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Historic House Tours

Historic House Tours

Each year, members are invited to tour one of Bronxville’s many historic homes. Houses have included the oldest home in Bronxville, a 1920s Tudor-style home, an 1870 stone mansion, a 1910s Italian Renaissance style home, and other gracious Bronxville estates.


2018 | The “Owl House”

One of the largest and most well-known houses in Lawrence Park is the “Owl House,” so named because of the figure of a large owl resting on its central gable. Although most contemporaries identify the house with Brendan Gill, architectural critic of The New Yorker, who lived there with his family for almost 40 years, it was, in fact, built for an early resident-artist, William T. Smedley. Smedley was considered by many of his contemporaries to be Lawrence Park’s most successful artist, both in public recognition of his work and in financial terms. Known as a portrait artist for the upper-class of New York City, he was also a leading illustrator, building his reputation on society sketches that appeared in popular magazines such as Harpers and Scribners.

Smedley’s house, 26 Prescott Avenue, a Victorian Tudor mansion originally called “Oakridge Cottage,” was designed in 1896 by William W. Kent, also a resident of the Park. Building the house of stone, stucco, and wood, Kent made interesting use of the half-acre of rocky terrain on which the house sits. Of the 22 rooms, 18 face south, making them sunny in winter and shady in summer. The exterior is noted for a number of special touches such as leaded windows with bottle glass and carved stucco medallions. A substantial porte-cochere protects the front entry, but the most significant features of the façade are the two gables, in particular the largest with the owl finial, and the windows of the art studios. Although the house had an original art studio, soon after Smedley moved into the house he added a second 25-by-60- foot studio that rises two stories and has a small musicians’ gallery that looks down from the second floor. It was said that Smedley built his studio less than a foot from the property line in a pique over inventor Ward Leonard’s addition of a garage inches from Smedley’s lot. After the Gill family moved into the house in 1946, the artist studio was converted to a theater/gym for the energetic and talented Gill family and their friends.

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2017 | Crows Nest

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Crow’s Nest is among Bronxville’s oldest and finest homes. Well known Hudson River artist and financier Francis Edmonds chose this hilltop site for its commanding views extending to Manhattan, and in 1850, leading Bronxville citizen, quarry owner, and builder Alexander Masterton designed and constructed the stone Gothic-style country house. Edmonds added a large addition to the house in 1854. The house and extensive grounds were purchased by Mount Vernon resident Frank Ross Chambers, a successful New York businessman in 1893, and in 1896, Chambers and wife Kate hired friend and architect Edward Tilton to transform the house and grounds into an elaborately detailed suburban mansion that remains much the same today as it was at the turn of the 20th century.

The architects’ 1890s renovations created a much more distinctive Gothic-style mansion by adding ample new porches, dormers, a commanding new square tower topped with a decorative parapet wall, and multiple gables trimmed with ornately carved bargeboards. Great care was taken to match the exterior stone. Village institutions such as the Bronxville Public School, the public library, village hall, and the Boy Scout field occupy land formerly held by the owners of Crow’s Nest until the 1920s.

Builder: Alexander Masterton for Francis Edmonds; 1896 renovation by Architects Edward Tilton and William Boring for Frank Chambers


2015 | 20 Park Avenue & 6 Chestnut Avenue


In the mid-1890s, Elizabeth Custer bought her first Bronxville house, 20 Park Avenue, next door to a Michigan hometown friend. The house included two towers, one originally with a crenelated parapet that was said to be reminiscent of Western forts where the Custers had lived. In 1902 the Widow Custer built a second home at 6 Chestnut, only a few hundred feet from her Park Avenue house. This larger sixteen-room home was said to have been built to enable her to entertain more easily.

20 Park Avenue “Elizabeth Bacon Custer home #1”
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Elizabeth Custer, widow of General George Armstrong Custer (who was killed at the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, Montana), moved to New York City in the late 1870s. She was drawn to Bronxville in the 1890s by the presence of her Michigan childhood friends, sisters Sarah Bates Lawrence (wife of William V. Lawrence) and Agnes Bates Wellington. By this point in her life, Mrs. Custer had become a well-known author and lecturer whose subjects were most often of the Custers’ experiences in the West. Around 1894, architect Bates built the 20 Park Avenue house for Mrs. Custer at the same time he built the house next door at 24 Park for her good friend Agnes Bates Wellington.

