Bowman Tudors in Bronxville
[Click on each image to magnify...]
Today, I am posting about something unusual for this blog, i.e., not a prewar apartment building in Manhattan. In addition to my passion for prewar apartments — perhaps, “in tandem with…” — I’ve always had a thing for Tudor-style houses from the 1920s. I can’t tell you why exactly, other than to suggest that this ‘affliction’ may be due to my belief that Tudor was the most interesting of all the revival styles of the early 20th Century. Often belittled as “Stockbroker Tudor,” the style was perhaps the most popular in affluent suburban areas throughout the United States during the 1920s. Even in parts of the country where the topography and climate would make such a choice odd, places like Los Angeles and Dallas, the Tudor was a star (albeit modified and oriented to accommodate the locale). Indeed, the expense of building these houses was prohibitive except for the well-off.
One of the greatest architects to work in the Tudor Revival style was Charles Lewis Bowman, a graduate of the Cornell Architecture School, where his personal archives are today housed. The greatest concentration of his houses is in Bronxville, NY (in Westchester County), less than 20 miles north of NYC. Many of you know what a charming, tiny town Bronxville is, and that it is extremely affluent. Of course, Bowman worked in other locales around the New York City, and some of his grandest houses are, actually, not in Bronxville where — even in the 1920s — land was at such a premium as to preclude the building of huge estates. One of these prize homes was recently in the media a great deal as it was Mel Gibson’s estate “Old Mill Farm” in Greenwich, CT, originally built for Mr. George Ohstrom, and clocking in at about 15,000 square feet.
In Bronxville, most of the homes Bowman built were much more modest than the Ohstrom estate, ranging anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet, and usually with only four bedrooms and a pair of smaller servant’s rooms. That said, these houses are some of the most charming and picturesque you will ever see. The craftsmanship is just incredible, with beautiful leaded glass windows, rough-hewn beams inside and out, stunning historically accurate paneling and plaster work, formidable graduated slate or tile roofs, and all sorts of stone, brick, and stucco exterior walls. These houses, like a Candela apartment, carry tremendous cache and command premium prices when they sell.
At the time of this post, there happens to be four amazing examples of Bowman’s work for sale in Bronxville which is quite unusual. Two are in the Elm Rock Estates area, where Bowman designed and built numerous beautiful houses. Most of these homes are notable for the way they are sited on some very hilly and rocky terrain. The two examples for sale are quite celebrated works on a grander scale on large lots in the most prestigious part of town: 27 Masterson Rd (built for the Schaff family – photo 1 above) sits on 1.2 acres, contains 7,000 square feet, and has an asking price of $9,250,000, with property taxes of $120,000 per year; 21 Elm Rock Rd (built for the Bliss family – photo 2 above) sits on 1.6 acres, is 6,200 square feet, and has an asking price of $9,000,000, with property taxes of almost $140,000 per year. The third house is at 5 Leonard Rd., and is not an original Bowman, but was completely modified by him in the 1920s for the then owner Mr. E.E. Quantrell. It is the largest of the four, containing 7,500 square feet on 1.24 acres, with an asking price of $5,875,000, with property taxes of $110,000 per year. The fourth and final house, 1 Eastway (built for Mr. T.H. Van Ness), is in a less prestigious part of town (the Tuckahoe School District), but I actually prefer this neighborhood for the flatter lots and more visible homes. It is smaller at 4,200 square feet, on a ¾ acre parcel (quite large for that neighborhood), and is much more affordable at an asking price of $2,395,000, with property taxes of $68,000 per year. All four are stunning examples of Bowman’s work and beautifully illustrate why these houses are still prized.