Pelham Bay Park

Huntington Woods

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This 41-acre section of Pelham Bay Park is named for its last landowner, Archer Milton Huntington, who purchased the property in 1896. By then, Pelham Bay Park had been in existence for nearly a decade, its southern landscape a popular spot for picnicking, fishing, swimming, and field games.

The previous landowner, Lawrence Waterbury, had acquired a 27.5-acre tract overlooking Eastchester Bay in 1863. Waterbury, a trustee of St. Peter’s Church in Westchester Square, named his estate “Plaisance,” an old French word meaning “source of pleasure.” A well-known horseman, Waterbury owned a number of trotting horses, which he buried in a small cemetery along with his favorite dogs. When Huntington acquired the property, he renamed the estate, “Pleasance,” and buried several of his pets at the cemetery. Several small headstones remain today.

Archer Huntington was born in New York City on March 10, 1870. His father Collis P. Huntington made a fortune during the California Gold Rush and subsequently became one of America’s largest landowners at the time. (Collis’s estate fronted the East River near present-day Ferry Point Park. His mansion is now a school on Schurz Avenue.) Archer purchased the former Waterbury property the year after he married poet/novelist Helen Manchester Gates. This was their country home. The property included several other buildings, including a watchman’s house, garage/engineer’s house, and a gymnasium. The main house was a three-story mansion with a valuable library, the contents of which were donated in 1904 to the Hispanic Society of New York, which he founded.

Huntington was also co-founder of the Museum of the American Indian, which along with the Hispanic Society of New York, is part of a complex created by Huntington at Audubon Terrace in Upper Manhattan. He built and endowed art museums and libraries across America and in Spain. The Huntingtons divorced in 1923, and the estate sold in 1924. The City acquired the 31.6-acre property the following year. An additional 9.3 acres were added to the tract in 1933 when a portion of Middletown Road was de-mapped. Huntington’s second marriage was to Anna Hyatt, world renown for her animal sculptures and equestrian portraits. Her statue of Cuban liberator Jose Marti, which stands at the Avenue of the Americas entrance to Central Park, is one of several of her works that adorn the City’s landscape.

When the City acquired the property, the mansion had been demolished. The cemetery remained along with a small cottage situated on a curved beach facing Eastchester Bay. Previously used as a bathing and boating house by the Huntingtons, for a time it was used by the Girl Scouts. Visitors to the area observed numerous oyster and clam shell piles, evidence of Native American occupation. Much of it centered upon a large rock located about 50 feet south of the cottage. Local Native Americans, known as Siwanoys, frequented the inlets and shores of the area. Archaeological excavations here unearthed a flint cutting implement, sharpened animal bone, and pottery and shellfish fragments. The last remaining building from the former estate is the garage/engineer’s house, which became part of the New York Police Department’s Mounted Unit (This area is not open to the public.). The forest, marsh, and shoreline areas of Huntington Woods attract many Pelham visitors. This location is an ideal outdoor classroom to teach both young and old about our precious natural resources and how Parks and the Friends of Pelham Bay Park are working hard to protect and preserve them for future generations.

Directions to Pelham Bay Park

Know Before You Go

Nature Centers
Pelham Bay Nature Center

Pelham Bay Nature Center is currently closed to the public.

Nature Centers
Orchard Beach Nature Center

Orchard Beach Nature Center is closed to the public.

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