The Fordham section of the Bronx is perhaps best known today as being the home of top-ranking college Fordham University and the handsome grounds of the school's 93-acre campus. But, there is so much more to the history to this area of the borough.
Ever wonder how Fordham got its name and from where it is derived? Or for that matter, what the changing demographics have been since it was first settled back in the 17th Century? Let's take a closer look with these 7 Facts About Fordham.
1. The Fordham community was first established by John Archer, A Dutch settler
John Archer, a Dutchman, was given approval by the English to purchase 3900 acres of land in the area, comprising 6 square miles called Fordham Manor. As "Lord of the Manor," Archer established his community at 225th Street near the Harlem River in 1666.
The Manor lasted a little less than 100 years, from 1671 to 1762, during which period sixteen families would establish farms.
2. The name Fordham means a low-lying meadow by a source of water.
Derived from the Anglo-Saxon words "ford" and "ham," which means a low-lying meadow by a source of water, when put together, the name means a ford by a settlement or a wading place, referring to the area's close proximity to the Bronx River. Fordham also happens to be a surname, and while there is no certainty, the area may have been a reference to John Fordham, a fourteenth-century English priest, according to Raymond Schroth, SJ, in Fordham: A History and Memoir.
3. Old Fordham Village dates back to the English Colonial Era.
Centered from the intersection of the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road, Old Fordham Village extends north to about 196th Street, south to about 187th Street, east to Southern Boulevard, and west to Jerome Avenue as we know it today.
However, if you can imagine back in the 1700's when the Bronx was full of large estates and farms, the land that defines Old Fordham Village was originally part of an estate owned by a Dutchman named Reyer Michaelson. In 1736, Michaelson deeded the house and the land to his daughter and her husband, Benjamin Corsa and in 1751, Fordham Manor was built, which stayed in the family until 1787.
4. Fordham University's Rose Hill Campus was once part of a large estate called "Rose Hill"
Today, the name Rose Hill is most commonly associated with the Bronx campus of Fordham University. Did you ever wonder from where the name originated? Rose Hill was the name given to the Fordham Estate on this site in 1787 by then-owner, Robert Watts, in honor of his family's ancestral home of the same name near Edinburgh in Scotland. Most of the then-estate is now part of the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University.
5. Boston Post Road was a critical Crossing point for General George Washington's Continental Army
During the time of our Revolutionary War, roads were neither modernized nor paved as we have today. One of these such roads was Kings Road, which went through the rural estates and farm area of Old Fordham Village. It linked Colonial New York and towns and villages north toward Boston.
During the American Revolution, it was a critical crossing point for General George Washington's Continental Army retreating toward White Plains to safely escape from New York while being chased by the Colonial British and Hessian Forces. There were many American Patriots that lived in this area, which helped as well. After the revolution, the Kings Road was renamed the Boston Post Road, but in the area of Fordham, Boston Post Road was renamed Fordham Road and became part of U.S. Route 1 in 1926. which it is still called today.
6. The First Belmont Stakes were held in Fordham at Jerome Park
The first Belmont Stakes, the oldest of the three U.S. Triple Crown races was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in 1867 and continued to be run there until 1890. The racetrack opened in 1866 in the northwest part of Fordham by financier Leonard W. Jerome, on the Old Bathgate Estate.
7. Fordham is a Melting Pot of Cultures and Ethnicities
Fordham began to see a huge growth in its population at the beginning of the 20th Century. Largely due to the convenience of numerous subway lines between Manhattan and the Bronx as well as the development of then-new and modern housing, particularly in the 1920's, middle-class and working-class families from Manhattan migrated north to this section of the Bronx. Predominantly white from about 1920 till 1970, community residents included Irish, Jewish, Italian and Albanian. As these groups began to move to the suburbs and out of state, the ethnic make-up of the area is now predominately Latin American and African American.
Till next time,
Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.