Hidden from plain view, Bartow-Pell Mansion has been sitting inside what is now modern-day Pelham Bay Park—New York City’s largest park at 2,772 acres—since 1842 after 6 years of construction.
You’ve probably passed right by it along Shore Road as you pass Split Rock Golf Course taking the back road into Westchester or simply on your way to Orchard Beach.
It is a place steeped with history that not only occupies the mansion but the land it rests upon and even Pelham Bay Park itself.
The last remaining mansion and estate of about 20 that once occupied the park—until Robert Moses thought it would be best to just demolish them—preserves an important part of Bronx and national history.
Back in 1654, Thomas Pell purchased 9,000 acres from the Siwonay Native Americans stretching from most of the East Bronx up to Lower Westchester County.
Stepping into the house you immediately leave the 21st century and enter the early 19th century. The only traces you immediately notice that you’re still in 2015 is the obvious electrical outlets, lighting, and other modern conveniences that are hidden away.
Although no furniture or personal items survived from the Bartow-Pell family, the house has been meticulously restored down to the color of most rooms using paint analysis.
The furnishings have been selected from careful historical research of the era to recreate what the various rooms might have looked like and even some of the items are on loan from some of the city’s major museums.
All of the rooms along with the mansion are enhanced by the simplicity of the grounds.
Behind Bartow-Pell you will find a beautifully landscaped, perfectly symmetrical yet simple, walled garden with a reflecting pool at its center.
The garden is quite special as it is one of only a few landmarked outdoor spaces in the city.
Beyond the garden you can take one of the paths which begins right at the burial ground of the Bartow-Pells and proceed along what’s left of Pelham Bay.
The bay was destroyed by Robert Moses when he created Orchard Beach by filling it in to create the crescent-shaped Bronx Riviera and further filling it in creating the expansive parking lot of the beach. This connected Hunter and Twin Islands to the mainland, although Twin Islands become actual islands during high tide.
As you walk along the trails through the estate, you can see the remnants of the other homes that occupied the lands of Pelham Bay Park.
There are so many hidden gems in The Bronx away from the eyes of the rest of New York City residents and the world but even to its own residents.
It’s easiest to reach Bartow-Pell by car but a hop on the 6 train to Pelham Bay and then the 45 Beeline bus gets you there just as well. I decided to take the train and then bike over which was a nice 15 minute ride at most, so you do have many options in getting there.
Click an image to view the gallery below:
Things To Do
The mansion itself is only open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12PM – 4PM with guided tours at 12:15PM, 1:15PM, 2:15PM, and 3:15PM. Admission to the mansion is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students. Children under 6 are free.
Admission to the grounds and garden are free and are open 7 days a week from 8:30AM and close at dusk.
Being able to enjoy such historical landmark in our own backyard is truly a pleasure so make sure you stop on by and check out this gem!