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Fire Breaks Out At Historic Mansion In Westchester

Wildcliff Manor.
Wildcliff Manor. Photo Credit: File

A historic mansion in Westchester that has stood for more than a century was destroyed on Monday when a fire tore through the structure.

Dozens of firefighters responded to the Wildcliff Manor in in New Rochelle shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26, when a fire was reported at the building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The three-alarm fire quickly tore through the building, which has been unoccupied for years. The cause of the fire is under investigation. No one was living at the mansion at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.

Wildcliff is expected to be razed when the investigation into Monday’s blaze is concluded. 

According to New Rochelle City Historian Barbara Davis, the mansion was built as a wedding gift in 1855 for Cyrus Lawton and wife, Sarah Marie Davenport. 

“Wildcliff, as the Gothic cottage was later renamed, was gifted to the City of New Rochelle by the Julius Prince family in 1940. After having been utilized for city offices the building has housed a variety of not-for-profit groups and functions, including Wildcliff Natural Science Center, East Coast Performing Arts and Wildcliff Center for the Arts. The interior of the building has not been used for several years; the exterior was restored with funds from the sale of an adjacent property.”

In a statement released Monday night following the fire, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson reminisced about times he spent at Wildcliff, calling the fire “a devastating end.”

“The news today from Wildcliff Manor is terrible.  This historic structure adjacent to Hudson Park was destroyed by fire, a devastating end for an exceptional building beloved by many generations of New Rochelleans,” he posted in his blog. “I remember petting goats at Wildcliff on elementary school trips as a kid, attending performances as an adult, and working to rehabilitate the building as a Council Member and Mayor.  

"And although a sustainable reuse of Wildcliff proved elusive in recent years, all of us were confident that the Manor would eventually be restored as a community asset.  Now, this.”

“I want to express my gratitude to the members of the Fire, Police, Public Works and Parks Departments who have worked (and are still working) through an evening of horrendous conditions to protect and secure the surrounding neighborhood.

"They have done all they possibly could. The FD will be investigating the cause of the blaze and examining the structural integrity of the remains, but it seems unlikely that Wildcliff will survive.  A sad, sad day.”

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