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.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Passing of an Era: The Bolton Family Sells The Priory in 1883

The Priory in Pelham Manor is located at 7 Priory Lane.  Built by the Rev. Robert Bolton, founder of Christ Church, and his family beginning in 1838, The Priory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  I have written of The Priory, the Bolton Family, and Christ Church also founded and built by the family on many occasions.  See the bibliography with links at the end of today's posting.

Forty-five years after building the home that served as the Bolton family residence and as the Priory School for Girls, the Bolton family finally relented and sold the Priory and the thirty-acre estate on which it stood.  The estate was transferred to Adele Livingston Sampson Stevens (Mrs. Frederick W. Stevens) for the sum of $100,000 -- about $3.244 million in 2016 dollars.  

Adele Livingston Sampson Stevens was one of the nation's wealthiest women.  As a young girl she was educated at the Priory School for Girls in Pelham Manor and grew to love Pelham.  When the Bolton family decided to close the school and sell Bolton Priory, Mrs. Stevens became the owner of the very home where she had attended the school for girls.  She and her husband, Frederick W. Stevens, bought the Priory on August 8, 1883.  

Mrs. Stevens eventually presented the Priory to her daughter, Mrs. Frederick H. Allen, as a wedding gift -- perhaps the most magnificent wedding gift ever given in the Town of Pelham.  The Priory remained in the Allen family for many years. 

Mrs. Stevens was among the brightest society lights in 19th Century New York until she became involved in a scandalous affair with the married Marquie De Talleyrand Perigord. She abandoned her husband and children and was ostracized by New York Society.  I have written about that scandal before.  See Tue., Aug. 23, 2005:  Society Scandal: The "Strange" Story of Mrs. Adele Livingston Stevens Who Acquired the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.  

In mid-August 1883, a number of local newspapers reported on the sale of The Priory to Adele Livingston Sampson Stevens.  According to multiple reports, by the time of the sale, the estate had declined to "about thirty acres of land much run down and neglected, sadly reflecting its former high state of cultivation."  The reports reflected optimistic hopes that Mrs. Stevens would return the estate to its former glory.

The Priory by William Rickarby Miller (1818-1893).
Watercolor on Paper, 1856. NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

The Priory by William Rickarby Miller (1818-1893).
Watercolor on Paper, 1856. NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of one of the articles reporting the sale of the Bolton Priory to Mrs. Stevens.  The report is followed by a citation and link to its source.

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Last week the old Pelham Priory, with about thirty surrounding acres of land, changed hands.  Mrs. Frederick Stevens of Fifth avenue, New York is the purchaser, the round sum of $100,000.  The transfer of the premises to Mrs. Stevens, beyond peradventure will cause the doors of this old and celebrated institution, known throughout this country and abroad as the 'Bolton Priory,' to be forever closed to the public as a female seminary.  The history of this grand old institution of learning reaches back through the corridors of misty time for upwards of half a century.  About a year ago Miss Nannette Bolton, sister of the Rev. C. Winter Bolton at an advanced age in life, retired from long and laborious cares as proprietress of the same, and sailed on the steamer Alaska, of the Guion line, for Europe.

The 'Priory,' situated in the town of Pelham, within a stone's throw of the village line of New Rochelle, was opened by the Boltons as a young ladies' seminary in the spring of 1838 [sic].  It soon, under successful management, took first rank, not only throughout the United States, but in England, as one of the more reliable institutions of the kind, connected with the established church.  For upwards of thirty years, success literally crowned the efforts of watchful teachers and those in charge.  About this time other similar institutions sprang into existence throughout the country, and the former glories of the Priory, from that period to the present, have gradually faded away.  The Priory, originally, was the private residence of Rev. Robert Bolton, a native of Savannah, Georgia, and a son of Robert Bolton Esq., a merchant of that place.  The building has two towers affording splendid views, in which wood and water are beautifully blended.  The interior arrangements correspond with the style of the house and carry the mind back to the days of old.  There are some family pictures by Etty, of the Royal Academy of England.  There is also n original portrait of Bunyan, formerly in the possession of the Rev. George Whitefield.  The library contains the original Italian edition of Pisanese, collected for Napoleon, bearing his initials and surmounted by the imperial crown.  This extraordinary work on ancient and modern Rome, consists of forty-two volumes royal quarto.  There is also a copy of Macklin's Bible, the largest ever printed, in six volumes royal quarto, a copy of Elliot's Indian Testament, said to be the first work written and published in the United States, printed at Cambridge, Massachusetts, A. D. 1661, by Samuel Green, the first printer in America.  Other relics, such as cabinets of rare coins, medals, Autographs of noted personages, are also included in this Library.

The terrace in front of the house forms a promenade, and the gardens are arranged in the French and landscape style.  The grounds are ornamented with natural walks leading to various objects of interest, through which deserves to be noticed the 'rocking stone.'  This natural curiosity is a rock supposed to weigh about twenty tons so nicely poised that

'A stripling's arm can sway
A mass no host could move.'

The grounds connected with the Priory consist of about thirty acres of land much run down and neglected, sadly reflecting its former high state of cultivation.  The grounds are somewhat elevated, commanding a beautiful view of Long Island and the Sound, as far as the eye can reach.  What will be the future of this historic ground cannot be surmised.  But in the hands of its new and wealthy owner, if we mistake not, an effort will be made to regain its past grandeur and attractiveness."

