PELHAM BAY PARK

Bronx, NY


History:

Barlow, Elizabeth 1971 The Forests and Wetlands of New York City. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Anne Hutchinson was a refugee from religious intolerance in Puritan Massachusetts, when she stepped ashore with her little band of followers in 1642. Anne settled on a neck of land adjoining Throg's Neck called Ann's Hook. In 1643 the Siwanoy Indians who inhabited Pelham Bay, as well as other Indians, were in a vengeful mood because of the repressive policies of the Dutch governor Kieft. A band under Wampage massacred the settlers, with the exception of one Hutchinson daughter, who was held captive until ransomed four years later. Where her cottage once stood now stands Co-op City.

At the time of the Revolution, the lands encompassed by Pelham Bay Park were still in the hands of the Pell family, which owned three thousand acres of the original tract of 9,160 acres which Thomas Pell had purchased from the Indians in 1654, the remainder having been sold to one Jacob Leisler for a Huguenot settlement. Thomas Pell's nephew and successor, John Pell, built a manor house in 1675 near the site of the present Bartow Mansion, and it was occupied by his descendents until the Revolution, when as loyalists they were forced to flee.

October 18, 1776 4,000 British soldiers under the command of General Howe landed on the Hutchinson River shore and started an advance toward White Plains. Americans numbering about 750 lay in ambush. Under the command of Colonel Glover, fifty men fired into the British ranks and temporarily arrested their progress. The patriots then fell back behind the stone walls of Split Rock Road where they were joined by other recruits under Colonel Read. When the army was 30 yards away they fired point-blank, causing the enemy to scatter. Americans fell back behind a second stone wall where Colonel Shepherd lay in wait with his men. There were seventeen volleys in all before Colonel Shepherd gave the command for his troops to retire to a third line of defense. Fighting raged for several hours, until Cornwallis attacked Glover from the rear. When the skirmish was over only twelve Americans were dead; the British loss was estimated at a thousand.

After the war, John Bartow, who married a Pell daughter, bought 220 acres, which included the Pell manor parcel. Various portions of the original Pell tract were sold over the years, including the manor parcel, which John Bartow disposed of in 1813. The manor property returned to the family, however, when Robert Bartow, John Bartow's grandson, repurchased it in 1836 and built on it his splendid Greek Revival mansion. The mansion, which was included in the 1888 transaction which reassembled various portion of the old Pell estate into Pelham Bay Park, was allowed to deteriorate over the years until in 1914 it was leased by the city of New York to the International Garden Club. That organization undertook its restoration and the construction of a large sunken garden in the rear.

John Hunter bought what later became Hunter's Island in the early nineteenth century. He was a New York auctioneer and politician. In 1804 he paid $40,000 for the 250-acre island. He had a stately mansion on top of the hill. He built a causeway across the channel.  He was keenly interested in politics and had entertained lavishly. One guest was President Martin Van Buren, who stayed with Hunter in 1839. The house itself was built in 1812 in the Georgian style. The style was said to be similar to the style of the old City Hall of New York City.

The last of the owners of Hunter's Island sold the island to New York City in 1889 for $324,000. In developing Orchard Beach the city filled in what remained of Le Roy's Bay between the island and Pell's Point.

Under Tammany, Orchard Beach was rented to political insiders, who, for a $15 dollar fee, could erect private bungalows there and allowed them to form "civic associations" that regulated the closing of the beach to the public. (Caro, 1974:331)

In 1934 Orchard Beach was New York's most ambitious park project.  Robert Moses spent $346,750 dollars on bathhouses, a breakwater and a retaining wall, all designed to to make a bath beach convenient to the bungalows of the 600 Bronx Democratic stalwarts to whom most of Hunters Island and Rodman Neck had been leased. (Caro, 1974:363)

Moses later decided to knock down the bungalows and united Hunters Island and the Twin Islands in the north to Rodman Neck to the south and really created a decent bathing beach.  The parking lot held 8,000 cars. 

After the acquisition of Pelham Bay Park by the city, Hunter's Mansion sat vacant and derelict, a target of vandals. At the time of the Orchard Beach construction, in 1937, Robert Moses ordered it demolished. Today its remains can be traced in the half-buried rubble of the old stable and in the red sandstone supports for the gateposts, which are embedded in the earth on either side of the barely discernible drive leading up from the now vanished bridge.


HUNTERS ISLAND, PELHAM BAY PARK

Robert Loeb speech at Lehman College, 2001

Loeb is interested in looking at human disturbance factors. In his study of Hunterís Island, he used archival records, fossil pollen, maps and photos, past ecological studies, and historical documents.

