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, June 30, 2005

The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 (Part II)

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Beginning in 1947, people across the United States began reported strange things in the sky that looked like "flying saucers". The Unidentified Flying Object ("UFO") craze had begun. For many years, ordinary citizens of unquestionable reputation claimed to see UFOs.

Seventy years before the UFO craze, there was a "Sea Serpent" craze along the east coast of the United States. As noted in yesterday's Historic Pelham Blog posting entitled "The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 (Part I)", in July 1877 a sea serpent known as the "Sea Serpent of the Sound" first appeared. The serpent (or serpents, some might say) supposedly returned each year for several years and was even referenced several years later in The New York Times as "Our Perennial Visitor". See Our Perennial Visitor, N.Y. Times, Aug. 1, 1879, p. 4.

In late August 1877, the Sea Serpent of the Sound was seen off the shores of Pelham near City Island. As with most such unusual events, there may well have been a plainly plausible explanation for the sighting. Today's Blog posting will detail that explanation.

Readers of the daily Historic Pelham Blog will recall that yesterday, I related an account published in the September 2, 1877 issue of The New York Times saying that a steamship from Bridgeport passed near the Execution Lighthouse northeast of City Island and supposedly struck the beast while it lay asleep on the water. According to the account, the collision "caused the boat to tremble from stem to stern" and a "black object rose angrily to the height of the flagstaff with a hissing sound, and water was dashed upon the deck." The Sound Sea-Serpent, N.Y. Times, Sep. 2, 1877, p. 7.

What could possibly serve as a plausible explanation for a "black object" rising "angrily" from the water to the height of a flagstaff on the ship while making a hissing sound? Less than two weeks after the account appeared in the newspaper, a wise old Captain from Darien, Connecticut named E. E. Tooker offered just such an explanation. The Times published it on September 14, 1877. It read:


The Norwalk (Conn.) Hour says: 'On the night of the 21st of July, the schooner Mary of Dennysville, Me., Capt. Holloway, was run into and sunk by the steamer Elanore, of Providence, off Lloyd's Neck, Long Island Sound. The only person saved from the wreck was a lad named Preston. Capt. E. E. Tooker, of Darien, for several weeks has been actively engaged in stripping the hull by the aid of divers. The divers found the body of a man who proved to be Charles A. Loughton, of West Pembroke, Washington County, Me. The bodies of the Captain, mate, and sailors have not yet been recovered; they are doubtless in the cabin of the vessel. And now, as regards this sea-serpent business: During the past week or two we have been amused by reading accounts of a monster serpent being struck by a steamer off the Norwalk Islands; how the vessel trembled at the shock, and how the huge form was seen rising several feet above the water. The mystery is explained this way: When Capt. Tooker found the sunken vessel, all the spars were standing, the top of the mainmast being only about two feet under water at low tide. One morning when the diver descended to resume his work, he found that the mast had been struck by some passing vessel. A sheet of copper was picked up on the deck that had been torn from the bottom of some steamer or sailing vessel. As the wreck is exactly in the line of the Sound steamers, it was, without doubt, the cause of the recent scare."

Source: The Sea-Serpent In The Sound, N.Y. Times, Sep. 14, 1877, p. 3.

A plausible explanation, indeed, although news reports indicate countless sightings of the Sea Serpent of the Sound in many different places throughout the Sound for the next several years . . . . . . . .

Tomorrow: a plausible explanation for other sightings of the Sea Serpent of the Sound in the 1870s?

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 (Part I)

An enormous beast, it was. Witnesses described it as "large around as a hogshead, with an enormous head which stood up straight 15 or 20 feet out of the water, and as making a queer hissing noise and a roaring sound". It was the Sea Serpent of the Sound and was spotted in waters off of Pelham during the summer and autumn of 1877.

In the latter part of July, 1877, the serpent reportedly was seen in the Sound. It was seen off Nahant, Norwalk, Watch Hill, Greenwich and Port Chester. In late August, however, the serpent reportedly prowled the waters off of City Island (then part of Pelham). At that time, the beast reportedly was struck by a steamer. One published account of the incident said:

"only a few days ago one of the Bridgeport steamers was said to have run down the beast while it lay asleep on the water after midnight just below Execution Light [a lighthouse built in 1867 east of City Island]. The collision, it was averred, caused the boat to tremble from stem to stern, a black object rose angrily to the height of the flagstaff with a hissing sound, and water was dashed upon the decak. The number of times it was encountered in this locality in the interval, if report is to be believed, is past remembering."

