Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Compensation Paid by the Railroad After the 1885 Pelhamville Train Wreck

On December 27, 1885, the mail express train out of Boston known as the "Owl Train" because it traveled overnight between Boston and New York City reached Pelhamville during a major windstorm just as a gale lifted the wooden station platform into the air and flipped it onto the tracks.  Engineer Riley Phillips cut the steam and braked, but the engine smashed into the overturned platform, left the rails and tumbled end-over-end down the 60-foot embankment dragging the fire tender and a large mail car with it. Phillips and his fireman, recently-married Eugene Blake, were thrown out of the cab. Phillips was bruised, but lived.  Eugene Blake was crushed in the incident and died a short time later.

One of the mail clerks who was sorting mail in the mail car at the time of the wreck, James H. McCoy, was injured not during the accident but, instead, in the aftermath as he tried to free his fellow mail clerks who were trapped in the mail car with a fire burning in the pot-bellied stove used to provide heat.  

Only known photograph showing the aftermath of the "Pelhamville
Train Wreck of 1885.” The January 16, 1886 issue of Scientific
American included an artist’s depiction of the same scene in
connection with an article about the wreck describing it as 
"A Remarkable Railroad Accident" that occurred on the New Haven
Line in Pelhamville (now part of the Village of Pelham) at about 6:00
a.m. on December 27, 1885. See A Remarkable Railroad Accident,
Scientific American, Jan. 16, 1886, Vol. LIV, No. 3, pp. 31-32. 
The engine and tender lie in the foreground with the mail car behind.
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

It has taken years of research to identify what payments may have been made as compensation for the death of Eugene Blake and the injuries suffered by others.  Last year I wrote about the settlement of the lawsuit brought by Eugene Blake's widow against the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.  The widow received a payment of $4,000 to settle the suit.  See Wed., March 26, 2014:  Postscript To the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 - Settlement of the Widow's Lawsuit Against the Railroad.

Although a number of payments likely were made after the accident, I have recently been able to identify two additional instances of compensation by the railroad.  Postal Clerk James H. McCoy, who was injured while working to free his comrades from the mail car after the accident, received a $1,000 payment from the railroad described in a news account as compensation for his "bravery" and "for injuries sustained" in the accident.  Additionally, the engineer, Riley Phillips, who was thrown from the engine during the accident and was bruised badly but survived, received only half pay for a number of months after the accident while he recuperated and then received a $250 payment from the railroad as compensation. 

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes two very brief newspaper references to the payments.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

A Postal Clerk Receives $1000 for Bravery During the Pelhamville Accident. 

PUTNAM, Conn., March 10. – Postal Clerk James H. McCoy of this place, whose route lies between Boston and New York, has received a check for $1000 from the railroad company for injuries sustained in the Pelhamville accident last spring. McCoy received his injuries while he loyally endeavored to release his comrades from the burning cars.” 

Source: DESERVED THE REWARD – A Postal Clerk Receives $1000 for Bravery During the Pelhamville Accident, The Boston Daily Globe, p. 13, col. 3 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access link).

"-- Vice-President Reed, of the Consolidated Road, has presented Riley Phillips, the heroic engineer of the recent disaster to the Boston Express train at Pelhamville, with a check for $250.  Phillips has been on half pay recently but has now gone on the road again."

Source:  [Untitled], New Rochelle Pioneer, Mar. 13, 1886, p. 6, col. 1.  

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I have written extensively about this tragic Pelhamville train wreck.  For some of the many examples, see:  

Mon., Sep. 24, 2007:  The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Tue., Sep. 25, 2007:  More About the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Wed., Sep. 26, 2007:  The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 Continued . . . 

Thu., Sep. 27, 2007:  Findings of the Coroner's Inquest That Followed the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Fri., Dec. 21, 2007:  1886 Poem Representing Fictionalized Account of the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Wed., Jan. 9, 2008:  The Aftermath of the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Thu., Apr. 02, 2009:  Biographical Data and Photo of the Engineer of the Train that Wrecked in Pelhamville on December 27, 1885

Fri., Jul. 15, 2011:  Another Newspaper Account of The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Mon., Feb. 17, 2014:  Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885:  Another Account Published with a Diagram of the Aftermath of the Crash.  

Wed., Mar. 26, 2014:  Postscript To the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 - Settlement of the Widow's Lawsuit Against the Railroad.

Wed., Feb. 11, 2015:  Coroner's Inquest Jury Found Railroad "Criminally Negligent" in the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885.

Bell, Blake A., The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885: "One of the Most Novel in the Records of Railroad Disasters, 80(1) The Westchester Historian, pp. 36-43 (2004).

