Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pelham's Only Known Example of a Home Designed by Master Architect William A. Bates

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The beautiful shingle-style home located at 219 Pelhamdale Avenue in Pelham, New York thus far is the only known example of the work of master architect William Bates in Pelham. The lines, silhouette and style of the French-chateau inspired home have long suggested to owners, visitors and passers-by that architect William A. Bates of Bronxville likely designed this lovely home. These suspicions seem finally to have been confirmed.

Recent Photograph of the Home at 219 Pelhamdale Avenue

Early Advertisement for Sale of Home by Original Owner
Research has revealed an advertisement that the original owner of the home, John Butler, placed in the April 20, 1913 issue of The New York Times offering the property for sale. The advertisement states not only that William A. Bates designed the home, but also that notable landscape designer Nathan F. Barrett of New Rochelle landscaped the property. The advertisement reads in full as follows:
Unusual Suburban Home for Sale
Pelham Heights, Westchester Co., N.Y.
Thirty-five minutes from house to Grand Central Station. House situated one block from Pelham Station, in midst of beautifully timbered region; one of the choicest properties in this exceptionally high-class residential suburb.

House placed on high elevation; designed in style of French Chateau, with advantages of every modern and up-to-date convenience; open plumbing, tiled bathrooms, large open fireplaces and five porches, including dining and sleeping porch.

House designed by well-known architect, Wm. A. Bates; property beautifully landscaped by Nathan Barrett of New Rochelle, and regarded as one of the most successful of his smaller places.

House approached by winding roadway to porte-cochere. Property beautifully timbered with many varieties of evergreen trees and fully matured oaks; 150 feet frontage; 16 rooms, large open attic; 5 master’s chambers, 2 servants’ bedrooms, 5 tiled bathrooms, and conservatory. Interior decorations very original and unusually attractive. Sitting room for servants entirely apart from kitchen.

Price on this attractive property very moderate; terms to suit purchasers.

Further particulars supplied by owner,
Pelham, New York.

Source: Unusual Suburban Home For Sale, N. Y. Times, Apr. 20, 1913, p. S3, col. 6 (advertisement that also includes small image of the home).

William Augustus Bates

William A. Bates was a master architect best known for his work with W. W. Kent to design Lawrence Park’s single-family homes in Bronxville, New York. The Lawrence Park Historic District is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its historic and architectural significance.

According to one brief biography, William Lawrence of Bronxville asked Bates to help design a “model suburb” in Bronxville that evolved into Lawrence Park and to design a house for Elizabeth Custer, the widow of General George Custer. According to the same source:

“The historic [Custer] home on Park Avenue is typical of Bates’ architectural style in the Park, and exemplifies the naturalistic approach to development that was envisioned by Lawrence. His [Bates’] meandering, simply detailed yet substantial homes were planted into the rocky terrain. The Century Association best described this in a memorial to Bates: ‘In his country houses . . . his buildings were so admirably adjusted to their surroundings as perhaps to symbolize the grace and harmony of his own unspoken meditations.” Source: Village of Bronxville, Prominent Village Architects – William Augustus Bates (visited Jan. 2, 2005) .

More than eighty of the early homes designed by W. W. Kent and William A. Bates remain in Lawrence Park. More than fifty years ago Lawrence Park was an artist colony consisting of narrow roads winding through a rocky hillside. See generally Hoagland, Loretta & Marshall, Robert (ed.), Lawrence Park: Bronxville’s Turn-of-the-Century Art Colony (Fordham University Press 1993). At least 35 of the eighty homes are attributed to William Bates. As one report puts it, in designing homes for Lawrence Park, “the architect William A. Bates, kept as much of the terrain intact as possible, fitting stone and shingle residences into the environment, using small lots that often were on steep slopes or rock outcroppings.” 100 Years Ago, Bronxville Was Little More Than an Idea, N.Y. Times, Jul. 10, 1988, p. WC 27.

It may be the very fact that Bates homes were so individually crafted to fit the hillside environment on which they were built – like a hand fits a glove – that has ensured so many remain so well preserved today. Id.

William Bates’ work designing homes like those in Lawrence Park, of course, seems to have been the perfect training ground for his design of an estate home on a rocky hillside located at 219 Pelhamdale Avenue in the lovely neighborhood of Pelham Heights.

Interestingly, a recurring motif in the Bates homes that stand today in Lawrence Park is a “rounded or octagonal form used for a bay, turret or tower.” Prominent Village Architects, supra. Bates used precisely such a round tower as a prominent feature of the home he designed at 219 Pelhamdale Avenue in Pelham Heights.

Bates is also noted for his “enthusiasm” regarding Shingle Style design – precisely the design used for the home at 219 Pelhamdale Avenue. During his career of more than three decades, however, Bates “also produced Georgian, English Manor, Colonial, Spanish Mission and, occasionally, Arts & Crafts houses.” Id. While Bates is most closely associated with architectural designs for homes and structures in and around Bronxville, he also designed homes built in Tuxedo Park, New York and in other locations around the country. Indeed, one of the most unusual homes designed by Bates was the so-called “Wentworth Castle” built in Nashua, New Hampshire for General Marshall Wentworth and his wife, Georgia. Built entirely of stones taken from a nearby river, the home resembles a “castle” principally due to the signature round tower that Bates included as a prominent feature of the structure.

William Bates was from Monroe, Michigan, but moved to New York City as a young man and joined the architecture firm of Herter Brothers where he studied for years. Although much of Bates’ architectural design work involved homes in the Lawrence Park area of Bronxville, Bates is known to have designed homes for other individual homeowners outside the Lawrence Park area as well.

In addition to his work on Lawrence Park, Bates became well known for his design of a host of early “landmarks” in the Village of Bronxville. He designed such Bronxville gems as “Westlands” (a mansion built for Sarah and William Lawrence that later became the main administration building of Sarah Lawrence College); the Hotel Gramatan; the Gramatan Inn; the 1906 Village Hall; the 1906 Village School; and the Casino social club.

It appears that Bates established his own architecture firm during the first decade of the 20th century. By about 1910, an architect named Kenneth G. How joined Bates and the firm became known as Bates & How. For many years the Bates & How firm operated out of offices located at 35 West 39th Street in New York City. During his career he was a member of the Architectural Association, the Century Club and the Lawrence Park Golf Club. William A. Bates, Architect, N.Y. Times, Jul. 29, 1922 (obituary).

Bates never married. Although he lived in Bronxville, he reportedly never designed a house for himself. He died in his Bronxville home on July 27, 1922. Id.

(This brief biography of Bates has been developed from a host of sources including: Village of Bronxville, Prominent Village Architects – William Augustus Bates (visited Jan. 2, 2005) ; William A. Bates, Architect, N.Y. Times, Jul. 29, 1922 (obituary); Hoagland, Loretta & Marshall, Robert (ed.), Lawrence Park: Bronxville’s Turn-of-the-Century Art Colony (Fordham University Press 1993)).


The John Butler Home located at 219 Pelhamdale Avenue is an architectural gem set in the midst of a neighborhood of architecturally significant and beautiful homes. It is now believed to be the first known example of a home in Pelham designed by master architect William Augustus Bates.

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