by Christina Parrella, 10/16/2012 [Updated 02/04/2016]
Photo: Mick Hales
Independence Avenue and West 249th Street, 718-549-3200, Riverdale, Bronx
Before Wave Hill was a horticultural haven for the public, it was a private 28-acre estate with greenhouses, gardens and a gray stone mansion. Constructed in 1843, the estate was rented by prominent figures, including the family of Theodore Roosevelt, who lived there during the summers of 1870 and 1871. Surrounded by nature, the then-12-year-old Roosevelt, a budding taxidermist who already owned a collection of preserved animals, spent a great deal of time outdoors. It's speculated that summers here may have transformed him: as president, Roosevelt went on to establish five national parks. Today, you can visit Wave Hill weekly from Tuesday through Sunday and walk around the same grounds Roosevelt did.
Just across the street (at 5040 Independence Ave.), a young John F. Kennedy called a spacious three-story, 20-room mansion home from 1927 to 1929. The 35th US president also attended prestigious Riverdale Country School (then known as the Riverdale School for Boys) from fifth through seventh grades, where he excelled in geography but floundered in French.