Source: The Sound Sea-Serpent, N.Y. Times, Sep. 2, 1877, p. 7.

Tomorrow's Blog posting: a plausible explanation for the sighting of the Sea Serpent of the Sound off the coast of Pelham in August 1877?

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Hotel and Bar Room at Pelham Bridge

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One of the more historic spots near Pelham is the Pelham Bridge. Today's Pelham Bridge, known as the Pelham Bay Bridge, spans the mouth of the Hutchinson River. According to a Web site maintained by New York City, the "Pelham Bay Bridge is a double leaf bascule type bridge. It carries four lanes of traffic, two in each direction. It also has one pedestrian sidewalk on the east side of the span. By far this is the busiest of all the city owned drawbridges."

Today's Pelham Bay Bridge is a far cry from the "Pelham Bridge" of old. Pelham Bridge was an important little hamlet not far from the hamlet known as Bartow-on-the-Sound (or Bartow Station as it was called after the Branch Line station was built). During the 1870s, Pelham Bridge was a stop for Col. Delancey Kane's Pelham Coach, known for many years as the "Tally Ho". There was a little hotel and a "Bar Room" at the bridge for many, many years. They served travelers along today's Shore Road traveling parallel to the Long Island Sound. Today's Blog posting will discuss a little of the history of Pelham Bridge and the establishments built near the bridge during the last half of the 19th century.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the first place where the Hutchinson River was shallow enough to be forded was known as "Wading Place". It was located quite distant from the mouth of the Hutchinson River where it enters Long Island Sound. Indeed, "Wading Place" was located near Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham. See Barr, Lockwood Anderson, 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. 83 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

In the early 19th century, a group of prominent local residents pressed the State of New York to allow them to build a toll bridge spanning the mouth of the Hutchinson River. According to Lockwood Barr:

"A group of property owners in Pelham, West Chester and City Island were instrumental in getting passed an Act of the Legislature, March 16, 1812, authorizing the erection of a toll-bridge across the River at its mouth. Among the incorporators were John Bartow, John Hunter, Elbert Roosevelt, William Bayard, James Harvey, Richard Ward, Daniel Pelton, Joshua Eustace, Herman LeRoy. A storm destroyed the bridge on April 12, 1816, and it was not until 1834 that a new bridge was built. In 1860 the Supervisors of Westchester County were directed, by an Act of the Legislature, to purchase the Pelham toll-bridge and make it free."

Source: Id., pp. 83-84.

By 1868, and likely earlier, at least one hotel and one "Bar Room" had been built near the Pelham Bridge. They served as places for weary travelers on trips along the Long Island Sound to rest. A detail from Plate 35 in the 1868 edition of Beer's Atlas of Westchester County appears below. It is marked with two arrows. The top arrow points to a reference that reads "Hotel" at the southern end of the Pelham Bridge. Actually, the reference is a little ambiguous. Close inspection seems to show two structures next to each other. One is marked "J. Davis" while the second is marked "Hotel". The second arrow points to nearby structures labeled "Bar Room" and "A. Lawrence".

Due to work by Mr. Martin Rowan, a descendant of Augustus Lawrence, we know a little about the "A. Lawrence" who apparently lived at Pelham Bridge. According to Mr. Rowan:

"The first record we have of Augustus Lawrence being in Westchester is in the 1850 census where he is residing in the town of Westchester with his wife Ann and his daughter Elizabeth. It lists his profession as oysterman [common in this area at that time, particularly on nearby City Island] and states that he owned real estate worth $500.00. He appears again in the 1870 census with his daughter Elizabeth's husband Joseph Donaldson added to the family. That census lists him as a landlord.

In the 1880 census he is listed as a hotelkeeper married to a new Ann M. who is 22 years old (he is 66) and listing a 2 year old son Augustus G. The next document we have is his death certificate showing he died on October 13, 1893 a resident of Pelham Bridge where he had resided for over 25 years. It lists his occupation as a hotelkeeper. . . . We know that Augustus is buried in St. Peter's Cemetery on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx along with his first wife, a daughter, and a grandson".

Source: E-Mail from Martin Ronan to Blake A. Bell entitled "RE: Hotel at Pelham Bridge" sent "Mon 6/27/2005 7:45 PM" (copy in author's files).

At least one descendant of Augustus Lawrence believes that Augustus Lawrence's establishment "was not really a hotel but a saloon with some rooms". Source: E-Mail from Martin Ronan to Blake A. Bell entitled "RE: Hotel at Pelham Bridge" Sent "Tue 6/21/2005 9:28 PM".

The collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham include a glass negative that records an image of a "Hotel" at Pelham Bridge. The acid-free archival sleeve in which the glass negative is stored contains the following bibliographic information by William R. Montgomery (Pelham Town Historian during the 1920s) who took the photograph: "BUILDINGS: HOUSES: Shore Road at Pelham Bridge The Old Hotel"; near the bottom of the sleeve is written "Photo: Wm Montgomery 8/25/1923" and, beneath that "1-14".

I have scanned that negative and reversed the image using Adobe Photoshop Elements. The image appears below. At least for now research has not yet revealed which, if any, of the references on Plate 35 of the Beers Atlas this photo may depict. The sign above the door of the hotel reads "REFRESHMENTS" and a man is standing to the left of the hotel.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

The Precursor To Pelham's Town Hall on Fifth Avenue

For many years the Town of Pelham's Town Hall was located on today's Shore Road roughly near the location of today's Pelham Bit Stables in Pelham Bay Park. The Town Hall was located near the geographic center of the Town which was much larger then before the City of New York annexed City Island and much of the land that became Pelham Bay Park. During the 1880s and early 1890s, the City of New York was assembling parcels of land to create Pelham Bay Park. Although annexation of City Island and the southern portions of the Town of Pelham was not yet a settled question, Pelhamville and Pelham Manor supported the concept of annexation. Upon annexation, the location of the Town Hall on Shore Road would be within the new Pelham Bay Park -- not in the Town of Pelham.

It seems that one move that served as a precursor to the move of the Town Hall to Fifth Avenue was the decision in 1890 by the citizens of Pelhamville to build a meeting hall and court house to be located on Fifth Avenue. A little item in the January 15, 1890 issue of The New York Times related the decision of the citizens. It said:

"The Town Hall of Pelham has hertofore been at Bartow, which makes it a long distance for some of the people at that town to travel. The taxpayers of Pelhamville held a meeting on Monday night and decided to build a public hall to be used both as a Court House and as a place for transacting the public business of District No. 1. The lot upon which they propose to place it is on Fifth-avenue and the estimated cost of the building is $6,000."

Source: City and Suburban News . . . Westchester County, N.Y. Times, Jan. 15, 1890, p. 3.

The image below is a detail from Plate 20 of John Fairchild's Atlas of Mount Vernon and Pelham published in 1899. The arrow points to the "Court House" on Fifth Avenue. The Train Station may be seen in the lower right of the detail.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Late 19th and Early 20th Century Pell Family Photographs Provided To Office of the Historian

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A descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham has made a wonderful collection of late 19th Century and early 20th century Pell family photographs -- many of which are photographs of Pell family members who lived on City Island -- available to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham in exchange for efforts to enhance the photographs digitally.

Michael Anderson's grandmother, Bernice C. Pell, was born in the Samuel Pell House located at 586 City Island (about which I blogged in an April 26 posting entitled "The Samuel Pell House on City Island, Once Part of Pelham"). His grandmother's brother, Samuel Francis Pell, Jr., died a few years ago in Las Vegas and, apparently, maintained a large collection of photographs of his own father (Samuel Francis Pell of City Island) and other members of the extended Pell family. Mr. Anderson has graciously made available to The Office of The Historian a large number of the photographs.

Below is a "Before and After" example of one of the photographs after I have worked on it using the software program known as "Adobe Photoshop Elements". The original (on the left) is what is left of an undated post card from Rye Beach, New York. It shows Melvin A. Pell on the left. Bernice C. Pell, Mr. Anderson's Grandmother, is in the center. Samuel F. Pell Jr. is on the right. Mrs. Pell, who is now 93 years old, appears to be about two or three years old in the picture, suggesting that it was taken in about 1914. On the right is my effort to reconstruct the photograph using digital enhancement.

The photographs provided by Mr. Anderson will provide local historians and genealogists with an opportunity to learn more about the Pell Family and the important role that family played in the history of the area. Many thanks are due to him and his family for sharing such an important historical record.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Horse Cars Come To City Island in the Town of Pelham in the 1880s

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Prior to the opening of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line in the early 1870s, a stage coach line established by a man named Robert Vickery traveled from City Island to Mount Vernon. In about 1873, so-called horse cars replaced the stage coach line. When the horse car line first began, it was owned by Judge Henry DeWitt Carey, a banker. The first horse car line involved a car pulled by a single horse. According to one source, "it left Belden Point and stopped at three locations on the island - Horton, Fordham, and Bridge Streets. People desiring to travel to New York City would then take the horse car to Bartow Station, pay a 5¢ fare to Westchester County and board a trolley to 177th Street, where they would make another connection to the Battery." See Scott, Catherine A., Images of America: City Island and Orchard Beach, p. 48 (Arcadia Publishing 1999; reissued 2004).

