The views along the Hudson River in New York range from industrial to touristy. However, travel up to the Bronx and it becomes even transcendent, thanks to the Villa Charlotte Brontë, a development whose tiled roofs and twisting stairways evoke the Amalfi Coast rather than one of the busiest, most populated cities in the world.
The 17-unit co-op was designed in 1926 by Robert W. Gardner, the second of three developments in the area patterned after Italian villas. Gardner’s intention was to battle against the proliferation of ugly buildings popping up all over Upper Manhattan and the Bronx in the early 1900s. Thus he built the seven-unit Villa Rosa Bonheur, the Villa Charlotte Brontë, and the more traditional apartment building Villa Victoria in between them.
The Villa Charlotte Brontë is comprised of two buildings connected by a broad central walkway. Each apartment has its own entrance, some of which involve many stairs, twisting walkways, and stone arches. The confusing layout means that mail often gets delivered to the wrong apartment.
Villa Charlotte Brontë is operated as a co-op, and that coupled with the low number of units means it’s incredibly difficult to move there. But the co-op also serves as vital protection as the building is not landmarked. Villa Rosa Bonheur, which had a single owner, was torn down in 2019 in favor of a modern building with more units. The Villa Charlotte Brontë is also un-landmarked, but the current residents are very protective. One clear sign of this: the amount of “no trespassing” plaques hung around the property to keep curious passersby away from its twisting pathways.