It was a major celebration on a bright sunny day in one of the most tranquil and serene places in the borough.
Wave Hill House, known for its scenic vistas and armor room with polychrome ceiling with seasoned wood recycled from the IRT 6 line, was the scene of a ceremonial reopening with a keynote speech by Mayor Bloomberg on Wednesday, June 19.
The historic building, originally a private mansion, is a centerpiece of the Wave Hill, a botanical garden in Riverdale overlooking scenic vistas of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades.
The great house underwent a two-year “transformative” $9.8 million renovation enhancing and bolstering the interior and exterior. The renovation was designed to strengthen the building’s infrastructure and aesthetic appeal.
“New York City is home to some of the world’s most iconic green spaces, and botanical gardens like Wave Hill provide thousands of New Yorkers with the opportunity to engage with extraordinary scenery year-round,” said Bloomberg. “By restoring historic Wave Hill House like never before, this project will welcome even more visitors to enjoy the beautiful Bronx landscape and take in a wide range of excellent art programs.”
The house was temporary home to 19th-century writer Mark Twain, future president Theodore Roosevelt, and conductor Arturo Tuscanini, along with a string of wealthy owning families including a financier, publisher, and lawyer throughout its history spanning from when it was built in 1843 to 1960, when the house was donated to the City.
One of the major treasurers of the house is the armor room, which was completely restored in the renovation.
In an interview, Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner Kate Levin referenced how Bashford Dean, the first curator of the Arms and Armor Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, convinced the owners in the 1920s, the Perkins family, to develop the armor room for their own collection of suits of armor.
“In this particular space, it has been years since the armor room came any where close to where it is now…people will come enjoy it if it is beautiful, but some people may also think of how we engage in history and how people’s personal passions literally affect our physical landscape,” said Levin.
The armor room is often the site of weddings, with a balcony where a bride can toss her bouquet.
Former City Councilwoman June Eisland said the restoration was an example of the strength of the public/private partnership running Wave Hill.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said that the restoration will help with the “re-branding” of the borough, building on an improved image.
Wave Hill is an independent, non-profit cultural institution with a volunteer board of directors. The operation of the botanical gardens on City-owned land is made possible in part through funding from DCA, in addition to funding from the State and Borough President Diaz’s office.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393