Stretching over four miles through the center of the West Bronx, the Grand Boulevard and Concourse, known simply as the Grand Concourse, has gracefully served as silent witness to the changing face of the Bronx, and New York City, for a century. Now, a New York Times editor brings to life the street in all its raucous glory.
Designed by a French engineer in the late nineteenth century to echo the elegance and grandeur of the Champs Elysées in Paris, the Concourse was nearly twenty years in the making and celebrates its centennial in November 2009. Over that century it has truly been a boulevard of dreams for various upwardly mobile immigrant and ethnic groups, yet it has also seen the darker side of the American dream. Constance Rosenblum unearths the colorful history of this grand street and its interlinked neighborhoods. With a seasoned journalist’s eye for detail, she paints an evocative portrait of the Concourse through compelling life stories and historical vignettes. The story of the creation and transformation of the Grand Concourse is the story of New York—and America—writ large, and Rosenblum examines the Grand Concourse from its earliest days to the blighted 1960s and 1970s right up to the current period of renewal. Beautifully illustrated with a treasure trove of historical photographs, the vivid world of the Grand Concourse comes alive—from Yankee Stadium to the unparalleled collection of Art Deco apartments to the palatial Loew’s Paradise movie theater.
An enthralling story of the creation of an iconic street, an examination of the forces that transformed it, and a moving portrait of those who called it home, Boulevard of Dreams is a must read for anyone interested in the rich history of New York and the twentieth-century American city.
“For anyone who has ever loved a great street or neighborhood as change after change swept over it and dreams and challenges converged. So in fact this is a book for anyone who has ever lived anywhere. It’s a rich, sometimes wild ride through a century of history, beautifully written by a gifted observer.”
—Tony Hiss, author of The Experience of Place
“A must read for anyone who cares about the history of the city. Rosenblum writes with deep feeling and an acute eye and the result is a rare, unsentimental look at a much maligned borough.”
—Laura Shaine Cunningham, author of Sleeping Arrangements
“A seminal recounting of the rise, fall and current revival of a major landmark, this book, with many archival photos and drawings, is a must for those interested in the cultural history of the Bronx and New York City.”
“Like the Grand Concourse itself, Rosenblum’s Boulevard of Dreams is stately and elegant, proud and poignant. Building by building, block by block, character by character, she leads us on what is not just a tour of an epic thoroughfare, but of a city, a culture, and an era. People who love New York will devour this bittersweet and beautifully written book. Then they will make a bee-line to the Bronx for a shpatzir along the Concourse—to ponder how spectacular it once was, and to savor every bit of what remains.”
—David Margolick, author of Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink
“Boulevard of Dreams is a carefully researched and beautifully written work that reads with all the drive of a well-crafted novel. At once broad and detailed, Rosenblum’s descriptions will resonate with the diverse array of New Yorkers who have called the Grand Concourse home, and fascinate anyone with an interest in the evolution of American cities.”
—Thomas Mellins, architectural historian and author
“Like all great documents and painstaking works of love, Boulevard of Dreams is a portal. It opens up the Grand Concourse and, even if we’ve never lived there, gives us an imaginary address and lets us think what the world was like growing up with Stanley Kubrick and E.L. Doctorow.”
—André Aciman, author of Out of Egypt: A Memoir
“Rosenblum has written with real thunder about the Grand Concourse and the wild dreamers who once lived there. Boulevard of Dreams is a passionate and deeply elegiac book.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“For those of us to whom the neighborhood in the city was not just an idea, but a reality, its sweetness and sadness precious, Boulevard of Dreams is a book one must long reflect upon.”
“Rosenbaum has told a harrowing story of construction and destruction, ending with the realistic requirement for changes in attitudes to restore the happy days that once made the Bronx a desirable place to live.”
—National Jewish Post & Opinion
“Pride in the Grand Concourse and West Bronx remains alive. This affectionate volume will help keep it that way by serving as a tangible reminded of what is very much saving and restoring in the Bronx. There was and still is something special about that ‘boulevard of dreams.’ ”
—History News Network
“Rosenblum’s book looks at the history of the Grand Concourse over its entire life, from a vibrant area dominated by upper middle-class Jewish families during the early and middle 20th century to the largely black and Latino communities who live there today.”
—The Berkshire Eagle
“Thanks to Rosenblum’s work, the Bronx’ glorious past will not be forgotten while a new, positive chapter for the neighborhood’s future is being written.”
“The book is a beautiful act of re-creation, untainted by nostalgia, and too varied, too accurate to be only despairing . . . Rosenblum has a fine feel for the everyday people who walked the Grand Concourse.”
“Rosenblum peels back the layers of time, grime and glory that have made this majestic boulevard all that it is and was to generations of immigrants . . . Each chapter unearths new thoughts and shares the fascinating history of the Grand Concourse and its passage through time.”
"Rosenblum, a writer at the New York Times, traces the earliest days of the Concourse and its surrounding neighborhood, its decay during the 1960s and '70s, and its current renewal."
—Ihsan Taylor, The New York Times Book Review
“Constance Rosenblum’s account of the history of the street is evocative and informative.”
—Jewish Book World
“She takes us through the different generations of immigrants who made Concourse neighborhoods their home, looking at the big picture and the changing details of people’s lives.”
—The New York Post
“ Boulevard of Dreams traces the evolution of the area surrounding the Concourse from orchard and farmland to inner-cityscape.”
—The New Yorker
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