Touring the Bronx’s Historic Mansions

Olga Tirado is on a mission.

A resident of the Bronx for the past 30 years, she’s out to educate Manhattan about the section of New York that she calls “the borough of parks.”

“A quarter of it is natural forest and parkland – it’s just gorgeous,” the executive director of the Bronx Tourism Council says. “It’s natural forest – it wasn’t designed. And Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in New York City, nearly 3,000 acres.

One trolley at a time, she picks her charges up in Midtown and then cruises the Bronx with them.

“People appreciate the heritage and history here, like Woodlawn cemetery and the historic homes from the 18th century,” she says.

Among the cottages and mansions are:

  • Wave Hill, where young Theodore Roosevelt spent his summers, where Mark Twain lived for three years and where Toscanini also lived.
  • The 1748 Van Cortland house museum, the oldest house in the Bronx.
  • The second oldest house, the Isaac Valentine house, which was later sold to Isaac Varian. Built in 1758, it now houses the Museum of Bronx History.
  • The cottage where Edgar Allan Poe lived until he died.
  • The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, a 150-year-old mansion. When Robert Moses wanted to erase it, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia made it his summer home in 1936, calling it City Hall North.

The tour, says Tirado, is for anyone with a taste for history, including the Revolutionary War. “Poe wrote some of his best pieces in that cottage,” she says. “And for architecture, up on the Grand Concourse is the second largest Mecca of Art Deco outside of Miami Beach.”

The next tour’s on Wednesday, July 15. The trolley will be picking up passengers at 9:00 AM at the Lucerne Hotel, 79th and Broadway and also at the Opera House Hotel in the Bronx.

Admission: $40 for adults and $20 for children.

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