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fire Destroyed the Old Pelham Manor Post Office in 1945

Helen Mann, whose husband was away on business, was sound asleep in the couple's ground floor apartment in the old Pelham Manor Post Office building that once stood at the end of the Esplanade (where it ends at today's I-95 concrete sound barrier).  It was shortly before four o'clock in the morning on April 19, 1945.  There was no hint yet of a rising sun. 

Mrs. Mann startled from her sleep.  She thought she had heard the sounds of heavy objects falling, but wasn't sure if it was a dream.  She arose and crept to the door of her apartment.  She opened the door and looked into the lobby.  

Flames were roaring and climbing the stairs toward the apartments on the upper floors.  She began screaming to warn other apartment occupants in the building.  She ran to her bedside telephone and called in the alarm.  

The old Pelham Manor Post Office building, long since converted to apartments, a small grocery, and a plumbing shop was burning.  The blaze was a bad one.  When the flames were extinguished more than two-and-a-half hours later, four were hurt.  Seven occupants were saved by firemen.  Two firemen were hospitalized.  The structure was not rebuilt because it lay in the path of the proposed I-95 New England Thruway.

Map Detail Showing Location of Pelham Manor Post Office Building.
(NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge).

I have written before about the history of the Pelham Manor Post Office that once served the neighborhood and was the center of business activity in the area.  See:  Tue., Jan. 28, 2014:  The Pelham Manor Post Office.  

Immediately below is a previously-unpublished and rare post card view of the Pelham Manor Post Office.  Train cars on the tracks of the Branch Line may be seen in the lower left of the image.

Post Card View of Pelham Manor Post Office, 1908.
"No. 206.  Post Office Pelham Manor, N. Y."
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog collects a little more about the history of the Pelham Manor Post Office building and also transcribes the text news reports about the fire that destroyed the building as well as other news items relating to the history of the building and its occupants. 

The Pelham Manor Post Office operated in the Pelham Manor Depot for many years until 1904 when the post office was moved to a nearby residence on Terrace avenue, a roadway that no longer exists due to the construction of I-95.  The post office remained in that residence until a new post office building was built near the front entrance to the nearly new Pelham Manor Train Station built of stone that was designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert and opened in about 1908.  

The Pelham Manor and Pelham post offices were designated as branches of the New York City post office in 1910.  The Pelham Manor branch operated in the same building for the next 26 years.  The Pelham Manor branch was closed due to lack of business on December 31, 1936.

A small grocery operated in the Pelham Manor Post Office building for many, many years.  In about 1925, two brothers from New Rochelle named Harry B. and Joseph Adolph O. "Al" Bernsohn, became proprietors and ran the grocery until the building burned in 1945.  

In 1926, Joseph Adolph O. Bernsohn was involved in an unusual traffic accident while driving a grocery truck for the Pelham Manor Grocery.  On November 1 of that year a woman from Tennessee, Mrs. Leota Pennington, was walking along Boston Post Road when a vehicle driven by Arthur Anderson of Newark, New Jersey struck the grocery truck at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Fowler Avenue causing Bernsohn's truck to leave the road and strike a road sign.  The sign toppled onto Mrs. Pennington and injured her ankle.  

Mrs. Pennington and her husband filed lawsuits in New York state court against Al Bernsohn and the Newark driver seeking $50,000 in damages, but the Newark driver "stayed out of the jurisdiction of the court."  A first trial of the suit against Bernsohn ended in mistrial.  A second trial, however, resulted in a verdict against Bernsohn of $3,200.  Articles about the accident and subsequent lawsuits are also transcribed below.

Once the Branch Line ended commuter service to Pelham Manor in the 1930s and the Pelham Manor Post Office closed in 1936, the area around the old Pelham Manor Post Office building grew quiet.  The train station was abandoned (although it later served as the headquarters of a model railroad club).  A plumbing shop owned by Robert M. Mullins opened in the former post office space.  In addition to the grocery and plumbing shop, apartments were carved out of the remainder of the building.  There was an apartment on the ground floor, two apartments on the second floor, and another apartment on the third floor.  This was the building layout when the fire gutted the building on April 19, 1945.

The Mullins Plumbing shop moved to 517 Pelhamdale Avenue, around the corner from the old Pelham Manor Post Office building.  Below is an advertisement for the relocated business that appeared in the September 27, 1945 issue of The Pelham Sun.

September 27, 1945 Advertisement for
Relocated Business of Mullins Plumbing.
Source:  R. M. Mullins [Advertisement], The Pelham Sun,
Sep. 27, 1945, p. 12, col. 6.

