Hunter Island (Bronx)

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Coordinates: 40°52′36″N 73°47′24″W / 40.876773°N 73.789866°W / 40.876773; -73.789866

Northern tip of Hunter Island in Pelham Bay Park

Hunter Island is a 166-acre (67 ha) peninsula and former island in the Bronx, New York City. The peninsula is part of Pelham Bay Park and is situated on the western end of Long Island Sound.

The island was initially 215-acre (87 ha). It was part of the Pelham Islands, the historical name for a group of islands in western Long Island Sound that once belonged to Thomas Pell. New York City parks commissioner Robert Moses extended Orchard Beach in the 1930s by connecting Hunter Island to the mainland.



The Siwanoy Native Americans who originally occupied the area referred to the island as "Laap-Ha-Wach King", or "place of stringing beads".[1][2] One notable boulder, the "Gray Mare" at the northwestern shore of the island, is a glacial erratic where the Siwanoy would conduct ceremonies.[3]

The island was then renamed after John Hunter, a successful businessman and politician, who purchased the property in 1804.[4] Hunter, his wife Elizabeth, and his son Elias moved to the island in 1813.[5] The Hunters built their own mansion on the island.[2][6]

Around 1903, Hunter Island became a popular summer vacation destination.[7][8] Due to overcrowding on Hunter Island, NYC Parks opened a campsite two years later at Rodman's Neck on the south tip of the island, with 100 bathhouses.[8][9][10][11] By 1917, Hunter Island saw half a million seasonal visitors.[8] However, the park's condition started to decline in the 1920s as the surrounding areas were developed.[9][10] Hunter Island was closed and camping was banned, so some park patrons began camping illegally.[12]

Upon taking office in 1934, New York City parks commissioner Robert Moses surveyed every park in the city.[13][14][15] Moses devised plans for a new Orchard Beach recreation area after he saw the popularity of the Hunter Island campsite.[8] At the time, the beach was a narrow sand bar connecting Hunter Island and Rodman's Neck.[16] Moses canceled 625 leases for the project, and after campers unsuccessfully sued the city,[17] the site was cleared of campers in June.[18] Moses decided to connect Hunter Island and the Twin Islands to Rodman's Neck by filling in most of LeRoy's Bay, a lagoon located to the west of the island.[19] The deteriorated Hunter Mansion was demolished with the construction of the beach.[1] The expanded Orchard Beach was opened on June 25, 1937.[20]

In the 1960s, there were plans to expand a landfill in Pelham Bay Park, which would have created the City’s second-largest refuse disposal site next to Fresh Kills in Staten Island.[21] A group of preservationists headed by Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, a Bronx historian and head of the Bronx Historical Society, lobbied the city to create a wildlife preserve in Hunter Island, one of the sites where the landfill was proposed to be expanded. The preservation effort suffered setbacks in August 1967 when the New York City Board of Estimate voted against an initial effort to create to protected area in the proposed landfill expansion site.[22][23] On October 11, 1967, Mayor John Lindsay signed a law authorizing in the creation of two wildlife refuges in Pelham Bay Park: the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary on the western side of the park, and the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary on the former Hunter Island.[21] This was followed by the Kazimiroff Nature Trail and the Pelham Bay Park Environmental Center in 1986. The trail was named after the historian Kazimiroff, who had since died.[24]


Hunter mansion

The Hunter family built a mansion in the English Georgian style. It was described as one of the finest mansions of the period, with three stories, a large veranda, and terraced gardens leading to the island's shore. It held a vast art collection of valuable works from artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, van Dyck, and da Vinci.[2][6] The home was situated at the highest point on the island (90 feet above sea level) and had views of Long Island Sound to the east and the hills and woodlands of the Town of Pelham to the north.[1] A stone causeway and bridge were also constructed, connecting the island to the mainland (but blocking the flow of water in LeRoy's Bay.[5] The bridge's remnants still exist as of 2017.[25]

