100th Anniversary of Gift of Harriman Park Land

Date: 
10/29/2009
Source: 
Palisades Parks Conservancy

 

Palisades Interstate Park Commission Honors
100th Anniversary of the Harriman Family Gift

$1 million and 10,000 Acres Formed Nucleus of Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks


The unwavering support of benefactors has been critical in almost every major Palisades Interstate Park Commission undertaking since its founding in 1900. The Park has relied on passionate individuals to ensure the survival of this natural oasis. Today's beautiful park would not have been a reality without the assistance and backing of the Harriman family. In 1908, the New York State Prison Commission launched an ambitious plan to move the Sing Sing Prison to a terraced shelf extending along the Hudson River at Bear Mountain. Construction soon progressed to the point that the desecration of historic Forts Clinton and Montgomery, as well as the scenic lands surrounding Bear Mountain itself, became a real possibility. Orange County residents Edward Henry Harriman and his wife Mary Averell Harriman ardently resisted this plan.

Instead, Harriman, who had made a fortune as a railroad tycoon, proposed to donate thousands of acres and $1 million to the PIPC if the New York Prison Board moved the prison stockade away from Bear Mountain. However, before the prison matter could be resolved, Harriman died at the age of 61. His legacy would be carried on by his wife and his children. On October 29, 1909, Mrs. Harriman deeded 10,000 acres and $1 million to the PIPC. Simultaneously, New York State turned over the the adjacent tract that had been acquired for the prison to the Commission. There would be no prison thanks to the generous gift of the Harriman family.

Eighteen year old William Averell Harriman, acting on behalf of his mother and family, stated "it is the hope that through all the years to come the health and happiness of future generations will be advanced by these gifts." Today marks that anniversary. We remember this monumental gift and honor the legacy of the Harriman family. We have made great strides but our work continues. As in 1909, our goal to conserve and protect open space and wildlife habitats, improve facilities, and enhance programs and services for our visitors continues.

Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks are part of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, which administers 28 parks, parkways, and historic sites for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in New York as well as the Palisades Interstate Park and parkway in New Jersey.

For more information about New York State parks and historic sites, please visit www.nysparks.com, for information about the New Jersey section of the PIPC please visit www.njpalisades.org, and for more information about the Palisades Parks Conservancy and the Palisades Interstate Park parks and historic sites, please visit www.palisadesparksconservancy.org.