room and wraparound windows in one of the smart Art Deco buildings that line the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare.

With Yom Kippur just a week away, some of these shopping bags contain the black suede pumps and mid-calf-length dresses of crackly black faille being featured in the better department stores, perfect for High Holy Day services at one of the many local synagogues. a couple of women are probably comparing notes on The Next Voice You Hear, a tear-jerker starring James Whitmore that is playing at the palatial Loew’s Paradise, the Bronx’s four-thousand-seat re-creation of an Italian Baroque garden south of Fordham Road. Other conversations might strike a more anxious tone. the Korean War is raging half a world away, and though the generals predict that the enemy will soon fold, the Fordham University rotc has just added 177 recruits to its ranks.

As people familiar with the rhythms of Philly’s will recall decades later, a balding bachelor named Mersch generally occupies a perch at the far . . .

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