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.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Brief History of Pelhamdale Avenue in Pelham

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Pelhamdale Avenue extends from Shore Road across the Village of Pelham Manor through Pelham Heights to the New Haven Line railroad tracks. Today’s Blog posting provides a little history regarding the street.

Pelhamdale Avenue did not exist essentially as we know it today until about the 1870s. Before that, there was a well worn “cow path” that extended from Shore Road inland for a few hundred yards. Eventually that path became the eastern end of today’s Pelhamdale Avenue. It is believed that the street is named after the home located at 45 Iden Avenue known as Pelhamdale.

Early maps of the Town of Pelham indicate that in its earliest years, Pelhamdale Avenue followed a somewhat different route than it does today. Such maps show that Wolfs Lane proceeded essentially as we know it today until it reached the area near today’s Second Street. There Wolfs Lane forked with one branch running parallel to the Hutchinson River and the other turning back to the east and cutting diagonally across a portion of the grounds of today’s Pelham Memorial High School to intersect with Colonial Avenue essentially where Pelhamdale Avenue crosses Colonial Avenue today. See Barr, Lockwood, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as The Lordshipp & Manour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 141 (The Dietz Press 1946). But, when “the Heights was plotted into streets the diagonal was eliminated and Pelhamdale carried through to the railroad, along its present route.” Id. This rerouting of Pelhamdale Avenue created the roadway essentially as we know it today.

Pelhamdale Avenue, of course, was a simple dirt road at the time. It was not until the annual election held on March 17, 1914 that a bond issue of $20,000 was voted “for the purpose of laying a permanent pavement on Pelhamdale Avenue.” See Village of Pelham Manor, Pelham Manor, N.Y. February 15th, 1915 – A Voluntary Statement of the Affairs of the Village of Pelham Manor for the Year 1914, Issued by the Board of Trustees for Consideration of Taxpayers and Residents of the Village, p. 1 (Village of Pelham Manor 1915; copy in the collection of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham). The timing of the vote, however, was not good. By the time paving plans were completed and the bonds were offered for sale “there was no market for securities of any kind.” Id.

It took some time to complete the project. A report published in 1916 notes:

“A new concrete roadway was laid the full length of Pelhamdale Avenue, which has every indication of proving most satisfactory. . . .

“The bonds in the amount of $20,000, the issue of which was ordered by vote at the annual election, March 17, 1914, were sold March 13, 1915. Plans for the construction of the road were prepared by Edward F. Campbell, civil engineer, and a contract was entered into with M.J. Leahy Construction Company for laying a 6-inch concrete pavement with a top dressing of Tarvia and 3/8 in. stone surface. Work was begun in April and completed September 15, 1915. The Westchester Electric R.R. is required by law to maintain between their tracks and two feet on either side a pavement equivalent to that laid by the Village. The company decided to lay a pavement identical with that laid by the Village and to employ the same contractor. Some delay in completion of the work arose from efforts to do this work without interfering with trolley traffic and also from the continuous rains and unfavorable weather.

“This pavement makes a fine roadway, and the contractor has sufficient confidence in its durability to give the Village a maintenance bode for five years.
The entire cost of the road was $19,820.17, of which $1,275.24 was for engineer’s plans and inspection; $17920.88 for contract payments; $169.05 for legal expenses and advertising connected with sale of bonds; $455 for interest on bonds paid from proceeds of sale, which included accumulated interest.

“The total proceeds from the sale of the bonds, with accumulated interest, was $20,421.61.”

Source: Village of Pelham Manor, Pelham Manor, N.Y. February 14th, 1916 – Statement of the Affairs of the Village of Pelham Manor for the Year 1915, Issued by the Board of Trustees, pp. 1-2 (Village of Pelham Manor 1916; copy in the collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham). It should be noted that although the report expressly states that the road was paved “the full length of Pelhamdale Avenue” it is unclear whether this report by the Village of Pelham Manor means that the road was paved its entire length within the Village of Pelham Manor (which would mean from Shore Road to Colonial Avenue) or its entire length including that small portion of the Avenue that extends across Pelham Heights to the New Haven Line Tracks.

Much of Pelhamdale Avenue, from Colonial Avenue to Shore Road, carried trolley tracks on which the H-Line Trolley that inspired the Toonerville Trolley cartoon traveled from the early 20th Century until July 31, 1937. Today, Pelhamdale Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares through the Village of Pelham Manor and across Pelham Heights.

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