Pelham Bay Park

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Pelham Bay Park
Northern tip of Hunter Island in Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park is located in New York City
Pelham Bay Park
Location within New York City
Pelham Bay Park is located in New York
Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park (New York)
Pelham Bay Park is located in the US
Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park (the US)
Type Municipal
Location The Bronx, New York, USA
Coordinates 40°51′56″N 73°48′30″W / 40.86556°N 73.80833°W / 40.86556; -73.80833Coordinates: 40°51′56″N 73°48′30″W / 40.86556°N 73.80833°W / 40.86556; -73.80833
Area 2,772 acres (1,122 ha)[a]
Created 1888
Operated by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Public transit access Subway: Pelham Bay Park ("6" train "6" express train​)
MTA New York City Bus: Bx29
Bee-Line Bus: 45

Pelham Bay Park is a municipal park located in the northeast corner of the New York City borough of the Bronx. It is, at 2,772 acres (1,122 ha),[a] the largest public park in New York City. The park is more than three times the size of Manhattan's Central Park. The park is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks).

Before its creation, the land comprising the current Pelham Bay Park was part of Anne Hutchinson's short-lived dissident colony. Part of New Netherland, it was destroyed in 1643 by a Siwanoy attack in reprisal for the unrelated massacres carried out under Willem Kieft's direction of the Dutch West India Company's New Amsterdam colony. In 1654 an Englishman named Thomas Pell purchased 50,000 acres (200 km²) from the Siwanoy, land which would become known as Pelham Manor after Charles II's 1666 charter. During the American Revolutionary War, the land was a buffer between British-held New York City and rebel-held Westchester, serving as the site of the Battle of Pell's Point, where Massachusetts militia hiding behind stone walls (still visible at one of the park's golf courses) stopped a British advance.

The park was created in 1888, under the auspices of the Bronx Parks Department, largely inspired by the vision of John Mullaly, and passed to New York City when the part of the Bronx east of the Bronx River was annexed to the city in 1895. Orchard Beach, one of the city's most popular, was created through the efforts of Robert Moses in the 1930s.


Pre-colonial times[edit]

Before the colonization of what is now New York State in the 17th century, Pelham Bay Park comprised an archipelago of islands separated by salt marshes and peninsular beaches.[6] Geologically, most of the park's land first formed during the end of the last ice age, the Wisconsin glaciation, which occurred 10,000 to 15,000 years before the first colonists arrived. The melting of the glaciers caused the formation of the current marshes. Sea level rise from the melting glaciers caused sedimentation along the shore, creating sand and mud flats. Gradually, saltwater cordgrass started to retain sediment, causing some of the inland marshes to flood only during high tide.[7]

The Siwanoy (transliterated as "southern people") were the first Native American tribe to inhabit the Long Island Sound's northern shoreline east to Connecticut. They lived a mostly hunter-gatherer existence.[8][9] The Siwanoy used the modern-day park site as a ceremonial and burial site, as evidenced by the wampum belts found in the area,[10] which were used for diplomatic purposes among local Native American tribes.[11] Two glacial erratics in the park, deposited during the end of the last ice age, were used ceremonially by the Siwanoy: the "Gray Mare" on Hunter Island, and Mishow near the Theodore Kazimiroff Nature Trail.[8]

Aerial view of the park (pictured in the center left)

The Dutch West India Company purchased the land in 1639.[11] They called it Vreedelandt, which roughly translates to "land of freedom",[9][12] and alternatively Oostdorp, meaning "east village".[12] Oostdorp became the area known as Westchester Square, to the southwest of the current park.[13][14]

Colonial history[edit]

In 1642, Anne Hutchinson and her family moved from Rhode Island to Split Rock, along the Hutchinson River in what is now Pelham Bay Park. Although the family was English, the land was part of New Netherland under Dutch authority. Other Rhode Island families were in the area, including the Throckmortons and the Cornells, and one account has it hat Hutchinson bought her land from John Throckmorton (for whom Throggs Neck is named).[15] James Sands, who was related to the Hutchinson family by marriage, helped build a more permanent house for the family. However, the Siwanoy took issue with the planned new settlement, repeatedly gesturing for Sands to go away.[16] The property had supposedly been secured by an agent of the Dutch West India Company in 1640, but the negotiation was transacted with members of the Siwanoy, who had little, if any, knowledge of the actual terms of the negotiation.[17] The exact location of the Hutchinson house is unknown, with one scholar saying that the house was in the modern-day park on the east side of the Hutchinson River,[18]:231 and another saying that the house was on the west side of the river in now Baychester.[19] In any case, in August 1643,[18]:239[20] the Hutchinson settlement was destroyed and the family was killed by the Siwanoy, who attacked in reprisal for the unrelated massacres carried out under Willem Kieft's direction of the Dutch West India Company's New Amsterdam colony.[21][18]:237[15]

In 1654 an Englishman named Thomas Pell purchased 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) from the Siwanoy, comprising the land of the current Pelham Bay Park as well as the nearby town of Pelham, New York.[22][23] He made his estate on 9,188 acres (3,718 ha) of that land; the current park consists of the southernmost portion of the estate, excluding Hart Island and City Island.[24] Pell's land would become known as Pelham Manor after Charles II's 1666 charter.[23][25] Parts of Pell's land claim were in conflict with that of other nearby settlers.[13] Pell died in 1669, willing his property to his nephew John,[13][26] who sold off City Island in 1685.[13] The land grant was renewed in 1687.[23] The next year, Jacob Leisler bought 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) of the remaining property on behalf of the Huguenots, and with that land, founded the town of New Rochelle for the Huguenots.[13][24]

Upon John Pell's death in 1700, he willed the property to his son Joseph, who in turn transferred ownership to his own son, John. Ownership of the manor then went to the Bartow family,[27] who were maternal descendants of the Pell Family.[12] On the portion of the manor along the Pelham Bay waterfront, there is a burial plot upon which the Pell Family is interred,[28] which is surrounded by a fence. The fence's four square granite posts contain inscriptions commemorating the history of the Pell plot.[29]

Glover's Rock: "Near this site on October 12, 1776 Col. John Glover and 600 patriots held off British and Hessian forces under Gen Howe long enough to save Washington's troops from destruction, enabling them to withdraw to Westchester and ultimate victory."

During the American Revolutionary War, the land was the site of the Battle of Pell's Point in October 1776. General Sir William Howe, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, attempted a flanking maneuver to trap General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces, and the main body of the Continental Army on the island of Manhattan.[30] The Americans thwarted the landing, and Gen. Sir William Howe, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, looked for another location along Long Island Sound to disembark his troops.[31]:246, 255 On October 18, he landed 4,000 men at Pelham, 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Throgs Neck and close to the current park.[32]:5 Inland were 750 men of a brigade under the command of the American Colonel John Glover. Glover positioned his troops behind a series of stone walls and attacked the British advance units.[32]:14–17 As the British overran each position, the American troops fell back and reorganized behind the next wall. After several such attacks, the British broke off, and the Americans retreated.[31]:255[22][33]

In 1836, Robert Bartow, a descendant of Thomas Pell,[3] bought 30 acres (12 ha) of his ancestor's old estate. By 1842, construction was complete on the Bartow-Pell Mansion, a building that The New York Times described as having a "workhorse"-like exterior and a Greek Revival exterior.[34] Bartow died in 1868, and his family sold the mansion to the city in 1880.[34] The mansion went maintained until 1914, when the city and International Garden Club assumed joint maintenance of the building.[34][35]


Mouth of Hutchinson River, in the park

In the 1870s, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned a greenbelt across the Bronx, consisting of parks and parkways that would align more with existing geography than a grid system similar to the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 in Manhattan. That grid had given rise to Central Park, a park with mostly artificial features within the bounds of the grid.[36][37] However, in 1877, the city declined to act upon his plan.[38]

Around the same time, New York Herald editor John Mullaly pushed for the creation of parks in New York City, particularly lauding the Van Cortlandt and Pell families' properties in the western and eastern Bronx respectively. He formed the New York Park Association in November 1881.[39][40] Mullaly noted that New York City had less parkland per capita than many major European cities, and that the 1853 construction of Central Park had raised property values around the park immediately after construction.[41] His association sent out pamphlets to high-profile New Yorkers, advocating for a new park.[42] However, controversies arose over the proposals for new parks in the Bronx,[43] and so the city did not authorize a commission for the planned new parks.[44] Since the city refused to make a park commission, the New York Park Association appealed to the New York State Legislature instead.[39][44][45] On April 19, 1883, the state passed a law authorizing a seven-person commission headed by association member Luther Marsh, which would be responsible for scouting out sites for future parks in the 23rd and 24th wards of New York City (now the portion of the Bronx that is west of the Bronx River).[46] By January 1884, Marsh had drafted a bill to the New York State Legislature regarding a proposed greenbelt system in the Bronx, comprising six parks connected by three parkways.[47]

