Vol. 15, No. 14 July 18 - 31, 2002



     
 

Looking Back
World War I Soldiers Called Norwood Home

By MEAGHAN DOLAN

This summer, like most any other, Gun Hill Road and Mosholu Parkway are busy with cars, running children and people just hanging around outside to beat the heat. But many local residents probably don't realize that at this same time of year a few generations ago, the streets were filled with soldiers. When the United States officially entered World War I in July of 1917, Norwood was the site for Camp Suess, an army training camp, as well as a war hospital for wounded soldiers returning home.

Seemingly overnight, soldiers in khaki uniforms from all over the country were seen "milling and drilling about the streets," of Norwood, according to The Bronx Triangle, a history of Norwood published by the Bronx County Historical Society. Soldiers from the Army Medical Branch of the Ambulance and Stretcherbearers Corps were trained in the middle of Gun Hill Road and along what is now Mosholu Parkway. Their camp was officially called Chateau- Thierry, but was nicknamed Camp Suess after the much admired Commandant Jacob Tennessee Suess. Local residents were accommodating of the soldiers, though no new establishments were started due to their presence. "As far as I know, no bordellos popped up," jokes Bronx County historian Lloyd Ultan.

There were also not enough hospitals to accommodate the sick and wounded soldiers returning to New York from fighting in France in World War I. Before the war, Columbia University owned 19 acres of land on the northeast corner of Gun Hill Road and Bainbridge Avenue, which was a sports complex called Columbia Oval, and included a grandstand, tennis courts, a track and football field. "Kings College Place still refers to [this history], since Kings College was Columbia's original name," Ultan notes. The university offered to have the complex demolished and build a hospital for the War Department. On July 12, 1917, the 54 buildings that made up the Columbia War Hospital was completed and turned over to the War Department.

After the war, the structures were leveled, making room for dwellings and businesses for the neighborhood. Norwood experienced a great period of growth due to the extension of the Jerome Avenue elevated train line in 1917 and the Third Avenue (since demolished) line in 1920.

Montefiore Hospital contributed to the war effort by loaning their recently built Van Cortlandt Private Hospital to treat officers. After the war, soldiers needing long-term care became a significant portion of the patients at Montefiore.

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