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"Three Hurt in Manor $25,000 Fire; Seven Saved by Firemen
Manor Grocery Store, Mullins Plumbing Shop and Four Apartments Gutted in Blaze Early This Morning in Old Manor Post Office Building.

One woman and two firemen were taken to New Rochelle Hospital early this morning during a stubborn $25,000 fire which was fought by combined forces of Pelham Manor and North Pelham for two and a half hours.  The flames gutted the big frame building at Esplanade and Pelham Manor abandoned railroad station.  

The injured woman is:

MRS. CHARLES HARMON, who sustained a fractured pelvis and burns on the right foot and leg when she and Mr. David leaped from the second story.  He was treated for smoke inhalation.  Firemen said that Mr. David jumped after Mrs. Harmon had landed on her prostrate fo[illegible].  This could not be verified.

The injured firemen are:  

HAROLD HOCKING, 432 Fifth avenue, North Pelham volunteer fireman who sustained a badly bruised hip when a section of floor caved in.  He is in New Rochelle Hospital, detained for further examination.

GEORGE TRUCKENBROUGH, 56, of 1151 Clay avenue, a volunteer fireman of Pelham Manor and well-known Legionnaire, cut an artery in his right arm severed by glass.  He was treated at New Rochelle hospital and returned home.

On the ground floor of the building is the Manor Grocery operated for 20 years by Harry and Al Bernsohn of 315 Sickles avenue, New Rochelle.  The store was gutted and loss heavy.  The plumbing shop of Robert Mullins, which occupied the site of the old post-office abandoned years ago, was gutted.

Mrs. Helen Mann, who occupied a ground floor apartment awakened about 4 a.m. by sounds as of heavy objects falling, opened the door of her apartment and saw the building was on fire.  She raised an alarm from her bedside telephone.  Her screams aroused the other occupants of the buildding and neighbors.  Mann was alone her husband, a Federal inspector, being in Washington, D. C.

Mr. and Mrs. Carl Jenzen and her children, Carl, 11, Robert [illegible] and Margaret, 5, were rescued in their night clothes from a third-floor apartment.  They suffered from shock.

Mrs. E. Harmon and Mr. Davidson and Mrs. Constance Moore and baby occupied apartments on the second floor.  Mrs. Moore's husband is in the armed forces overseas.  She and her children were rescued by firemen.  Harmon and Mr. Davidson climbed or jumped.

When Manor firemen and Chief Nelson Rundlett arrived, the building was blazing.  Fire poured from the windows and rose up from the roof.  Chief Rundlett called for aid from North Pelham and two pieces of apparatus and 20 men turned out to help with a stubborn fight [to bring] the flames under control about 6:30 a.m.

Kenneth R. Kelly, county [illegible] man of disaster and relief of the Red Cross, was on hand.  He procured hot coffee from Mrs. Southland at the Country Club and served firemen and fire victims.  

Mrs. Goldie Russell of 1155 Clay avenue opened her home to the scantily-clad victims and neighbors sent in clothing for them.  

Most of the occupants of the building carried insurance.  The co-operative work of the two fire departments was excellent.

The building may not be restored as it is on the route of the projected track of the New England Thru Way."

Source:  Three Hurt in Manor $25,000 Fire; Seven Saved by Firemen -- Manor Grocery Store, Mullins Plumbing Shop and Four Apartments Gutted in Blaze Early This Morning in Old Manor Post Office Building, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1945, p. 1, cols. 1-3.  

"Pelham Manor Fire Injures Four Persons

PELHAM MANOR -- Four persons were injured yesterday morning when flames raced through a three-story shingle and stone building at 1107 Esplanade damaging the structure beyond repair in a fire described by Chief Nelson Rundlett as 'the largest and toughest in this village in many years.'

The building which houses the Manor Grocer and the Robert Mullins plumbing establishment and four apartments was burned throughout its interior as the flames which are said to have broken out in the lobby spread up the stairs and quickly burned through the second floor apartment rooms."

Source:  Pelham Manor Fire Injures Four Persons, The Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Apr. 20, 1945, p. 7, col. 3.  

"Obituary News

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Harry B. Bernsohn

Harry B. Bernsohn, 68, of 710 Warburton Ave., former proprietor of the Manor Grocery in Pelham Manor, died last Thursday at St. John's Riverside Hospital.  He had been a resident of Yonkers for the past 26 years.

Born Sept. 14, 1896 in New Rochelle, Mr. Bernsohn was the son of the late Adolph Otto and Caroline Bernsohn.  He married the former Elizabeth Boyd, served as a seaman with the Naval Reserve in World War I and later became a member of the American Legion, New Rochelle Post 8.

