Places that Matter

Bronx Documentary Center

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Bronx Documentary Center
Bronx Documentary Center
Bronx Documentary Center
A gallery and educational center dedicated to the art and practice of photojournalism
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Place Matters Profile

The distinguished red brick building at 614 Courtlandt Avenue was constructed for German businessman Julius Ruppert in 1871-72, when Courtlandt Avenue was the commercial heart of the southwest Bronx’s burgeoning German enclave. In 1987 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the structure an individual city landmark. Although the designation was largely based on the four-story, edifice’s aesthetic qualities, the Commission’s report also notes that the multi-use building, which initially housed a ground level saloon, assembly and meeting rooms on the second and third stories, and an apartment on the top floor, “is a monument to the first stage of urbanization within what had been the previously rural south Bronx, helping by its presence to establish a sense of place in the new village of Melrose South.”

Its stylistic distinctions notwithstanding, no. 614 Courtlandt Avenue suffered from the decay that afflicted much of the South Bronx in the late 20th century.  In 1997 the city seized the then-vacant building, which continued to lay dormant for years. But in 2010, a veteran photojournalist bought no. 614 with the goal of turning the city landmark into a local one. Now home to the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC), the revitalized building, as well as the activities it hosts, once again contribute to the neighborhood’s sense of place.