John Hunter lived in the home until his death in 1852.[1][5] Ownership of the mansion then passed to Elias Hunter. Upon Elias's death in 1865, his son John III was supposed to inherit the land only if he lived on it, as per the senior John Hunter's will. John III, who lived in Throggs Neck instead, sold it to Mayor Ambrose Kingsland. The land then passed in succession to Alvin Higgins, Gardiner Jorden, and Oliver Iselin. The city then bought the land in 1889 for $324,000 (equivalent to $8,800,000 in 2017).[1][5] In 1892, one Stephen Peabody was given the right to occupy the Hunter Mansion, paying $1,200 a year.[26]:9 (PDF p.67) Later, the mansion became a shelter for children operated by the Society of Little Mothers. The mansion itself was destroyed in 1937 during construction of Orchard Beach.[1][5] In 1967, the island became part of the Hunter Island Wildlife Sanctuary.[1]

Wildlife sanctuary[edit]

Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary encompasses all of Twin Islands, Cat Briar Island, Two Trees Island, and the northeastern shoreline of Hunter Island.[27][28] It contains many glacial erratics, large boulders that were deposited during the last ice age. The rocky coast of Twin Islands contains the southernmost outcropping of Hartland Schist, the major bedrock component of New England coastlines, as well as granite with migmatite dikes as well as veins made of quartz.[27][29] The sanctuary supports a unique intertidal marine ecosystem that is rare in New York State. It holds the largest continuous oak forest in Pelham Bay Park, including white, red, and black oak, as well as black cherry, white pines, Norway spruce, and black locust trees. One can also find grape hyacinth, periwinkle, daylily, and Tartarian honeysuckle, which were part of the Hunter Mansion's garden.[30][1] Member species of the islands' salt marsh ecosystem include egrets, cormorants, fiddler crabs, horseshoe crabs, and marine worms.[31]

Kazimiroff Nature Trail[edit]

In 1983, the Theodore Kazimiroff Environmental Center was proposed for the park, alongside a nature trail that would wind through the park's terrain.[32] It would be named out of respect to the late Kazimiroff,[32] who had died in 1980.[33] The Kazimiroff Nature Trail and the Pelham Bay Park Environmental Center opened in June 1986.[24][33][12]