The most distinctive features of the Custer house are the two towers. The hexagonal tower on the south was originally a single-story open porch with a crenellated parapet (an upper wall with “teeth-like” cut-out sections). This fortress-like feature may have appealed to the widow of a general. This tower was later enclosed and a second-floor room was added. The north round tower has always been two-story. Typical of architect Bates, the base of the house is rough stone and the walls are shingles that vary in pattern, especially the zigzag shingles on the hexagonal tower. The house is perched on a hill and this allows the natural terrain to dictate its organization. Behind the two towers is a two-story rectangular structure with peaked roof, and across the northeast back corner of this central rectangle is a single-story enclosed porch, topped by a balcony with a railing.

6 Chestnut “Laurentia”
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Elizabeth Custer’s second home in Bronxville, 6 Chestnut Avenue, was built only a few hundred yards from her first at 20 Park Avenue. She purchased the property in 1899 from William Van Duzer Lawrence and in 1902 built a much larger home. She named this house “Laurentia” in honor of her close friends, William and Sarah Lawrence. In the nearly three decades she owned the house, Mrs. Custer often leased it, fully furnished, during periods when she traveled extensively or was staying elsewhere, which included the nearby Hotel Gramatan.

Designed by architect William A. Bates, 6 Chestnut is considered to be one of the finest of the dozens of structures he built in Bronxville. It is a large, stone and shingle house with a three-story tower (with a wrap-around balcony), and multiple dormers. Built on the edge of a sheer rock face, it fronts on a curve on Chestnut as the cobblestone roadway steeply descends from Prescott Avenue on its winding route to Park Avenue below. The large stone porch has built-in wooden benches on either side of the front door. The long driveway to the house approaches from lower Park Avenue (the yellow brick road) near its intersection with Tanglewylde.

Architect: William Bates


2014 | Oakledge

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The original manor house was built in 1870 for John Masterton, early founder Alexander Masterton’s youngest son, a politician and banker. In1884 he was arrested and soon lost his house and all his assets for using depositors’ money for speculating in mining stocks. Later owners, generous philanthropists, became well-known for lending the house to the community’s Red Cross chapter to do war work both before and during World War II, thus earning the house its second name.

As a result of a fire in the 1920s, architect Lewis Bowman did a massive reconstruction and changed the look of the house considerably. The original three-story, plain, square, stone construction (with walls nearly 18 inches thick), had a mansard roof with dormers and a first-floor columned porch that surrounded the house. Bowman entirely redesigned the roofline, and recreated the house in his trademark Tudor style. He added wings to both ends of the house, the northern included an open terrace for dancing and the southern a kitchen, butler’s pantry and servant quarters. He installed a number of large windows in the new additions and increased the size of the reception room by bringing the front wall forward. Two subsequent owners in 1998 and 2007 have made extensive renovations, mostly to the interior.

Architects: original unknown; 1920s, Lewis Bowman; 1998 and 2007, Boris Baranovich.


2012 | Hilltop Artists

As a tribute to the village’s artists, we presented for inspection the historic studios of Will and Mary Low (25 Prescott Avenue), Lorenzo Hatch (6 Lookout Avenue), and Hermann Schladermundt (8 Park Avenue). These studios have retained their large north-facing windows, while affording contemporary families the luxury of grand and comfortable indoor spaces.

25 Prescott
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In 1897, William V. Lawrence enticed the internationally recognized artist, Will Low, and his French wife to move to Lawrence Park and join other artists in his newly developed “colony” by offering Low a house with a studio large enough for him to paint his famous murals. After the death of his wife in 1909, Low renewed a friendship with an American painter, Mary Macmonnies, who was divorcing. They soon were married and she moved to the Prescott house in 1910 where the artist couple lived until his death in 1932 and hers in 1946.

The 1891 shingled house, located on the Prescott side of Wellington Circle and situated at an angle on the property, did not have a studio, so Lawrence added a 24-foot-square room to the existing structure in 1897. The large studio was located at the southeast end of the house, with ample light from the enormous east-facing window, as well as a large north-facing window and skylight incorporated into the adjacent wall. Beneath the studio was a dirt-floor crawl space from which large canvases could be raised.

Architect: William Bates

6 Lookout Avenue
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This charming residence, former home of Lorenzo Hatch, engraver, is located on the Lawrence Park Hilltop, originally Bronxville’s famed artist’s colony. The house, dating from 1892, is built around a double-height great room that was originally the artist’s studio. It features a large north-facing window, built in bookcases, a bay window facing West and a cozy fireplace tucked under the stairway.

