Bathgate Estate mansion set ablaze to develop lots
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BRONX TIMES REPORTER,BTR FEBRUARY 21-27, 2020 49
The twelve-room mansion on the
top of the hill overlooking Third Avenue
was ablaze. Flames fl ickered
skyward as the crowds inched further
back away from the heat of the inferno.
The spectacle had been announced in
advance and thousands came out to
witness the old Bathgate mansion reduced
to ashes on May 6, 1905.
It was a local landmark owned by a
very popular family who allowed area
residents the free use of their woods
for bird hunting, ice-skating and picnicking.
Now the old mansion that
housed the family was simply a pile
of ashes. The last of the family was
Charles Bathgate Beck who passed
away on October 11, 1893 leaving most
of the property to charity but also remembering
some distant relatives
along with the faithful servants who
attended the family for years.
The property, consisting of 19
acres, had been purchased by Henry
Morgenthal who was dividing it into
300 building lots to be sold at auction
on May 23rd by L. J. Phillips and Company.
It was a marvelous piece of property
overlooking Crotona Park.
The park, itself, had previously
been acquired from the Bathgate family
under the New Parks Act of 1888 inspired
by John Mullaly.
The sale created a little enmity between
James Bathgate and the City of
New York as James thought the property
was worth much more than he
was offered for it. That enmity is the
reason cited for not naming the park
after the family but rather choosing
the name Crotona Park.
James was a medical doctor who
graduated from NYU School of Medicine
in 1847 and donated quite a
bit of his early years in medicine to
the poor and indigent before largely
abandoning his practice to pursue
His mansion on the hill originally
contained about 140 acres reaching out
from about Clinton Avenue and East
172nd Street. His brother, Alexander,
also held an enormous piece of property
much of which he sold in 1865 to a
consortium of developers who created
the Jerome Park Racetrack the following
year. Their sister, Jane, also referred
to as Janet, married William
J. Beck of West Farms and the couple
had one child, Charles Bathgate Beck.
Charles would eventually be the
lone survivor and inherited all the
There was one minor problem with
the inheritance as Alexander had fathered
two children with Delia Molloy,
his housekeeper, and although he settled
with the mother for $50,000, which
was a princely sum in those days, the
children put in a claim for a share of
the estate when Charles passed away.
The judge ruled that the written
settlement with Delia Molloy satisfi ed
all rights to their claim and the children
were entitled to nothing further.
Everything went to Charles who gave
generously to his favorite charities
both in life and in death.
Tom Casey provided this photograph of the Grove in Crotona Park. The Bathgate Mansion
stood nearby. The photograph was used by John Mullaly in his 1887 book “New Parks Beyond
the Harlem” which was later reprinted by the Bronx County Historical Society. It’s a
book well-worth reading.
REPRINTED FROM 6-9-2011
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