Orchard Beach – Bronx NY


Orchard Beach is an artificial beach 6,000 feet long on Pelham Bay in Pelham Bay Park on the east side of The Bronx, built by WPA workers under the direction of the New York City Parks Department. It required a major reconfiguration of the shoreline and sand imported from the Atlantic coast.  It included many auxillary improvements, most notably a large bathhouse behind the beach.  Researcher Frank da Cruz sums up New Deal involvement in developing the area based on multiple Parks Department press releases from the 1930s:

“Orchard Beach [was] created by the federal Work Projects Administration (WPA)[4] from a plan[1] developed in 1934 by NYC Parks Department architects, landscape architects, and engineers [who were themselves] paid by the federal Civil Works Admininistration (CWA)[2]. It was a massive project that joined several islands to the mainland and involved construction of access roads, parking lots, a bathhouse with plaza and dance floor; parkland, nature trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, an athletic field, tennis courts, two boat harbors, a huge bathhouse with locker rooms and restaurants and shops, a plaza, a terrazo, a boardwalk, and the beach itself [1], not to mention cleaning up the water itself[3].”

The bathhouse is a massive pavilion on the beach, which the New York Times recently described as “worthy of Mussolini or Speer — a vast, spare arcade, dwarfing the human figure. Overlooking Long Island Sound in the Bronx, it also has a humanistic side, as an ennobling public work of democratic ambition.” The bathhouse opened in 1936. It was in such demand that it was further expanded by the WPA in 1940 to hold almost 2,000 new lockers. The parking area and access roads were greatly expanded at the same time.

Source notes

[1] NYC Parks Dept press release, May 15, 1934
[2] NYC Parks Dept press release, October 29, 1934
[3] Documents dated June 1, 1935, and May 22, 1935, in the NYC Parks Department archive for 1935.
[4] NYC Parks Dept press release, July 23, 1936, misfiled in the 1937 press release archive. 
[5]The New York Times: The People's Palaces at the Beach by Lisa W. Foderaro, April 4, 2014
[6]Millett, John D. The Works Progress Administration in New York City, New York (Arno Press). 1978: 102.
[7]NY Times - A High-Minded Pavilion for a Day on the Sand
[8]NYC Parks Dept press release, May 29, 1940. 

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Location Info

Orchard Beach
Bronx, NY 10464

Coordinates: 40.8649092, -73.7937613

2 comments on “Orchard Beach – Bronx NY

  1. Ken Karcinell

    Isn’t it true that Orchard Beach had fallen on hard times following WW2, and that for many years it was not in good form, and that Robert Wagner at the beginning of his 3rd term, had the army corps of engineers come in a drudge it out and thus refurbished the beach for Bronx residents only?

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