Architect: William A. Bates

8 Park Avenue
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In 1898, artist Hermann Schladermundt, known for his architectural decoration, moved into a newly built studio-home near the foot of Park Avenue, just above where the yellow brick road ascends the hill into Lawrence Park. The year before, he had created a frieze for one of the large rooms in the Gramatan Inn that was destroyed by fire shortly thereafter. Some of his early training was with Carrere & Hastings architects.

The artist’s house-studio at 8 Park Avenue is of stucco, stone, and shingle design. It also includes brickwork and ornamental wood siding. From the front the house appears quite modest, but seen from behind, the structure takes on a very different, rather commanding presence with its large two-story studio window. After the artist’s death, the house became the residence of the artist’s son, an architect, who remodeled and modernized the home in the 1940s.

Architects: Walker and Morris


2011 | The DeWitt Farmhouse

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This unique mid-nineteenth-century house boasts twentieth-century additions by Lewis Bowman and is set on one of the largest parcels of residential land in the village. Surrounded by old-growth trees and beautiful gardens, it is situated well back from the road that was carved through the woods by Masterton over 165 years ago.

In February of 1855, Amelia and William A. DeWitt, purchased nine acres of land along a new road connecting White Plains Road to Midland Avenue. There is no record of a house located on the property prior to 1855, so it is assumed that the DeWitts had the farm house constructed and lived there for nine years until Mrs. DeWitt was widowed and sold the property. Members of the current owner’s family have lived in the house for almost 60 years.

The Greek Revival-design structure originally was a two-story, four-square building with balloon framing. The original large front porch boasted an Ionic entablature and columns that were later replaced by the current columns. In 1924, architect Lewis Bowman added a wing onto the east side of the house with a columned front porch, and built a breezeway leading to a three-car garage on the west side of the house. On the back of the house, a small open porch offers an exit and outdoor dining off the kitchen.

Builder: Uncertain: Believed to have been constructed for Amelia and William DeWitt in 1855, but possibly earlier. Architect Lewis Bowman added flanking wings in 1924.


2009 | Alexander Masterton Homestead

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Originally intended as a summer retreat from New York City, the 1835 Masterton homestead, built on an 11-acre plot, soon became the family’s major residence. It had the added benefit of being near the Tuckahoe marble quarry, the source of the material that was a trademark of Masterton’s extensive building business. The home remained in the possession of several generations of this leading village family and its heirs for more than 150 years until it was sold in 1986.

Built on a foundation of marble, the Greek Revival, three-story, wood-framed, clapboard house is distinguished by its four fluted Doric columns of the front porch, with decorative balustrade above along the front roofline. Entry to the house is by an off-center front staircase and door to the right. Until the end of the 20th century, a second set of porch stairs accessed the driveway on the opposite, north. side. In 1929 a major addition including a large kitchen, formal dining room, and outdoor porch was built across the back of the house.

Builder/designer: Alexander Masterton. 1929 addition by architect Penrose Stout


2008 | A Ballroom Beauty on the Hilltop

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The quiet house on the western edge of Prescott Avenue as it winds its way from Valley Road toward Wellington Circle is a collaborative effort by architects William A. Bates and Kenneth How and was originally built in 1912 for William Van Duzer Lawrence. Situated on a craggy hillside, the property presented a unique challenge to the architectural team as it slopes both side to side and front to back. The ingenious use of the topography resulted in a dual house with mirror-imaged floor plans offering generous living space, completely private gardens, and a structure that deceptively conceals six stories, only three of which are visible as one approaches from Prescott Avenue.

William A. Bates was a master architect and is considered the father of Bronxville architecture for his extensive work in Lawrence Park and throughout the village. He began designing for the hilltop when Mr. Lawrence brought him to Bronxville in 1890 to assess the land he had recently purchased from the estate of James Prescott. By his death in 1922, Bates had designed over fifty private homes in the village, becoming well known for his Shingle style houses in Lawrence Park. His partnership with Kenneth How, beginning around 1910, led to several innovative designs, including the multiple family community house grouping of Beverly Gardens, Field Court, Kensington Terrace and Willow Circle. Bates and How also built Eastbourne, Westbourne, Northgate, Southgate and Gramatan Court on Sagamore Road.

