By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter
May 31, 2017: The Bronxville Historical Conservancy and the Village of Bronxville marked the one-hundredth birthday of President John F. Kennedy on May 29 by unveiling and dedicating a monument that recognizes the Kennedy family's residence in Bronxville from 1929 until 1941.
Despite rain showers, an appreciative audience gathered on the village hall lawn near the corner of Pondfield Road and Gramatan Avenue for the ceremony.
"Until today, Bronxville has been the only Kennedy permanent or vacation residence that has not had some official public recognition," Conservancy lifetime co-chair Marilynn Wood Hill said. "Even Kennedy's room at Harvard University has a plaque." She added that many people are surprised to learn that Bronxville served as the Kennedy family's official residence for more than a quarter of John F. Kennedy's life.
Over a year ago, The Bronxville Historical Conservancy began working with village officials to remedy that omission. After the United States Senate passed legislation in July of 2016 creating the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, the village registered with the commission with the goal of creating a means to recognize Kennedy's residence in Bronxville.
The village and the Conservancy worked directly with the national archivist as well as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to create a fitting monument. A further partnership led to the Village of Tuckahoe's offering a piece of marble, chosen and polished by two local stonemasons, to hold the dedication plaque. "The partnership with our neighbor was one of the greatest things about this project," Mayor Mary Marvin said.
Hill noted that one of the difficulties in determining a location for the monument arose because Crownlands, the Kennedy family's six-acre estate at 294 Pondfield Road, is no longer standing. "Historic markers are almost always found at historic homes," she said. "Crownlands was demolished in the 1950s and subdivided before village residents realized it would become such an important place."
The Conservancy decided to recognize the entire Kennedy family's years as Bronxville residents and tell the story of their everyday activities. Rather than highlight John F. Kennedy's heroic acts as a wartime naval officer or address the monumental decisions he faced as president and a world leader, the plaque presents him as a son and brother.
Village trustee Anne W. Poorman and Bronxville Historical Conservancy project chair Peter Hicks unveiled the monument. Conservancy lifetime co-chair Bob Riggs laid a wreath at the monument.
The text on the plaque reads:
Bronxville was home to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, from 1929 to 1941. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop 2, worshiped at St. Joseph's Church and attended local dance classes. With his eight siblings and neighborhood friends he participated in weekend games and winter sledding on the grounds of Crownlands, the family's six-acre estate at 294 Pondfield Road. Although JFK and two of his oldest siblings received their primary education at a nearby New York City school, the six youngest children attended Bronxville public and private schools and also were active in the church and village social and club life. In 1938, patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy was appointed ambassador to Great Britain and the family moved to London for 18 months. After 1940, when JFK had graduated from Harvard and the other Kennedy children had reached adolescence and young adulthood, the Kennedys moved from the Village. The house was sold in 1941, ending twelve years in Bronxville at a time in the life in the family mother Rose Kennedy later described in her memoir as "a golden interval." Crownlands no longer exists. In 1953 the Colonial Revival house was demolished and the property was subdivided. In 1958 JFK made his last visit to Bronxville to serve as best man at the wedding of his youngest brother. Two years later the local newspaper's front-page headline proudly announced, "Former Bronxville Man Elected President."
Mayor Marvin remarked that, for her, President Kennedy will always represent bold vision, a commitment to public service, and a vigor that signals America will always have better days ahead.
Pictured here (from top down): Village trustee Anne W. Poorman and Bronxville Historical Conservancy project chair Peter Hicks unveiling the monument; Marilynn Wood Hill; members of Boy Scout Troop 2; (rotating) members of the boards of the Village of Bronxville and The Bronxville Historical Conservancy.
Photos by A. Warner