Bronx New Deal - Photo #257 - Bronx Terminal Market

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Photo: New York City Government photo archive.

The south and west faces of the Bronx Terminal Market “Prow Building” (Building D) in 1935 or 1936, shortly after it was built in 1935. It's located at the eastern extreme of East 149th Street in the triangle formed by Exterior Street, River Avenue, and East 150th Street (see map), and is visible from the northbound lanes of the Major Deegan Expressway. On the map, the original Bronx Terminal Market built in the 1920s is outlined in blue (Click here to see the same area in Google Maps). Building D, the Prow Building, which was built in 1935 with New Deal support[1], is outlined in purple. An adjacent building (Building B) was added at the same time but does not survive. At the north end of the market, the WPA also built a $250,000 freight terminal shed[4], which also is gone.

The architects of Buildings B and D were Samuel Oxhandler, John D. Churchill, Albert W. Lewis. Churchill and Lewis also worked together on the New Market at South Street Seaport[6] (the one labeled Fulton Fish Market) and the Essex Street Markets, one a confirmed WPA project, the other likely.

”Building D is a 2-story stucco-clad building constructed in 1934-35 as part of Mayor LaGuardia's expansion of the Bronx Terminal Market. It is located at the southeast corner of the Bronx Terminal Market site, at the corner of 149th Street and Exterior Street. According to the New York Times[5], Building D was the Bronx Terminal Market's flagship structure, and was designed to serve as a bank, restaurant, and a hotel for farmers. It is a small, polygonal building similar in style to Buildings B, F, G, and H, and has "Bronx Terminal Market, City of New York, 1935" painted in large, Art Moderne lettering at its southern corner.”[3,p7-6].

In its heyday the Bronx Terminal Market was one of the largest food wholesale operations in the country with more than 100 tenants and 1,000 employees[2].

Except for the Prow Building, the Bronx Terminal Market was demolished between 2006 and 2009 and replaced with all-new buildings, and the Prow building was restored to some semblence of its original appearance[2] and today houses a number of programs of Hostos College of the City of New York. The rest of the former Bronx Terminal Market together with the former site of the Bronx House of Detention (another New Deal project) is a big shopping mall full of big-box stores[8,9], where some of the prison's WPA remnants are on display.

  1. Tangires, Helen, “Public Markets”, W.W. Norton & Company (2008), ISBN 0393731677, p.271:
    Mayor La Guardia secured New Deal support to expand the Bronx Terminal Market in 1935. Two rows of merchant stores were constructed adjacent to the original wholesale market and storage building ... The new buildings, designed by Albert W. Lewis, Samuel Oxhandler, and John D. Churchill, were intended to make the site more human in scale and more aesthetically appealing — features that were accomplished by exploiting the architectural possibilities of concrete. Each store had cantilevered canopies at the front and rear to facilitate loading and unloading during inclement weather. One row of wholesale stores terminated at a triangular building that housed retail stores, a bank, a farmer's hotel, and a restaurant bar and grill. The architects made an effort to link the building and wholesale stores stylistically to the original wholesale market and storage building by repeating the same blind arch detailing, molded this time in concrete, along the parapet wall.

  2. Finkelstein, Alex, NYC's Largest New Retail Center in 30 Years Opens in South Bronx, The World Property Journal, 21 September 2009.

  3. Historic Resources, Chapter 7 of Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market, Mayor's Office of Sustainability, Mayor's Office Environmental Review, 2004-2005:
    Under Mayor LaGuardia, existing Buildings B, D, F, G, and H were constructed ... OPRHP [New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation] has determined that the Bronx House of Detention and the buildings of the Bronx Terminal Market (Buildings B and D of which are on the project site) are eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places ... according to Helen Tangires[10], construction funds, labor, and architectural services for Building B (and the other Market buildings constructed at the same time) were provided by the Civil Works Administration.
  4. New Freight Terminal Shed is Completed, Chicago Packer, 6 May 1939.

  5. Gray, Christopher, Streetscapes/Bronx Terminal Market; Trying to Duplicate the Little Flower's Success, New York Times, May 8, 1994.