The dual house designed as 16-18 Prescott Avenue was the first multiple house in Lawrence Park and was built where Mr. Prescott’s barns originally stood. Anna Lawrence Bisland was given #16 when her father began dividing his rental properties between his four grown children. While she never lived in the house, the house has been occupied by well known writers, a Broadway actress, a doctor to the President and the Mills family, who have a deep interest in theater, art, and technology.

Architects: William A. Bates and Kenneth How


2007 | A Romantic Mediterranean

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The house at 279 Pondfield Road was built by Lewis Bowman in 1926 at the height of his success in Bronxville. The first owner was William J. Morden, an internationally renowned explorer and naturalist who hunted for and contributed many exotic animals to the exhibits at the American Natural History Museum in New York. In 1945 Morden sold the house to Russell McCandless and his wife, the socially and politically active Walker McCandless.

The McCandlesses enjoyed the house until 1963 when they sold it to Dr. George H. Lasky III, a long-standing and admired Bronxville dentist and his wife Ernestine.

While not known for his Mediterraneans, Bowman has captured here the essence of Spanish structures and tiled roofs. One can certainly appreciate the exterior beauty of this house with its myriad terraces and newly landscaped gardens that were re-graded to offer private and level green space for the active family of the twenty-first century.

Architect: Lewis Bowman


2006 | A Treasure from the 20s

The robust design of 42 Masterton Road, built by architect George H. Pohle in 1927, incorporates a turret, exposed beams, high ceilings and leaded glass windows. The tour proved to be a mini-education in the distinguishing hallmarks that constitute Art Déco, the style that dominated the 1920s and ’30s in both Europe and the United States.  The French interpretation of Art Déco is more luxurious and less streamlined, than American examples, such as the familiar Radio City Music Hall. At 42 Masterton, designs by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Paule Leleu and Jacques Adnet, among others, are carefully placed in an environment of rich colors — chocolate brown, claret red, inky blue — and innovative wall treatments — suede, Venetian plaster,  accents of gold leaf.  The result is an atmosphere of both elegance and comfort.
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2005 | A Bowman Beauty

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Lewis Bowman, Bronxville’s premier architect in the 1920s and early 1930s, built this house as a studio for himself in 1924, the same year that he created more than a quarter of the total of 53 houses that he designed for village residents. Bowman’s stone cottage, with terra cotta roofs, partially hidden behind tall garden walls, has the look of a centuries-old English dwelling. The architect’s design is an irregular rectangle with a reception-room extension in front, giving the appearance to the footprint of a “fat T.” A bay window on the northwest side of the rectangle was added to create a dining room when Bowman later made the studio his home in 1934.

Architect: Lewis Bowman


2004 | Estate Homes of Sarah Lawrence College

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Not just one but two grand houses and two of Bronxville’s most noted architects were highlighted in the fall house tour of 2004.  The splendid stone neo-Tudor house at 935 Kimball Road built by Lewis Bowman in 1924 – better known today as the home of the president of Sarah Lawrence College – was first on the tour.  Members then crossed the street to visit “Westlands,”  the former home of William Van Duzer and Sarah Lawrence.  The brick and timber home designed by William Bates and Kenneth How in 1917 today serves as the administrative building of the college.


2003 | An Italianate Villa

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A second of the earliest houses in Sagamore Park, 21 Ridge Road, sits at the curve of that street atop the high ridge that overlooks the valley to the east. The Italian Renaissance-style residence was built for L.D. Garrett, who sold it shortly thereafter, and of the subsequent half dozen owners, two have lived there four decades or more. The stucco exterior with tile roof and dormers has understated windows. A large, square exterior entryway shelters visitors before they pass through two sets of glass doors and a second entryway to the front hall. Slightly to the north of the front entrance, a three-story turret cuts into the roofline, rising almost to the height of the three chimneys. Several restorations have been done over the last century, including the addition of a pool, terracing, and a garage. The rooms on the interior reflect the grandeur of the exterior, and one of them, the ballroom, was later converted to a paneled library; the outlines of the nine large arched windows that were covered over with paneling can still be noted on the exterior.

Architect: original unknown; recent renovations by Felhandler-Steeneken


2002 | Edgewater on the Historic Hudson

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As guests of preservationist Dick Jenrette, the fall of 2002 brought a unique opportunity for Conservancy members who were invited to board the sleek cruiser “SeaStreak” and head up the Hudson River for an afternoon at enchanting “Edgewater.” Built in 1825 on the Hudson River in upstate New York, the historic house combines classical architecture with a dramatic setting to create one of the Hudson Valley’s most charming riverside homes. The house is built on a small peninsula extending into the river and faces due west across the river to the Catskill Mountains. Surrounded by green lawn, ancient trees, and water on three sides, the house seems secluded and has the feel of being on a small island.

