In doing some unrelated research online, I came across, what I thought to be a very enlightening and quite frankly, enthralling tidbit of significant Bronx history.
Most people from the Bronx are familiar with the the village of Morrisania, the residential neighborhood geographically located in the southwestern Bronx. But, did you know that this "little village" was once part of the very huge Manor of Morrisania, the vast 2,000 acre estate of the powerful and aristocratic Morris family? And, their land holdings, at one time, included most of the Bronx as well as much of New Jersey.
Crazy to think one family could own so much land, but, it appears that the Morris land holdings go back as far as 1644 and extend into the early 20th century. The first lord of the manor of Morrisania was Lewis Morris, who served as Chief Justice of New York Colony, acting Governor of New York, and Governor of New Jersey Colony. His son, Robert Hunter Morris (1700–1764), also served in high political positions as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Colony Supreme Court, and Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania Colony.
As the 4th Lord of the Manor, Lewis Morris was both a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, and also a penman of the United States Constitution.
Today, Morrisania, is only a small corner of the original expansive land area of Morrisania, once owned by this very wealthy and influential American family. In fact, at one point, Lewis Morris had proposed the family's land as the site of the federal capital. Can you imagine if the Bronx were to have become our nation's capital!
Until 1840, the area of Morrisania was sparsely populated until a railroad was allowed to be built across the property by Gouverneur Morris Jr., nephew of Lewis. Then in 1848, he sold off land next to the line for the development of a new town called Morrisania Village.
In the beginning, the village was very much what we would call today, a bedroom community made up of people who worked in Manhattan. However this was relatively short lived as the village began to develop its own local industries, becoming a larger town. By 1874, it was annexed to New York City (which until this time only consisted of Manhattan).
More changes ensued as the years went on and in 1887, the Third Avenue Elevated train was extended into the area to enable easier and quicker access into Manhattan. By the year 1904, the large influx of European immigrants brought the building of tenements to replace houses, which then began to dominate and transform the area into an urban city.
Within this area, however, is the landmarked Morris High School Historic District which consists of two square blocks between Boston Road, Forest Avenue, and East 166th Street have Morris High School and adjacent brownstones.