The main tree of the region is oak. Oaks were never less than 45% of the forest.

Trends:

1. Pre-American Revolution -- oak-chestnut-hickory forest

1740s -- hickory, chestnut falls

Pehr Kalm talked to surveyors and put Latin names to the old common names. He could not distinguish between walnut and hickory trees.

2. American Revolution

The island was stripped of its trees during the American Revolution.

3. Hunter Estate

It was not until Hunter came that farming arrived. (Ambrosia is a good indicator of cultivation. Corn grains are good too, because they are big and donít travel far.) Martin Van Buren was a guest many times at the estate.

4. Early parks management --

In 1885 the property was acquired. At that time there was a lot of field. Over time the forest expanded.

1908 -- hickory bark beetle infestation.

1930; oak-tulip forest

Date     Forest     Field

1888     29%       53%

1940    48%        35%  

1962     63%        18%

1984     77%        07%

 

5. Robert Moses

He filled in Pelham Bay. Phragmites came in along the edge (Mishow Marsh) in northeast corner in 1962. Planted pines and spruce.

6. Modern Parks Management

1988 -- oak-hickory-tulip tree forest

Comparing 1934 to today, oaks doubled (17.5% to 31.2%) and hickories expanded (2.6% to 11.2%). There was a big increase in sassafras (virtually 0% to 7.3%) because there were lots of fires in the parks.

Instead of planting pines and spruces, the new emphasis is to recreate the forest the way it was in colonial times with a hickory dominance.


Geology:

The Pelham Bay rocks have been tentatively assigned to the Westchester coastal sequence and provisionally labeled the Hutchinson River group. Outcrops of gray-banded gneiss and mica-flecked schist.

There is now left of the great East Bronx marsh only a 50 acre remnant surrounding Goose Creek and another, smaller remnant flanking Bartow Creek.

The rocky Pelham Bay shore is zoned at different levels into distinct bands of sea life, which becomes increasingly visible as the tide goes out. Clinging to the seaward sides of rocks are barnacles, and below the barnacles are masses of rockweed (Fucus edentatus), rubbery brown algae with small yellowish bladders, common to rocky coasts. Mixed with the Fucus are the gleaming wet sheets of geen sea lettuce (Ulva). Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) appear in this zone. In the third zone, below the band of barnacles and the zone of rockweed, is red algae, otherwise known as Irish moss (Chondrus crispus). Mussels are present here also, and at low tide the regulars wade into the shallow water to pick them off the sea floor. Large clams are also gathered for making clam chowder.


Trip Reports: Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society

Pelham Bay Park, Bronx, N.Y., Bronx County, August 12, 1995.

The group toured the southeastern corner of Pelham Bay Park. Plants found at the salt-marsh included the grasses Spartina alterniflora and S. patens, along with Distichlis spicata. Along the shore were sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) and bladder rockweed (Fucus vesiculosus). In bloom was sea lavender (Limonium carolinianum). Other plants included Amorpha fruticosa, Atriplex patula, Baccharis halimifolia, Cakile edentula, Celtis occidentalis, Juncus gerardii, Pastinaca sativa, Salicornia europaea, and Solidago sempervirens. Taking over a long stretch of the concrete embankment area was the kudzu vine (Pueraria lobata) with its white, silky haired leaf underside and pepper-dotted, green stem.

In the woods was found Maryland figwort (Scrophularia marilandica), along with Corylus americana, goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), and blooming Eupatorium rugusom. A real stumper for the group was a plant in fruit that turned out to be the European goat's beard (Aruncus sylvester).

After lunch the group first visited the dry meadow area. Among the plants in bloom here were Ambrosia trifida, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, Apocynum cannabinum, Artemisia vulgaris, Centaurea jacea and C. nigra, Cirsium vulgare, Eupatorium album, and Hypochoeris radicata. There is a small pond and marsh in the area near the dump. Among the plants here were Acalypha rhomboidea, Echinochloa crus-galli, Epilobium coloratum, Juncus effusus, Lycopus americanus, Onoclea sensibilis, Phragmites australis, Polygonum pensylvanica and P. persicaria, and Typha angustifolia.

The final stop was a wet meadow. Here were many sedges including Carex vulpinoidea, Cyperus strigosus, Scirpus atrovirens and S. cyperinus. Also in bloom were Asclepias incarnata, Hypericum perforatum, and Eupatorium perfoliatum. The trip leader was Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


September 29, 1990 Michael Feller

This field trip visited a 25-acre meadow that has developed on this site in the thin, micaceous soil missed by the bulldozers. It occupies a bowl-shaped depression. The rim is relatively dry, but the center is flooded in spring and remains moist through fall. The site has a prairie aspect: Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) , and Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus). Less conspicuous grasses: Purple Love-grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), Tall Redtop (Tridens flavus).