With its high ceilings and tall windows, Edgewater seems more suited to a Southern climate than the Hudson Valley. There is some reason to believe that the design of the house may have been provided by Robert Mills, a prominent American architect of the early 19th Century and a native Charlestonian who returned to work in Charleston in the 1820s. Edgewater, with its Doric columns, Roman-arched doors, and tri-partite windows, is very similar to Mills’ work in South Carolina at the time. Overall, the house is more Roman than Greek, and the interior woodwork details seems more Federal period than Greek Revival.


2001 | The Oakledge Mansion

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The original manor house was built in 1870 for John Masterton, early founder Alexander Masterton’s youngest son, a politician and banker. In1884 he was arrested and soon lost his house and all his assets for using depositors’ money for speculating in mining stocks. Later owners, generous philanthropists, became well-known for lending the house to the community’s Red Cross chapter to do war work both before and during World War II, thus earning the house its second name.

As a result of a fire in the 1920s, architect Lewis Bowman did a massive reconstruction and changed the look of the house considerably. The original three-story, plain, square, stone construction (with walls nearly 18 inches thick), had a mansard roof with dormers and a first-floor columned porch that surrounded the house. Bowman entirely redesigned the roofline, and recreated the house in his trademark Tudor style. He added wings to both ends of the house, the northern included an open terrace for dancing and the southern a kitchen, butler’s pantry and servant quarters. He installed a number of large windows in the new additions and increased the size of the reception room by bringing the front wall forward. Two subsequent owners in 1998 and 2007 have made extensive renovations, mostly to the interior.

Architects: original unknown; 1920s, Lewis Bowman; 1998 and 2007, Boris Baranovich.


2000 | The Ernest Quantrell House

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Sagamore Park was a residential development north of Lawrence Park that was created by a syndicate of local citizens. Two pairs of stone gateposts with lanterns were placed at the park’s two entrances on Avon Road, columns and lanterns that have been restored by the Conservancy. The park encompassed property that had been used in 1909 for the famous Westchester Historical Pageant that was produced by village residents to raise money to build Lawrence Hospital. One of the early houses was 5 Leonard Road, commissioned by Frank Gates, a well-known stage set designer and scenic artist, whose friend, George Licht, designed a somewhat modest stucco home in the “Old English” style. In 1918, Ernest and Lulu Quantrell, art collectors and philanthropists, bought the house, and in 1929, the Quantrells retained Lewis Bowman to remodel the structure. Bowman transformed it into a striking Elizabethan estate by sheathing the exterior in half-timbering and expanding and significantly renovating the interior. Of particular interest in the interior is a log cabin room built to replicate the Quantrells’ Adirondack cabin. Ernest Quantrell, who served on the Bronxville Library board for almost two decades, donated some of his art works to the library’s collection. His widow lived a total of 65 years in the house.

Architect: George C. Licht (1911); Lewis Bowman (1929)


1999 | Abijah Morgan House

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In the organization’s inaugural year, more than 100 villagers strolled through the historic Abijah Morgan House, the oldest in Bronxville. Its location on the Old Post Road, the major area thoroughfare dating back to the 18th century, may have contributed to local legends that for years related its history to Gen. Washington and the Revolution, stories that appear to be fictional.

Although the front of the white clapboard house now appears as a single building with large open porch extending its full length, the original structure, built for quarry owner Abijah Morgan, is believed to have been the two-fireplace living room portion on the east side. Sometime between 1840 and 1860 the dining room with fireplace and the entry hall were added to the west side of the living room. For many years there were front porch-entry doors to each of these sections. One subsequent addition was made in the 1940s after World War II on the north (back) of the house — a kitchen with a master suite above. Recently the old garage was enclosed to make a large family room.

There have been 25 owners of the house. In 1937, Frieda Riggs, and her husband Arad, purchased the house and she lived there until her death in 1999, when she bequeathed the house to the Bronxville Historical Conservancy, its 23rd owner. Before selling the house, the Conservancy created restrictive covenants on the historical portions of the building to protect them in perpetuity.

Architect/Builder: Unknown builder for Abijah Morgan; rear addition by architect Lewis Bowman after WWII.