Daily Plant Masthead

Volume XXI, Number 4491
Thursday, Sep 28, 2006

Parks Acquires Former Home Of Central Park Designer



Photo by Daniel Avila

On September 22, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined City Council Member Andrew Lanza, and Carlotta DeFillo-Beil, one of the Beil sisters, to announce the acquisition of the Olmsted-Beil House and officially unveil the Parks sign.  The 13-room farmhouse has been named for its most famous owner, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and its most recent owner Carlton Beil.   The acquisition was made possible by a $600,000 allocation by City Council Member Andrew Lanza.

“Parks & Recreation is pleased to welcome this house, which is so rich in New York history, into its family of historic sites,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.  “It was while he was living here that Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux put the finishing touches on the plan they developed that won the competition and guided the development of Central Park, the world's greatest public park.  The house is a great addition to our collection of historic structures that act as a portal to our past.”

The property’s history dates back more than 300 years and boasts a long list of prominent New Yorkers who influenced the City, as well as the home and adjacent farm.  Petrus Tesschenmakr, the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church ordained in New York, received a land grant for the site from the British Governor Thomas Dongan on November 3, 1685.  His original one-room stone structure still remains as the northernmost portion of the home’s basement.

The Poillon family owned the house from 1696 until 1802.  The family extended the original home by approximately 30 feet and built a one and a half story Flemish farmhouse above it, with a porch on the east-end of the home.  John Poillon, the last member of the family to reside in the home, was a signer of the letter that resulted in a failed peace treaty held on September 11, 1776 at what is now the Conference House Museum.

Dr. Samuel Akerly purchased the property in 1839, naming it Oakland Farm.  He extended the house to become a 13-room house by adding a full second story and a porch along three sides.  His son, a friend of Frederick Law Olmsted, inherited the property and encouraged Olmsted to visit and purchase the property.  Olmsted’s father, John, purchased the property for his son in 1848.  He redesigned the landscape of the farm, changing it from a wheat farm to a fruit farm and nursery.  He imported 5,000 saplings from France including gingkoes, black walnuts, mulberries and lindens.  The Cedars of Lebanon that he planted still grow on the site today.  Although Frederick Law Olmsted moved to Manhattan in 1859, the property remained in his family until 1866.

In 1866, the Olmsteds sold the property to Dr. William C. Anderson who did not live at the house but instead used the farmland to cultivate vegetables used for his patients’ special diets.  He was the first of a series of owners to use the property as an investment.  After the Olmsteds, none of the owners would live at the house until the Cullens purchased in 1946 and restored it.  John E. Cullen was an amateur photographer and many of his photos will be used in the restoration of the house.

Carlton Beil purchased the home in 1961 and lived in it with his wife Louise and daughters Carlotta, Eloise and Felicity.  After eight years with the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Science and 28 years with the American Museum of Natural History, Beil dedicated his retirement to environmental education.  In 1995 he received an award from the Environmental Protection Agency for 69 years of service to the environment.  Preferring that the historic house be preserved for the future, the Beils chose to sell the house to Parks & Recreation. 

The Olmsted-Beil House is located on 1.7 acres at 4515 Hylan Boulevard in Eltingville, Staten Island.  The historic house will be used for educational purposes and the surrounding land as a public park.

 

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face,
you should go home and examine your conscience.”

Woodrow Wilson
(1856 – 1924)

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