  6. South Street Seaport's La Guardia-era Market Finally Recognized, Municipal Art Society of New York, 5 Feb 2009:
    While in office, Mayor La Guardia abolished the open-air markets, and using federal funds made available from the WPA, the City constructed several indoor markets. During this administration, the city gained the following new market buildings: First Avenue Retail Market; Gansevoort Market; Unit No. 1, Fulton Fish Market; Unit No. 1, Bronx Terminal Market Freight Shed; Thirteenth Avenue Retail Market; and the Essex Street Retail Market.

  7. Phase IA Archaeological Assessment, Proposed Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market Biock 2356, Lot 20; Block 2357, Lots 1 and 86; and Block 2539, Lots 2 (part), 32, and 60 (part) Bounded by the Metro North Railroad, River Avenue, 149th Street, and the Harlem River Bronx, New York NYSOPRHP Project Review Number 04PR02034. Prepared For: AKRF, Inc., 117 East 29th Street, New York, NY 10016. Prepared By: Historical Perspectives, Inc. P.O. Box 3037, Westport, CT 06880. Authors: Julie Abell Hom, M.A., R.P.A. and Sara Mascia, Ph.D; R.P.A. October 2004. Lots of color photos of the area before demolition.

  8. Community Benefits Agreements: The Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market CBA (August 2009).

  9. Bronx Terminal Market Website.

  10. Tangires, Helen. “Wholesale Produce Markets and the Agricultural Landscape of New York City, 1912-1945”, Paper presented at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians, April 15, 2004, Providence, Rhode Island.
  11. La Guardia and Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College, City University of New York. The shovel Mayor La Guardia used to break ground for Buildings B and D is there, marked (on one side of the handle): "Fiorello H. La Guardia - Mayor"; (on the opposite side of the handle): "Bronx Terminal Market September 29 - 1934". Thanks for this tidbit to Douglas Di Carlo, Archivist.

New York Times Articles

A New York Times subscription is required to read the full text of the articles. Articles a-d apply to Buildings B and D; articles e-g apply to the freight terminal shed. As regards Buildings B and D, it is noted that labor was provided from the "relief rolls", meaning the early New Deal work relief programs from before the WPA was created in 1935. One non-relief worker was Mayor La Guardia, who broke ground for the project in the pouring rain on September 29, 1934. The source of funds for Buildings B and D is not identified (how did the Market Commissioner come up with $721,00?). Several years later the freight terminal shed was paid for mainly by an allocation from the New Deal Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) and it was built by WPA labor.
  1. City Speeds Work on Bronx Market, NYT Saturday, September 15, 1934, p.17:
    An important move in the campaign to make the city's $18,000,000 Bronx Terminal Market perform the functions for which it was built – to serve upper Manhattan and the Bronx as a real terminal market – was made yesterday by Market Commissioner William F. Morgan Jr. The commissioner awarded contracts totaling $721,070 for the construction of forty-eight wholesale stores in the area surrounding the market building. Work on the construction, which will employ 400 men from city relief rolls, will start in October, he said. The stores will be ready for occupancy by the end of March, the commissioner declared. Completion of the market additions will give the city its first adequate terminal market, Mr. Morgan said, and will lower the cost of food distribution in upper Manhattan and the Bronx. A retail market, to be built at the same time as the wholesale stores, will further cut the consumer prices in the district, he predicted.
  2. Mayor Digs in Rain to Extend Market - Relief Labor to Be Used, NYT, Sunday, September 30, 1934, Section 2, p.1:
    Mayor LaGuardia stood in a pouring rain yesterday to turn the first shovelful of earth on a city project which has been long very dear to his heat – the expansion of the Bronx Terminal Market at 151st and Exterior Streets ... After declaring that the construction of forty-eight stores and a restaurant in the triangle fronting the Bronx Storage Warehouse and along Exterior Street, on the bank of the Harlem River, would be done by relief labor, the mayor asserted that the project was an answer to those who said that the unemployed have been forgotten.