There were objections to the system, which would apparently be too far from Manhattan, in addition to precluding development on these sites.[48][49] Prominent opponents included Mayor Franklin Edson, who believed that the system of parks was too big and expensive to acquire, and Assemblyman Theodore Roosevelt, who opposed the bill's being pushed through. However, newspapers and prominent lobbyists, who supported such a park system, were able to petition the bill into the New York State Senate, and later, the New York State Assembly (the legislature's lower house).[50][51] In June 1884, Governor Grover Cleveland signed the bill, now referred to as the "New Parks Act", as law, authorizing the creation of the park system.[50][52][49][53] As part of the proposed system, Bronx Park would be at the center of the system. It was connected to Van Cortlandt Park in the northwest via Mosholu Parkway; to Pelham Bay Park in the east via Pelham Parkway; and to Crotona Park in the south via Crotona Parkway. There were no direct connections to Claremont Park and St. Mary's Park, the other two parks in the system.[54]

Legal disputes carried on for years, exacerbated by the fact that Marsh owned land near Van Cortlandt Park in particular. Opponents argued that building a park system would divert funds from more important infrastructure like schools and docks, and that everyone in the city, instead of just the property owners near the proposed parks, was required to pay taxes to pay for the parks' construction. However, most of this opposition was directed at the construction of Pelham Bay Park, which was then within Westchester County in the town of Pelham.[55] The city was reluctant to pay to buy the parkland because of the cost and locations.[44] Supporters argued that the parks were for the benefit of all the city's citizens, thus justifying the citywide park tax; that the value of properties near the parks would appreciate greatly over time; that the Commission had only chosen property that could easily be converted into a park; and that Pelham Bay Park would soon be annexed to the city. Ultimately, the parks were established despite the objections of major figures like Mayors William Russell Grace and Abram Hewitt; Comptroller Edward V. Loew; and Assemblymen Henry Bergh and Theodore Roosevelt.[55]

After being sued many times, the city acquiesced to buying the land for the park.[44] However, although the residents of Pelham had initially supported the park's creation, they came to oppose it when they found that the park's creation would decrease the town's tax revenue.[56] The 1,700 acres of land for the park were part of the town's 3,000-acre (1,200 ha) area at that time, but could not be taxed, nearly halving the town's tax revenues from land area. One Pelham resident's letter to New York City Mayor Abram Hewitt, asking for financial assistance to supplement the town's growing tax rate, was published in The New York Times in February 1887.[57] A month later, a group of Pelham residents petitioned Hewitt to oppose the park plan.[58][56] The government of New York City also did not want to pay taxes to the town of Pelham if it bought the land for the park, which had been one of the reasons for its initial opposition to acquiring the land.[59] There was a proposal to have New York City pay taxes to Pelham if it acquired the land, which the city's Tax Department called "entirely novel, and of course, wrong".[60]

Despite Pelham residents' opposition to the park, the city acquired the land for Pelham Bay Park in 1887, and it officially became a park in 1888.[61]:693[44] Pelham Bay Park became a recreation area under the auspices of the Bronx Parks Department,[62] which bought the land for $2,746,688, equivalent to $74,811,643 in 2017.[9] The park used land from multiple estates spread out over an excess of 1,700 acres (690 ha),[9] including those of the Hunters, Furmans, Edgars, Lorillards, Morrises, Stinards, Marshalls, LeRoys, and Delanceys.[44][45] Some of the old estates' mansions were still standing twenty years later, particularly the Bartow, Hunter, Lorillard, Morris, Marshall, Ogden, and Hunter's Island Mansions.[63] To alleviate the concerns of Westchester property owners who lost land during the park system's acquisition, the New York City Commissioners of Estimate was supposed to distribute compensation payments.[61]:694 The Commissioners of Estimate paid a combined $9 million (equivalent to $245,133,333 in 2017), but some land owners sued for more compensation in 1889.[64]

Rock outcropping in Pelham Bay Park

Early years[edit]

In 1890, Mullaly proposed using the site for the 1893 World's Fair due to its size;[65] however, the fair was eventually awarded to Chicago instead.[66] The Pell family's burial vault was also marked for preservation that year,[67]:34 (PDF p.135) and in July 1891, the descendants of the Pell family were given permission to maintain and restore the plot.[68]:70 (PDF p.128) After the park opened, several individuals were allowed to reside in the mansions within the park. In 1892, the New York City Department of Public Parks separately allowed the occupation of the Hunter, Hoyt, and Twin Island houses.[69]:9 (PDF p.67); 32 (PDF p.89); 109 (PDF p.193) The next year, two buildings near Pelham Bridge were auctioned off.[70]:404 (PDF p.471)

Pelham Bay Park's ownership was passed to New York City when the part of the Bronx east of the Bronx River was annexed to the city in 1895.[45] Despite the park being for public use, some of the old estates remained standing, with a few occupied by private families. Due to its distance from the city, NYC Parks decided to keep 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks in their natural state, unlike some of the other parks closer to Manhattan, which were being extensively landscaped.[71]:PDF pp.442–443 None of the houses were rented in 1899,[72]:23 but by 1900, thirty-six houses in the park were being used as private residences, comprising 75% of houses rented within parks in the Bronx.[73]:20 This number dropped to thirty-three the next year.[74]:65

In spring 1902, NYC Parks destroyed two houses in the park and used the remaining wood to build free bathhouses, which were used by about 700 bathers per day during that summer.[75]:116 (PDF p.85) Around 1903, Hunter Island became a popular summer vacation destination.[76][77] Due to overcrowding on Hunter Island, NYC Parks opened a campsite two years later at Rodman's Neck on the south tip of the island, with 100 bathhouses.[77][44][45][78] Orchard Beach was extended by 400 feet (120 m) that year, doubling capacity; it also gained a new "comfort station".[78] At the time, Orchard Beach was a tiny recreational area on the northeast tip of Rodman's Neck.[79]

By 1917, Hunter Island saw half a million seasonal visitors.[77] Orchard Beach also became popular, with an average of 2,000 visitors on summer weekdays and 5,000 visitors on summer weekends in 1912.[44]

The park's condition started to decline in the 1920s as the surrounding areas were developed. The park facilities were dirty and deteriorating due to overuse, and there was a lot of vandalism.[44][45] Hunter Island was closed and camping was banned, so some park patrons began camping illegally.[80]

Moses renovation project[edit]

The current Orchard Beach recreational area and Split Rock golf course was created through the efforts of Robert Moses in 1934.[81][3][82] Fiorello La Guardia had become the mayor of New York City and named Moses as the city's Parks Commissioner.[83] Immediately after his position was announced, Moses ordered engineers to inventory every park in the city to see what needed renovating.[84] He devised plans for a new Orchard Beach recreation area after he saw the popularity of the Hunter Island campsite.[77] At the time, the beach was a narrow sand bar connecting Hunter Island and Rodman's Neck. There was a retaining wall behind the sand bar, and breakwaters allowed water from the Long Island Sound to pass through the sand bar. The retaining wall frequently flooded at high tide, which made the sand bar effectively unusable most of the time.[84] There were approximately 600 families using the bungalows near the sand bar, as well as 30-foot-high (9.1 m) bathhouses made of granite pavers.[85]

Orchard Beach promenade, built in the 1930s

On February 11, 1934, Moses announced a plan for the new golf course.[81] Two weeks later, he announced another plan for the upgraded beach, which had been inspired by the design of Jones Beach on Long Island.[86] The beach would be reconstructed through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under the 1930s New Deal program,[3][87] as would the existing Pelham Bay golf course.[81][88]

Moses canceled 625 camping leases in March 1934 so the beach could be built on the land.[89] Most of the campers were connected to the Tammany Hall political structure that had ruled the city at one point.[90] Campers protested to the mayor, but to no avail.[91] Campers subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city, which concerned Moses's right to cancel the leases. The courts ruled in favor of the city in May 1934,[92] and the site was cleared of campers in June.[93] To make the beach longer and more perfectly crescent-shaped, Moses decided that Hunter Island and the Twin Islands be connected to Rodman's Neck by filling in most of LeRoy's Bay.[79] The deteriorated Hunter Mansion was demolished with the construction of the beach.[94] Embury also designed a bathhouse pavilion for Orchard Beach.[3][95]