Surviving are his wife; a daughter, Mrs. Anne Bennett of Brooklyn; a brother, Alfred Bernsohn of Ormond Beach, Fla.; and three sisters, Mrs. Helen Himmell of Forest Hills, N. Y., and the Misses Ruth and Clara Bernsohn, both of New Rochelle.


BERNSOHN--Harry B. Of 710 Warburton Avenue.  On July 15, 1965.  Beloved husband of Elizabeth Boyd.  Father of Anna Bennett.  Brother of Helen Himmell, Ruth, Clara and Alfred.  Services at the Geo. T. Davis Memorial, 14 LeCount Place, New Rochelle 3:00 P.M. today."

Source:  Obituary News . . . Harry B. Bernsohn & DEATH NOTICES -- BERNSOHN--Harry B., Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Jul. 19, 1965, p. 2, col. 1.  


Trial was started yesterday before Supreme Court Judge Josepoh H. Morschauser and a jury at White Plains in the $50,000 accident damage suit of Mrs. Leota Pennington, of Tennessee against Joseph Adolph O. Bernsohn, of No. 315 Sickles avenue, New Rochelle proprietor of the Manor Grocery, Pelham Manor.  Mrs. Pennington who was visiting her daughter whose home is at No. 108 Iden avenue, Pelham Manor in November 1926 was injured in an accident in which Bernsohn's marchine figured, at the intersection of the Boston road and Fowler avenue.  Bernsohn's car was hit by another machine, and it crashed against a street sign.  The sign fell and injured Mrs. Pennington's ankle. 

Suit has also been started against Arthur Anderson of Neward driver of the other car, but he has stayed out of the jurisdiction of the court.

Edgar C. Beecroft of Pelham Manor is attorney of record for Bernsohn, and former city Judge Jacob S. Ruskin is trial attorney.  Mrs. Pennington is represented by Sidney Syme of Mount Vernon."

Source:  ASKS $50,000 FOR INJURY TO ANKLE, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 27, 1931, Vol. 21, No. 52, p. 1, col. 3.  

Jury Decides Against A. O. Bernsohn Accident Suit in Supreme Court.

Verdicts totalling $3200 were returned by a jury before Supreme Court Justice Frederick P. Close, Tuesday afternoon in favor of Mrs. Leota Pennington and Walter M. Pennington, in their suits against Adolph O. Bernsohn, of New Rochelle, owner of the Pelham Manor grocery.

Mr. and Mrs. Pennington, who live in Chattanooga, Tenn., but who were visiting their daughter at 108 Iden avenue, at the time of the accident, sued to recover $50,000.  

According to her complaint, Mrs. Pennington, who was awarded $2,000 of the $35,000 she sought, was walking on the Boston Post road near Fowler avenue in Pelham Manor on November 1, 1926 when Bernsohn's truck collided with a car driven by Austin O. Anderson of Jersey City, N. J.  After the collision, the grocery truck veered to the side of the road and struck a street sign.  The sign was knocked over and struck Mrs. Pennington, fracturing one of her ankles.

The sum of $1200 was awarded to Mr. Pennington, who sued for $15,000 for loss of his wife's services.

The trial this week was the second one in the case, since a mistrial had been declared three weeks ago, when Sydney A. Syme attorney for the Penningtons, moved for the withdrawal of a juror because one of the witnesses failed to appear.

Corporation Counsel Edgar C. Beecroft of Pelham Manor was attorney for Bernsohn, while former City Judge Jacob S. Ruskin of New Rochelle was trial counsel."

Source:  $3,200 AWARD FOR INJURY TO ANKLE -- Jury Decides Against A. O. Bernsohn Accident Suit in Supreme Court, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 24, 1931, Vol. 22, No. 4, p. 5, col. 2.  

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pelham Mourned the Death of FDR as His Body Passed Through the Town by Train on April 15, 1945

During the spring of 1945, the forturnes of war had turned in favor of the United States and its allies.  The hour of victory was approaching, as some then said.  During the same period, however, the health of our nation's president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was deteriorating rapidly.  Indeed, when President Roosevelt returned to the United States from the Yalta Conference and addressed a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945, he delivered his remarks while seated, with grayish skin, and with halting speech to the stark concern of many members of Congress.

On Thursday, April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, Georgia, at a polio treatment center he previously had founded to ease the lives of those, like him, who suffered from the terrible disease.  FDR's body was placed on a "funeral train" and was carried from Warm Springs, Georgia to Washington, D.C. for a funeral service.  After the service, his body was placed on the funeral train for transport to the Roosevelt homestead in Hyde Park, New York, for interrment.  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 27, 1933.
Source:  Photograph by Elias Goldensky (1868-1943), Library
of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, 

Pelham residents were shocked and saddened to learn of the President's passing.  Soon they learned that the President's funeral train would pass slowly past the Pelham Train Station at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 15, 1945.  

