BEAUTY IN THE BRONX: The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and Gardens
by Lynn Byrne
Let me introduce you to a jewel that is tucked away in the northeast corner of the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park. Historical homes and gardens are always rich sources of design inspiration and the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and Gardens is no exception.
It is a rare example of 19th century country elegance. Of more than a dozen architecturally significant homes built on the Long Island Sound, Bartow-Pell is the only one to survive.
The Mansion is built in the Greek Revival Style and retains its original architectural beauty. Even the paint colors are original, having been recreated with paint analysis.
Although few of the Museum’s furnishings, paintings and other decorative items are original family possessions, they are meant to “recreate” an authentic lifestyle as the Bartow’s would have lived.
The museum collection is typical of the highest quality of work from the French, English and American Empire periods between 1810 and 1850.
While the house was built in 1840, the gardens came about 75 years later. In 1914, the International Garden Club was formed to promote horticultural knowledge and to save Bartow-Pell. Over $100,000 was raised to rehabilitate the house and to plant formal gardens. This is one of the earliest restorations in our country, predating even Monticello which was restored in 1923.
The International Garden Club retained Delano & Aldrich, a prominent early 20th century architectural firm. Delano & Aldrich created a lovely, classic, symmetrical terraced garden immediately behind the mansion, taking advantage of the home’s site line to Long Island Sound.
The garden is enclosed by stone walls on 3 sides, with 3 elegant wrought iron gates.
The centerpiece of the garden is a square pool with a cupid fountain.
While the bones of the garden survive, the years have taken its toll. Unplanned trees and shrubs have sprung up obscuring the water view, the symmetry in the plantings is lost, and the garden lacks a much needed irrigation system among many other needs. A family burial plot for the historic Pell family (the original owners of the site, dating from 1654) and a chestnut tree allee also require attention.
The Bartow-Pell Conservancy hopes to restore the gardens for their centennial in 2014. Here is where you can help.
Both a National Historic Landmark and an NYC landmark, Bartow-Pell has been selected by a joint venture between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, known as Partners in Preservation (PIP), as one of only 40 sites in NYC eligible for preservation money.
American Express will be giving away a total of $3 million. Bartow-Pell is seeking $155,000 for its garden restoration. Each site is in a month-long online contest that invites people to cast votes for the places they would most like to see receive the prize money.
It’s like the “American Idol” of historic preservation. The four sites that earn the highest number of public votes are guaranteed to receive funding. Approximately 18 sites also will receive money based on how well they waged their social media campaign. So your vote really counts.
I am asking you to vote for Bartow-Pell. You can vote once a day, every day until May 21st.
It’s easy. Just follow these steps:
- Click here to go to the PIP voting site.
- Once there, click “By Borough”.
- Click Bronx, where you will find Bartow-Pell right near the top.
- Click on Bartow-Pell and vote. You will then be asked to log-in.
- If you are on Facebook (aren’t most of us?), log-in with that. It is easiest and takes just seconds. Then you can confirm your vote.
- If you are not Facebook, click register and follow the prompts. Once registered, you’re set for the entire contest period. Then confirm your vote.