The golf courses were reopened in June 1935, sixteen months after construction commenced. John van Kleek designed the brand-new Split Rock golf course as part of the city's program to upgrade or build ten golf courses around the city.[96][97] A final design for the beach was unveiled in July 1935,[90] consisting of a curved, concave plaza with a landscaped mall from the west feeding into a terrace that faced the beach to its east,[98] flanked by two locker-room buildings with colonnades that Moses proposed.[99][98]

The beach project involved filling in approximately 110 acres (45 ha) of LeRoy's and Pelham Bays with landfill,[3] followed by a total of 4,000,000 cubic yards (3,100,000 m3) of sand brought by barge from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and the Rockaways in Queens.[100][101] Moses had originally wanted to use sand for the new land, but thought that waste from the New York City Department of Sanitation would be cheaper to use, so the material of choice was switched to landfill.[100] Work on placing the fill began in early 1935, but officials opposed the use of garbage to fill in the land.[102] The landfill was placed among Rodman's Neck, Twin Island, and Hunter Island.[102][103] After the garbage began washing onto the beach through the as-yet-incomplete seawall, work on the filling operation was halted. The board allocated $500,000 (equivalent to $8,900,000 in 2017) for 1,700,000 cubic yards (1,300,000 m3) of sand, and the rest of the land reclamation project was done using sand from Sandy Hook and the Rockaways.[100] The sand-filling operations officially began in April 1936.[104] Two seawalls were built: one made of boulders on the east side of the fill facing Pelham Bay, and a smaller wall on the west side facing LeRoy's Bay, now a lagoon.[100] The fill was then landscaped with flowers, shrubs, and various genera of trees, while the naturally planted chestnut, oak, hickory, black locust, and black cherry trees on either side of the fill were kept as is.[105]

The beach, designed by Gilmore David Clarke and Aymar Embury II, was dedicated in July 1936[82][103] despite only being partially complete.[106][107] The dedication attracted an estimated 18,000 beach-goers.[107] Orchard Beach was set to open along with the upgraded Jacob Riis Park on June 19, 1937,[103] but the openings were pushed back due to unfinished work.[108] Both beaches were opened on June 25, 1937,[109] and the bathhouse pavilion at Pelham Bay Park also opened that year.[3][103][95] Orchard Beach was fully complete in 1938.[106] Later that year, the bathhouse and beach were damaged by a hurricane.[105] Sewage from nearby City Island also seeped onto the beach, and Moses was threatening to close the beach until the city agreed to build a new sewage pipe for the island.[110]

In 1939, one year after the beach was completed, there were plans to expand the beach. The southern locker room was the first to be renovated, with a 150-foot (46 m) extension in 1939.[105][111] Work was halted from 1941 to 1945 due to World War II.[111] The water between Hunter and Twin Islands was filled in during 1946 and 1947, with new jetties at each end of the beach. The promenade was extended over the fill, gaining its current hexagonal tiles as well as refurbished concession buildings.[112] The extension, opened in May 1947,[77][80] consisted of 7 acres (2.8 ha) of new land and 5 acres (2.0 ha) of restored beach.[113] Further improvements were made to the bathhouse pavilion in 1952 and to the northern jetty in 1955. A new concession stand was added north of the pavilion in 1962,[112] and a privately funded Golf driving range was also added that year.[114] The beach was renovated starting in 1964.[115]

Later years[edit]

In 1959, after the Rodman's Neck section of the park had been used for various purposes, the New York City Police Department used land from the park to create the Rodman's Neck Firing Range at the southern tip of the peninsula. Previously, the parkland at Rodman's Neck had been underused, with the NYPD and United States Army using the land at various times.[116][117]

The City began landfill operations on Tallapoosa Point in Pelham Bay Park in 1963.[118] Plans to expand the landfills in Pelham Bay Park in 1966, which would have created the City’s second-largest refuse disposal site next to Fresh Kills in Staten Island, were met with widespread community opposition.[118] The landfill expansion was seen as a way to alleviate the city's accumulations of waste, and Tallapoosa was seen as the only suitable location to put the landfill.[119] The preservation effort was headed by Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, a Bronx historian and head of the Bronx Historical Society. It suffered setbacks in August 1967 when the New York City Board of Estimate voted against an initial effort to create to protected area in the proposed landfill expansion site.[120][121] However, the state and federal governments did not favor the landfill being located at Tallapoosa.[122] On October 11, 1967, Mayor John Lindsay signed a law authorizing in the creation of two wildlife refuges, the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary and the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary, on the site where the landfill was planned to be expanded.[118] Tallapoosa West continued to be used as a landfill until May 1968, when the landfill permit was revoked.[119] In November of that year, Tallapoosa West was made a part of the Pell refuge.[123] The dump still existed as late as 1975, when the garbage there was described as being ten stories high.[124]

A proposal for a 3,300-seat outdoor theater at Pelham Bay Park, replacing Orchard Beach's northern locker facility, was canceled in 1974 due to community opposition.[125] In 1980, NYC Parks proposed a renovation of the beach for its 50th anniversary.[112] By then, the beach had become so rundown that there was garbage covering much of the sand, and there were prostitutes and gamblers along the promenade.[126] The $1 million renovation of the pavilions (equivalent to $2,233,000 in 2017) was completed by 1986. After the renovation, the pavilions contained some shops and fast food, with a nature center and museum planned for the buildings.[127]

In 1983, the Theodore Kazimiroff Environmental Center was proposed for the park, alongside a nature trail that would wind through the park's terrain.[128] It would be named out of respect to the late historian,[128] who had died in 1980.[129] The Kazimiroff Nature Trail and the Pelham Bay Park Environmental Center opened in June 1986.[130][129][80]

By the 1980s, Pelham Bay Park was one of several locations in the New York City area where human and animal remains were being left in large numbers, with 65 human bodies being dumped in the park from 1986 to 1995. It was also very dirty, with discarded trash still visible several decades later.[131] NYPD officers on these cases theorized that the frequency of body dumpings might be attributable not only to the park's remote location near highways, but also because of a belief that the parkland is haunted by the remains of the Siwanoy buried there.[132]

In 1990, NYC Parks received a $6.3 million gift for improvements to Pelham Bay Park and twenty other parks around the city. NYC Parks used the money to renovate trails and clean up weeds.[133] A renovation of Orchard Beach started in 1995, with a new sand-filling project to replace the sand that had been lost since the last such project in 1964.[134] A proposal for a water park at Orchard Beach was revealed as part of a plan to bring visitors back to the beach.[135] That proposal was effectively canceled in 1999 due to large opposition from City Island residents.[136]

A few years later, as part of the city's ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, several facilities in Pelham Bay Park were proposed for upgrades. The new facilities would have included a shooting center at Rodman's Neck, which would have been given to the NYPD after the Olympics; a 350-meter (1,150 ft) horseback riding track, located on a parking lot; and a $23 million renovation of the Orchard Beach pavilion, with the south wing for fencing and the north wing for swimming and water polo.[137] The bid ultimately was awarded to London instead.[138]

In 2010, construction began on extending the jetty at Orchard Beach. Approximately 250,000 to 268,000 cubic yards (191,000 to 205,000 m3) of sand were pumped onto the beach to replace sand lost over the years.[139][140] The jetty project cost $13 million, with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) paying $7 million and NYC Parks paying $6 million.[139][140] Soon after, work started on a $2.9 million project to restore Pelham Bay Park's shoreline, which entailed renovating the seawall, adding a dog run, and creating a new walking trail.[141] In 2012, Native American shell middens were found at Tallapoosa Point, prompting an archaeological investigation.[142] Further digs at the site uncovered more than a hundred artifacts, some of which dated to the third century CE. Work on the restoration project was paused in June 2015 as a result of the finds.[141][143] The restoration project was restarted in September 2015.[144]


Geographical Features of Pelham Bay Park
Geographical features of Pelham Bay Park:
Eastchester Bay
Golf courses
Hunter Island
Orchard Beach/Pelham Bay
Rodman's Neck
Tallapoosa Point
Turtle Cove
Twin Island

At 2,772 acres (1,122 ha),[a] Pelham Bay Park is the city's largest,[5][145] being slightly more than three times the size of the 843-acre (341 ha) Central Park.[146][5] Pelham Bay Park includes 13 miles (21 km) of shoreline[146] as well as land on both sides of the Hutchinson River, and Hunter Island, Twin Island, and Two-Trees Island, all formerly true islands in Pelham Bay and now connected to the mainland by fill.[2] The park is divided into several sections, including two main sections roughly divided by Eastchester Bay.[147][148]

