The south and east faces of the Bronx Terminal Market “Prow Building” in 1935 or 1936New York City Government Photo Archive
From 1934 to 1935 the Bronx Terminal Market expansion project took place with New Deal support. The Market was one of eight indoor markets that New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia built or expanded with federal support. It was part of the Mayor’s campaign to clear unregulated pushcart vendors out of the streets and into sheltered, regulated markets. The Market Expansion project improved and provided new facilities for receiving and distributing produce throughout upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The Greenwich Village Historic Preservation Society tells us that the new markets created by LaGuardia “…used federal WPA funds to create…indoor markets that were required to have running water, rail facilities, and loading platforms.”
Researcher Frank da Cruz notes that “[i]n 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.”
Da Cruz has pieced together evidence which reveals that in order to complete the Bronx Terminal Market expansion project, Mayor LaGuardia received New Deal construction funds to build the “Prow Building,” also referred to as “Building D” (pictured above), as well as the adjacent Building B which is now demolished. According Helen Tangires, the federal support for the construction of Building B came from the Civil Works Administration (CWA).
The Prow building stood at the end of one row of wholesale stores. Da Cruz describes the Prow Building as “…a 2-story stucco-clad building…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, Building D [the Prow Building] 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.” The lettering on the Prow Building remains to this day.
Such a design and the use of reinforced concrete building material, as Tangires points out was “…intended to make the site…human in scale and…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.”
In addition to construction funds, the project employed laborers from the relief rolls. The relief rolls, explains da Cruz, was a proto-WPA program “…from before the WPA was created in 1935.” Relief laborers constructed the new facilities and built 48 new stores housed within the expanded market facilities. The Department of Public Markets also used New Deal funds in order to commission the architectural design services of Albert W. Lewis, Samuel Oxhandler, and John D. Churchill. Albert W. Lewis and John D. Churchill were the same architects who designed several other New Deal era markets including the new Fulton Fish Market Complex, the Gansevoort Market, and the First Avenue Retail Market.
From 2006 to 2009 all the buildings of the market, except the Prow Building, were demolished, along with the Bronx Terminal Market Freight Shed and the nearby Bronx House of Detention (both New Deal projects) to make way for a large shopping mall called the Gateway Bronx Terminal Market. The Prow Building was renovated but, according to da Cruz, the current interior bears no resemblance to the original interior. Today the Prow Building houses a number of programs and services that are affiliated with the Hostos Community College of the City University of New York.
Frank da Cruz' "The New Deal in New York City 1932-1943: The Bronx Terminal Market", last accessed May 2016 Frank da Cruz' "The New Deal in New York City 1932-1943: Building B of the Bronx Terminal Market", last accessed May 2016 The Blog of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, "First Avenue Retail Market: Then & Now", last accessed May 2016 Tangires, Helen. 2008. Public Markets (Library of Congress Visual Sourcebooks). New York, NY: Library of Congress.
Project originally submitted by Frank da Cruz on May 18, 2016.
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