Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Stroll Down Burgess Avenue c1900 and Today

The small, but winding, street was one of the most beautiful in Irvington.  Part of Burgess Avenue curves from South Ritter up to University Avenue.  All along the meandering pathway, families built large and modest Queen Anne-era homes and planted trees to outlive their stay.  The 1900 Federal Census reveals that dentists, printers, carpenters, widows, and engineers all called the street home.  They painted their dwellings in lively Victorian colors and kept up with the times by trading in their carriages for an automobile or taking the streetcar.  They added electricity and telephones.  Eventually, a canopy of trees completely shaded the cool street.   Later families would build Arts and Crafts-era homes in the few lots remaining and some even moved houses from University Avenue along the street.

Like many avenues in other neighborhoods, the end of World War II changed everything. Desperate for housing, entrepreneurial homeowners carved the once beautiful structures into several apartment units. During the 1950s and 60s, many fled the neighborhood for ranch homes on large lots in the newer suburbs leaving Burgess Avenue to fall victim to neglect and absentee landlords.  Recently, however, many exciting developments have taken place along the small street including the renovation of some of the dwellings. Many more await rejuvenation.

In the top photo, taken around 1900 along Burgess Avenue, you can almost walk into the image.  The inviting and wandering sidewalk next to tall trees make this a most enchanting place.  Notice the pristine shape of the homes.  If you look closely (be sure to click on the photo to make it larger) you can see a distant street lamp.  How  many of us would like to go back in time and walk down this sidewalk?  I, for one, would most certainly volunteer.

In the bottom photos, you can see 307, 323, and 329 Burgess Avenue in the final days of 2012.  You will note that 307 (the home closest to both photographers) has been drastically changed over the years, including the alteration of the roofline.  The other two homes still possess many late nineteenth and early twentieth-century features. The large oak tree seen in the second photo is visible in the historic photo!

307, 323, and 329 Burgess Avenue c.1900

307, 323, and 329 Burgess Avenue after a winter snowstorm in 2012

Queen Anne homes of 323 and 329 Burgess Avenue in 2012

The stunning historic image is courtesy of Larry Muncie.

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