In the eastern section of Pelham Bay Park is Orchard Beach and its parking lot. The eastern section also contains the Hunter Island Wildlife Sanctuary on Twin and Hunter Islands. The Kazimiroff Nature Trail winds through this section.[148] The northwestern section, divided from the eastern section via the Lagoon. It contains both golf courses, as well as the Thomas Pell Sanctuary; the Bartow-Pell Woods; Goose Creek Marsh; and the Siwanoy, Bridle, and Split Rock Trails. The park is crossed by Amtrak's Northeast Corridor railroad at this location, as well as by the Hutchinson River Parkway and New England Thruway.[148] A central section contains a Central Woodland, where the Siwanoy Trail and Turtle Cove Driving Range is present. It also includes Rodman's Neck as well as a portion of the park known as "The Meadow".[148] The Pelham Bridge carries traffic across the Eastchester Bay between the southwest section and the rest of the park.[148]

The park contains many different habitats. The largest habitat is the 782-acre (316 ha) forests, followed by the 195-acre (79 ha) salt marshes, the 161-acre (65 ha) salt flats, the 83-acre (34 ha) meadows, the 751-acre (304 ha) mixed scrub, and the 3-acre (1.2 ha) fresh water marsh.[149] In total, about 67% of the park is estimated to be in its natural state, while 33% of the park is estimated to be developed.[150]:129 In the latter half of the 20th century, Pelham Bay Park's biodiversity decreased: in that time, the park was observed to have lost 25% of its 569 native species of plants as well as 12.5% of its 321 non-native species.[150]:132

Land features[edit]

Hunter Island[edit]

Hunter Island (40°52′36″N 73°47′24″W / 40.876773°N 73.789866°W / 40.876773; -73.789866 (Hunter Island)) is a 166 acres (67 ha) peninsula filled with woodlands; it had previously been 215 acres (87 ha) until Robert Moses extended Orchard Beach in the 1930s.[94] A former island, it was part of the Pelham Islands, the historical name for a group of islands in western Long Island Sound that once belonged to Thomas Pell. The Siwanoy referred to the island as "Laap-Ha-Wach King", or "place of stringing beads".[94][151] One notable boulder, the "Gray Mare" at the northwestern shore of the island, is a glacial erratic where the Siwanoy would conduct ceremonies.[8]

Hunter mansion

The island was then renamed after John Hunter, a successful businessman and politician, who purchased the property in 1804.[152] Hunter, his wife Elizabeth, and his son Elias moved to the island in 1813.[153] The mansion was built in the English Georgian style, and was described as one of the finest mansions of the period, with three stories, a large veranda, and terraced gardens leading to the island's shore. It held a vast art collection of valuable works from artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, van Dyck, and da Vinci.[151][154] The home was situated at the highest point on the island (90 feet above sea level) and had views of Long Island Sound to the east and the hills and woodlands of the Town of Pelham to the north.[94] A stone causeway and bridge were also constructed, connecting the island to the mainland (but blocking the flow of water in LeRoy's Bay).[153] The bridge's remnants still exist as of 2017.[155]

John Hunter lived in the home until his death in 1852.[94][153] Ownership of the mansion then passed to Elias Hunter. Upon Elias's death in 1865, his son John III was supposed to inherit the land only if he lived on it, as per the senior John Hunter's will. John III, who lived in Throggs Neck instead, sold it to Mayor Ambrose Kingsland. The land then passed in succession to Alvin Higgins, Gardiner Jorden, and Oliver Iselin. The city then bought the land in 1889 for $324,000 (equivalent to $8,800,000 in 2017).[94][153] In 1892, one Stephen Peabody was given the right to occupy the Hunter Mansion, paying $1,200 a year.[69]:9 (PDF p.67) Later, the mansion became a shelter for children operated by the Society of Little Mothers. The mansion itself was destroyed in 1937 during construction of Orchard Beach.[94][153] In 1967, the island became part of the Hunter Island Wildlife Sanctuary.[94]

Twin Island[edit]

Twin Island, at 40°52′16″N 73°47′04″W / 40.871186°N 73.784389°W / 40.871186; -73.784389 (Twin Island), is wooded with exposed bedrock with glacial grooves. The East and West Twin Islands (or the "Twins") were once true islands in Pelham Bay but are now connected to each other and to Orchard Beach and nearby Rodman's Neck by a landfill created in 1937.[151] [156][155] East Twin Island, a rocky formation with "ribbons of color" caused by sedimentary erosion, is connected to neighboring Two Trees Island via a thin mudflat land bridge. Two Trees Island itself consists of a rocky plateau upon which one can see Orchard Beach and the environmental center.[156] West Twin Island was at one time connected to neighboring Hunter Island via a man-made stone bridge,[157][158] which now lies in ruins in one of the city's last remaining salt marshes.[159]

The two islands that are now combined as Twin Island have been owned by NYC Parks since the 1888 acquisition of Pelham Bay Park.[158] A tennis court was built on the island in 1899.[72]:26 Twin Island was restored in 1995 as part of the Twin Islands Salt Marsh Restoration Project, which cost $850,000.[159]

Rodman's Neck[edit]

Former private mansion on Rodman's Neck

Rodman's Neck is a peninsula located in the central section of the park (at 40°51′09″N 73°48′02″W / 40.852501°N 73.800556°W / 40.852501; -73.800556 (Rodman's Neck)). The southern third of the peninsula is used as a firing range by the New York City Police Department (NYPD); the remaining wooded section is part of Pelham Bay Park.[148][160] The north side, which is joined to the rest of Pelham Bay Park near Orchard Beach, contains several baseball fields.[148][161] Two small land berms between Rodman's Neck and City Island consist of the island's only connecting road to the mainland.[2]

Rodman's Neck was part of the historic Pell property,[162] and since the city acquired the peninsula in 1888, it has been used for multiple purposes.[117] A dock for the eastern shore of Rodman's Neck was approved in 1891, with funds appropriated for said dock.[68]:17 (PDF p.78) The land was first used as a United States Army training location from 1917 to 1919, during World War I, when it was used by the 105th and 108th Infantry Regiments.[116] It became parkland in the 1920s,[117] but was seldom utilized.[116] In 1930, the peninsula was incorporated as a part of Camp Mulrooney, a summer camp for the NYPD, and was used in that sense until 1936.[116][117] The Army used Rodman's Neck again in the 1950s during the Cold War, building a radar fire control center there.[116] In 1959, the peninsula's operation was transferred to the NYPD who built the current firing range at the peninsula's southern tip.[116][117] In the 2000s, officials proposed to close the now-outdated Rodman's Neck facility and move all operations to a new police academy in College Point, Queens, but due to shortages in funding, it was deemed cheaper to renovate Rodman's Neck for $275 million.[163]

Tallapoosa Point[edit]

Tallapoosa Point is located in the southwest of Pelham Bay Park, near the Pelham Bridge.[148] It used to be a separate island south of Eastchester Bay, having been private property, but was connected to the mainland during the colonial period. The point then became a popular fishing spot.[164] In 1879, the Tallapoosa Club political group started leasing part of the peninsula from the city during the summer, hosting activities there. The club's presence gave the peninsula its current name, and in turn, the club's name was derived from Tallapoosa, Georgia, where some of its members had fought during the American Civil War.[165] The Tallapoosa Club used a mansion originally built by the Lorillard family.[166] They used the mansion until October 1, 1895.[167]:50 (PDF p.138)

Tallapoosa Point was used as a dump from 1963[118] until 1968, when landfill operations ceased[119] and it became a part of the Wildlife Refuge.[123] Since then it has been a part of the park, but there was an obscure proposal in the 1970s to make Tallapoosa into a ski slope.[164] Tallapoosa Point was later re-planted and serves as a bird habitat.[168]


Pelham Bay[edit]

Between City Island and Orchard Beach is a sound named Pelham Bay (40°51′59″N 73°47′25″W / 40.866335°N 73.790321°W / 40.866335; -73.790321 (Pelham Bay)), but contrary to its name, it is not a bay, but rather a sound since it is open to larger bodies of water at both ends. It connects to Eastchester Bay at the south, and opens onto Long Island Sound and City Island Harbor at the east.[148] Approximately one third of the original bay was filled in to create Orchard Beach from 1934 to 1938.[3] In April 2009, the owners of Rat Island, within the bay, put it up for sale for $300,000.[169]

Eastchester Bay[edit]

Eastchester Bay is a body of water that separates City Island and most of the park from the park's southwest portion and the rest of the Bronx.[148][170] It is crossed by the Pelham Bridge, which connects the two parts of the park.[170] It is technically also a sound, and the northern end connects via a narrow channel to Pelham Bay. The Hutchinson River empties into Eastchester Bay near the northern end. The lower portion of the bay opens onto the East River, Little Neck Bay, and Long Island Sound.[171]


