Reclaiming a park for views only 

By Regina Clarkin

Memory is a powerful tool – and in the case of Bob Barthelmes, it led to the purchase of less than an acre of land with a commanding view of Peekskill, the mountains and river.  The spit of land at 1410 Crompond Road now belongs to the City, with Westchester Land Trust holding a conservation easement to ensure the view remains public open space permanently. 

Bob Barthelmes took individual shots on film with his Leica camera and then pasted them together to get the view in winter.


Barthelmes, who grew up on Crompond Road, remembers walking into town in the 1940’s and 50’s past a small overlook known as Teachers Park.  Teacher’s Park was created and owned by the Friendly Town Association which was founded by Chester A. Smith. 

The Friendly Town Association created seven public parks throughout the city to beautify the community. This particular park was dedicated in 1946, and commemorated as Teachers Park.  The memorial tablet and boulder containing the inscription underneath the Lamp of Learning, presented the park to the people of Peekskill in memory and honor of Smith’s parents – who were both teachers. At some point the boulder and plaque were relocated to a spot behind the Peekskill Museum, where they reside today. 

Plaque from Teacher’s Park is currently at Peekskill Museum’s yard.

At the time of its creation, the park was two and three quarters of an acre, containing stone gate posts at the east and west entrances, along with a flagstone platform and a stone bench, opening up a view of the city, Peekskill Bay, Dunderberg Mountain, Anthony’s Nose and other mountains of the Hudson Highlands.  

At one point in the 1950’s, city officials realized the parks weren’t paying taxes, and the Association was told they needed to get on the tax rolls. The Association decided to sell the parks to individuals, and soon they were developed. 

That was the case with Teacher’s Park. The land changed hands a number of times, and in the 1990’s a local construction company planned to build seven homes on the entire 2-acre site that sloped down to Lincoln Terrace.  

Throughout the years, Bob Barthelmes and his wife Kay, a member of the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), were thinking what an asset it would be for Peekskill to have the land be open space for people to once again enjoy the view, as they did in the 1940’s. 

That was the beginning of their quest to create a new park. In 2008, people in Peekskill’s planning department also agreed with that idea for open space by authoring a memo promoting the idea of the land being developed as a park. “Staff recommends the property be acquired as a park. This property offers incredible views of the city and the Hudson River. It should be retained as a scenic overlook and mini-tourist destination for the City,” stated the report. 

Seven years later, in 2015, Peekskill’s Conservation Advisory Council learned that the land was for sale and reached out to a number of organizations such as Scenic Hudson and Open Spaces Institute to purchase the property. Westchester Land Trust responded immediately and began the lengthy process of negotiating with the owner to purchase the site. That began the years of meetings and presentations to show the value of protecting the view. 

Representatives from Westchester Land Trust came to Peekskill in 2015 and attempted to walk the site – which would prove dangerous because of the steep slope of the 0.83 acre of land. They met at the Longview Avenue home of the Barthelmes’ where Bob showed them a rendering of what the park looked like as he remembered it.  It helped that Bob is a professional artist, and easily sketched out what the park looked like. His paintings from growing up in that area of Peekskill, known as Finktown, have been produced as prints and postcards. 

Rendering Bob Barthelmes created to show Westchester Land Trust what the park looked like in the 1940 and 1950’s.

A year later, in 2016, Lori Ensinger, who is now a Senior Advisor at Westchester Land Trust, worked with Peekskill’s CAC, a real estate agent, and the city, to research the condition of the site, the appropriate price, and negotiated with the seller. That process took six years. “Ensinger has been unrelenting in her efforts to protect this area since then,” said Kay Barthelmes. “The property reveals the city below surrounded by the Hudson Highlands and bordered by the Hudson River, offering one of the finest views in Westchester County.”

It wasn’t until 2022 that the deal came to fruition as Westchester Land Trust purchased the land. At the closing, the Trust turned it over to the City of Peekskill for use as an open space. The city now owns the land, and will manage its natural resources and public access plans.  

“We’re thrilled that this important property will now be protected as open space forever,” said Matthew Alexander, Peekskill’s city manager. “We look forward to exploring the best ways to restore this land so it can be enjoyed by the people of Peekskill and benefit local plants and wildlife.”

The City of Peekskill will determine plans for future public access, as well as potential stewardship strategies to incorporate native plants and pollinator friendly trees, flowers, and shrubs. 

Bob Barthelemes is hoping the city will incorporate the design of the park he still holds in his memory.