The Orchard Beach Bathhouse and Promenade, which since 1936 has served as the major waterfront recreation complex for Bronx residents, is an outstanding example of the federally-funded public works projects executed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Located in Pelham Bay Park and fronting on Long Island Sound, Orchard Beach was constructed in 1934-37 during the administration of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Park Department Commissioner Robert Moses with funds obtained largely from the Works Progress Administration. Planned on a massive scale, its construction required a major landfill and a mile-long seawall to connect Hunter Island to the mainland, creating an entirely new, artificial landscape. Designed by a talented staff supervised by the wellknown architect Aymar Embury II and the noted landscape architects Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano, the facility contains a bathhouse in a Modern Classical style and a wide promenade, the plan of which was influenced by Beaux-Arts principles. The concrete, brick, and limestone bathhouse, embellished with tile and terrazzo finishes, features two monumental colonnades that radiate outward from a raised central terrace. The crescent-shaped promenade, which follows the curve of the beach, is paved with hexagonal blocks and edged by cast-iron railings evoking a nautical motif. Situated on the promenade are Moderne style concession and supply buildings, park benches, drinking fountains, and modernistic lamp posts. The original and creative use made of these materials and forms, and the careful siting of the facility, make it a distinguished, individual design. Orchard Beach, a major accomplishment of engineering and architecture, and New York City’s most ambitious park project of the New Deal, is recognized as being among the most remarkable public recreational facilities ever constructed in the United States.
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
“I don’t know what the City would be without HDC. [They] testified before LPC time after time and helped us focus on the right issues. We would not be an historic district without HDC! ”
Doreen Gallo: DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance
“Use HDC as a resource because they know what they are doing and can offer advice on how to go about creating a district from every front: architectural, political, LPC, and the media. I had floundered prior to my involvement with this invaluable organization.”
Fern Luskin: Lamartine Place Historic District; Friends of Lamartine Place & Gibbons Underground Railroad Site
“HDC provided guidance and shared information during that process—we knew which Council members were going one way or another and we changed a few minds. I don’t think NoHo would have had as cohesive a district had it not been for HDC’s aid.”
Zella Jones: NoHo Historic District; NoHo East; and NoHo Extension
“I remember Richard saying at a meeting, we have someone here from HDC, Nadezhda Williams, Director of Preservation and Research, to help us. She said to us, ‘You are not the only ones going through this.’ HDC included us in an enormous community”
Erika Petersen: West End Preservation Society
"HDC has begun a series of projects to highlight the Bronx's architectural and cultural history. From booklet's and research highlighting specific sites and historic districts to the HDC's symposium in October 2018 to the latest community-based committee to look into further possible sites to qualify for landmarking, the HDC has established projects that will serve the Bronx community well."
City Lore, Folklorist
Bronx Music Heritage Center, Co-Artistic Director
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Ed García Conde,
founder and Executive Director,