Dive into the fascinating history of the Bronx in our latest “Did You Know” series, where we explore lesser-known facts about this often overlooked borough.

St. Patrick’s Day Tradition: Painting the Kingsbridge Shamrock

Every year, just before St. Patrick’s Day, a group of locals gather at the intersection of 231st Street and Kingsbridge Avenue to paint a 10×10-foot Kelly green shamrock using latex paint. The tradition, which dates back to 1976, takes place on the Saturday night before the holiday.

Denis O’Flynn and the Inclusive Spirit of the Tradition

Denis O’Flynn’s father provided paint for the shamrock through his company, “O’Flynn Painting and Decorating,” until he passed away in 2011. The tradition began with a group of teenagers and has continued without official neighborhood approval or much police interference. The painters themselves manage traffic around the area using caution tape and garbage cans. Embracing an inclusive spirit, people from various cultural backgrounds have participated in painting the shamrock over the years.

Irish Influence in Kingsbridge and New York City

New York City, including the Kingsbridge neighborhood, has a long history of Irish immigration. The Irish were influential in the city’s political system, founding Tammany Hall, and have been a significant part of the NYPD and FDNY for nearly 200 years. Between 1820 and 1860, a third of the immigrants in America were Irish, and they accounted for half by 1860.

The Irish introduced the concept of dive bars in NYC, and while many have closed, some, like the Punchbowl and Keenan’s, still remain in Kingsbridge.

Honoring the Deceased in the Kingsbridge Community

The tradition of naming the deceased started in 1995 when Denis O’Flynn lost his brother in a motorcycle accident. As the number of deceased community members increased, space became limited. The group then began using a digitally printed banner to honor the deceased, which now hangs on the fence of the Church of the Mediator at the painted intersection.

Expanding the Tradition: Painting Murals in Woodlawn Heights and Throggs Neck

This year, the Kingsbridge crew was asked to paint a mural in Woodlawn Heights by St. Barnabas Church. Woodlawn is a predominantly Irish neighborhood with a strip of Irish bars along Katonah Avenue. Additionally, a large shamrock is painted on East Tremont Avenue in Throggs Neck to celebrate their St. Patrick’s Day parade, which marked its 25th anniversary this year.

Neighborhood Pride: The Heart of the Tradition

The participants of this decades-long Kingsbridge tradition share a common sentiment—it’s not about being Irish, but about celebrating neighborhood pride.