Old Fordham Village is a section of Fordham that dates back to the English colonial era. It is centered on the intersection of the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road. Fordham Village extends north to about 196th Street, south to about 187th Street, east to Southern Boulevard, and west to Jerome Avenue.
The section’s origins date back to about 1751, when Fordham Manor was built, on what was called Rose Hill. Most of the estate is part of the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University. Besides the main manor house and other side buildings on the campus, other historic buildings and noted homes still exist within Old Fordham Village. For example, American poet Edgar Allan Poe spent his final years with his wife Virginia in a cottage in Fordham which is still standing. The nearby Fordham University Church bell is named “old Edgar” and may have been the inspiration for his poem The Bells.
In the 18th century, the Kings Road went through Old Fordham Village, an area of rural estates and small farms, linking Colonial New York and towns and villages north toward Boston. It was a minor rest stop for travelers and coaches, where many springs fed The Mill Brook that crossed this road. During the American Revolution, it was a critical crossing point for Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army retreating toward White Plains to safely escape from New York while being chased by the Colonial British and Hessian Forces. There were many American Patriots that lived in this area. After the revolution, the Kings Road was renamed the Boston Post Road, becoming an important thoroughfare for a growing new nation.
In the 19th century, with the building of the White Plains Line (later the Harlem Line of the New York Central Railroad) and a small station, Old Fordham Village began to grow. Local farmers and dairymen were now able to use the railroad to send their products to a growing New York City. North of the village, part of the Mill Brook was dammed up, and a large pond and ice house was built for shipping and cold storage. It provided fresh ice for the community and the railroad. It was during this time that wealthy merchant Robert Watt gave most of The Rose Hill Estate, east of the village, to a Roman Catholic order, the Society of Jesus. It became known as St. John’s College and Hospital and was the precursor of Fordham University. A small south-west portion of the former Rose Hill Estate is known today as Rose Hill Park. West of the village, on the other side of Fordham Hill, the Bathgate Estate was built; it was later acquired by wealthy stock speculator Leonard Jerome. He built the Jerome Park Racetrack, where the first Belmont Stakes was held, on his estate. West of the station in the village area, the Fordham Hotel and Taverine would provide basic needs for visitors for the college and the racetrack