Source:  PELHAM PRIORY, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Aug. 17, 1883, Vol. XIV, No. 726, p. 2, cols. 1-2.  

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I also have written extensively about members of the Bolton Family and the home they built known as the Priory, Bolton Priory, and Pelham Priory.  Seee.g.:  

Wed., Mar. 02, 2016:  Daughter of Priory School for Girls Instructor Who Attended the School Details History of Historic Pelham Manor Institution.

Fri., Mar. 20, 2015:  Fire in 1932 Devastated the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.

Tue., Jun. 23, 2015:  Nanette Bolton of the Priory School for Girls in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Oct. 02, 2014:  Brief History of Grace Church on City Island in the Town of Pelham Published in 1886.

Wed., Sep. 24, 2014:  Where Was the Bolton Family Cottage Where Stained Glass Windows Were Created?

Thu., Sep. 04, 2014:  The Closing of the Pelham Priory School for Girls in 1882 and the Departure of Head Mistress Nanette Bolton for Europe.

Fri., Aug. 29, 2014:  Announcement of Two-Day Fair in Pelham in 1842 to Raise Money to Build Christ Church.

Wed., May 14, 2014:  Noted American Novelist Margaret Deland Attended Bolton Priory School in Pelham Manor

Thu., Sep. 03, 2009:  Advertisement for the Pelham Priory School Published in 1881

Wed., Sep. 02, 2009:  The Bolton Family's Sale of Bolton Priory in 1883.

Thu., Aug. 13, 2009:  History of Bolton Priory Published in 1910.

Tue., Jan. 20, 2009:  An Account of the Rev. J. L. Ver Mehr Regarding His Brief Stint as an Instructor of French and Italian at Pelham Priory in 1843

Fri., Mar. 2, 2007:  A Brief Account by American Author Margaret Deland of Her Education at Pelham Priory in the 19th Century.

Thu., Dec. 14, 2006:  Items from Bolton Priory in the Collections of The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture, The New-York Historical Society.

Thu., Nov. 16, 2006:  Robert Bolton, Jr.'s Inscription to His Father Inside Book He Authored That Was Published in 1855.

Fri., Jul. 28, 2006: Image of Bolton Priory in the Town of Pelham Published in an 1859 Treatise on Landscape Gardening.

Wed., Jul. 26, 2006:  A Brief Account of Visits to Bolton Priory in the Early 1880s.

Wed., July 5, 2006: Bricks Laid by Washington Irving and Ivy from Kenilworth Castle at the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Wed., March 15, 2006: A Biography of Cornelius W. Bolton Published in 1899

Wed., March 1, 2006: 1909 Real Estate Advertisement Showing Bolton Priory

Wed., Feb. 22, 2006: Doll Depicting Nanette Bolton in the Collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham

Wed., Dec. 7, 2005: The Sale and Subdivision of the Bolton Priory Estate in the 1950s

Tue., Nov. 29, 2005: An Early, Interesting Photograph of Bolton Priory in the Village of Pelham Manor

Wed., Sep. 21, 2005: The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Building at Christ Church in Pelham Manor

Tue., Aug. 23, 2005: Society Scandal: The "Strange" Story of Mrs. Adele Livingston Stevens Who Acquired the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Wed., Jul. 13, 2005: 11 Priory Lane: The Rose Cottage

Fri., Jun. 10, 2005: Pelham's Most Magnificent Wedding Gift: The Bolton Priory

Tue., May 3, 2005: Colonel Frederick Hobbes Allen, An Owner of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Thu., Apr. 7, 2005: Another Volume of William Jay Bolton's Sketches and Ruminations Located?

Mon., Apr. 4, 2005: Art and Poetry of William Jay Bolton of Bolton Priory in Pelham

See also Bell, Blake A., A Brief History of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No., 16, Apr. 16, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

I also have written about the history of Christ Church, an institution the history of which is integrally intertwined with that of the Priory, on numerous occasions.  Below are a few of the many articles on the topic.

Thu., Dec. 31, 2015:  Laying of the Cornerstone of the Parish House at Christ Church on June 10, 1928.

Thu., Nov. 12, 2015:  Charles Higbee, Eighth Rector of Christ Church in Pelham Manor, 1871-1893.

Tue., Oct. 27, 2015:  The Ghostly Gardener of Bolton Priory: A Pelham Apparition.

Tue., Oct. 20, 2015:  Address Delivered by Reverend Robert Bolton on April 28, 1843 at the Laying of the Foundation Stone of Christ Church.

Thu., Oct. 15, 2015:  The Creation of Christ Church and its Consecration on September 15, 1843.  

Tue., Sep. 29, 2015:  Christ Church's 80th Anniversary Sermon by Rev. J. McVickar Haight on November 18, 1923.

Fri., Nov. 21, 2014:  Another Advertisement for Fair Held in 1842 to Fund Construction of Christ Church.

Fri., Aug. 29, 2014:  Announcement of Two-Day Fair in Pelham in 1842 to Raise Money to Build Christ Church.

Fri., Feb. 28, 2014:  Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926.

Fri., Dec. 25, 2009:  1906 Christmas Day Celebration at Christ Church in Pelham.

Fri., Aug. 14, 2009:  The Consecration of the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel at Christ Church in Pelham Manor on April 28, 1887.  

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