Day 10

Featherbed Lane

January 9th, 2012

John McNamara, the great historian of the Bronx (who also walked every street in the Bronx!), wrote a book called History in Asphalt that explains the origin of every street name in the borough. I stopped by a library on my walk today to see what he had to say about Featherbed Lane:

There are three well-known versions of the origin of this name. During the Revolution, residents padded the road with their feather beds to muffle the passage of the patriots. Another story is that the spongy mud gave riders the effect of a feather bed. Still another tale is that the farmers found the road so rough, they would use feather beds on their wagon-seats to cushion themselves.

There is a fourth supposition advanced by a native of Highbridgeville that Featherbed Lane was a sly allusion to ladies of easy virtue who lived there. In short, it was the local Red Light district during the 1840's when work on the nearby Croton Aqueduct was going on. Unsuspecting real estate developers of a later time liked its quaint name and retained it.
Amusingly, there is a small park just off of Featherbed Lane — nothing more than a collection of a dozen or so benches arranged in a triangle — named "Featherbenches".


  1. deanna valenti meyer says:

    Hmmm…that’s very interesting stuff!! There is always something to learn when reading this blog!

  2. Dorinda from Mentor, Oh. says:

    Very interesting stuff indeed.

  3. Karen Too says:

    Many of us have said this before, but I’ll say it again:

    Matt could write his own books on this walk, and the previous one. I get that it’s not something he is currently interested in doing, but if he ever changes his mind, I’ll be first in line to buy the books. :-)

    In the meantime, we are lucky to have his blogs.

    Thanks, Matt. :-D

  4. Barry F. Bealick says:

    Supporting MATT’s fourth supposition about the West Bronx’s FEATHERBED LANE’s namesake is the large, mostly Irish-Catholic workforce that constructed the nearby HIGH BRIDGE — completed in 1848, during the Irish potato famine of the 1840’s that attracted many Irish immigrants to the neighborhood — also part of the Croton Aqueduct and spanning the Harlem River. The many stonecutters, foundation workers, masons, and other laborers worked in an exclusively-male environment, so the possibility (probability ?) of a “Red-Light” district on what was named FEATHERBED LANE is plausible.

  5. I lived at 93 Featherbed Lane until I was 4.. This goes back in time to 1950. I was told years later that Featherbed Lane derived from padding the road with featherbeds to protect the patriots during the Revolution as is written in the first version. We moved to Marble Hill in the Bronx circa 1952.. Surely that whole area had historical significance.

    • I heard the same from the woman who founded the House of Calvary on Featherbed Lane (she was 103 years old at the time) . Her version was that the locals paved the road with their beds out of pity for the retreating patriots from NJ That winter was bitter cold and the soldiers’ feet sore.

    • darrett says:

      Shirley: That is the story I heard when I lived there in the 60’s. Were you there when the CBE was created, and do you know if there was a building across the street from 15 Featherbed Lane? Also, any knowledge of the area as to the “upper crust’ lived in that area?

      • Lewis Sperber says:

        20 Featherbed Lane was taken down during the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

        The story we heard was about the feather beds during the Revolutionary War.

        The only “upper crust” was Silvercup Bread

        I lived in 40 Featherbed Lane from 1942 until I was married in August 1964.
        My parents moved a few years later.

        • joseph hirsch says:

          i lived at this address 40 featherbed lane from 1943 when i was bork, when i was nine we moved to the second floor where lewis sperber lived,,i remember him and his mother and his grandmother mrs vinigar

          i was still living at home with my parents till 1969 when we moved away

          i heard a different story about the name..they said that when civil war veterans were walking home them pulled featherbeds out in the street for them to rest

          joseph hirsch, atria riverdale

        • Darrett says:

          my understanding was that the area was where the well to do lived because 15 once had a doorman..not true?

  6. Barry F. Bealick says:

    Featherbed Lane was very-much a part of my University Heights childhood. I lived at 140 West 174th Street at the crest of the hill where hilly Featherbed Lane intersects University Avenue at West 174th Street. Neighborhood residents did a lot of their shopping on Featherbed Lane. My Boy Scout Troop 205 was headquartered at the Featherbed Lane Presbyterian Church atop the hill.

  7. janet marin says:

    My aunt owns a small lot on Featherbed Lane. She won it at an auction in 1986. It has been made into a park.

  8. My family lived in that area from 1926 till 1970. I’m 65. The story they always told me was the one about feather-beds being used to muffle the sound of soldiers’ horses. The tale about the area being a red-light district is new to me….but rather intriguing! Of course, the area remained largely rural/suburban until the arrival of the IRT Jerome Avenue Elevated line in 1917, after which it very rapidly urbanized.

  9. ed klarberg says:

    im looking for inf about bauhmols childrens store on featherbed lane bonx arond 1950 or sooner when the wall and sign outsode the store fell.. no one was hurt it was a miracle though 2 minutes earlier 2 baby carriages with chikdren in them was parked right under this sign and wall, in those days mothers left their children in their carriage and wenr=t dhopping in the store. would like info abut this.

  10. Ron Nieporent says:

    I walked Featherbed Lane every day going to PS104. (1954-57) Lived on Davidson Ave. One of my teachers told us Featherbed Lane was named for the featherbeds laid down to muffle Washington’s troops heading to battle the British. I remember a soda fountain luncheonette, Barthomolul’s kids clothing, Kaplan’s hobby store, a candy store, kosher deli, pizza, jewelry, bakery, and butcher shop. Good old days.

    • Pat Klein says:

      My mother worked at a small women’s clothes store on Featherbed Lane and there was Tommy and Mary’s luncheonette across the street. She used to take me to work with her on Saturdays and we would go to the luncheonette for breakfast and lunch.

  11. Marc Alan Appelbaum says:

    My family lived at 80 Featherbed Lane in the mid 1920’s. My family name is Appelbuam. Anyway, fun looking back in time….

  12. Howard Hirsch says:

    Growing up just a couple of blocks away on Davidson Avenue I heard only the first version of the Featherbed Lane origin, but the others are just as plausible and amusing.

    I remember shopping at Baumohl’s for school clothes too.

  13. Juan says:

    Hi. I enjoyed reading all your comments. I’m researching the area because I bought a virtual property there on the Metaverse platform Upland. Yes, they are selling your childhood buildings in a game.

  14. carol says:

    live between grand and mccombs rd. west to ps 82, taft high grew up there. I remember the Bonilla croud closest to the highway
    they wer all brothers cousins and sisters. it was a 2 family house. we would hang out there sitting on their stoop and just bs the rest of the afternoon away alot of fun and respect both of us girls and the guys. Loved it

  15. Danny says:

    I remember going through Featherbed and Jerome all the time in the 1970s to visit a cousin in that part of the Bronx. We’d always stop to get gas on the way back home. Anyone remember if the gas station at that corner had a large statue of a Native American chief? I have a recollection of seeing it somewhere in that area and it scared me when I was a little kid.

  16. Peter Morrison says:

    My cousin lived on Featherbed Lane and we went there many times when visiting my grandparents just around the corner on Grand Ave. Always bought into the Revolutionary War story since it sounded good….but until recently I never really put 2 and 2 together.

    John Adams, as Vice President moved to NYC, then the capital somewhere around 1790. The War ended in 1783. He moved into a 26 acre estate at Richmond Hill, then on the way-outskirts of town, I’m told somewhere in the West Village area. Outside of him was the “boonies”.

    It is silly to think that white folk were living in the Bronx at all (There was no bridge over the Harlem River) much less in numbers sufficient to build and utilize a stone road.

    Great story….though.

Leave a Reply