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.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

During the mid to late 19th century, there was an area in the Town of Pelham known as Bartow (also known as Bartow-on-the-Sound). Where, precisely, was Bartow?

Bartow was a quaint and small village located on the mainland near City Island. The entire area -- as well as City Island -- was annexed by New York City, effective in 1896. Before then, however, the little area known variously as Bartow, Bartow-on-the-Sound, and Bartow Station became an important part of Pelham and its history.

Below is a detail from a map of the area created in 1895. It is a detail from a plate published in the "Atlas of the State of New York, 1895" by Joseph Rudolf Bien. It shows "Bartow" as the area covering Pelham Neck on the mainland opposite City Island (see below).

Bartow actually encompassed an area slightly larger than the map detail shown above suggests. Bartow encompassed an area from Pelham Bridge to the Bartow-Pell estate and even northeastward to include some of the lands on the mainland across from the Bartow-Pell Mansion (an area that encompasses portions of today's Pelham Bay and Split Rock golf courses).

There is an interesting description of the Bartow area contained in a suggested walking tour published in The New York Times in 1878. The account reads, in part, as follows:

"About a dozen miles from the City, on the Shore Line branch of the Harlem and New-Haven Railway, is a small station called Bartow. It is where one gets off the train to go to City Island. The ride to that little station is a very pleasant one; past long gleaming arms from the Sound, that at high tide reach far up in the land among the meadows of tall, rank, dark green grass; past brooks and mills and hamlets, while the cool salt air comes breezily from the shimmering bosom of the watery expanse gleaming in the distance. It is just after the train's hollow rumble over a long, low bridge that a forest is entered, and there, beneath the shadows of the trees, nestles Bartow. Opposite the station is a pretty little house, where, through a widely-opened door, one may see a table set out with bright service on a cloth of snowy whiteness for a dinner, for which the dinner never seems to come, though alluring signs on the dwelling's front invite the public. A little back in the woods, beside the New-Rochelle road, stands the 'Bartow Hotel,' which appears to do a composite business in beer and horse-shoeing. And those houses, with the depot, of course, are all there is of Bartow.

"From the station a road extends, nearly all the way through a shady lane, over to City Island, one of the most delightful short drives -- little over a mile and a half -- that can be found anywhere along the shore. Overhead arch oaks, hickories, maples, and elms. On either side are rough stone walls. Cresting those walls with foliage and snowy bloom lie tangled masses of the flowering vine that people hereabouts call 'Aaron's beard.' Modest yellow and blue flowers nestle at the bases of the rocky piles. Here and there the golden rod uprears its yellow sprays, and on the little knolls beside the road the sumac's crimson tufts flare brilliantly. The sweet breath of the new-mown hay floats up from low meadows, and at the next turning of the road gives place to the saline scent of the still lower lands, where tall grasses leave their roots in the salt tides. . . . "

Source: The Pearl Of The Sound. Attractions Of Little-Known City Island., N.Y. Times, Aug. 25, 1878, p. 12.

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