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, May 26, 2005

The New York Athletic Club's Opening of the "New Summer Home" on Travers Island in 1889

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On June 8, 1889, five hundred members of the New York Athletic Club inspected the Club's newly-completed summer home on Travers Island in Pelham Manor. The next day a brief news item appeared in The New York Times detailing the events of that day. Today's Blog posting will provide the content of that brief article. The image immediately is an old post card view showing the original summer home as it looked before it later was destroyed by fire.


The new Summer home of the New-York Athletic Club on Travers Island, near Pelham Manor, on the Sound, was opened yesterday for inspection by the members and their friends. The building, designed by Douglas Smythe, is a handsome structure of wood in the prevailing style of Summer resort taverns of the better class, with shingled roofs and many peaks and gables. There are broad piazzas on every side. The interior decorations are plain but handsome, and an air of comfort pervades the place from the very doorway. The house faces the water, which is only a few yards from the main piazza. The electric light is used in every part of the building. There are spacious dining rooms, though the piazzas will undoubtedly be appropriated by diners on hot nights. The view from the cupola embraces a great expanse of the Sound. The grounds are tastefully laid out, and the track, a fifth of a mile in length, is said to be one of the best in the country. For the athlete, who, though he may not predominate in the New-York Athletic Club, is held in high esteem, the clubhouse and adjacent buildings provide every possible convenience.

A large majority of the members, of course, do not go to Travers Island to train or to exhibit their skill on the track or in the boats. They like to sit on the piazzas and watch the crews at practice on the placid waters that are shielded from the wind by the cluster of islands in front of Travers Island, which is not an island at all now, but is joined to the mainland by an artificial handle, so that, seen from a balloon, it would resemble a doorknob on a door. The billiard room and bowling alleys are handsomely fitted up, and the many bedrooms are light, airy, comfortable, and furnished with perfect taste.

Besides a portrait of the late William R. Travers, whose memory will ever be cherished by this clud, the only art work in the new house at present is a decorative panel by H. S. Mowbray, given to the club by Mr. Thomas B. Clark, which is placed in the main hall over the spacious open fireplace, bearing the motto: 'When friends meet, hearts warm.' The fireplace was piled high with hickory logs yesterday, and there will come a night when the east wind blows fiercely from over Whitestone way, when it will be good to have them lighted. Mr. Mowbray's panel is called 'The Month of Roses.' The figures are four young women in soft draperies. The prevailing tones are delicate shades of green and red. The girls are very pretty. They do not, perhaps, exactly symbolize the purpose of an athletic club, but, the members feel that it is well to have them there.

At least 500 members of the club visited the island yesterday. Next Saturday, when a public reception will be held, with games, and the eight-oared crew will be out, 5,000 persons are likely to test the resources of the steward and the chef. The eight-oared crew was out for practice yesterday. They went up and down their course pulling as one man, and a good one, too. They sneaked over to David's island and beat the pretentious little Government steamboat in a race over to the mainland. The David's Island band kindly went over to the clubhouse in the evening, and the melody they contributed to the informal but pleasing proceedings of opening day was so well appreciated that the cares of the day are likely to be dispelled by music on many future nights at Travers Island."

Source: Travers Island, N.Y. Times, Jun. 9, 1889, p. 3.

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