Tracing the Origins of “The Bronx”

August 4, 2015 by  
Filed under History

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By Phineas Upham

The native people who inhabited the area we know as New York called The Bronx “Rananchqua”, but that’s not the true etymology of the name. The name actually comes from a Swedish explorer named Jonas Bronck, who was the first recorded settler in the area.

He held land on lease from the Dutch West India Company at the neck of the mainland North of Harlem. He also bought land from locals in the area, which was prior to any conflict that had arisen between the locals and the Dutch. He even named the Harlem River “Bronck’s River”, and both Dutch and English settlers came to call the place “Bronck’s Land.”

There is a definitive article in The Bronx, which is known officially as “The County of Bronx” or “The Borough of the Bronx”. The latter name is the only time when the definitive article is not used. How the usage of that definitive article came into play has to do with the surrounding rivers. It was more convenient to refer to them as “The Bronx River”, and the name stuck.

The Bronx basically went through two periods of history, the first being a period of economic boom prior to the Great Depression. After the Depression, The Bronx saw a surge of unemployment and became a lower-income area. Violent crime and poverty became the norm all throughout 1950 to 1985. Thanks to economic resurgence, and redevelopment in the area, today’s Burough of Bronx is a much safer and culturally richer space.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.