  3. New Store Buildings for Bronx Terminal, NYT, Thursday, February 7, 1935, p.36:
    The facilities of the Bronx Terminal Market will be extended by the erection of three buildings, each costing $100,000, according to the plans filed yesterday for the Department of Public Markets. All three structures will be one-story high and will be designed for wholesale and retail stores. The three sets of plans were prepared by Oxhandler & Lewis, architects. One of the buildings [Building B] will be of brick covering a site 301 by 70 feet, on the east side of Exterior Street, 1,403 feet north of Cromwell Avenue. A second [Building D, the Prow Building] is to go up on a plot 320 by 68 feet, on the west side of Exterior Street, 1,577 feet north of 150th Street. This is to be of reinforced concrete. In addition to the wholesale and retail stores the third annex will have space for a dormitory and bank. This will occupy the entire block bounded by 149th Street, River Avenue, 150th and Exterior Streets.

  4. Bronx Market to Get Rail Terminal Soon, NYT, Thursday, February 7, 1935, p.36:
    Within a month the city will start building a railroad terminal at the Bronx Terminal Market with facilities for receiving and distributing about 95 per cent of the produce consumed in that borough, it was disclosed yesterday by Carl W. Kimball, First Deputy Commissioner of Public Markets, Weights and Measures. Speaking at a conference with executives of a special committee of the Bronx Board of Trade, Mr. Kimball declared that with the completion of the terminal, the New York Central Railroad would handle 10,000 cars a year at the market. The Board of Trade, which advocated the improvement, had established in a survey that 85 per cent of the produce now consumed in the Bronx was trucked from Washington Market, leaving but 15 percent for the Bronx Market. The new facilities have been made possible by an appropriation of $130,000 by the Board of Estimate and a Federal loan of $250,000. The latter grant is intended to finance and operate a wholesale receivers' and merchants' group. To provide for possible expansion and the eventual transfer to another site, the terminal will be built in sections.

  5. Bronx Food Center to Be Revitalized, NYT, Friday, March 17, 1939, p.23:
    A move to put the Bronx Terminal Market, once known as "Hylan's Folly" or more generally as a "white elephant," on a substantial paying basis through the organization of a $300,000 corporation to handle direct freight shipments at the market was disclosed yesterday at the first meeting of Mayor La Guardia's advisory committee on the food center. The corporation will handle the increased direct food shipments expected to follow completion of a new freight terminal shed at the north end of the market. On city-owned property, the shed, whose cost is being defrayed by a city appropriation of $130,000 and a Reconstruction Finance Corporation allotment of $250,000, is almost three-fourths completed. It is being built by WPA labor.

  6. City Accepts Shed in Bronx Terminal, NYT, Wednesday, May 3, 1939, p.25:
    New $250,000 Structure, Built by WPA, Expected to Cut Food Prices in Neighborhood. Lower food prices for housewives in the Bronx, Westchester, Harlem, Connecticut and Northern New Jersey were promised with the acceptance by the city yesterday afternoon of the new $250,000 freight terminal shed built by city and Federal funds at the northernmost tip of the Bronx Terminal Market. Completed after almost a year of construction by WPA labor, the structure, for which the Board of Estimate appropriated $130,000, was accepted for the city by Carl W. Kimball, Deputy Commissioner of Markets, in a ceremony at the shed. Hyman W. Goldstein, Deputy Directory of the Bronx Field Office of the WPA, presented the building on behalf of his organization.

  7. Big Saving on Food Due in Bronx Mart, NYT, Sunday, March 3, 1940, p.9:
    Mayor Says Terminal Market Will Save Housewives $1,000,000 a Year ... Plan Starts in Spring ... Unified Large-Scale Buying Held to Offer Solution ... With the aid of revolving fund loans already pledged by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the jobbers of the Bronx Terminal Market soon will begin unified large-scale buying that will enable housewives of the Bronx and upper Manhattan to save $1,000,000 a year in the purchasing of fruits and vegetables, Mayor La Guardia announced yesterday....
The New Deal in NYC 1932-1943 | Frank da Cruz | fdc@columbia.edu