Commander Daniel Brown of Pelham Post No. 50, American Legion, oversaw the formation of a guard of honor, a color guard, and a company of members from the Post to pay respect to the deceased Commander-in-Chief as the funeral train moved through Pelham.  In addition, local Boy Scout officials and Boy Scouts presented their own color guard with its colors draped to salute the deceased President as the funeral train passed.

At the appointed time, the first of two trains that formed the funeral train procession traveled slowly past the Pelham Train Station.  More than one hundred Pelham residents stood on the station platforms to pay their respects, not realizing that there were two trains in the procession.  

Once the first train made its way past the station, some of those who had waited on the platform departed for home, not knowing that the President's body was carried in the second train.  About one hundred mourners including the Legionnaires, Boy Scouts and others, however, remained on the platforms when the second train slowly passed.  Those still on the platform saluted solemnly and paid their respects.  According to one account, "sorrow was evident among them."

Photograph Said to Depict FDR Funeral Train in April, 1945.

Pelham mourned the passing of President Roosevelt in ways more profound than viewing the funeral train early Sunday morning.  The previous day, Saturday, April 14, 1945, at 4:00 p.m. when the funeral service in Washington, D.C. was held, the bell at the North Pelham fire headquarters tolled for five minutes and nearly every business closed out of respect.  Flags were flown at half-staff for the next thirty days and special memorials were held by the Town Board, the School Board, and the local Lions Club.  Special services were held by various of the churches and church organizations of the Town, and prayer services were conducted.  

Pelham, without regard to politics, paid homage to the man who had led the nation to the brink of victory in one of the gravest challenges the nation ever faced -- World War II.

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"Pelham Mourns Death of President Roosevelt

Pelham was shocked in common with the rest of the country by the news that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died Thursday at Warm Springs, Ga.  All flags on public buildings were ordered at half mast and on Saturday nearly every store was closed during the 4 o'clock funeral service hour.  The bell at fire headquarters tolled for five minutes.

Color Guard, Legion and Scouts

When the news came that the train bearing the body of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would pass through Pelham at 5:30 A.M. Sunday morning, Commander Daniel Brown called for a color guard and a company of members from Pelham Post No. 50, American Legion to form a guard of honor.  With colors draped they formed on the station platform and saluted as the train proceeded slowly through the station.  About a hundred persons were present.  The funeral cortege consisted of two trains on the second of which was the body of the President.  After the first train passed some of those present departed and missed seeing the second train.

In addition to the guard of honor of the Legionnaires was a number of Boy Scouts of Troop 2 in uniform with Scout Commissioner Archer Wirth and Scoutmaster John De Caprio in command.  Their colors were draped and they saluted as the train passed through.  About 100 persons were on the platform at the time and sorrow was evident among them.

Board of Education Resolution

At the meeting of the Board of Education on Thursday, former president of the Board William L. Chenery, moved that suitable resolutions taking cognizance of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt be prepared and that the flags of the school buildings be ordered flown at half-mast during the mourning period of thirty days.

Town Board Met and Adjourned

Supervisor George Lambert called a special meeting of the Town Board on Friday night.  In opening the meeting, at which all members were present, Supervisor Lambert spoke of the loss which the nation has sustained by the passing of President Roosevelt just as the hour of victory approaches, and in turn each member of the Board was called upon to express his personal sorrow.

The Board adjourned immediately afterward.

Lions Club Mourns Passing

At the Lions Club luncheon on Monday, President Thomas M. Kennett ordered club national colors draped in mourning for thirty days.  He spoke of President Roosevelt as an international humanitarian deeply aware of the principles of democracy for which this country was founded, and one who placed the common welfare of all the people over whose destinies he presided as one of the most important of his responsibilities.  

At Christ Church

Prayers for the late President were read at all the services in Christ Church on Sunday morning.  At the 7:15 and 11:15 o'clock services special processions to the War Shrine in the church were made and prayers led by the rector, Rev. Edward Taggard.

A memorial Eucharist was held on Friday morning in Christ Church.  

At Church of Redeemer

After the National Anthem was sung at the beginning of the morning service on Sunday at the Church of the Redeemer, the rector, Rev. William S. Banks, spoke feelingly about the loss which the country has sustained in the passing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the national grief that was evident.  Special prayers were offered for the repose of his soul for the welfare of the country and for the new President and the coming peace of the world.

