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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Prevost Mansion Known as The Shrubbery, Once Owned by Aaron Burr, Burned December 31, 1880

A large home known as "The Shrubbery" once stood along Split Rock Road in Pelham Manor.  The home once was owned briefly by Aaron Burr, Revolutionary War hero and third Vice President of the United States before he infamously shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel on July 11, 1804.  Burr married the widow Theodosia Bartow Prevost, a Pelham Manor native, and became a stepfather to her son Augustine James Frederick Prevost.  The family reportedly bought The Shrubbery as a summer place.

Portrait of Aaron Burr in 1792, Attributed to
Gilbert Stuart.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The circumstances regarding how Aaron Burr came to own The Shrubbery and then sell it to his stepson, Augustine James Frederick Prevost, seem rather suspicious.  Indeed, I have written before about those questionable circumstances.  See Tue., Jul. 18, 2006: Aaron Burr Tries to Pull a Fast One in the 1790s and Must Sell His Farm in Pelham.

In his recent book The King's Best Highway, Eric Jaffe also wrote of the odd circumstances surrounding Burr's purchase and prompt sale of The Shrubbery.  Jaffe wrote:

"Before the Revolution the patriot Lewis Morris, an eventual signer of the Declaration of Independence, had sought permission to build a toll bridge across the Harlem River, almost exactly where the modern Third Avenue Bridge exists today.  (Morris lived in a region of the Bronx that still goes by the name Morrisania.)  A branch road toward his bridge would severely duck the old approach from New England onto the island over King's Bridge.  The diversion would pay off twice; once when the thankful traveler deposited a coin at the gate of the new bridge, and once again down the line, when the value of Morris's land increased.

"Come 1790 Morris was ready to revive the idea of this bridge when the proposal caught the ear of the state's new attorney general, Aaron Burr.  Burr offered to finesse the bill through to passage, and when he was finished, Morris earned the right to build his bridge, and the task of laying out the new road fell upon three commissioners -- two of whom, Joseph Browne and John Bartow Jr., were Burr's close in-laws.  In March of 1790 the bill indeed passed.

"Some evidence suggests that Burr intended to purchase the land through which the new road passed, and profit as its value soared.  Back in the fall of 1789, Burr had represented the heirs of Joshua Pell, a loyalist whose 146-acre farm had been confiscated after the war by the state.  The following February, Burr bought the plot in question -- dubbed The Shrubberies [sic] -- for use as a summer home.  The Shrubberies resided 'on the post road' as it passed through modern Pelham, beginning near 'the gate of the Boston Turnpike Road,' precisely where a new road would branch toward Lewis Morris's new bridge.  Burr soon transferred this land to his stepson, Augustine Prevost, for ten shillings -- essentially gave it away, perhaps to distance himself from its acquisition.

"A few years later Lewis Morris sold his rights to the toll bridge to John Coles, who soon undertook its construction.  In summer of 1800 the Westchester Turnpike Company established its 'Western Gate' near The Shrubberies and extended the new highway from Pelham to the 'Eastern Gate,' near the Connecticut line.  When the city laid down fresh milestones in 1801,this new Boston road became the route of record between New York and New England."

Source:  Jaffe, Eric, The King's Best Highway -- The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, The Route that Made America, pp. 95-96 (NY, NY:  Scribner, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2010).

Undated Photograph Said to Depict "The Shrubbery," a Home
That Once Belonged to Aaron Burr and, Later, His Stepson,
Augustine James Frederick Prevost and Stood Along Today's Split
Rock Road in Pelham Manor. Source: Courtesy of The Office of
The Historian of the Town of Pelham. NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1868 Beers Atlas Map Showing Location of "THE
SHRUBBERY" (Lower Left) Just Off Today's Boston Post
Road in Area Between Today's Split Rock Road and Today's
Boston Post Road. Source: Beers, Frederick W., "City Island,
Westchester Co, N.Y." in Atlas of New York and Vicinity from
Actual Surveys by and Under the Direction of F. W. Beers, p.
35 (NY, NY: Beers Ellis & Soule, 1868). NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

The Shrubbery remained in the Prevost family for the next eighty years.  In late 1880, George A. Prevost, a brother of the actual owner of The Shrubbery, lived in the home with his wife and "two maiden sisters."  The grand home was two and one half stories high with massive, grand Corinthian columns in its front. It was filled with the Prevost family's "furniture, paintings, statuary, and many ancient relics which were highly prized." 

