By any standard, Bronxville’s Lawrence Park is no ordinary neighborhood. Throughout more than a century of existence, its influence has traveled well beyond the square-mile village it resides in, not only for the litany of notable names associated with it but the broader role it played in defining the early American suburb. Few anywhere can rival its cultural or architectural significance.
After a home selling experience landed him an unexpected windfall, entrepreneur William Van Duzer Lawrence became serious about investing in real estate, founding a business entity to do so in 1888. The following year at the persistence of his brother-in-law, Arthur Wellington, he surveyed and purchased a 46-acre hilltop farm that had belonged to James Minot Prescott, located along the New York & Harlem Railroad in a corner of Eastchester once called Underhill's Crossing. Lawrence dreamed of a planned community for New York's creative cognoscenti, and it couldn't have been a more perfect location. The area was already on the map for artists: Hudson River School painters passed through to visit Alexander Masterton, the Scottish-born stone cutter who established the nearby Tuckahoe marble quarries.
Lawrence established an inn, which ultimately evolved into the Hotel Gramatan, to allow prospective buyers to sample life north of New York City and scout home sites; the old gate house became the sales office. (The neighborhood was our company's raison de’tre: William Van Duzer Lawrence founded our firm in 1888 as the sales and marketing arm for the development, the success of which would follow with Lawrence Park West in Yonkers, Lawrence Farms in Chappaqua, Manursing Island in Rye and other projects across Westchester County). Each parcel was carefully considered with no detail ignored, implementing then-novel infrastructure that would later prove prototypical of suburban communities throughout the world.
Combining the convenience of city life with the tranquility of a the country, these enduring luxury properties are as relevant—if not more—today as they were a century ago. Here are some present opportunities to open your chapter in the legend:
12 SUNSET AVENUE
If William Lawrence was Steve Jobs, Bates was Jony Ive, the hands-on aesthete defining the style behind his vision. One of their earliest collaborations was Grey Arches, commissioned by Lawrence in 1889 as his personal summer residence. The gambrel-roofed Craftsman, characterized by its namesake stone pillars framing its front porch, was completed only shortly after Lawrence's primary home: a palatial French-inspired mansion flanking the corner of 5th Avenue and 78th Street on Manhattan's Upper East Side, designed by Richard Morris Hunt.
Among the creatives lured to Bronxville through Lawrence's aggressive marketing and social circle was Kate Douglas Wiggin, who rented Grey Arches for a time in the 1890s before her most notable work, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Incidentally, the real Sunnybrook Farm (today's Sunnybrook Park) was just steps from Lawrence's best-known Bronxville residence, Westlands—now Sarah Lawrence College. (Don't you love how this all ties together?)
Grey Arches retains the simple, sophisticated elegance that has defined its brand for over 125 years, blending period features while integrating modern conveniences and amenities—and its provenance simply can't be rivaled.
3 WELLINGTON CIRCLE
Strolling the serpentine streets of Sunset Hill, it's hard to ignore the brilliance behind the siting of each and every home, which manage to feel distant from one another despite the neighborhood's close-knit fabric. Wellington Circle forms "The Triangle," an exceptionally unique corner of the hill where homes are afforded unparalleled views like crow's nests above the village.
A connoisseur of nuance and sophistication, Mr. Lawrence believed in blending a mix of architectural styles in his developments, recruiting both known and rising architects. While 3 Wellington was another notch in William Bates' drafting table, the Southern Colonial stands out among its Tudored, shingled and stuccoed neighbors. A colonnaded front porch soars above the street with a degree of curb appeal almost inconceivable from photographs that must truly be experienced in person.
The present offering of 3 Wellington, rather uniquely, includes the opportunity to purchase neighboring 30 Prescott, adding additional property and a charming cottage to complete the compound.
6 CHESTNUT AVENUE
One of Lawrence Park's best-known original residents was Elizabeth Custer, widow of the legendary cavalry general and a friend of Sarah Bates Lawrence since childhood. 6 Chestnut was her second home in the neighborhood, built just six years after her first was completed in 1896. Widowed at 34 and already hailing from a prominent, well-connected family in her (and the Lawrence's) hometown of Monroe, Michigan, she fell naturally into New York social circles and traveled extensively, renting the home during those periods. Libbie Custer became a powerful female figure ahead of her time, forging a successful literary career and championing philanthropic efforts that included fundraising for the construction of Lawrence Hospital.
6 Chestnut was considered by some to be William Bates' single finest work, and it remains to this day one of the most architecturally-significant properties in Bronxville. The home site, composed of .62 acres sequestered by tree tops, perfectly illustrates the purest form of Lawrence's dream, inspired by Barbizon in France's Fontainebleau Forest. A winding private drive leads to the 6,700+ square foot home (and a three-car garage), entered by Dutch door by way of enchanting garden paths.
81 TANGLEWYLDE AVENUE
If you prefer Tudor cottage to gambrels, stone and shingle, Tanglewylde Cottage is your next option for a Bates-designed Lawrence family home. The delightful residence, called "one of the loveliest suburban homes in America" in a 1911 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, was a wedding gift by William Lawrence to one of his daughters which, over the years, has grown through subsequent ownership into the spacious estate it is today.
Requested by an enchanting garden setting, the property boasts an assemblage of rare amenities in Bronxville, most notably a spacious pool and patio area along with a collector's garage—there's space for six vehicles, along with a hydraulic lift-outfitted mechanic's work station.
128 years later, you'll still find us at the gates to Lawrence Park, in that original gate house, which we recently restored to its historically-accurate appearance. Stop in and visit us sometime.