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My grandparents, Harriet and Stan Landsberg, with me, my sister, and five of their great-grandchildren, in November of 2011.
Everybody has a past.  A part of their history that is separate from the world they inhabit today...but which deeply informs who they are as people.  The past shapes our values.  And the past is where our most cherished relationships were born.

Harriet and Stan Landsberg are my maternal grandparents, presently of South Florida, and formerly of Jersey City, NJ.  But they came from THE BRONX.  (As to where their parents came from, see my earlier posting.)

When I was a kid, the Bronx was a mysterious place that was constantly mentioned in stories and family history.  But it was never a place that I saw firsthand.  (There was an occasional visit to the Bronx Zoo during my childhood, but no one ever explained to me....or at least I don't remember if they did...that my grandparents used to live a few blocks away!)

In my everyday life, the only proof of a family connection to the Bronx was my mom's New Yawk accent.

A few weeks ago, shortly after our arrival in Westchester, after going up and down the Major Deegan a few times, and after studying the map, I finally realized that we were practically living right next door to the place where my family had laid its roots.

So: a quick phone call was placed to Grandma and Granpda.  They, of course, had total recall of all of their old exact addresses...and so, Amy and I made plans to trek out to that mysterious place that I have been hearing about for the last three decades.
It blows my mind that from my grandparents' final home in the Bronx to Scarsdale Synagogue, it is a mere 9.8 miles!  Isn't it strange to think that such a small distance separates us today from such a different world?  (There are ethical and social justice dimensions to that question, but we'll have to leave that for another day.)

So: down the Bronx River Parkway we headed....to 592 Beck Street, near the intersection with Avenue St. John (exactly as my grandmother had described it!).  This is where my grandmother lived for the first nine years of her life!
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A close up of the front door of 592 Beck.
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A wider shot of the rowhouses.
Beck was a quiet street on the day that we visited, and felt pleasantly distant from the noise and activity that marked the other Bronx neighborhoods that we visited afterward.


From there, we headed to northeast to 945 East 180th Street, where my grandmother lived from the age of nine until she married my grandfather in the early 1940s.  This is the neighborhood that abuts the Bronx Zoo.
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The unexpected view of the zoo from our car on our way to 180th Street.
Unfortunately, we were saddened to discover, upon arriving, that 945 East 180th no longer stands.   It appears that developers must have knocked the building down at some point to make way for a modern-looking apartment building to the left of where 945 once stood.
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This is building 947.
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This is the modern construction I mentioned. I am presuming that 945 once stood in the gap to this building's right?
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Vidalia Park, which is on the other side of East 180th, directly across from where 945 once stood. According to the NYC Parks Department, the park was dedicated in December of 2001.
From East 180th, we headed around the corner to 2109 Daly Avenue, where my grandfather lived.  City life is amazing....you can live a block and a half from someone, and then wind up spending the rest of your life with them!


Unfortunately, it looks like Daly Ave. was a "victim" of development just like East 180th.  There's no 2109 anymore - just 2105.
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2105 Daly
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The gap between the buildings: where 2109 once stood?
From there, we headed west to 1631 Grand Avenue.  This is where my grandfather's parents were living during and immediately after World War II.  After my grandparents got married, they lived with my grandfather's parents at 1631 Grand.  This is also the location where my Aunt Barbara was born.  (We were happy that this building was still standing!)
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The front door of 1631 Grand.
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1631 Grand: the view from across the street.
From there it was about four miles to the northeast for the last official stop on our tour...to 3307 Hull Ave.  My grandparents moved here when my aunt was two.  The highlight of this stop: this is where my mother was born.  My grandmother, who pleasantly tolerates my occasional complaining about the stresses of modern parenthood, went to great lengths to remind us that the storage area where they had to keep my mother's stroller was three floors below their apartment (no elevator), and that she had to shlep down there every time they wanted to go out.
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The front door of 3307 Hull with its distinctive arch.
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I wondered which window belonged to my family.
It's a good thing that 3307 Hull was the last stop on our tour, because at this point my kids (who do love their Gigi and Papa very much) were getting itchy.  We made a beeline for Van Cortlandt Park so the kids could run around and play.  (The park, about 10 blocks west of 3307 Hull, is even larger than Central Park.  Though, interestingly enough, it is New York City's fourth largest park - not the biggest!)  Did my mother ever play there as a kid?  I'll have to find out...
 


Comments

Mike Brown
08/04/2012 7:39am

Wonderful trip down memory lane...It's great that you had the opportunity to trace some of your family roots. Enjoyed the tour immensely.

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Andrea
08/04/2012 8:15am

So cool! I don't think I knew half of that- and I definitely haven't ever seen it!

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Debi Brown
08/04/2012 8:47am

It was wonderful for me to read about our family roots. Being a Bronx girl and seeing the pictures brought back some memories from my childhood.

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Harriet & Stan, Mom & Dad, Grandma & Grandpa, Gigi & Papa
08/04/2012 4:25pm

We are just thrilled and excited to see, read, and best of all to remember those early wonderful years. That's when it all began for us and, hopefully, continue on. Thank you Jeff

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Becky
08/04/2012 6:09pm

Amazing!

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harvey tessler
08/06/2012 4:32am

thanks... great story.. reminds me of so many of my parents and grandparents stories in South Philly!

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Evelyn and Murray Landsberg
08/06/2012 4:21pm

What a wonderful tour.It refreshes great memories.

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Charlotte Lechten
08/09/2012 1:56pm

Unbelievable. What a great job you did.

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Elaine Kaplan
08/10/2012 7:34pm

I visited your grandparents when they lived on Grand Avenue and on Hull Avenue. I do remember sitting on fruit boxes in Hull Avenue as they hadn't gotten chairs yet.
Ours is a friendship that is still going strong for over 60 years.
You have done a wonderful creative job and should be proud of your efforts.

Jeff, you have done a magnificent job of taking us all back to and era that had all but been forgotten.

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