NEIGHBORHOOD ROOTS (PORT MORRIS)

Even though the auctions take place online, Hayloft occupies a real, brick and mortar address in the Port Morris neighborhood of the South Bronx.

Since the 1850s, factories and warehouses have dominated the area. Today, however, Port Morris is in transition, and smaller businesses are making new homes there. Like Hayloft, many of these new tenants reflect and carry on the neighborhood’s rich artistic and artisanal history.

Port Morris takes up the southwest corner of the Bronx, bound by the Major Deegan and Bruckner Expressways to the north, the East River to the east, and the narrow Bronx Kill below, which separates Randalls Island. The neighborhood was established in the 1840s by Gouverneur Morris, Jr., the railroad entrepreneur and major developer of the Bronx in the 19th century. Morris filled the marshy land, hoping to develop a deep-water seaport linked to railroads and industry. (Morris’ father, Gouverneur Morris, was a Founding Father of the United States who authored the Preamble to the Constitution.)

By 1868, Morris had sold off the land, and while manufacturing did define Port Morris, it was not the hub Morris had envisioned. Instead of a shipping- and freight-based economy, Port Morris and the adjacent, more residential Mott Haven area had in the late 1800s become "the Piano Capital of the United States." Other factories produced stone works, furniture, and iron. Two blocks from Hayloft is the former Marcus Brush Company Building, its painted signage still legible. Low, expansive warehouse buildings are particular to the area, but Port Morris is distinguished by its unusual and dramatic waterfront architecture, especially a pair of hulking, rusted gantries, built in 1948 and abandoned just years later.

Now, a number of planned residential, educational, athletic and mixed-use projects await approval or breaking-ground. Other ambitious proposals aim to revitalize and make public the waterfront from Mott Haven to Port Morris. Shops and community centers like Wallworks, the Compound, Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture and BronxArtSpace highlight and advertise the South Bronx’s vibrant artistic tradition. In addition to its own manufacture and design services, Panorama Windows works with the Landmark Preservation Committee to preserve and restore windows throughout the city. Along with the Port Morris Distillery, Bronx Brewery, and Sol Cacao chocolate factory, new restaurants and coffee shops invite new visitors to discover the area, and spend a little time getting to know its streets and history.