The cars looked much like trolley cars. Later they ran on tracks, but were pulled by a pair of horses. Indeed, for sixteen years the two principal horses used to pull the horse cars were known as "Bob" and "Harry". They became quite famous. A photograph of the horse car from an early post card appears immediately below.

A principal purpose of the horse car line was to meet the trains at Bartow Station and transport visitors to City Island. According to one source, "[i]nitially they brought travelers to the Marshall Mansion (Colonial Inn), at the park side of the City Island Bridge, where livery service was available. Tracks were later placed along City Island Avenue to the Grace Episcopal Church on Pilot Street." See id. at p. 43.

In 1910, the City of New York established a monorail line that ran from Bartow Station to the City Island Bridge. At the bridge, visitors left the monorail and took a horse car onto the island. The monorail was ill-fated and suffered a crash on its very first passenger run. It lasted only a few years.

As might be expected, the horse cars were uncomfortably hot in the summer and quite cold in the winter. During the winter a pot-bellied stove inside the car provide some measure of warmth for the passengers.

Alas, electric and gas-powered beasts known as automobiles eventually crowded the beasts of burden and their quaint horse cars from the roadway. Some said City Island would never be the same . . . . .

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Cabinet Card Photograph Showing Early View of Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse Is Uncovered

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Yet another item relating to the early history of Pelham has surfaced on eBay ®. Regular readers of the Historic Pelham daily Blog will recall that on March 2 I published a Blog posting entitled "Using eBay ® -- of All Things! -- To Assist You With Your Research Into Local History". I actually received a nice note from Meg Whitman's office regarding that posting. (Meg Whitman has served as President and CEO of eBay since March, 1998.)

I recently purchased from an eBay ® seller located in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania an old cabinet card photograph showing an early view of the brick Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse that stands in Long Island Sound off the southern coast of City Island which, when the lighthouse was built in 1877, was part of the Town of Pelham. The Cabinet Card Photograph is a 3-1/4" square photograph affixed to a 5" square card. On the back it is marked very lightly in pencil "Pelham Bay, N.Y." A detail from the photograph appears immediately below.

The Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse has been a historic landmark well known to area mariners for nearly 130 years. A recent book on the history of City Island and Orchard Beach says the following about the historic lighthouse:

"The brick Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse . . . was built in 1877. It lies in Long Island Sound south of City Island, and marks the entrance of the East River to New York City. Lighthouses were vital to ensuring ships a safe voyage around dangerous waters. Legend claims the lighthouse was named after the Devil, who tried to deter Westchester County Indians from capturing him by throwing stones into the water as he was fleeing to Long Island. Still another legend says that Native Americans told the early Dutch and English settlers that an evil spirit used the nearby dangerous reefs as stepping stones to cross the Sound to Long Island shores. The lighthouse has a fixed green light and became automated in 1966."

Source: Scott, Catherine A., Images of America: City Island and Orchard Beach, p. 26 (Arcadia Publishing 1999, Reissued 2004).

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Life At Travers Island in the 1890s

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There was a time when "stages" rolled up and down Shore Road ferrying visitors to the New York Athletic Club summer clubhouse on Travers Island. Members marveled at the speed of the Velocipeds (bicycles) that raced on the island. They sat on the piazza of the shingle-style clubhouse and listened to the Melodeons (organ-like instruments) and the cries of the beasts caged in the "Menagerie" on nearby Glen Island. They listened to frogs lying in the reeds and, in the evenings, watched vaudeville performed on a little wooden stage built on a rocky outcropping near the clubhouse.

Times, of course, were different then. There is a lovely article published in the July 1895 issue of Scribner's Magazine that attempts to capture "Life at the Athletic Clubs". A substantial portion of the article is devoted to life at Travers Island in the 1890s. Today's Blog posting transcribes that portion of the content of the article that describes life at Travers Island.

