Overview

HISTORY OF PELHAM BAY PARK

In 1888, New York City acquired the land to create Pelham Bay Park. This page of our website is dedicated to the history of that parkland both before and after the City’s acquisition. The timeline below provides an overview of important dates and events. Extended texts describing events in more detail will be added to our Topics page incrementally. Check back often to learn more about Pelham Bay Park history! Be sure to send your comments and suggestions to: friendsofpbp@yahoo.com

Pelham Bay Park Timeline
1625
Dutch settlers found New Amsterdam, forerunner of New York City; Native Americans inhabit area of future Pelham Bay Park, as they did since 1,000 AD.

1642
Anne Hutchinson, religious freedom advocate, settles in the area; in 1643, she is killed by local Native Americans retaliating against brutal treatment by New Amsterdam
Governor Wilhelm Kieft.

1654
Englishman Thomas Pell, of Connecticut, purchases large parcel of acreage in the area from local Native peoples known as Siwanoy; treaty finalized under oak tree once standing inside present gate of Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.

1776
To thwart George Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War, British and Hessian soldiers land on Rodman’s Neck (called Pell’s Point); Colonial John Glover and a small band of patriots hold them off.

1800s
Land originally purchased by Thomas Pell is eventually divided and sold; some twenty to thirty mansions are built, often as summer residences for the upper classes.

1842
Bartow Mansion completed; is now the last remaining estate in the area. In 1946, opens as Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum; designated a NYC Landmark in 1966 and a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

1873
Bartow train station on the New York, New Haven, & Hartford line opens west of Shore Road traffic circle; station later abandoned. Short-lived Pelham Park & City Island monorail, opened in 1910, also begins route there.

1884
Through efforts of New Parks Movement, activist John Mullaly and others, New York State Legislature passes law to acquire land for Bronx parks, including Pelham Bay.

1888
Acquisition of Bronx parkland is completed; parks include Pelham Bay, Bronx, Van Cortlandt, Crotona, Claremont and St. Mary’s; parkways include Mosholu, Bronx and Pelham, and Crotona.

1901
The 9-hole Pell Golf Course opens; is expanded to 18 holes in 1914; in 1936, is refurbished and joined by second golf course and new clubhouse; now known as Pelham-Split Rock Golf Course.

1917-19
Naval Training Base is active on Rodman’s Neck; at peak, holds 4,777 sailors.

1923
With funds from the estate of Isaac Leopold Rice, Rice Stadium is constructed; in 1989, demolished due to deterioration; American Boy sculpture salvaged and eventually re-installed in Pelham South.

1930-1936
Camp Mulrooney, summer police recruit training camp, is active on Rodman’s Neck.

1933
Dedication of Bronx Victory Memorial and Grove honoring borough’s soldiers who died in World War; in 2001, site is re-stored and re-dedicated to all fallen Bronx soldiers.

1934
Appointment of Robert Moses as Parks Commissioner shifts emphasis of Park activity from promoting natural resources to enhancing its active recreational potential.

1936
Orchard Beach, a monumental construction project, opens and replaces a “tent city” utilized by those favored with permits; new Beach is immediate success and dubbed “The Riviera of the Bronx.”

1940s (late)
On Rodman’s Neck, Army installs radar base, active until mid-1950s; in 1958, Police Department establishes firing range there, including bomb-detonation facilities.

1955
Horseback riding stable established; bridle path offers unique views of Park’s forest and saltmarsh.

1963
Sanitary landfill begins at Tallapoosa Point; in 1967, plans to expand operations lead to protests, resulting in establishment of Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary and Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary.

1964
Lagoon prepared and used for United States Olympic rowing trials; it continues to attract local rowing teams and kayakers.

1970s
Period of fiscal crisis for New York leads to drastic reductions in Parks Department budget; Park falls on hard times, with services diminished and vandalism rising; revitalization began in 1980s.

1981
Urban Park Rangers assigned to Pelham Bay Park; eventually leads to Nature Centers at Orchard Beach and in Pelham South.

1986
Opening of Kazimiroff Nature Trail, dedicated to memory of Theodore Kazimiroff, Bronx historian and naturalist; in 1989, opening of Siwanoy Trail, established and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

1995
Restoration grant for Twin Islands allows for marshland dredging and extensive new plantings, bringing area back
to its natural state.

2000
Playground for All Children, equipped for children with special needs, opens in Pelham South; Sensory Garden, providing opportunities for interacting with nature, added in 2006.

2011
In time for 75th anniversary of Orchard Beach, a massive sand restoration and anti-erosion project is completed by the Army Corps of Engineers; 276,000 cubic yards of new sand are added.

The natural shoreline of the future Pelham Bay Park was especially coveted by 19th century park advocates. (Photo: NYC Parks Dept.)