Throgs Neck, the southeasternmost redoubt in the mainland Bronx, was named for an early British settler, John Throckmorton, who arrived on the peninsula now capped by Fort Schuyler in 1642. Throckmorton, as Anne Hutchinson, had religious differences with the rigid Puritans of New England, moved to Rhode Island with its founder, Roger Williams in 1636, then decamped to the Bronx because he may have feared that Massachusetts would invades the tiny colony. Thomas Pell and Throckmorton had to pledge allegiance to the Dutch crown before being granted permission to settle. Throckmorton then fled Indian aggression and again found himself in Rhode Island and later New Jersey.
The peninsula, or “neck” (cf. Little Neck in Queens) was given an abbreviation of its name and Throgmorton Ave., also a tribute, is a variant spelling. Throgs Neck is also sometimes spelled with a double g. This may be due to the fact that in the early days of printing spelling was hardly standardized and would not be so until the days of Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster. However Throgs Neck is spelled, it is a peaceful and quiet area with a few private communities that enjoy views of the water-filled surroundings.
Take a walk along the Indian Trail, which winds along the bank of the East River from Throgs Neck Blvd. at Jasmine Pl., past a multitude of small houses originally built as summer residences but since winterized, along a cliff that offers sweeping views of the nearby Throgs Neck Bridge and to the west, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and the Manhattan Towers beyond; Without these reminders, it feels like a small town by the sea, which Silver Beach is pretty much. It’s only politically that the Bronx claims it. Here, owners own the buildings they live in, but not the property they are on; a similar situation exists in nearby Edgewater Park.
In these shores or sound side (depending on which side of the Throgs Neck Bridge you are on) there is a conscious attempt to de-New Yorkify the surroundings, as in Silver Beach the street names can be found on boards wood nailed to the telephone poles and lampposts are not New York City’s standard issue. Everything combines to give a surreal effect, so pleasant.
Co-ops may be commonplace in Manhattan’s high-rises, but few realize how the Bronx and Queens coastline have become private communities. The green grass, located at the top of Indian Trail, a long narrow walking path along the water, is guarded and access to the best river beach is prohibited unless you are a resident. Although Silver Beach is an older community, current low-rise developments in the outer boroughs escape city zoning regulations regarding beachfront access and continue to be privately developed, effectively shutting off the public access to the river.
This is the Abijah Hammond Mansion, built circa 1805, at Sunset Trail and Plaza. It became the home of a few generations of Havemeyers and is now used as an office for the Silver Beach Co-op Association.
Fort Schuyler, named for Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler, at the tip of a peninsula at the end of Pennyfield Ave. and jutting into the junction of the East River and Long Island Sound under the Throgs Neck Bridge, was built between 1833 and 1851 as part of the “Third System” of harbor fortifications. The first two “systems” were initiated during the Revolution and the War of 1812, while the third was enacted as a preventive means of stopping any enemy ships with designs on New York. Its twin fort, Totten, was completed in 1864: rumors abound of tunnels dug under the river connecting the two forts, and one story claims that a thick link of chain was stretched between the forts to prevent any hostile ships from getting in closer to the city.
The City obtained land for the fort from a certain William Bayard in 1826: however, its construction was not completed until 1851 and it was not fully garrisoned until the outbreak of the Civil War. The fort, which never saw hostile action, served as a military prison and hospital, but closed in 1878 and stood empty until renovated by the Works Progress Administration from 1934. That year, the New York Nautical School moved into a new headquarters at the fort. The school, now State University of New York Maritime College, had taught classes aboard the USS St. Mary’s since 1874. The school remains based at the fort, its current training ship being the Empire State VI.
Since 1986, Fort Schuyler has been the setting for the Museum of the Maritime Industry, established by Captain Jeffrey Monroe, associate professor of transportation at SUNY Maritime, and Jack Hayes, a graduate of 1947. The museum offers one of the largest collections in the world of maritime industry hardware, featuring “the evolution of shipping” from the ancient Phoenicians to the present day, as well as a realistic depiction of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in its peak years, 1942-1944. The Port Authority presents an overview of its role in the economic development of the region. The museum’s Victory Hall is dedicated to the Victory Ships which provided equipment and armament to American ships during the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, while the museum has a collection of hundreds of model freighters, passengers and ships of war, including RMS Titanic, Andrea Doria, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and underwater exhibits of artifacts salvaged from sunken ships. The Maritime Museum is funded, staffed and maintained through voluntary contributions and support. During the hours, dial (718) 409-7218.
New York’s darkest main street is located in the private Bronx neighborhood of Park of Edgewater, aka Edgewater Park, which is wedged north of the Throgs Neck Freeway and south of Eastchester Bay. Edgewater Park was not depicted correctly on maps until the 1980s. Like Silver Beach Gardens, Edgewater Park residents own their homes, but not the property. This has been the case since around 1910, when bungalows were built on the former seaside estate of the Adee family. One of New York’s few volunteer fire departments is based here; another is in Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay. In their early years, the bungalows were just wooden tents with canvas roofs, without heating or electricity; kerosene stoves were used for cooking. They were only busy in the summer. Today they have been completely modernized.
—Kevin Walsh is the webmaster of the award-winning Forgotten NY website and the author of the books Forgotten New York (HarperCollins, 2006) and also, with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, forgotten queens (Arcadia, 2013)