There’s nothing quite like dying young to romanticize a poet.
Two hundred years ago young Joseph Rodman Drake was famous.
His poetry referenced the natural beauty of the Bronx and he was often recited in our schools.
Drake lived in Hunt’s Point when it was rolling meadow and oak forest, with wildflowers and the pristine East River nearby.
Thomas Hunt, a close friend to George Washington, had purchased the point of land now named for him and built a stone mansion there in 1688.
It was lush and beautiful here then, and Drake was a regular guest inspired to write a poem called simply “Bronx.”
That was then.
Today Drake’s Park is a tiny oasis surrounded by block after block of gritty wasteland, blighted auto repair and metal scrap yards.
Drake died in 1820 from tuberculosis at just 25 years old, but he was laid to rest in the Hunt family burial ground.
He’s still there surrounded by refrigerated food trucks.
So in 1909 the Parks Department acquired the land and named the streets around him for other poets like Longfellow and Halleck and Whittier.
Now it’s dangerous here.
September 12, 1832
The historic gravestones are so badly vandalized they were repaired with cast concrete.
Few visit here anymore because it’s so industrial.
Except Drake’s last little plot of green.