The story begins in 1654 when Thomas Pell signed a treaty with the Lenape Native American people for about 50,000 acres in what is now the Bronx and Lower Westchester. The estate was reduced to 220 acres after the Revolutionary War. In 1836, Robert Bartow purchased the property and built the present Greek Revival style mansion. The Bartow family lived there until the property was sold to New York City in 1888. Using its elegant buildings, grounds, and collections, the museum, which opened in 1946, interprets the people who lived and worked on the estate through tours, educational programs, and special events.