Greek Revival Mansion a Day Trip from NYC
Published: Wednesday, October 31st 2012
Though it is a subway and bus ride away from Manhattan on public transportation, the trouble is well worth it. The Greek revival interiors of the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum are a step back in time. They are housed in a stone manor built in 1836 by Robert Bartow.
The name Pell was added in 1959 to acknowledge that it was Thomas Pell who originally owned the land. This man was gutsy. He signed a treaty with the Siwanoy Indians for 9,000 acres in this area in 1654 in spite of the fact that the Dutch had claim to it. They did not hand over New Amsterdam to the English until 1664.
Upon entry to the manor, one is drawn to the spiral staircase to the left, which looks like the interior of a snail or the Guggenheim Museum on the upper east side of Manhattan in cross section. The double parlor is straight ahead and to the right the dining room and ladies parlor. Further to the right is the special exhibit, now Shade and Shadow, and in back of that the Orangery, original to the house though in a different form.
Upstairs is the Lannuier bedroom chamber, so named after Charles-Honore Lannuier (1779-1819). It was he who made the labeled bedstead, which is not original to the house but was made for a Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Bell of New York after their marriage in 1810. The descendants later gave it to the Bartow-Pell Mansion.
Also of interest is the Aaron Burr desk that occupies the upstairs sitting room. The guide said that it has traveled many places in its time, never staying in one place too long. She attributed it to its size, though one wonders if there is a question of popularity as well. Aaron Burr’s wife, Theodosia, was related to Robert Bartow, and thereby the desk seems to have a fitting home here.
Aaron Burr’s desk
The girls’ room upstairs also exhibited an interesting piece of history. The carpet, newly made, was patterned after an existing rug in the house. (The new rug is on the left of image). The difference between the two, though similar in design, was the fading of the old piece, which was obviously well used.
The new rug is on the left
The carriage house to the left of the main structure now has exhibits, but retains some of its original purpose. Horseshoes line the supporting structure of the stairway to the loft. Near dusk, sunlight provides a reflective view of the sky in the window.
Reflection in the window of the carriage house
The large gardens behind the house provide an oasis not found in central park. It is actually possible to be alone. There is a green shade garden, a so-called white sun garden, a walled garden and further afield a wildflower meadow, woodland, allée of chestnut trees and the Pell cemetery.
A view from the back of the mansion
This refuge so close to the city provides a day well spent. The guided tour hours begin at a quarter after the hour and are approximately 45 minutes in length from 12:15 to 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Visitors should note that no food is provided at the house.