Melrose, The Bronx
Moving further north, the Port Morris Branch passes under 156th Street, then passes through a short tunnel under Brooke Avenue between 157th Street and Third Avenue.
The Beaux-Arts Bronx Borough Courthouse was designed by Oscar Bluemner and completed in 1915. It is the sole survivor of what was a complex of government buildings. Troubles for the star-crossed building began even before it opened. It was finished a decade behind schedule and over budget. A corrupt Tammany Hall operative claimed the credit (and the commission) for the building. Surrounding elevated trains made it difficult to hear in the courtrooms and closing the windows made it unbearably hot. Growing population made the courthouse undersized and obsolete within a couple of decades of its opening and much of its caseload moved west to a new courthouse in the 1930s. It later served as a night court and storage building before being abandoned in the 1970s.
Ideas for reuse of the landmark building came and went over the years but the Giuliani Administration finally auctioned it off in 1996 for $130,000. When that bidder never paid, a second auction in 1998 got $300,000 from a speculator who promptly did nothing but sit on it and wait for the surrounding community to improve. Plans for a school in the building began circulating in 2007, although the site was listed for sale in 2007 at $25 million. In the Spring of 2008, plans to convert the building into a charter school were announced, although as of Summer 2008, no action at all seems to be taking place.
The rail line in this area sits in the shadow of a ridge topped by Eagle Avenue. I took a little side trip up the hill to have a look around the neighborhood. This was a wasteland after the fires of the late 1970s, but much of it has been nicely redeveloped by both the city housing authority and by private developers. I'm not sure I'd want to live here, but its alot better than it was.
Returning to the rail line - after a short stretch of open trench between Third Avenue and East 161st Street, the track proceeds into another short tunnel under O'Neill Triangle and Elton Avenue. The tunnel has obviously been rebuilt recently, perhaps covering a formerly open section of trench to create O'Neill Triangle.
Next: The Harlem Line