Longwood Historic District
The Longwood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Longwood Historic District is made up largely of rowhouses concentrated on six streets: Hewitt Place and Dawson, Kelly and Beck Streets running north-south, and Macy Place and East 156th Street running east-west. The Longwood Historic District also contains a small apartment building that is similar in scale and style to the rowhouses, a hospital, two churches (one a former synagogue), and a much altered estate house. Ends of blocks have frequently been excluded from the Longwood Historic District because they contain vacant lots, tenements or large-scale apartment buildings that are not consistent with the character of the district. The cluster of houses which constitute the Longwood Historic District, the product of a single development, contrasts strongly with the surrounding blocks, which were developed with tenements and frame houses and which have experienced much devastation and abandonment.
The Longwood Historic District's streets are lined with pairs of 2 1/2 story tall semi-detached houses. Most of these were designed at the same time by a single architect, Warren C. Dickerson, and their designs are uniform. Each double-unit, designed for two or three families, is separated by a side driveway and ornamental iron gate. Dickerson, however, designed them as an ensemble and the houses form a continuous unified streetscape. With few exceptions, the brick structures are designed in mirror image, with the entrances and stoops paired together between flanking round or angular bays. The roofs of the houses are composed of false mansard fronts with polygonal peaks or cone-shaped roofs capping the bays; originally they were sheathed with imbricated shingles. The same house design appears frequently throughout the Longwood Historic District but a variety of detail dispels any sense of monotony.
Set back from the street, most of the double residences are approached by wide, iron-railed stoops and fronted by fenced-in gardens or basement areaways. The setbacks contribute a sense of openness to the streetscape. An irregular street grid provides both short and long vistas along the open streets. The style of the buildings combines aspects of the neo-Renaissance and the Romanesque Revival. Neo-Renaissance elements include the masonry bays, the concentration of ornament at doorways and carved panels, Composite, Corinthian, and Ionic columns, and other classical details. The Romanesque Revival is reflected in the slight heaviness of proportion, the use of rough-cut stone, and arched windows.
The row of eight houses on Hewitt Place was designed by Charles S. Clark and built in 1908. Once identical in appearance, all the structures have been somewhat altered, but the row still maintains a sense of continuity. Each house is set back from the street and fronted by a small garden. There is a hip-roofed entrance porch to the left of a two-story angular bay on each house. The porches are approached by short stoops that were originally designed with wooden posts and denticulated, galvanized-iron cornices. Hip-roofed dormers, lighting the attic stories, project from mansard-fronted roofs once finished with metal tiles meant to resemble slate.
The row of houses on Macy Place, similar in configuration to the Dickerson rows, consists of paired mirror-image brick houses with outer bays and adjoining entrances approached by stoops. Their style is neo-Italian Renaissance, with classically inspired stone moldings, and heavy cornices in place of the false-front mansards of Dickerson's houses.
The two-family brick house at 749 Beck Street (969 East 156th Street), although a different type of building than the paired semi-detached houses forming the bulk of the Longwood Historic District is similar to them in scale and style. Designed by James Meehan in 1904 in the neo-Renaissance style, it features a full-height three-sided angular bay on each of its elevations, adorned with classical swags and pilasters, splayed brownstone lintels and elaborate scroll keystones. A denticulated cornice with a swag frieze crowns the building, which is largely unaltered. The original iron fence that separates the building from the street is still intact.
United Church, at 760-764 Hewitt Place, was originally built as a synagogue in 1906. Its stone-faced facade is composed of a large central arched entrance approached by lateral staircases and flanked by twin towers capped by onion domes. The towers each have large round-arched windows with stained-glass. Between the onion domes the church is topped by an elaborate rounded pressed-metal pediment.
St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, at 940 East 156th Street, is a freestanding brick structure set back from the street on a corner site and fronted by a large lawn. Designed in a simplified neo-Gothic style ca.1920, the asymmetrically massed church is distinguished by a crenellated polygonal tower at its northwest corner, where the main entrance is located. Narrow brick buttresses articulate the side elevation and facade. Multi-paned colored glass casement windows light the sides of the church, while a single large, Gothic-arched window with brick voussoirs appears on the facade. The ornament on the building is restrained: a plain stone band course encircling the tower, and limestone coping. This structure does not contribute to the significance of the Longwood Historic District. The Patrolman P. Lynch Community Center, at 990 East 156th Street, is an altered Greek Revival residence that was constructed ca.1850. In 1900 the house was redesigned as a clubhouse. The large, six-columned portico has been reduced to a small entrance porch with Doric columns. Doric pilasters, possible original elements, mark the corners of the building, which is crowned by a denticulated galvanized-iron cornice. All the windows have been removed from the facade. Due to a loss of integrity, the Lynch Community Center is a non-contributing structure in the Longwood Historic District. The Patrolman Lynch Community center rear property line goes to Fox Street.
The only other intrusion in the Longwood Historic District is Prospect Hospital, at 730-732 Kelly Street on the northeast corner of East 156th Street. It is a modern seven-story white brick structure occupying five building lots.
The Longwood Historic District is an unusual turn-of-the-century residential neighborhood in the South Bronx. Originally an estate, like much of the Bronx, the area was developed in 1898-1906 by George Johnson, who hired architect Warren Dickerson to design almost all the buildings. The Longwood Historic District's streets are lined with semi-detached houses designed in a style combining elements of the neo-Renaissance and Romanesque Revivals; the groups are differentiated by variations in their ornamental details, but the Longwood Historic District is remarkable homogeneous in character. Besides the houses, the Longwood Historic District includes one church which contributes to the historic architectural qualities of the district.
The Longwood Historic District contains some of the best of the turn-of-the-century architecture that transformed the Bronx into an urban extension of Manhattan. Virtually all of the Longwood Historic District was developed by an astute and farsighted developer, George B. Johnson, who bought the abandoned S.B. White estate around 1898. Johnson and his sons operated their lucrative real estate office out of the abandoned White mansion, which still stands at 734 Beck Street, as the Patrolman P. Lynch Center, although it has been completely altered and this does not contribute to the significance of the district.
The cohesive character of the Longwood Historic District results from the fact that almost all of the residences were designed between 1897 and 1900 by one architect, Warren C. Dickerson. Dickerson developed an extensive and successful architectural practice, specializing in fine residences and apartments.
Stylistically, the structures in the Longwood Historic District exhibit elements of the neo-Renaissance style with an echo of the Romanesque Revival. The neo-Renaissance, reflecting a renewed interest in classicism, was a popular style of the period and is represented in the Longwood Historic District by the use of the masonry bay, the concentration of ornament at doorways and carved panels, Composite, Corinthian and Ionic columns, and other classical details. The influence of the Romanesque Revival style, popular in the 1870s and 1880s, is reflected by a slight heaviness of proportion, the use of rough-cut stone and arched windows.
Jenkins, Stephen. The Story of the Bronx. New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1912.
McNamara, John. History in Asphalt. Harrison, N.Y.: Harbor Hill Books, 1978.
Municipal Records, Buildings Department, Bronx, N.Y.
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Bronx Survey. Unpublished, Fall, 1978.
Union History Company. History of Architecture and Building Trades in Greater New York. New York: The Union History Co., 1899.