The Briggs Mansion
The startling plan to fill up the Harlem River in
order to make more space for the city's expansion,
was never fulfilled. It still ebbs and flows. Close
to its shores, at 146th Street, rises the white and
stately Briggs Mansion, so styled after Captain
Briggs, whose family for thirty-five years made it
Previous to this it was the residence of Captain
Francis, inventor of the metallic life-boat. A son
of the Captain, visiting the old structure a quarter
of a century ago, told the interesting tale how
Queen Victoria offered his father knighthood in
recognition of his services to the world. As a true
American, the Captain refused. Later, he received a
medal expressing the thanks of the American
The fine old mansion stands forth a striking
landmark to all, far and near. Its roof is of
similar material and made in the same manner as the
life-saving boats. The old nails used in its
construction are all hand-wrought. Down in the
basement, the ancient Dutch oven is still very much
Last but not least, the old fence still remains on
the south side which was designed and studied out
with mathematical exactness by Captain Francis
himself. The William H. Morris Mansion
Nothing but a foundation remains to mark the site of
the solid William H. Morris Mansion, whose stone
walls stood ever since 1816 on the high ground at
167th street and Teller Avenue, overlooking the
peaceful valley where once flowed the tortuous Mill
Brook. To the east was the old Morrisania Station of
the Harlem Railroad, while toward the south lay the
broad acres of that well-known rendezvous of all
lovers of the turf, Fleetwood Park.
A remarkable phenomenon presented itself in the hall
of this great abode, there were no stairs! Broad and
commodious as the hallway was, and extending from
side to side, it was not until a small door was
opened, apparently leading into a small side room,
that the main stairway was disclosed, wending its
winding way above. The owner evidently took no
chances with possible nocturnal visitors of the
Where Mill Brook wound through Tremont's vales, a
pile of stones lay nearby its course, marking the
site of the home in former days of the celebrated
Charlotte Temple. "Ah, Charlotte, Charlotte, the
tears that have been shed over thy fate would easily
form another such rivulet."
The Zborowski Mansion
One of the best preserved as well as finest located
old houses in the entire borough is the grand
Zborowski Mansion, in the high ground of glorious
Claremont Park, overlooking the thickly settled
region below. This vast estate was secured by the
early owner, Martin Zborowski, from the Morris
family through his marriage with Miss Ann Morris.
The charming Zborowski Mansion, now the busy
headquarters of the Bronx Borough Department of
Parks, was erected in 1859, the date being clearly
emblazoned on the walls in figures of purest white.
The second date, 1676, marks the year in which Lewis
Morris received the patent of this land from that
early official, Governor Andros. The velvety lawns,
the giant trees, the magnificent view, all unite in
praising the marvelous judgment used in Mr.
Zborowski's selection of a home.
A short distance to the west, and formerly in the
densest woods, is the location of a veritable freak
of nature, the mysterious Black Swamp, in whose
dreaded and notorious waters, feared since the days
of the Indians, so many blooded cattle have met
their death. For the longest time this marsh defied
all efforts to fill it up. Thousands of tons of
earth and rock would be dumped into its deep maw.
Success was apparently in sight, but when next day
dawned all would have disappeared as if by magic,
leaving only the dark waters in sight, smiling in
the morning sun. Human persistence, backed by more
thousands of tons of material, at last proved
triumphant, and now Morris Avenue reigns supreme.
The Old Bathgate Homestead
From Claremont Park, the broad Claremont Parkway
leads directly into the leafy wilderness of Crotona
Park, whose one hundred and fifty acres were once
the extensive Bathgate farm. A long time ago, a
Scotchman named Alexander Bathgate came to America
and became overseer for Gouverneur Morris. Not many
years passed before his Scotch thrift enabled him to
become the owner of a considerable portion of his
late employer's estate, which he developed as a
prosperous farm. While the surrounding section was
cut up into city lots with city taxes and
assessments, the Bathgate tract still existed as a
regular farm in every sense of the word.
On the west side of Third Avenue, just below
Claremont Parkway, stood the old Bathgate residence,
the latter highway directly piercing the Bathgate
barnyard. Third Avenue, then known as Fordham
Avenue, was but a narrow farm lane.
As a final scene in the play, in stepped the City of
New York and purchased the major portion of the
Bathgate farm, and today Crotona Park, with its
sloping fields, dense woods and popular Indian Pond,
owes its existence to the Bathgate's' desire for
We learn that it was the original intention of the
Commission of the new Bronx parks to name this one
"Bathgate Park," but owing to an exciting dispute
with the Commission's chief engineer, the name
Crotona was chosen, manufactured from the word
James Bathgate, brother of Alexander, purchased his
farm near Kingsbridge Road just east of Fordham
Heights. In 1866 this became the much patronized
Jerome Park, so much sought by every lover of good
horse-racing. Today the vast Jerome Park Reservoir
covers Mr. Bathgate's pastures with its rippling
waters of perfect blue, while seagulls fly in swarms
over the site of the Bathgate Mansion of other days.