A lagoon nearby was once part of Pelham Bay, separating Hunter and Twin Islands from the mainland, and was called LeRoy's Bay until the mid-20th century. It was popular for rowing regattas,[172] but could not be used for regulation rowing races as it was blocked by the causeway to Hunter Island.[173] By 1902, there were calls to remove the causeway so LeRoy's Bay could be used as a raceway.[173] The New York City Department of Public Parks decided to create a "temporary" wooden bridge and remove the causeway to allow the bay's tides to flow freely.[174]

Most of the lagoon was filled in during the mid-1930s reconstruction of Orchard Beach, and the bay became known as the "Orchard Beach Lagoon", or the Lagoon for short.[104][175] The lagoon between Orchard Beach and the Westchester border had been popular for regattas, or boat races, for decades, but it was neglected through the 1940s and 1950s. Rocks, weeds, and unwanted cars were tossed into the lagoon regularly.[176]

The lagoon was chosen as the site of the 1964 Summer Olympics rowing trials,[2] at which point it was widened and dredged, becoming a four-lane, 2,000-meter (6,600 ft) rowing track.[177][178][179] The track, which cost $630,000,[177] was hosted jointly by the city and the organizers of the 1964 New York World's Fair. New York City hosted several of the 1964 Olympic trials at various locations as part of the World's Fair the same year.[178] Afterward, the now-unnamed lagoon was used by New York-area colleges for boating regattas, since it had been determined to be one of the most suitable locations for boat racing in the United States. Multiple colleges, including Columbia, Manhattan, St. John's, Fordham, Iona, and Yale, utilized the lagoon for collegiate rowing practice.[176]

Turtle Cove[edit]

Turtle Cove is a small cove along the north side of City Island Road west of Orchard Beach Road.[148] Around the early 1900s, a land berm was created across Turtle Cove for rails for horsecars. This berm caused the north end of Turtle Cove to become mostly freshwater, which attracted freshwater drinking rare birds in the meadow. A 3-foot (0.91 m) diameter concrete culvert was placed across the berm to allow salt water from Eastchester Bay, but leaves and vegetation blocked this culvert.[180] Starting in June 2009, NYC Parks started a restoration project for the cove, removing the old culvert and digging a canal to flood the north end of the cove with salt water. NYC Parks then placed a foot bridge across the canal. Some 11 acres (4.5 ha) of forest were also restored, with 10,000 trees being replaced.[181] The cove also contains a batting cage and a golf center with miniature golf, PGA simulators, and grass tees.[182]

Notable natural features[edit]

Glover's Rock[edit]

Glover's Rock (40°51′54″N 73°48′19″W / 40.86507°N 73.805244°W / 40.86507; -73.805244 (Glover's Rock)), a giant granite glacial erratic, has a bronze plaque commemorating the Battle of Pell's Point.[22] However, contrary to popular belief, the rock had nothing to do with the battle.[183] In their respective books, Henry B. Dawson (1886) and William Abbatt (1901) both wrote that Colonel John Glover reputedly stood on the rock and watched the British forces land during the battle.[184][32]:255 This claim is erroneous, as these distances were computed based on an inaccurate map using estimates recorded by Glover in his "Letter from Mile Square" on October 24, 1776.[183] The actual location where Glover watched British forces land is closer to the second tee of the current Split Rock Golf Course.[183] The rock is only known as such today because Abbatt includes a labeled photograph of it in his book.[32]:4

Split Rock[edit]

Split Rock

Split Rock (40°53′11″N 73°49′02″W / 40.886479°N 73.817119°W / 40.886479; -73.817119 (Split Rock)), a large dome-shaped granite boulder measuring approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) from north to south and 15 feet (4.6 m) from east to west, is located at the intersection of the New England Thruway and Hutchinson River Parkway, on a triangular parcel of land formed by these roads and a ramp that leads from the northbound Parkway to the northbound Thruway.[185] The only public access to the rock is by a pedestrian trail that begins on Eastchester Place, outside the park. The Bridle Trail passes close to the rock, but is separated from the rock by the parkway's exit ramp.[148] Another park trail, called the Split Rock Trail, leads from the Bartow Circle to the rock.[186]

The Split Rock Golf Course was named after the rock.[2] Split Rock also gives its name to Split Rock Road in Pelham Manor,[187] which used to extend into the park itself.[188] The rock appears to be a glacial erratic and derives its name from a large crevice dividing the stone into two half domes. The huge rock broke in half about 10,000 years ago under the stress of glacial movements.[189][190]

Split Rock is also the location near where, in 1643, Anne Hutchinson and members of her family were massacred by Native Americans of the Siwanoy Tribe. Her daughter, Susanna, the only member of the family to survive the massacre, was at the rock during the time of the attack, which took place at the house, a distance away.[18]:237 In 1904, the New York State Legislature approved the placement of a bronze tablet on Split Rock in honor of Anne Hutchinson.[191] The tablet was installed in 1911 by the Colonial Dames of New York.[192][193] However, it was stolen in 1914.[194][195] The plaque read:[195][196]


Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638[b]

Because of her Devotion to Religious Liberty This Courageous Woman

Sought Freedom from Persecution in New Netherland

Near this Rock in 1643 She and her Household

were Massacred by Indians

This Tablet is placed here by the Colonial Dames of the State of New York

ANNO DOMINI MCMXI Virtutes Majorum Filiae Conservant[196]

The boulder is of enough historic importance that in the 1950s, Theodore Kazimiroff of the Bronx Historical Society convinced officials to move the planned Interstate 95 (New England Thruway) a few feet north to save Split Rock from being dynamited.[197][198]

Treaty Oak[edit]

Treaty Oak (40°52′16″N 73°48′14″W / 40.871°N 73.804°W / 40.871; -73.804 (Treaty Oak)) is located on the Pell estate near the Bartow-Pell Mansion. It was said that under this oak tree, a treaty was signed between Thomas Pell and Siwanoy Chief Wampage, selling Pell all land east of the Bronx River in what was then Westchester.[13][199] The Society of the Daughters of the Revolution erected a protective fence and a plaque near the tree, but it was destroyed by lightning in 1906[200][13] and toppled in a storm in March 1909.[201] A replacement tree was planted in 1915,[202] and the current tree at the location is an elm.[203]

Wildlife sanctuaries[edit]

Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary and the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary consist of a total of 489 acres (1.98 km2) of marshes and forests within Pelham Bay Park. They were created in 1967 as a result to opposition to a planned landfill on the site of the current sanctuaries.[204] Much of the forests in these sanctuaries are estimated to be at least three centuries old, dating to colonial times.[205] The park also has two nature centers at Orchard Beach and in the southwestern section of the park.[180][206]

Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary[edit]

The Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary, named for Thomas Pell, makes up the westerly part of Pelham Bay Park.[207] Included within its bounds are Goose Creek Marsh and the saltwater wetlands adjoining the Hutchinson River[148] as well as Goose Island, Split Rock, and the oak–hickory forests in tidal marshes bordering the Split Rock Golf Course.[208] The area is home to a variety of wildlife including raccoon, egrets, hawks, and coyotes.[180]

Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary[edit]

Located north of Orchard Beach, the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary encompasses all of Twin Islands, Cat Briar Island, Two Trees Island, and the northeastern shoreline of Hunter Island.[209][210] It contains many glacial erratics, large boulders that were deposited during the last ice age. The rocky coast of Twin Islands contains the southernmost outcropping of Hartland Schist, the major bedrock component of New England coastlines, as well as granite with migmatite dikes as well as veins made of quartz.[209][208] The sanctuary supports a unique intertidal marine ecosystem that is rare in New York State. It holds the largest continuous oak forest in Pelham Bay Park, including white, red, and black oak, as well as black cherry, white pines, Norway spruce, and black locust trees. One can also find grape hyacinth, periwinkle, daylily, and Tartarian honeysuckle, which were part of the Hunter Mansion's garden.[180][94] Member species of the islands' salt marsh ecosystem include egrets, cormorants, fiddler crabs, horseshoe crabs, and marine worms.[159]

Wildlife-related activities[edit]

The park is a popular spot for bird watching, with up to 264 species having been spotted. Common bird species observed within the park include great horned owl, northern saw-whet owl, barn owl, red-tailed hawk, and warblers on Hunter Island;[211] American woodcock, willow flycatcher, northern harrier, woodpeckers, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, and white-breasted nuthatch in the meadow west of Orchard Beach;[212] and various songbirds and sparrows north of the Pelham Bay Golf Course.[213] Birds in the park's waters include loons, grebes, cormorants, anseriformes, and gulls from the Twin Island coasts;[214] greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, loons, hooded merganser, Canada goose, mallard, and egrets in Eastchester Bay and Turtle Cove;[213] and osprey and waterbirds in the lagoon.[215] This is a result of Pelham Bay Park's location within one of the major seasonal bird migration corridors. The National Audubon Society has designated the park as one of four "Important Bird Areas" within the city.[216][217]

