If you have heard of Bronxville, New York, most likely it is in the context of its acclaim as one of the most affluent communities in the United States—within one of the most affluent counties in the country, Westchester, which is dotted with other affluent villages, hamlets, and towns.
More than half of Bronxville’s more than 6,500 residents commute to Manhattan for work, a 15-mile train ride via the Harlem Line on the Metro-North Railroad into Grand Central Terminal. It’s an easy drive too: about 40 minutes via New York highway 9-A North straight into the village or on Interstate 87 North accessed via FDR Drive.
Once inside the village boundaries, you’ll be struck by what the Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger called Bronxville’s “village-ness,” that he said, “emanates from every street.” So proud are residents of that description, it’s posted on the village website. Indeed, the neighborhoods surrounding the center of town, the Four Corners town square, with Tudor, Colonial, and Victorian homes on lushly landscaped lawns, provide old-world charm by way of architecture reminiscent of the English countryside.
Bronxville’s history is English. The land that became the future site of the village was deeded to British colonists in 1666. But, like most of Westchester County, it was first procured by early settlers from the First Americans. In the case of Bronxville, from Chief Gramatan of the Siwanoy tribe. Three quarters of a century later, the area was settled by its two founding families, the Underhills and the Morgans.
The village is situated on the banks of the Bronx River—named for Jonas Bronck, a Dane who purchased much of Harlem in the 17th century, including a tract of land between the Harlem River and a freshwater river that came to be known as Bronck’s River. Hence the village name, which was officially adopted in 1898, when Bronxville was incorporated within the town of Eastchester. Its development history since then is somewhat illustrious.
William Van Duzer Lawrence, a real estate developer, commissioned architect William Augustus Bates to design housing for a planned community for upper-middle class residents near the New York and Harlem Railroad station to be called Lawrence Park, an enclave of revivalist styles with romantic flourishes, including bay windows, octagonal turrets, and conical roofs. What is now the Lawrence Park Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980. In 1926, a year before his death, Lawrence founded Sarah Lawrence College, a liberal arts women’s college until it went coed in 1968, on the grounds of his estate. As Lawrence’s vision for a homogenous community was unfolding, he made room—metaphorically and physically—for an artist colony whose artists often had commissions beyond the immediate community and wanted to escape their New York studios for a more rural setting with easy access to their patrons and broader art markets.
Not a lot has changed in terms of setting and urbanity in Bronxville for the past 125 years. The standard of living is high, with real estate prices on par with creating a bucolic lifestyle about half an hour from Midtown Manhattan. The median price for a home is about US$1.1 million. On Summit and Sussex Avenues nearer to Four Corners town square, the prices are closer to US$2.5 million for five-bedroom homes; prices are somewhat less the farther from the square you get. But the town is less than a square mile in size and most neighborhoods are within walking distance of the business district and commercial shops and restaurants in and around Four Corners, and to the village’s three public schools.
Bronxville is served by the Bronxville Union School District, comprising Bronxville High School with over 353 students, Bronxville Middle School with about 450 students, and Bronxville Elementary School with nearly 800 students. The family population is growing in Bronxville, with children under 10 comprising 16 percent of the population, second only to their parents’ age group of 45 to 54 years at 19 percent.
There is plenty to do in Bronxville too. Dogwood Park has tennis courts; River Lake Park, The Meadow, and Francis Bacon Park are perfect spots to take in nature, and Sagamore Park is ideal for children to play. Restaurants abound in the town square and include cuisine from Italian bistros such as Rosie’s and Greek taverns such as Elia Taverna and sushi bars such as Haiku Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar, to fine dining establishments, including Scalini Osteria. Shopping on Pondfield Road and Kraft Avenue can save you a trip into the city to find almost anything you want, from jewelry to florists and housewares to hardware.
Not least, noteworthy settings attract noteworthy people. Some who grew up in Bronxville and went on to fame and fortune, and some who earned fame and fortune and sought out Bronxville to enjoy it in relative seclusion. Among Bronxville’s notable citizens, then and now, are its chief real estate developer, William Lawrence; a whole lot of Kennedys, from the patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy and the family’s matriarch, Rose Kennedy, to President John F. Kennedy, and his brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy; Elizabeth Custer, widow of General George Armstrong Custer of Little Big Horn infamy; Don DeLillo, author and playwright; Brendan Gill, New Yorker writer; Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s sidekick on the Tonight Show; Jack Paar, Johnny Carson’s predecessor; and Eddie Rickenbacker, heroic World War I fighter pilot.
If you are looking for natural and architectural splendor, the sense of a rural lifestyle without sacrificing any of the cultural amenities of New York City, Bronxville is worth consideration. It paid off for its famed developer, who stepped off the train from Harlem in 1898 and saw opportunity. And created it for residents then and now.
48 percent of residents hold a Master of Arts degree or higher
33 percent of residents hold a 4-year college degree
Sarah Lawrence College