The Fordham name, in the Bronx, has its beginnings in 1671 when Governor Lovelace gave a Manor grant to Dutchman John Arcer. John established Fordham Manor which stretched from the Harlem River (on the west) to the Bronx River (on the east) and from High Bridge (on the south) to Spuyten Duyvil (on the north). During this time, the only direct passage to the Bronx from Manhattan was a shallow crossing through the Harlem River. A small number of Dutch families that were originally living in the Harlem area settled around this crossing in Fordham Manor. The name Fordham has its origins from this crossing and settlement – the words “ford” and “ham,” meaning houses by the shallow area or a wading place.
The Fordham area and Fordham Road we know today stems from the Fordham Manor, but it has its closest ties with a rural village (Fordham Village) that developed around the New York Central Railroad station of Fordham (on Webster Avenue and Fordham Road) and St. John’s College (now Fordham University). Before the 1900’s, like much of the Bronx at that time, the Fordham Village was composed of small farms and estates. In 1845, this rural atmosphere attracted the renowned writer Edgar Allan Poe to move into a cottage in Fordham Village where he wrote “Annabel Lee” and “The Bells.” The Fordham community continued to gain popularity with the opening of the New York Botanical Gardens in 1891.
During the early 1900’s, the emergence of inexpensive and accessible rapid transit like the Third Avenue El, the Jerome Avenue IRT, and the IND under the Grand Concourse drew a large influx of people to Fordham from Manhattan and the lower Bronx. With the sprouting, multicultural population came more neighborhood stores and larger businesses to serve the booming community. This included the construction of the $4 million Loew’s Paradise Theater in 1929 and the opening of an Alexander’s department store in 1938. Fordham Road went on to replace 149th Street (the Hub) as the Bronx’s prominent shopping and entertainment center.
Today, Fordham Road’s successful mixture of small independent shops and national and regional chain stores has kept it as the largest and most prominent shopping district in the Bronx. With over 300 businesses and a bustling, vibrant community, Fordham has been a center for recent, innovative renovations and projects such as the $1.3 million installation of historic street lighting secured by the BID and many other City initiatives including the installation of new bus shelters and dedicated bus lanes.
Fordham’s future is as bright as its past; the BID will soon begin to implement phases of their Streetscape Master Plan which includes scheduled plans for a $2.5 million renovation of Bryan Park (at the intersection of East Fordham and East Kingsbridge Roads), upgrades to existing roadway conditions, street furniture and signage. With the continued support of the community and the strong business presence, Fordham Road will maintain its status as a premier destination for shoppers and visitors well into the future.