Saltwater fishing is also popular within the park, but is prohibited on Orchard Beach when the beach is open during the summer.[217] There are two major areas where fishing is allowed: in the southern part of Pelham Bay Park near Eastchester Bay; and in the northern part near the Lagoon, Turtle Cove, and northern beach jetty.[218]


Pelham Bay Park is bounded by the town of Pelham, New York, to the north; City Island and Long Island Sound to the east; Watt Avenue and Bruckner Expressway to the south; and the Hutchinson River Parkway to the west.[2][148]

North of the park is the village of Pelham Manor in Westchester County, and a 250-foot-wide (76 m) strip of land that is part of New York City due to a boundary error. Owners of the several dozen houses on the strip have a Pelham Manor zip code and phone numbers and their children attend Pelham public schools, but as Bronx residents pay much lower property taxes than their Westchester County neighbors.[219]

To the southeast, the City Island Bridge connects the park to City Island.[220][221]

Landmarks, attractions, and recreational features[edit]

Orchard Beach[edit]

Panoramic view of Orchard Beach, facing from the bathhouse pavilion

Orchard Beach (40°52′02″N 73°47′45″W / 40.867304°N 73.795946°W / 40.867304; -73.795946 (Orchard Beach)), a public beach, is part of Pelham Bay Park[77] and comprises the borough's only beach.[106] The 1.1-mile-long (1.8 km), 115-acre (47 ha)[222] beach faces the Long Island Sound and is laid out in a crescent shape with a width of 200 feet (61 m) during high tide.[223] An icon of the Bronx, Orchard Beach is sometimes called the Bronx Riviera,[106][224][225][226] the Riviera of New York City,[227] Hood Beach,[226] or the Working Class Riviera.[228]

Orchard Beach contains a 1,400-foot-long (430 m), 250-foot-wide (76 m) center mall connecting the bathhouses and boating lagoon. At the time of opening, there were also nine baseball diamonds, seven football fields, 32 tennis courts, a children's playground, and a field house.[103] Nowadays, the beach contains the Orchard Beach Nature Center, as well as two playgrounds, some basketball courts, some handball courts, and three tennis courts.[148][229] When the beach opened it contained a pavilion with two bathhouses, a cafeteria, a small-boat lagoon, a 5,400-person locker and dressing facility, and two parking lots with a collective 8,000 spots.[103] The 8,000-space lots at Orchard Beach, the 9,000-space lot for Jacob Riis Park, and the 4,000-space lot on Randalls Island covered 1 square mile (2.6 km2) of land.[223] The beach could host up to 100,000 bathers simultaneously as well as 7,000 people in the bathhouses. The bathhouse contained an upper terrace, which contained small plants and a large fountain that was removed in 1941, as well as a lower terrace with trees and a dance floor and bandstand that were later removed.[105]

For its entire length, the beach is also fronted by a 50-foot-wide (15 m) promenade with hexagonal gray tiles.[230] Four brick utility buildings were built along the promenade: two to the north of the bathhouse pavilion, and two to the south.[105] At the north end of the promenade is a fence that separates the promenade's end from a rock shelf. The shoreline then curves north, following the old boundary of the former Twin Islands.[156]

Both pavilions were landmarked by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2006.[95] The deteriorating 170,000-square-foot (16,000 m2) eastern bathhouse pavilion, which had been neglected since the 1970s,[231] was closed in 2007[232] and fenced off in 2009.[233] The similarly sized west bathhouse started undergoing $7 million in repairs.[233] In 2016, the pavilion received $10 million in initial funding toward a future renovation.[234] The next year, $50 million had been procured to fund the full renovation of the pavilion.[232]

South of the beach is a 25-acre (10 ha) meadow that hosts the only known population of the moth species Amphipoea erepta ryensis.[180][235][133] Another population used to exist in Rye, Westchester County.[236][237]

Bronx Victory Column & Memorial Grove[edit]

South side of statue

The Bronx Victory Column & Memorial Grove is a 70-foot-tall (21 m) limestone column that supports a bronze statue of Winged Victory on Crimi Road in the park. The grove of trees that surround the statue were originally planted on the Grand Concourse in 1921 by the American Legion;[238] they were removed in 1928 when construction began on the IND Concourse Line (B and ​D trains).[239] The current monument was first planned in 1930, after the American Legion expressed its intent to combine the relocated grove between Baychester Avenue and Shore Road with a new monument to honor Bronx servicemen. It was designed by John J. Sheridan and sculpted by Belle Kinney and Leopold Scholz.[239][238] On September 24, 1933, the monument and grove was dedicated to the 947 Bronxites who died in World War I.[239][240]

The column is supported by a pedestal 18 feet (5.5 m) tall. The statue itself is 18 feet tall and 3,700 pounds (1,700 kg), located atop a series of 14 discs. This brings the monument's aggregate height to more than 120 feet (37 m).[240] While officially a memorial to servicemen from the Bronx,[239] it is also a favorite location for wedding photography.[241]

Bartow-Pell Mansion[edit]

A 19th-century plantation-style mansion called Bartow-Pell Mansion (located at 40°52′18″N 73°48′21″W / 40.871611°N 73.805944°W / 40.871611; -73.805944 (Bartow-Pell Mansion)) is a colonial remnant done in Greek revival style.[242][34] The mansion, originally built in 1842, was sold to the city in 1880 and went maintained until 1914, when the city and International Garden Club assumed joint maintenance of the building.[34][35] Since 1975, it has been a National Historic Landmark.[243][35]

Pelham Bay and Split Rock Golf Courses[edit]

The Pelham Bay Golf Course opened in 1901, followed by the Split Rock Golf Course in 1935.[97] The courses, consisting of eighteen holes each, share an Art Deco clubhouse (located at 40°52′30″N 73°48′35″W / 40.874967°N 73.80972°W / 40.874967; -73.80972 (Golf Course Clubhouse)).[244] The courses are separated by the Northeast Corridor railroad tracks, with the Split Rock course to the northwest and the Pelham Bay course to the southeast.[148]

Plans for a golf course in Pelham Bay Park have existed since soon after the park was founded. In 1899, the New York Athletic Club approached Lawrence Van Etten, an architect renowned for designing golf courses, for a request to construct an 18-hole course within the park.[97] The proposed course would be bounded by Pelham Manor to the north; the Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad (now Northeast Corridor) tracks to the west; and Shore Road to the southeast. The city was building Van Cortlandt Park's golf course at the time, but the Bronx district parks commissioner approved Van Etten's plan. Originally, the club wanted to construct a park on Hunter Island, but Van Etten felt that the island was too small for a full 18-hole course.[245] Once the Van Cortlandt Park course was opened, city officials started focusing on plans for the Pelham course.[246]


In April 1900, surveyors began studying part of the park as a possible location for a golf course.[247][246] Later that month, workers began construction at the northwest course location. It was expected that the course would open in June or July of that year,[247][248] but that the work would not be fully complete until September.[246] New York City greenskeeper Val Flood later stated that he thought the course would open by August; however, by September 1900, work on the course had hardly started due to a lack of workers.[249] By the end of 1900, NYC Parks reported that seeds had been planted for nine greens, and two bunkers and one hazard had been created.[73]:23 The course opened in 1901,[74]:69 but did not gain popularity until 1903 when overcrowding at the Van Cortlandt course drove players to use the less crowded Pelham Bay course instead.[250]

In 1934, a new 18-hole course was announced for the north side of the park, along with a renovation to the Pelham Bay course under the WPA.[81][89] It was part of the rebuilding of 10 golf courses in the city.[251] The new course brought the total number of holes in the park's courses to 36, with each course being between 3,000 and 3,300 feet (910 and 1,010 m) between the first and last tees. This comprised two 18-hole courses or four 9-hole courses. There was also a new two-story brick Greek Revival clubhouse adjacent to both of the 18-hole courses, with a golf store, Pro Shop, cafeteria, lockers, restrooms, and showers. Construction started on the new course and clubhouse in September 1934.[252] The new Split Rock course, based on a plan from John van Kleek, opened in 1935[97] along with the rebuilt Pelham Bay course.[96]

Bronx Equestrian Center[edit]

The northern section of Pelham Bay Park is the home of the Bronx Equestrian Center on Shore Road, where visitors can ride horses and ponies through the parks' trails or obtain riding lessons.[253][146] The Bronx Equestrian Center also provides wagon rides and hosts wedding events.[146]

Southwestern section[edit]