The De Voe Residence
Old Highbridgeville may well boast of a splendid
relic of the early days, the old De Voe Residence on
Jessup Avenue, erected in 1804. The section in which
the old house stands, with its quaint low-ceiled
dining-room and still lower ceiled kitchen, has been
in the possession of the family ever since 1694. The
family is of old Huguenot origin, the name being
originally spelled De Veaux.
Just above the De Voe residence, Featherbed Lane
still winds as crooked as ever. Whether it owes its
name to the story that the farmers' wives enabled
the Americans to escape by spreading all their
feather beds down on its stony surface, or whether
it was once so rough that feather beds were needed
at all times to enable travelers to proceed, will
probably forever be an unsolved riddle.
The Rose Hill Manor Houses
On the side, the De Voe family traces its descent
back to the celebrated Andrew Corswa, the last of
the noted Westchester Guides of Revolutionary days.
Corswa was born in 1762 at Rose Hill, now embraced
in the beautiful grounds of Saint John's College,
The youngest of all the Westchester Guides, he was
the last to die. Intimately acquainted with every
inch of the section around Morrisania, Fordham and
Kingsbridge, his services were extensively sought by
the generals of the Revolution. While guiding
Washington and Rochambeau through the lower portion
of this borough, the British artillery suddenly
opened fire from Randall's Island, from their
batteries at Harlem and from their men-of-war in the
river, all at the same moment. Galloping his horse
at full speed, he sought shelter behind the old
Morrisania mill. Glancing back, he spied the allied
generals entirely undisturbed by the terrific
cannononade, and he at once dashed back to their
side, to be received with peals of laughter, and by
a very cordial welcome.
The old Rose Hill Manor House was erected about 1692
and was used as the college infirmary until its
demolition, a few years ago. The new Rose Hill Manor
House still stands in full view of the elevated
trains, an ancient stone structure, with tall,
tower-like cupola, sandwiched in between two large
college buildings. It was constructed in 1838, and
today is used as administration building for the
college which is now styled Fordham University.
The Poe Cottage
Fordham's famous Poe Cottage has been the Mecca for
many thousands of tourists. Its new location at the
northern end of attractive Poe Park assures its
existence for ages to come.
The year 1846 saw Poe and his wife and mother-in-law
move to this "Dutch Cottage," and in its tiny rooms
he composed many of his celebrated poems, including
"Ulalume," "Eureka," "For Annie," and "Annabel Lee."
For years the old cherry tree, into whose branches
he so often climbed to throw down the juicy fruit to
his wife below, was a landmark of the region.
We read that: "The tiny cottage had an air of taste
and gentility that must have been lent to it by the
very presence of its inmates. So neat, so poor, so
unfurnished, and yet so charming a dwelling I never
"His wife had come out into the fresh air to dig in
the ground and to get well. But she was too thin and
weak to dig." In spite of Fordham's salubrious air,
poor Virginia Poe died and was for a time interred
in one of the vaults of the Fordham Manor Reformed
Church, a short distance to the west.
Poe's favorite pastime was to stroll through the
byways of this charming neighborhood, the then new
Croton Aqueduct being his favorite walk. Oftentimes
he would visit Saint John's College, and join in
animated conversations with the Catholic priests.'
1849 saw his departure from the small house, and yet
seventy years later we find his memory as green as
the blades of grass in the lovely Poe Park.
A childhood friend of mine distinctly remembered
being invited with her mother to luncheon at Poe's
new Fordham home. Bare and unfurnished were the
rooms, and at the meal she sat on a rough box in
lieu of a chair. Poe patted her on the head, called
her a "nice little girl," and presented her with a
carved ivory Chinese puzzle of great age, which she
presented for exhibition at one of the well-known
The Jacob Lorillard Mansion
At Third Avenue and 182nd Street the quaint Jacob
Lorillard home is all but overshadowed by the
massive buildings of Fordham's Home for Incurables,
and forms the exceedingly attractive residence of
the medical superintendent.
Full many years ago, on a lovely moonlight night,
the old ladies then living there were surprised by
the sudden appearance of a tall young man, who
stopped before their astonished gazed and, taking
off his hat, dramatically recited the entire poem of
"The Raven" with the air of a master.
The mysterious visitor proved to be the author of
the masterpiece himself, who had strolled down,
enjoying the balmy beams of the full and lovely
Just south of the Jacob Lorillard Mansion is the
site of the Oak Tree Stump, believed to be the
corner boundary for the three patents of Morrisania,
Fordham and West Farms. Oak Tree Place still
perpetuates the ancient name.
The Isaac Varian Homestead
When auto enthusiasts read in their Blue Books
directions to proceed down Bainbridge Avenue and
turn to their right at an old "stone house," in
order to reach the Concourse, do they realize that
the solid old structure referred to is one of the
borough's best preserved historical relics?
Known as the Isaac Varian Homestead, and also as the
Valentine House, it stands in the shadow of the
Williamsbridge Reservoir, and dates from 1776, while
an old wing, recently destroyed, was built as early
as 1770. Van Cortlandt Avenue, on which it faces, is
a portion of the ancient Boston Post Road, laid out
in 1672.Along this Colonial highway it is said that
Paul Revere dashed on horseback in 1775, bearing his
momentous news to the then distant New York City.
