Far in the northwest corner of the Bronx, there’s a park that’s perfect for New Yorkers looking to reconnect with nature — yet you’ve probably never heard of it.
Known as Wave Hill, the 28-acre park was originally developed in the mid-1800s and has at different times been home to both Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain. After passing through the hands of many different owners, the park was eventually donated to the city of New York by the Perkins-Freeman family in 1962.
The park was in trouble of closing in the early 1990s, and only an anonymous donor was able to save it. Today, it’s owned by the city and run by a private board of directors.
Wave Hill may not be as big or attract as many visitors as Central park or Prospect Park, but it’s meant to be a quit retreat. Though it’s technically still in New York, the hustle and bustle of the city will feel far away.
And you have to pay to get in — annual memberships cost $US50 for an individual and $US90 for a family. Otherwise, you can pay a $US8 daily entry fee.
We visited the park on a beautiful fall day, and the noisy traffic, grey skyscrapers, and crowded subways of Manhattan felt a world away.
From Times Square to the park's entrance at West 249th Street, it will take you about 45 minutes by subway. In less than a minute after entering, you'll find yourself on peaceful grounds.
Most people head straight to the main outlook. Under the pergola, one of the signature elements of the park, you'll get your first really good view.
In the foreground is the Riverdale Country School, which is located just down the road from the entrance to the park. In the distance you'll see the Hudson River and the Palisades.
The Wave Hill House, one of the park's main attractions, was built in 1843 in the style of an English country residence.
Several notable figures lived here before the property was given to the city. Theodore Roosevelt's family rented the home during the summers of 1870 and 1871, which is said to have inspired his love of nature. Mark Twain leased the home between 1901 and 1903, working out of a treehouse on the front lawn.
When Twain was living at Wave Hill, he wrote, 'I believe we have the noblest roaring blasts here I have ever known on land; they sing their hoarse song through the big tree-tops with a splendid energy that thrills me and stirs me and uplifts me and makes me want to live always.' The foliage by the Palisades is especially spectacular during the fall season.
The house was renovated and expanded between 2011 and 2013. A big ceremonial room is often used for weddings and concerts, but it was closed on the day we visited.
There is a shop filled with local items, reflecting Wave Hill's mission of connecting people with nature. This includes hand-crafted soaps, ceramics, glass, and jewellery, in addition to seasonal plants and products for your own garden.
In certain parts of the park, you can get glimpses of the George Washington Bridge in the distance. Between the gardens and the views, the grounds serve as a popular location for weddings, corporate retreats, and other special celebrations.
As you go along, it's hard to ignore the trees' fall colours, and it's easy to forget you're still in New York City.
These 'Wave Hill Chairs' are a signature item of the park, and they're protected as part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
There are several exits, but the one I took towards the end leads you out by the park's art gallery. The Glyndor House, a building designed in the Georgian Revival style, is home to several art exhibitions.
It hosts two or three exhibitions a year, during the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, the gallery space is used by artists as studio workspaces during six-week sessions.
Still, it's nothing compared to Central Park, which gets about 42 million visitors annually. Wave Hill gets about 65,000.
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