The southwestern part of Pelham Bay Park contains several recreational facilities, but unlike the rest of the park, the southwestern section mainly serves the nearby neighborhoods.[4][254] The southwest park's largest point of interest is the Aileen B. Ryan Recreational Complex, which contains a running track, two baseball fields, and the Playground for All Children, a play area with special features for physically handicapped children.[255] Another playground, the Sweetgum Playground, is located near Bruckner Boulevard. The 0.25-mile (0.40 km) Pelham Track and Field includes an artificial turf football field as well as long jumping.[238] The southwest park also contains a dog run, four more baseball fields (for a total of six), two bocce courts, several basketball courts, and nine tennis courts.[256] This section of the park also includes the Pelham Bay Nature Center.[238] The neighborhood of Pelham Bay is across the Bruckner Expressway from this section of the park.[4]

A long and narrow 41-acre (17 ha) woodland called Huntington Woods, located on the southern border of this park, is named after the tract's last owners. Archer Milton Huntington, the founder of the Hispanic Society of America, and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, had acquired the property in 1896 after the park had been established. The city added 31.6 acres (12.8 ha) of Huntington's estate to the park in 1925 and annexed the remaining land in 1933.[257]

The southwestern park also contains two monuments. One, American Boy, was commissioned in 1923 by French sculptor Louis St. Lannes and carved from one block of Indiana Limestone.[255] A tribute to the athletic body, it once stood outside the Rice Stadium and Recreation Building; the stadium, named and funded by the widow of Isaac Leopold Rice, stood at the site from the 1920s until 1989. The former stadium site is now the Pelham Track and Field.[255][258] The other is the Bronx Victory Column & Memorial Grove.[238][240][239]


A nonprofit organization called Friends of Pelham Bay Park (founded in 1992) manages the park, while NYC Parks owns and operates the land and facilities.[259] Compared to the Central Park Conservancy, Friends of Pelham Bay Park does not receive as much funding.[260] Before 1992, there was no private maintenance of the park;[261] the earliest efforts for such a thing date to 1983, when an administrator was appointed to oversee both Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Parks.[262]



The City Island Bridge
The west end of the City Island Bridge (original bridge pictured) is located inside Pelham Bay Park.

As part of the city's acquisition of Pelham Bay Park in 1888, NYC Parks claimed responsibility for maintenance over the western end of the City Island Bridge, which was within the park.[263]:433 (PDF p.502)[61]:695 The City Island Bridge had been built by the 1870s.[264] By 1892, the bridge was in need of maintenance.[69]:PDF p.114 A proposal for a replacement bridge was approved in 1895 due to the existing bridge's deterioration,[71]:41 (PDF p.115) and planning started in January 1896.[265]:252 (PDF p.330) The construction phase itself was approved in June of that year;[265]:259 (PDF p.330) a map of the proposed bridge site was approved in April 1897;[265]:303 (PDF p.380) and the final plan was approved in October 1898.[266]:184 (PDF p.260) It started construction in late 1898 and was completed in 1901.[267]

The Pelham Bridge, which had opened in 1871 on the site of two previous bridges,[268] was also incorporated into the park.[71]:PDF p.443[61]:695 Planning for a new bridge started in 1901,[74]:64 and NYC Parks transferred the responsibility for constructing the new bridge to the Department of Bridges in 1902.[75]:117 (PDF p.86) A new stone bridge was opened in 1908 to accommodate higher volumes of traffic.[269][270]

The century-old City Island Bridge was subsequently replaced again in the 2010s. Planning for the new bridge started in 2005, with construction slated for 2007.[271] A lack of funding delayed the start of construction to 2012.[272] A temporary span was placed while the new span was being built.[273] The new bridge was completed in 2015, with the old one to be demolished soon after.[274]


The park is traversed by the Hutchinson River Parkway on its west side.[3] The New England Thruway, a partial toll road, also has a short highway section in the park's northwest corner.[220][148] The park contains an interchange between the two roads, with a ramp from the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway to the northbound New England Thruway, and another ramp from the southbound thruway to the southbound parkway. This interchange is exit 6 on the parkway and exit 14 on I-95, which uses the thruway.[220] To the south, exit 5 from the Hutchinson River Parkway provides direct access to the park, Orchard Beach, and City Island. The exit and entrance ramps from exit 5 lead east to the Bartow Circle, where the ramps intersect with Shore Road, which runs roughly southwest-northeast, and with Orchard Beach Road, which leads southeast to the Orchard Beach parking lot.[220] Slightly to the southwest of Bartow Circle is the T intersection of Shore Road and City Island Road, which marks the northwest terminus of the latter road. Shore Road continues across the Pelham Bridge to the southwest corner of the park, then turns west and continues onto Pelham Parkway.[220] Meanwhile, City Island Road continues southeast to City Island Circle, where it intersects with Park Drive, a road that connects to Orchard Beach Road in the north and Rodman's Neck in the south. City Island Road then continues southeast across the City Island Bridge to the eponymous island.[220]

NYC Parks assumed responsibility for the park's roads in 1888.[61]:695 An expansion of Eastern Boulevard (later Shore Road) began in 1895,[71]:PDF p.175 and some 4,000 feet (1,200 m) of roads were also repaired that year.[71]:PDF p.476 City Island Road and Eastern Boulevard were paved in 1896.[167]:119 (PDF p.203) By 1897, the city was extending Pelham Parkway through to Eastern Boulevard,[266]:258 (PDF p.328) with the road being paved in 1900.[73]:23 By 1902, Eastern Boulevard was referred to as "the Shore drive" since it ran close to the LeRoy's Bay shore. It was in that year that NYC Parks built a 4,230-foot (1,290 m) dirt path, which connected Glover's Rock to Shore Road. Another 4,870-foot-long (1,480 m) dirt road to Pelham Bridge was also built, and a 6,485-foot (1,977 m) pedestrian path from City Island Bridge to Bartow Station was built.[75]:116–117 (PDF pp.85–86)

The Hutchinson River Parkway in Pelham Bay Park replaced the old Split Rock Road in the park. The original roadway was an undivided, limited-access parkway, designed with gently sloping curves, stone arch bridges, and wooden lightposts. The original 11-mile (18 km) section included bridle paths along the right-of-way. There was also a riding academy where the public could rent horses.[275] The parkway is named for Anne Hutchinson and her family, and passes through the part of the park near where the Hutchinsons were killed by the Siwanoy.[275] Construction on the new parkway started in 1924[276] and the first segment in Westchester opened in 1927.[277] Robert Moses decided to extend the parkway into the Bronx as part of his upgrades to the New York parkway system, and the parkway was extended from Pelham Manor to Pelham Bay Park in December 1937.[278][188] The parkway was extended south to the Bronx–Whitestone Bridge four years later, in November 1941.[279]

The second highway through the park, the New England Thruway, opened in its entirety in October 1958, connecting the Bruckner Expressway in the south with the Connecticut Turnpike in the northeast.[280]

Public transport[edit]

Pedestrian overpass to the Pelham Bay Park subway station
Pedestrian overpass to the park's eponymous station

Pelham Bay Park is served by the New York City Subway at its eponymous station on the west side of the Bruckner Expressway,[281] which is served by the 6 and <6>​ trains.[282] It was part of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), which was building its Pelham line in the late 1910s. The line, which connects to the Lexington Avenue mainline in Manhattan, opened in stages. The first section opened in 1918 as a short spur of the Lexington Avenue line from Manhattan to Third Avenue–138th Street in the south Bronx.[283][284][285] Subsequent northeast extensions of the line opened to Hunts Point Avenue in 1919;[284][285] to East 177th Street in May 1920;[286][285] to Westchester Square by October of the same year;[287][285] and finally to the southeast corner of Pelham Bay Park in December 1920.[288][285] An exit from the station leads onto a pedestrian bridge that crosses the expressway and leads directly to the park.[254][281]

MTA Regional Bus Operations' Bx29 route and Bee-Line Bus System's 45 route also stop at the park.[289] The Bx29 connects City Island to Bay Plaza Shopping Center in Co-op City, using Shore Road and City Island Road. The southbound Bx29 makes three stops in the park: on Bruckner Boulevard near the subway station; at the intersection of Shore Road and City Island Road; and at City Island Circle.[290] Meanwhile, Bee-Line's 45 route stops near Bartow-Pell Mansion.[254] The Bx5 bus also serves Orchard Beach during the summertime only,[291] and the Bx12 and Bx12 SBS services serve Orchard Beach during summer weekends.[292] Seasonal service to the park via the Bx5, Bx12, and former Bx52 routes dates back to the 1970s.[293]


The Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad was chartered in 1866,[294] connecting the Harlem River in the south and Port Chester in the north. The railroad opened in 1873, with some portions passing through the current park.[295] The route, a branch of the New Haven Line operated by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, contained six stations. One of these stations, called alternatively City Island or Bartow, in Pelham (now part of the park).[296] In 1895, the railroad re-acquired some of the land from the park[167]:205 (PDF p.297) In 1906, ownership of the Shore Road overpass over the Harlem and Port Chester railroad line was transferred to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.[297]

A railroad of some sort also connected City Island and Pelham Bay Park from 1887 to 1919. Originally composed of the separate Pelham Park Railroad Company and the City Island Railroad, the 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow-gauge horsecar route was operated by the former of the two companies, which ran service between the Bartow station of the Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad and Brown's Hotel on City Island. The 3.2-mile (5.1 km) route was complete by 1892.[298]

The IRT absorbed the two companies in 1902 and started designing its own monorail in 1908.[298][299] The monorail's first journey in July 1910 ended with the monorail toppling on its side.[300][301][299] Although service resumed in November 1910, the monorail went into receivership in December 1911. The monorail on the line's western end and the narrow gauge horsecar line on the eastern end continued to operate.[302] The monorail ceased operation on April 3, 1914, due to its infeasibility.[303][304][305] On July 9, 1914, the IRT sold the company to the Third Avenue Railway.[306] In 1919, the Third Avenue Railway successfully petitioned the New York Public Service Commission to permit abandonment,[307] and the railroad ceased operations on August 9, 1919.[308]

Meanwhile, the Harlem River and Port Chester tracks were maintained by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.[309]:1092 New stations designed by Cass Gilbert were opened in 1908, but the line's stations were all closed by 1937, having suffered from low ridership.[305] The company went bankrupt in 1968, merging with Penn Central Transportation Company.[309]:1191 Penn Central itself went bankrupt and merged with Conrail in 1976, and Amtrak bought the old Harlem River and Port Chester tracks, integrating the route into its Northeast Corridor.[309]:81 The station house for the line's Bartow station still exists, albeit as a deteriorated shell;[310] the station's roof burned down after it was closed.[305] An overgrown path leads from the bridle trail to the former station site.[311]

The city renovated the Shore Road railroad overpass in the early 2000s. Citing the 1906 deed that transferred the bridge's maintenance to the company that owned the railroad below it, the city then filed a lawsuit to make Amtrak pay for the renovation. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Amtrak in 2013.[297][312]


Bicycle paths go to all parts of the park and west to Bronx Park, east to City Island, and north to Mount Vernon.[313] The bike trails within the park itself are of varying difficulties.[146]

Scenic trails[edit]

The Kazimiroff Nature Trail, a wildlife observation trail, opened in 1986.[130][129] It traverses 189 acres (76 ha) of Hunter Island. Much of the island’s natural features are found along the trail.[314] It was opened in 1986[130] and comprises two overlapping lasso-shaped paths, one slightly longer than the other.[129][314] Along the shared "lasso spur" is a canal for mosquito control as well as an intersection with the old Hunter Island causeway's cobblestone approach path.[314] Going counterclockwise from the intersection with the two "loops", the trail passes through a grove of 100 Norway Spruces planted in 1918; a black locust forest from the 1970s; and a thicket of shrubs and vines.[315] At this point, the longer "blue" trail diverges to the northwest and then northeast, passing the former Hunter Mansion's knoll; a forest of white pines; some mugwort and Ailanthus weeds; the Hunter Mansion's main driveway; a less dense patch of trees and burnt tree stumps, part of a forest burned by the Siwanoy; white oaks and black locusts; and lichen in the boulders, a rare occurrence in New York City parks.[316] The shorter "red" trail goes directly north through a white poplar forest; a grove scorched by an uncontrolled fire; and remnants of the former estates' stone walls.[317] Both trails merge and loop back to the east and south, passing through glacial-erratic boulders, New England bedrock, and the island's salt marsh.[318]

The Siwanoy Trail consists of a trail system that originates in the Central Woodlands section of the park. Originating at City Island Road, it bears to the northeast before splitting into two spurs, one going east to the Rodman's Neck meadow and the other going north around Bartow Circle. At the circle's eastern side, the trail splits again. One spur goes northeast in a self-closing loop to the Bartow-Pell Mansion, and the other goes northwest to connect to Split Rock Trail before going around the Hutchinson River Parkway's interchange with Orchard Beach Road.[148]

Split Rock Trail originates at Bartow Circle and stretches for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) along the west side of the park.[148][186][209] First designated in 1938 along the path of the former Split Rock Road,[188] the path was renovated in summer 1987.[186]

The park is also traversed by a bridle path.[2] That path circumscribes both golf courses, with a spur to the Bronx Equestrian Center.[148]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The exact size is disputed, with some sources giving 2,764 acres (1,119 ha),[1][2] 2,765 acres (1,119 ha),[3] or 2,772 acres (1,122 ha).[4] Recalculations of city park sizes in 2013 determined that Pelham Bay Park was 2,772 acres.[5]
  2. ^ The New York Times quotes this line as "Massachusetts Colonies" rather than "Massachusetts Bay Colony".[195]


  1. ^ Landmarks Preservation Commission 2006, p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Jackson 2010, p. 986.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith, Sarah Harrison (2013). "Exploring Sand and Architecture at Pelham Bay Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 2, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Gregor, Alison (April 27, 2014). "Pelham Bay, the Bronx: A Blend of Urban and Suburban". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c Foderaro, Lisa W. (May 31, 2013). "How Big Is That Park? City Now Has the Answer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  6. ^ O'Hea Anderson 1996, p. 4.
  7. ^ New York City Parks Department 1987, p. 2.
  8. ^ a b c O'Hea Anderson 1996, p. 5.
  9. ^ a b c d "Pelham Bay Park Highlights : NYC Parks". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. September 29, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Siwanoy Trail". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. March 20, 1989. Retrieved September 13, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Leslie Day (May 10, 2013). "Chapter 2: The Bronx". Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City. JHU Press. ISBN 978-1-4214-1149-1. 
  12. ^ a b c Stevens, J.A.; DeCosta, B.F.; Johnston, H.P.; Lamb, M.J.; Pond, N.G.; Abbatt, W. (1892). The Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries. A. S. Barnes. p. 408. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Twomey 2007, p. 212.
  14. ^ "Owen F. Dolen Park Monuments". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. April 30, 1926. Retrieved October 6, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Champlin, John Denison (1913). "The Tragedy of Anne Hutchinson". Journal of American History. 5 (3): 11. 
  16. ^ Barr 1946, pp. 7–8.
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  18. ^ a b c d LaPlante, Eve (2004). American Jezebel, the Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman who Defied the Puritans. San Francisco: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-056233-1. 
  19. ^ Barr 1946, p. 5.
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  24. ^ a b Jenkins 2007, p. 35.
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  46. ^ Laws of the State of New York: Passed at the Session of the Legislature. New York State Legislature. 1883. p. 285. 
  47. ^ New York (State) Commission to Select and Locate Lands for Public Parks in the 23d and 24th Wards of New York City (1884). Report to the New York Legislature of the Commission to Select and Locate Lands for Public Parks in the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Wards of the City of New York, and in the Vicinity Thereof: According to the Provisions of the Act of the Legislature of the State of New York, Chapter 253, Passed April 19, 1883. M. B. Brown, printer. p. 14. 
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  59. ^ "Rough on Pelham, but Must We Pay for It?". The Sun. February 5, 1888. p. 11. ISSN 1940-7831. Retrieved October 7, 2017 – via Library of Congress. 
  60. ^ "TO TAX PELHAM BAY PARK — TRYING TO BLEED NEW-YORK HEAVILY — AN ALMOST USELESS PARK THAT MAY COME NIGH — TWO SIDES TO THE STORY". New York Tribune. February 5, 1888. ISSN 1941-0646. Retrieved October 7, 2017 – via Library of Congress. 
  61. ^ a b c d e Laws of the State of New York: Passed at the Session of the Legislature. New York State Legislature. 1888. pp. 693–696. Retrieved 2017-10-16 – via HathiTrust. 
  62. ^ Jackson 2010, p. 987.
  63. ^ ASHPS Annual Report 1909, pp. 64–66.
  64. ^ "The Courts". New York Tribune. March 16, 1889. p. 4. Retrieved October 6, 2017 – via Library of Congress. 
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  66. ^ Bolotin, Norm; Laing, Christine (1992). The World's Coumbian Exposition: The Chicago World's Fair of 1893. University of Illinois Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780252070815. 
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  20. "Van Cortlandt Park, Borough of the Bronx: Restoration Master Plan, Part 1" (PDF). New York City Parks Department, Storch Associates. 1986. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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