Christian Endeavor Group Pay Tribute To Late President

The Christian Endeavor of the Congregational Church of the Pelhams devoted the entire portion of its weekly worship service to a tribute of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The service was written and conducted by Miss Hope Tyson [sp?] and incluuded the reading of the 103rd Psalm which was a favorite of the late President.

Accompanied by Miss Barbara Durham at the organ, the group sang 'Lead Kindly Light,' 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' 'Abide With Me,' 'Onward Christian Soldiers,' and 'Faith of Our Fathers,' hymns for which Mr. Roosevelt had indicated a preference.

In the prayer dedicated to Mr. 

(Continued on Page 4)

Pelham Mourns The Passing Of Pres. Roosevelt
(Continued from Page One)

Roosevelt, which she herself composed, Miss Tyson led the group in a petition for God's blessing on the late President and the work which he had started but was not permitted to finish.  

Following the worship service which was held in the Chapel Sunday evening, Miss Tyson was elected vice president to serve in the place of Miss Louise Dickenson who is moving to Florida.  Plans were formulated for the Spring Dance which the group will sponsor in May.  The business meeting was presided over by the president, William W. Downes, son of the pastor.

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Special Service At Congregational Church

Special prayers were offered for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman at the morning worship service of the Congregational Church of the Pelhams.  Paying tribute to the late President, the pastor, the Rev. W. Wallace Downes, said that 'altho we may have differed with him in many things; altho in the heat of political campaigns we may have opposed him, no one, I feel, may justifiably take from him the sincerity of his purposes, the vision which he had, the ideals of world brotherhood which he sponsored, and the emancipation of all peopleds which he undertook in the name of the citizens of our nation.'

Mr. Downes spoke of the courage of Mr. Roosevelt in overcoming 'a bodily impediment that to a lesser mind and heart would have been an insurmountable barrier,' and concluded by saying that 'he fell, a martyr to the cause to which hed had pledged himself, even as our men and boys are giving their lives on the far-flung battlefields of this global holocaust.'"

Source:  Pelham Mourns Death of President Roosevelt, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1945, p. 1, cols. 2-3 & p. 4, cols. 2-3.  

Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak." 

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Early Description of Efforts to Open Chester Park Published in 1891

In 1891, William T. Standen, an actuary with the United States Life Insurance Company, and his wife, Elizabeth G. Standen, owned much of the land we know today as Chester Park in the Village of Pelham.  At the time, the land was located just north of an unincorporated section of the Town of Pelham known as Pelhamville.  

Though Standen worked in the headquarters of United States Life Insurance Company located at 261 Broadway in New York City, he and his wife had a residence on the lands they owned in the Town of Pelham.  They called their residence "The Homestead."   The Homestead was located north of today’s Pine Avenue between Maple Avenue and Pelhamdale Avenue.  By May of 1891, the Standens had decided to subdivide their land and develop it as “Chester Park”. In May and June of that year, the lands were surveyed for the purpose of creating a subdivision map for development purposes.

"The Homestead," Residence of William T. Standen,
The Founder of Chester Park, Ca. 1890s.
Source: Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of The
Town of Pelham from a Board of Photos Donated to the Town of Pelham.

One of the earliest descriptions of efforts to develop Chester Park appeared in the August 4, 1891 issue of The Chronicle published in Mount Vernon, New York.  The description notes that the intent behind the development was to allow residents to "embrace every enjoyable element of country life, without the usual disadvantages."  With this in mind, the developers promised a stage coach to run regularly between the Pelhamville Depot and Chester Park and also to carry Chester Park students to and from the Pelhamville School.  The developers also promised macadamized roads, street lamps provided by the Eastchester Electric Light Company and emphasized the two-acre green in the center of the development with a large fountain stocked with gold and silver fish and aquatic plants.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of this early description of efforts to develop Chester Park, followed by a citation and link to its source.

I have written about the history of Chester Park on numerous occasions.  For more, see:  

Bell, Blake A., History of Chester Park in the Village of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 46, Nov. 19, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.).

Wed., Jul. 16, 2014:  Final Auction of Remaining Lands of the Pelhamville Land and Homestead Association in 1898.

Thu., Jun. 01, 2006:  Early Photographs of Chester Park Among Materials Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Fri., Jun. 2, 2006:  Several of the Early Photographs of Chester Park Recently Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Mon., Jun. 5, 2006:  More Early Photographs of Chester Park Recently Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Tue., Jun. 6, 2006:  More Early Photographs of Chester Park Recently Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Monday, June 19, 2006:  Court Decision Issued in 1894 Sheds Light on Finances Behind the Development of Chester Park in the Early 1890s.