Late in the evening on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1880, a fire was discovered in the room of one of the maiden sisters.  Reports later indicated that the fire may have begun from an overheated flue in the room.  In any event, the fire spread until it completely destroyed the mansion and all its contents.  Reports indicated that the property destroyed was valued between $15,000 and $20,000, the equivalent of about $487,000 to $649,000 in today's dollars.  I have written before about the fire that destroyed the Prevost home on that New Year's Eve.  See Tue., Aug. 16, 2016:  The "Shrubbery" Mansion in Pelham Once Owned by Aaron Burr Burned Down on December 31, 1880.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides the brief text of another newspaper article that referenced the fire that destroyed The Shrubbery.

*          *          *          *          *


The end of the old year and the beginning of the new has been prolific of fires -- not an uncomfortable thing to read of in view of the demoralized, rent condition of the thermometer.  Among these fires was the burning of James R. Keene's Newport villa, including what the redoubtable bon vivant, Sam Ward, pathetically characterized as 'a divine wine-cellar.'  Another fire was the destruction of the Provost [sic] mansion, in the town of Pelham, which is said to have been occupied at one time by Aaron Burr.  The latest important addition to the list was the total annihilation of Mount St. Vincent's in Central Park on Sunday morning, more recently and better known as 'Stetson's' which has been a favorite resort and restaurant for sporting men and the general public.  The part of the building used for hotel purposes was over one hundred years old."

Source:  THE FIRE FIEND, Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], Jan. 8, 1881, Vol. 57, No. 8660, p. 1, col. 7.  

*          *          *          *          *

I have written before about the Prevost Mansion known as "The Shrubbery" and the family that owned it.  (The family name often is misspelled "Provost."  It is "Prevost.")  See:

Tue., Aug. 16, 2016:  The "Shrubbery" Mansion in Pelham Once Owned by Aaron Burr Burned Down on December 31, 1880.

Thu., Jun. 23, 2016:  Original Record of Forfeiture Sale of Lands of British Loyalists in the Manor of Pelham.

Thu., May 21, 2015:  Pelham Manor Romance:  A Tale of Aaron Burr and His Love, Theodosia Bartow Prevost of the Manor of Pelham.

Thu., Apr. 23, 2015:  Augustine James Frederick Prevost of The Shrubbery in Pelham Manor.

Tue., Sep. 30, 2014:  Pelham Resident Recorded His Impressions of Meeting Aaron Burr.

Fri., Feb. 7, 2014:  Early History of The Pelham Home for Children, an Early Pelham Charity (Notes that The Pelham Home for Children was located on a portion of the old Prevost Farm).

Wed., Aug. 1, 2007:  1805 Real Estate Advertisement Offering Prevost Estate in Pelham for Sale.

Mon., Jun. 4, 2007:  Abstract of 1797 Will of John Bartow, Sr. Who Owned Land in Pelham and Whose Family Became Early Pelham Residents.

Wed., Jan. 31, 2007:  A Large Distillery Once Stood on the Prevost Farm in Pelham During the 1790s.

Mon., Oct. 2, 2006: The Revolutionary War Diary of Loyalist Joshua Pell, Jr. of the Manor of Pelham.

Thu., Jul. 27, 2006:  1799 Notice of Foreclosure Sale of Pelham Manor Lands Owned by Augustus James Frederick Prevost, Stepson of Aaron Burr.

Tue., Jul. 18, 2006: Aaron Burr Tries to Pull a Fast One in the 1790s and Must Sell His Farm in Pelham.

Wed., Jun. 14, 2006: Text of Deed by Which Aaron Burr Acquired Pelham Lands in 1790.

Thu., Apr. 14, 2005: The Pelham Home for Children that Once Stood on Split Rock Road.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home