After the 1929 stock market crash, the American economy tanked.
The next year saw massive layoffs and the Federal Works Progress Administration was created.
This made Federal tax money available to put construction back to work, and urban planner Robert Moses saw his chance.
He turned to architect Aymar Embury II and according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission they pulled off “among the most remarkable public recreational facilities ever constructed in the United States.”
Begun in 1934, by ‘37 our Bronx Riviera,
Orchard Beach, was born.
Moses arranged for 1.7 million cubic yards of clean, white, New Jersey sand to create 115 acres of shoreline.
Embury designed the bathhouse as a riff on the Palais de Chaillot, in Paris.
Palais via Travelocity
It was an immediate success.
At its peak in the 1940’s, Orchard beach could attract 40,000 on a sunny Summer day.
Designed in the “Federal Moderne” style, the bathhouse featured classic Greek key detailing, public showers, 5,000 lockers, a bandstand and a 500-seat cafeteria.
But time, wind and water has taken its toll.
A $2.4 million study of the pavilion revealed it suffers from alkali-silica reaction, a process in which moist salt air degrades concrete.
Chain link now keeps people away from falling chunks of tile and cement.
Demolition appeared to be inevitable, but some think it can be saved for about $50 million.
Mayor Bloomberg focused on eight different sites, including our High Bridge over the Harlem River, for capital reconstruction projects totaling nearly $300 million.
Whether Mayor de Blasio will value this Bronx landmark enough to save it is anybody’s guess but doing nothing is no longer an option.
Left to deteriorate demolition will be next, and a fond memory of our Bronx will be lost to the weather.
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