Our sister localities, Pelham Heights and Pelhamville, are making practical strides towards becoming resident sections.  One of the newest to make a bid for public favor is Chester Park, near Pelhamville station.  

The Park has three entrances from the public highway, viz."  Pine avenue to the north, Willow avenue to the south, and Central avenue between them, at which is located the main entrance.  The entrance piers and receding walls are built of very handsome native granite, and are imposing in size and of excellent workmanship.  

Free water laid on to every lot.  Magnificently macadamized roads.  Every requisite for the highest enjoyment of country life.

The Eastchester Electric Light Company will light the streets of this park and the residences erected in it.

The designer of Chester Park has madfe ample provision for the pleasure and recreation of children.  The public green is a plot of about two acres, which will be, for all time, reserved as a place of recreation for residents and their friends.

The easterly end of the green forms a terrace, with a noble flight of stone steps leading up thereto from the Central avenue.  At each of the eight corners of this green are piers surmounted by bronze vases, which will, in season, be decorated by the best art of a florist.

In the centre of the green is a large basin and fountain.  The water is stocked with gold and silver fish, lilies and water plants, and as the fountain is generally playing throughout the day, it makes a most charming piece of ornamentation.

A commodious stage will run constantly between Pelhamville Station and the Park, at a merelly nominal fare, and this stage will also be used when desirable, to take the children of residents to school and bring them home again, so that residences in this choice location can embrace every enjoyable element of country life, without the usual disadvantages.  

Anyone visiting the Park for the purpose of inspection can apply to the Depot Agent at Pelhamville, who will drive them over to the park and back free of charge.  Mr. Thomas G. Brotherton, the resident manager, will be there to receive and show courteous attention to all guests or visitors."

Source:  Pelhamville -- CHESTER PARK, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 4, 1891, Vol. XXII, No. 1425, p. 2, col. 2.  

Detail from 1893 Map Showing Layout of Chester Park.
Source:  Bien, Joseph R., "Towns of Westchester and Pelham
(With) Villages of Westchester and Unionport. (With) Village of
Pelhamville" in Atlas of Westchester County, New York
Prepared Under the Direction of Joseph R. Bien, E.M.,
p. 3 (NY, NY:  Julius Bien & Co., 1893).  NOTE:  Click
on Image to Enlarge.

Below is an advertisement for an auction of Chester Park lots that appeared in the August 10, 1891 issue of The Yonkers Statesman.  It is followed by a transcription of its text to facilitate search.

August 10, 1891 Advertisement for Auction of Chester Park Lots.
Source:  CHESTER PARK [Advertisement], The Yonkers Statesman,
Aug. 10, 1891, Vol. VIII, No. 2375, p. 2, col. 5.  NOTE:  Click
on Image to Enlarge.

On line of New Haven Railroad near Pelhamville station, within half an hour of the Grand Central Station.
In This Park Will Be Held at the 
59 to 65 Liberty Street, New York City,
At Noon, by
JOHN F. B. SMITH, Auctioneer

Visitors purposing to inspect this Park will be supplied with a vehiclle, free of charge to them, by the Station Agent at Pelhamville.  Macadamized roads, streets lighted by electricity, water laid on free to every lot, a splendidly-ornamented Public Green of about two acres for the pleasure and recreation of residents of Chester Park, are among its many special attractions, which can be thoroughly appreciated only by a personal inspection, which is earnestly invited.

For maps and further particulars, address JOHN F. B. SMITH, Auctioneer, 69 Liberty street, New York City; or THOMAS G. BROTHERTON, Manager, Chester Park, Pehamville, Westchester County, N. Y."

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Pelham Residents Ravaged by the Great Depression: Record Sale of Tax Liens Advertised in 1932

Pelham was no different than most communities in the region during the Great Depression that began in late 1929 and continued through the 1930s.  Pelham was ravaged by the economic and financial calamity that beset America and the world.  

One of the most visible signs of the tragedy of the Great Depression in Pelham was the failure of the Pelham National Bank.  Organized in 1921, the bank was a successful little community bank patronized by many Pelham residents.  On January 23, 1925, the bank's fortunes changed.  Its Board of Directors named a local real estate developer flush with cash from the real estate bubble of the Roaring Twenties, John T. Brook, President of the bank.  

Brook began growing the bank and sold additional shares of stock in the bank.  He sold a plot of land he owned to the bank and built the Pelham National Bank Building that still stands at One Wolfs Lane (the former Post Office Building).  The building cost the bank an astounding $250,000.00 to build and opened on September 14, 1929, only six weeks before the Black Tuesday stock market crash of October 29, 1929.  