In 1777 an encounter between the Continentals and
the British took place here, the former driving
their foe as far as old Fort Independence. In
January, 1777, General Heath ordered a cannonade of
the Isaac Varian House, if the guard should resist.
Its solid stone walls look fortress-like in the
extreme, as if capable of withstanding any attack
save that of a 75 meter long-distance French gun!
Lying in the fields and woods near this old house in
1776 were four hundred cannons of all sizes and
shapes. When the order came to get them ready for
service, the fact that they had all been spiked
caused the greatest dismay. Some rascals had been
secretly plugging their muzzles with stones and
driving files into their torch holes. Twenty
shillings was the cost of having each gun made ready
for service, and only eighty-two were available
after two months. Two men were detected through
having purchased a number of rat-tail files, and
were severely punished for the offense.
Just below the old homestead, and built into the
walls of the parish-house of the Church of the
Nativity, are three historic old tombstones, two of
the old Bussings, dated 1757, and one of the
Valentine family, once owners of the old residence.
The Macomb Mansion
Up to the time of its recent destruction, the
venerable Macomb Mansion was one of the most noted
landmarks of the Kingsbridge section. Standing at
Broadway and 230th Street, a mere shell of its once
glorious self, its white walls almost brushed by the
ever-passing trains of the overhead subway, it
successfully defied for centuries both Time and
Incorporated into this once commodious residence was
that old building erected in 1693, and once known as
the "public house at the north end of the bridge,"
the "bridge" being the old King's Bridge built in
that same year.
The stirring times of the Revolution saw the ancient
abode known as Cox's Tavern, "where dainty dames in
lofty headgear" danced in the quaint, old-fashioned
rooms. Its walls saw Cowboy and Skinner dash across
King's Bridge, bent on many a lawless foray into
Westchester's dreaded Neutral Ground, and witnessed
the victorious Americans marching south in triumph
when the long seven years of strife were finally at
Not far from the great mansion, General Washington
uttered those memorable words: "The time has come
for Americans to decide whether they shall be free
General Alexander Macomb purchased the place in
1800, as a part of the vast forfeited Philipse
estate, and lived in the house for many years. For a
long time the Adirondacks were known as Macomb's
In 1813 his son Robert secured a grant to erect a
dam across the Harlem River on the site of the
present Macomb's Dam Bridge. In later years repeated
efforts were made to call this structure and its
successors by the name of Central Bridge, but the
old title has clung to it most tenaciously.
Edgar Allan Poe was a most frequent visitor at this
great white house, as his Fordham home lay not more
than a mile to the east. The famous poet was but one
of the many illustrious guests so hospitably
entertained in the great drawing-rooms of the
immense Macomb Mansion.
The Lewis G. Morris Mansion
Standing high on the lofty ridge of Morris Heights,
"Mount Fordham," the stately stone Lewis G. Morris
Mansion, with its graceful arched piazza, formed one
of the region's most conspicuous landmarks. Just
south of the great Messiah Home for Children, this
solid structure and its lofty windmill so
conspicuously figured in countless lantern slides as
well as on thousands of photographic plates.
Always prominent in affairs of his day, Lewis G.
Morris occupied the extreme centre of the stage in
his vigorous attack, in 1838, on that exasperating
obstacle existing in the Harlem River, the dam
erected by Mr. Macomb directly across that stream.
Morris erected a pier styled Morris Dock, some
distance north of High Bridge, and chartered a
vessel carrying a cargo of coal from New Jersey for
delivery at his wharf. Macomb's Dam being reached at
full tide, Morris demanded it to be opened for his
ship to pass. Refusal being met, a hundred men
suddenly appeared, who proceeded with much vehemence
to tear down the obstruction until the vessel could
A suit was at once started for damages to the ruined
dam, but the decision was in Morris's favor. Later
on, a higher court upheld the same view, the judge
maintaining that the "Harlem River is an arm of the
sea, and a public navigable river. It is therefore a
public nuisance to obstruct the navigation thereof
without authority of law."
The Old Hadley House
Just west of Van Cortlandt Park, a wonderfully
refreshing surprise greets the eyes of the observing
world. The Old Hadley House has suddenly sprung into
a new lease of life by blossoming out as young and
bright as it was centuries ago.
Cross the vast Parade Ground, if you can dodge
between soldiers as thick as the blades of grass at
your feet. Step across Broadway and the old Albany
Post Road, and you will behold, highly modern in
trim, this striking landmark of the past, fresh from
its Ponce de Leon bath.
Half stone and half wood, this charming elderly
structure can well boast of something new, because
it is really old, its striking "Old Stone Room."
When the house was young, its owner possessed many
slaves, and slaves must sleep somewhere. Why not
give them a tiny room upstairs, no matter if the
rough stones of the inside walls do project far
enough for them to hang their hats and coats on? It
will be a slaves' wardrobe as well as a bed chamber!
"Isn't the owner proud of having such a curious old
house on his land?" we asked. "No, indeed," was the
reply. "He has often said he wished it was burnt
down and out of his way."
(Continue on Page: 2)