The Kazimiroff Nature Trail traverses 189 acres (76 ha) of Hunter Island. Much of the island’s natural features are found along the trail.[34] It was opened in 1986[24] and comprises two overlapping lasso-shaped paths, one slightly longer than the other.[33][34] Along the shared "lasso spur" is a canal for mosquito control as well as an intersection with the old Hunter Island causeway's cobblestone approach path.[34] Going counterclockwise from the intersection with the two "loops", the trail passes through a grove of 100 Norway Spruces planted in 1918; a black locust forest from the 1970s; and a thicket of shrubs and vines.[35] At this point, the longer "blue" trail diverges to the northwest and then northeast, passing the former Hunter Mansion's knoll; a forest of white pines; some mugwort and Ailanthus weeds; the Hunter Mansion's main driveway; a less dense patch of trees and burnt tree stumps, part of a forest burned by the Siwanoy; white oaks and black locusts; and lichen in the boulders, a rare occurrence in New York City parks.[36] The shorter "red" trail goes directly north through a white poplar forest; a grove scorched by an uncontrolled fire; and remnants of the former estates' stone walls.[37] Both trails merge and loop back to the east and south, passing through glacial-erratic boulders, New England bedrock, and the island's salt marsh.[38]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Hunter Island". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Seitz & Miller 2011, p. 130.
  3. ^ O'Hea Anderson 1996, p. 5.
  4. ^ ASHPS Annual Report 1909, p. 64.
  5. ^ a b c d e Seitz & Miller 2011, p. 131.
  6. ^ a b Twomey 2007, p. 107.
  7. ^ "1903 New York City Department of Public Parks Annual Report" (PDF). New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. 1903. pp. 88–89. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Orchard Beach". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 2, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Landmarks Preservation Commission 2006, p. 3.
  10. ^ a b Pelham Bay Park: History (Report). New York City: City of New York. 1986. pp. 2, 11–12. 
  11. ^ "1906 New York City Department of Public Parks Annual Report" (PDF). New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. 1906. pp. 87–88. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Seitz & Miller 2011, p. 132.
  13. ^ "THE NEW DEAL FOR THE PARKS OUTLINED BY THEIR DIRECTOR; Commissioner Moses Would Develop the City's Recreation Areas And Then Coordinate Them With the State Park System By DOROTHY DUNBAR BROMLEY". The New York Times. 1934-02-11. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 2, 2017. 
  14. ^ Smith, Sarah Harrison (2013). "Exploring Sand and Architecture at Pelham Bay Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 2, 2017. 
  15. ^ Forero, Juan (July 9, 2000). "Slice of the Riviera, With a Familiar Bronx Twist". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2009. 
  16. ^ Caro 1974, p. 364.
  17. ^ "MOSES IS UPHELD IN PARK CAMP BAN; Court Refuses to Interfere in Razing of 625 Bungalows at Orchard Beach" (PDF). The New York Times. May 16, 1934. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  18. ^ "Moses Wins Again in Row Over Camps; Clearing of Orchard Beach Sites Is Begun" (PDF). The New York Times. June 12, 1934. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 2, 2017. 
  19. ^ Caro 1974, p. 366.
  20. ^ "TWO CITY BEACHES OPEN FOR SEASON; Jacob Riis Park, on the Ocean, Attracts 2,500--Few Bathers Brave the Chilly Water 3,000 AT ORCHARD BEACH At Least 1,000 Try Swimming in Long Island Sound--Joint Capacity of 500,000 NEW YORK OPENS TWO NEW RECREATIONAL AREAS TO PUBLIC". The New York Times. June 26, 1937. Retrieved September 4, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b New York City Parks Department 1987, p. 18.
  22. ^ "Tallapoosa Landfill Is Partial Defeat" (PDF). Riverdale Press. August 3, 1967. p. 20. Retrieved October 6, 2017 – via 
  23. ^ "Nature-Lovers Lose Park Area To Landfill Forces in the Bronx" (PDF). The New York Times. July 28, 1967. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 6, 2017. 
  24. ^ a b c "Outdoors" (PDF). Riverdale Press. June 19, 1986. p. 23. Retrieved October 6, 2017 – via 
  25. ^ "Hiking Hunter Island in Pelham Bay Park". USA TODAY. May 23, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Board of Commissioners of the NYC Dept of Public Parks – Minutes and Documents: May 4, 1892 – April 26, 1893" (PDF). New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. April 30, 1893. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  27. ^ a b Ultan & Olson 2015, p. 70.
  28. ^ New York City Parks Department 1987, p. 1, 4.
  29. ^ Frank, Dave (May 3, 2017). "Pelham Bay Park". United States Department of the Interior; United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 4, 2017. 
  30. ^ "Overview". Friends of Pelham Bay Park. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  31. ^ "Twin Islands". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 4, 2017. 
  32. ^ a b "Drive begins for Kazimiroff memorial that will preserve Pelham Bay Park" (PDF). Riverdale Press. November 11, 1983. p. 8. Retrieved October 6, 2017 – via 
  33. ^ a b c Bryant, Nelson (June 19, 1986). "OUTDOORS; KAZIMIROFF TRAIL TO OPEN IN BRONX". The New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2017. 
  34. ^ a b c New York City Parks Department 2003, p. 2.
  35. ^ New York City Parks Department 2003, pp. 3–4.
  36. ^ New York City Parks Department 2003, pp. 5–7.
  37. ^ New York City Parks Department 2003, p. 8.
  38. ^ New York City Parks Department 2003, pp. 8–9.


  1. American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (1909). Annual Report to the Legislature of the State of New York. Retrieved October 2, 2017. 
  2. Caro, Robert A. (1974). The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. A Borzoi book. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-48076-3. 
  3. "Creating the Sanctuaries" (PDF). Pelham Bay Park. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. October 11, 1987. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  4. "Kazimiroff Nature Trail" (PDF). Pelham Bay Park. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. July 2003. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  5. O'Hea Anderson, Marianne (June 1996). "Native Americans" (PDF). Administrator's Office, Van Cortlandt & Pelham Bay Parks, City of New York Parks & Recreation. 
  6. "ORCHARD BEACH BATHHOUSE AND PROMENADE" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. June 20, 2006. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  7. Seitz, Sharon; Miller, Stuart (June 6, 2011). The Other Islands of New York City: A History and Guide (Third Edition). Countryman Press. ISBN 978-1-58157-886-7. 
  8. Twomey, Bill (2007). The Bronx, in Bits and Pieces. Rooftop Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60008-062-3. Retrieved October 6, 2017. 
  9. Ultan, Lloyd; Olson, Shelley (2015). The Bronx: The Ultimate Guide to New York City's Beautiful Borough. Rivergate Regionals Collection. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-7320-5. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 

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