Riverdale Monument may soon get some national recognition
By Nikki Dowling
The Memorial Bell Tower, fondly known as the Riverdale Monument, may soon become an officially designated historic landmark.
Located on West 239th Street, between Riverdale Avenue and Henry Hudson Parkway East, the 500-ton fieldstone and limestone tower was designed by famed architect Dwight James Baum, who is responsible for some of Fieldston’s most famous gothic revival-style homes.
Completed in 1930, the Monument — a large, stone bell tower that features arched windows and is encircled by a walkway and park — honors World War I veterans from Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil and Kingsbridge. In 1936, the entire tower was moved 700 feet to make way for the highway.
The tower’s bell was cast in 1762 for a Mexican monastery, where it was captured by General Winfield Scott during the Mexican American War. In the 1840s, it was moved to Greenwich Village and then placed in the belfry of local firehouse, Engine Company 52 in 1884.
In 1930, the bell was placed in the Monument, which was commissioned by the American Legion Post in Riverdale to honor veterans.
“It is one of the more unique World War I monuments that you could find,” Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan, said in a phone interview.
Now the Department of Parks and Recreation is in the process of putting together an application for the National Registration of Historic Places on the Monument’s behalf. If it is approved, Jonathan Kuhn, director of arts and antiquities at the Parks Department, said it will ensure that the structure gets the protection, funding and attention it deserves.
“It’s an extraordinary architectural monument on a number of levels — as a work of architecture, as a significant icon of several local communities and it has quite a fine pedigree,” Mr. Kuhn said in a recent phone interview.
Since 2007, Parks, which acquired the site in 1938, has cleaned the tower, refurbished its bronze detailing and reappointed the limestone masonry, among other things.
KeywordsMemorial Bell Tower, Riverdale Monument, Dwight James Baum, World War I, General Winfield Scott, Mexican American War, Engine Company 52, American Legion Post, Lloyd Ultan, Department of Parks and Recreation, National Registration of Historic Places, Jonathan Kuhn, State Historic Preservation Office, Nikki Dowling