A variety of asters and goldenrods were observed during this trip. Plants that were particularly noticeable included New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), Grass-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), and Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa). Other composites encountered were Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), White Snakeroot (E. rugosum), Tall Boneset (E. altissimum), Pilewort (Erechtites hieracifolia), Field Thistle (Cirsium discolor), Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea), and Sweet Everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium). Gama Grass, or Sesame-grass, (Tripsacum dactyloides) almost monopolizes the moist meadow interior. But in some places emergent wetlands plants including Cattail (Typha latifolia), Dotted Smartweed (Polygonum punctatum), Cut-leaved Water-horehound (Lycopus americanus), Woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Willow Herb (Epilobium sp.), and Dwarf St. Johnswort (Hypericum mutilum) grow as an understory. Along the margins of the Tripsacum community are common Saint Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum), Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and Nodding Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes cernua).  American Elm (Ulmus americana), and Pin Oak (Q palustris) are scattered sparsely throughout the area. Several moderately-sized fallen trees with exposed, stunted root systems testify to the site's extremely shallow soil. Shrubs occur more frequently, and include Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Winged Sumac (R. copallina), Common Elder (Sambucus canadensis) and Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica). Vines encountered during the trip included Porcelain Berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), and Climbing False Buckwheat (Polygonum scandens).


September 23, 1989; Robert De Candido

Pelham Bay Park has some 2,100 acres. It encompasses woodland, marsh, meadow, 13 miles of saltwater shoreline, rivers, estuaries, lagoons, coves, upland woods, and even islands. The largest city park in New York, it contains great expanses of marshland. You can sun on glacial boulders and gneiss outcroppings, remnants of the last Ice Age. Red and white oak, chestnut oak, pin oak, hickory and maple, dogwood, sassafras, wild cherry, and winged sumac make up the forest.

This trip visited wet and dry meadows and an area of salt marsh. A few of the plants seen were Tall Sunflower Helianthus giganteus, Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans, Showy Goldenrod Solidago speciosa, Water Purslane Ludwigia palustris, Dwarf Saint Johnswort Hypericum mutilum, New England Aster Aster novae-angliae, Gamma Grass Tripsacum dactyloides, Poverty Grass Aristida dichotoma, Saw Osprey, Kestrel, Merlin, and a Barn Owl.


Sponsor: Torrey Botanical Club; July 14, 1967

Leader: Herbert Kaltman

This fine park has lost much of its best area to the Sanitation Department as a garbage dump. Unexpected cultivars spring up on dumps. On this occasion we found two morning glories (Ipomea purpurea, I. hederacea) as well as a tomato plant (Lycopersicum esculentum). Leaving the dump we welcomed the fragrance of sweet clover. This wet summer the white flowered species (Melilotus alba) has greatly extended its habitat at the expense of the apparently more xerophytic yellow flowered type (M. officinalis). Similarly jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) has come out of its wet places to surround and overwhelm Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) and cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum). White mulberry (Morus alba) was in fruit with both white berries and purple (var. tatarica). Both were popular, along with an occasional black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis). Attendance: 14.


PLANT LIST:

Michael Feller/ Naomi Dicker/Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trees:
Acer campestre (field maple)
Acer negundo (boxelder)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Albizia julibrissin (silk tree)
Alnus glutinosa (European alder)
Amelanchier sp. (shadbush)
Aralia spinosa (Hercules' club)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula nigra (river birch)?
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Broussonetia papyrifera (paper mulberry)
Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Catalpa speciosa (northern catalpa)
Celtis occidentalis (hackberry)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Crataegus sp. (hawthorn)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fagus sylvatica var. atropunica (copper beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Fraxinus pensylvanica (red ash)
Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust)
Ilex opaca (American holly)
Juglans cinera (butternut walnut)
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Maclura pomifera (osage orange)
Mikania scandens (climbing hempweed)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Picea sp. (spruce)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Populus alba (white poplar)
Populus balsamifera (balsam poplar)
Populus deltoides (cottonwood)
Populus grandidentata (bigtooth aspen)
Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen)
Prunus avium (sweet cherry)
Prunus persicaria (peach)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Pyrus malus (apple tree)
Pyrus sp. (crab apple)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus stellata (post oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Salix nigra (black willow)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tilia americana (American linden)
Tilia sp. (linden)