The Pelham National Bank closed on the National Bank Holiday decreed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in March, 1933 and never reopened.  It was discovered that Brook had invested bank assets in the stock market and was insolvent.  After the bank's failure, Brook was jailed after his Federal conviction for misapplying and misappropriating bank funds and received a five-year sentence.  Eventually, banking regulators were only able to return to Pelham residents pennies on the dollar as reimbursement for their lost deposits.  Some depositors lost their life savings.  To read more about the failure, see:  

Bell, Blake A., The Failure of The Pelham National Bank, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 39, Oct. 1, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

Wed., Nov. 30, 2005:  The Pelham National Bank Building in the Village of Pelham.  

Thu., May 05, 2005:  John Thomas Brook, Real Estate Developer and Failed Bank President.

Wed., Feb. 19, 2014:  Dedication of the Post Office in the Pelham National Bank Building and More About Old Post Offices.

John T. Brook, Ca. 1924-25.
Source:  French, Alvah P., ed., History of Westchester County
New York, Vol. V, pp. 170-71 (NY, NY & Chicago, IL: 
Lewis Historical Publishing Co. 1925).
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

Another visible sign of the economic and financial tragedy suffered in Pelham as a consequence of the Great Depression was the massive increase in delinquent property tax payments and consequent tax liens levied against Pelham properties in 1932.  Town officials scrambled to try anything to alleviate the pain and suffering of Town residents resulting from the required sale of tax liens that they knew, in many instances, would lead to subsequent foreclosures.  Town Supervisor Joseph H. McCormick unsuccessfully sought State legislation to reduce the penalty for tax delinquencies from 12% to 7%.  Another plan to allow installment payments to pay off property taxes turned out to be administratively unworkable.  Finally, the Town proposed to postpone tax lien sales for a month to give residents a little more time to come up with the money.

On April 29, 1932, The Pelham Sun published the Notices of Sales of Tax Liens, together with an article about the massive increase in the number of tax liens offered for sale.  The list of liens covered much of three pages of the newspaper.  The listings included more than 1,300 tax liens for delinquent taxes offered for sale by the Town, the School District, the Village of North Pelham, and the Village of Pelham Manor.  The liens covered many residences as well as business including the real estate business of Pelham National Bank President John T. Brook.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of the article about the record number of tax liens offered for sale.  The text is followed by a citation and link to its source, as well as links to each of the three pages of advertised tax liens for sale.

Architect's Rendering for the Planned
Pelham National Bank Building.  Many
Pelham Residents Do Not Realize that
the Building Was Built with the Grandiose
Plan to Enable it to Expand to Nine Stories
as the Bank Grew.

"Record List Of Tax Liens Advertised; Sale May Be Put Over For Thirty Days
May 25 Is Regular Date for Sale of Liens; Supervisor and Mayors of Pelham Manor and North Pelham to Consider Postponement for Benefit of Taxpayers

What is believed to be the record list of tax liens is published this week and advertised for sale by Supervisor Joseph H. McCormick.  The liens cover delinquent State, County, Town and School taxes in the three Pelham villages and village taxes in North Pelham and Pelham Manor.  For the benefit of many taxpayers who are victims of the financial depression it is planned to postpone the sale from May 25 to June 24.  Supervisor McCormick and Mayors Edward B. Harder and Lawrence F. Sherman are considering the thirty day moratorium.

The postponement of the sale is expected to benefit many property owners who are in severe financial straits because of the depression.  The extension of time may permit many to prevent mortgage foreclosures and avoid interest burdens which will be imposed when the tax lien is sold.  Several proposals for relief of delinquent taxpayers have been made during the last few months.  Supervisor McCormick attempted to effect legislation to reduce the penalty for tax delinquencies from 12% to 7%, but was unsuccessful.  It has also been proposed that taxes be paid in two installments, but confusion which would result in the halving of the three separate taxes on local property caused this plan to be abandoned.

Although the 1931 delinquents are greater in number this year than previously, Receiver of Taxes Robert A. Cremins reports that many taxpayers have paid their 1932 taxes during the first month of collection.  During April no collection fee was imposed.  Beginning Monday a penalty of 2% will be added to the tax.

The list of unpaid taxes will be found on pages 3, 4 and 13 of this issue of The Pelham Sun."

Source:  Record List Of Tax Liens Advertised; Sale May Be Put Over For Thirty Days, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 29, 1932, Vol. 23, No. 6, p. 1, cols. 1-2.  See also id. at p. 3, cols. 1-4; p. 4, cols. 1-6; and p. 13, cols. 1-8.  

Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak." 

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