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Historic Wildcliff Burns in New Rochelle

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — As rain and wind lashed the building, flames gutted a 130-year old historic residence perched atop a hill overlooking Long Island Sound in New Rochelle.

Wildcliff is a total loss.

Designed by prominent architect Alexander Jackson Davis in the gothic revival style and built in 1855. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 2002.

According to City officials, the fire was reported shortly after 4:25 p.m. When New Rochelle Firefighters arrived on scene the fire was fully involved, through the roof. The ceiling collapsed. There were no reported injuries. The fire was called under control at 7:30 p.m.

The fire went to a third alarm. There were 40 firefighters on scene.

“Our Fire Department is fully engaged in fighting the fire that sadly is claiming one of the City’s significant historic properties- one that I personally have known and loved, and I am deeply saddened by the loss,” said New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson.

“While the investigation will begin into the cause and it is too soon for next steps, we want to express our gratitude to the member of the Fire, Police, Public Works and Parks Departments who are each doing their part this evening in horrendous conditions to protect and secure the surrounding neighborhood.”

The house was commissioned by Cyrus Lawton. Hi wife was a member of the prominent Davenport family, for whom the entire area is named, and the house was a wedding gift to the couple.

Noted for its steep-roofed gables and elaborately carved bargeboards under their eaves, the property was donated to the City of New Rochelle in 1940 by Clara Prince whose family purchased the home in 1902.

City Spokesperson Katherine Gilwit issued the following statement:

“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 adjacent property. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 2002 and is a locally designated site.”