Shrubs:
Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo)
Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel bush)
Corylus avellana (European hazel)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch-hazel)
Iva frutescens (marsh elder)
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lonicera sp. (honeysuckle)
Myrica pensylvanica (bayberry)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus alleghaniensis (blackberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Salix lucida (shining willow)
Salix matsudana (corkscrew willow)
Salix sp. (willow)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)

Vines:
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelain berry)
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut) 8/21/94
Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed) 7/26/95
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade) 7/26/95
Strophostyles helvula (trailing wild bean) 303 8/21/94
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)

Herbs:
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Allium vineale (field garlic) 7/26/95
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) 8/21/94
Ambrosia trifida (great ragweed) 8/21/94
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Arctium sp. (burdock)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort) 8/21/94
Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) 7/26/95
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) 7/26/95
Atriplex patula (orache) 8/21/94
Bidens frondosa? (beggar tick)
Bidens spp. (beggarticks) 8/21/94
Centaurea jacea (brown knapweed) 8/21/94
Centaurea nigra (black knapweed)
Cichorium intybus (chicory) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) 7/26/95 waning
Collinsonia canadensis (horsebalm)
Epilobium sp. (willow herb) 7/26
Erechtites hieraciifolia (horseweed)
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Eupatorium album (white boneset) 598 8/21/94
Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) 8/21/94
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot) 8/04/95
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod) 8/21/94
Galinsoga quadriradiata (galinsoga)
Geum canadense (white avens) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Hieracium sp. (hawkweed) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Hypericum perforatum (common St. Johnswort) 7/26
Hyssopus officinalis (hyssop)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) 8/21/94
Iris sp. (blue or yellow flag)
Lactuca floridana (woodland lettuce)
Lepidium virginicum (poorman's pepper)
Limonium carolinianum (sea lavender) 8/01/95
Linaria vulgaris (butter-and-eggs) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Lycopus americanus (water horehound)
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) 8/21/94
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel) 8/21/94
Pastinaca sativa (wild parsnip) 7/26/95
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed) 7/26/95
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain) 8/21/94
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose knotweed)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Polygonum hydropiper (mild water pepper knotweed)
Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding knotweed) 7/26/95
Polygonum persicaria (lady's thumb) 8/21/94
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed) 8/21/94
Potentilla recta (rough-fruited cinquefoil)
Prunella vulgaris (heal-all) 7/26/95
Raphanus raphanistrum (wild radish)
Rumex crispus (curled dock)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock)
Saururus cernuus (lizard's tail)
Salicornia europaea (European glasswort)
Solanum carolinense (horse nettle) 7/26
Solanum nigrum (black nightshade) 8/04/95
Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)
Solidago canadensis v. altissima (tall goldenrod)
Solidago juncea (early goldenrod) 8/21/94
Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod)
Sophora sp. (Japanese scholar tree)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) 8/21/94
Trifolium pratense (red clover) 7/26 8/21/94
Trifolium repens (white clover) 7/26 8/21/94
Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail)
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Ulmus procera (English elm)
Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)
Ulmus rubra (slippery elm)
Ulva (sea lettuce)
Verbena urticifolia (white vervain) 7/26
Viola sororia (common blue violet)
Xanthium strumarium v. glabratum (common clotbur)

Rushes:
Juncus canadensis (Canadian rush)
Juncus effusus (soft rush)
Juncus gerardi (black grass)
Juncus tenuis (path rush) 7/26/95

Sedges:
Carex sp. (ovales group sedge)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 8/21/94
Carex vulpinoides (fox sedge)
Cyperus strigosus (umbrella sedge)
Eleocharis sp. (spike-rush)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark green bulrush) 7/26/95
Scirpus cyperinus (woolly grass bulrush)

Grasses:
Agrostis gigantea (red top grass)
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace) 7/26/95 8/21/94
Digitaria sanguinalis (hairy crab grass)
Echinochloa crus-galli (barnyard grass) 7/26/95
Eleusine indica (goose grass)
Eragrostis spectabilis (purple lovegrass)
Festuca sp. (fescue grass)
Panicum sp. (panic grass)
Panicum virgatum (switch grass) 7/26/95
Paspalum sp. (paspalum)
Phleum pratense (Timothy grass) 7/26/95
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little blue stem grass)
Seteria faberi (Faber's foxtail)
Spartina alterniflora (saltwater cord grass)
Spartina patens (salt meadow cord grass)
Tripsacum dactyloides (gamma grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)


Japanese viburnum (Viburnum sieboldii) found here.

Source:  Guy Tudor.  Now You See It, Now You Don't: A selected list of New York and New Jersey wildflowers and flowerings shrubs not covered in the standard regional guides. The Linnaean News Letter. Volume 59, Number 3, May 2005.