"Travers Island is the best known of these country athletic fields. It is one of the rocky, wooded, dromedary-backed formations that are characteristic of the north shore of the Long Island Sound. It was originally an island by the courtesy of the high tide, but a roadway has joined it hard and fast to the shore as a peninsula. It is shoreward of picturesque Glen Island, and between it and Glen Island, and stretching farther away under the shore of Hunters Island, is a straight-away course of nearly two miles of as good rowing water as a sweep could dip. On one knoll of the Island sits the clubhouse, facing the outlet into the Sound, which focusing between Glen Island and the heavily wooded eastern shore of Hunters Island, holds a view of the farther water and the distant shore of Long Island as if one were looking through the lens of a camera. It is the delight of a summer’s evening to dine upon the clubhouse piazzas and catch the drifting picture of distant yachts and coasters and snowy Sound steamers. Somewhat farther toward the mainland is a larger knoll, left in its natural state and covered with trees, save where some tennis courts are laid out. Beyond the trees are the boathouse and the yachting quarters. Between the two knolls lies a level bit of turf as smooth and soft and rich as if it were a cloak of Lincoln green thrown upon the earth, and about it runs the dark border of a cinder track.From the club-house and from the grassy slopes reaching down to the track, a view of the field is given as if one were looking down upon the arena of a natural coliseum; and as one glances at the surrounding hills that give a sense of seclusion to the place and help to concentrate the view upon the field itself, one could scarcely keep from thinking, that if the athletic sports of Greece were to be revived, if the somewhat grandiloquent French project to re-establish the ancient athletic games with the world as a new Greece should succeed, no more harmonious Olympia could be found.

But unfortunately, the palmy days of track athletics have gone by. The last annual championships of the Amateur Athletic Union were held on these very grounds, and although they were given under the auspices of the most powerful of all the athletic clubs, and although they represented the competition of the whole of the United States, they were attended by only a very meagre audience. The fact is that the American appetite for competition is no longer satisfied with the comparatively mild contests of the track events. And then again, the athletic clubs themselves have helped to destroy the interest in the ordinary field sports. For many years they made the giving of athletic games the whole purpose of their existence, and finding them popular, they multiplied them to replenish their treasuries. They pursued the idea that the winning of prizes by men wearing their club colors meant prosperity. They invented a system of athletic memberships, that signified anything that they desired it to mean, from free initiations, remitted dues, gratuitous board and lodging, to a business situation or cold cash, and they offered valuable prizes that could quite readily be converted into money. They raised their trainers from the position of rubbers and servants of the club to the position of athletic managers, and imposed upon them the duty of having a sufficient number of speedy legs to run and jump and a sufficient number of muscular backs to throw weights for their clubs, irrespective of any social requirements of the owners of those backs or legs.

The consequences most inevitable were that the athletes of the clubs became hired performers, and they were often kept like a pack of hounds and taken around by the athletic manager to run in one game after another; that the athletic managers, who were mostly illiterate and purely of the professional class, absorbed in themselves practically all of the competitive athletics of the clubs and forced their personalities on the clubs that engaged them; that the Amateur Athletic Union was compelled to make an annual round up of all its members, to brand a goodly number of the ostensible amateurs as professionals; and finally, that the tone of track athletics became so cheap and so common that the better portion of the club membership held aloof from it. But whatever may be the present status of track athletics, if you haven’t had too much of them, they are vastly interesting. It is fine to see a quartette of hurdlers “set” for the finals, and to watch them break over the low hurdles like the fast curling wave of a fresh-water lake, that tosses itself rapidly along and rushes up the beach as it breaks. It is fine to watch the flat sprinters dart intohigh movement at the crack of the pistol and fly like leaves before a furious wind, holding together like a living thing, until a dark, swarthy, sun-burned figure, that has caught your eye from the freedom of his movement, glides out ahead of the rest, every bit of him running, not a false motion anywhere, and you feel that you have seen one of theperfections of physical attributes. And it is fine to follow the full, strong stride of the half-mile and mile runners, whose legs rise like pistons and whose prototypes must surely have suggested to the ancients the idea of the winged feet of Mercury, so lightly do they touch the ground. Perhaps the most exciting of all the track events are the bicycle races, for it is astonishing to behold the speed of those meagre skeletons of steel that seem almost like the bones of the wind. Indeed, at the present time ordinary athletic games will not draw a crowd large enough to pay expenses unless bicycling is madean important part of them. It is interesting in connection with this to pick up the newspaper account of the very first games given by theNew York Athletic Club, in 1868, at the Empire City Rink, the first games given by any athletic club in this country, for it calls to mind how marvellous [sic] has been the development of the wheel sincethat time.

The reporters in those days possessed none of the easy familiarity with sporting matters which the craft possesses to-day, and the particular scribe who wrote this story set down with considerable naïveté what quite filled his eyes.

“At this juncture,” runs the article, "the velocipede race, which the programme announced as the closing feature of the exercise, took place. It proved nothing more, nor was it intended to be more, than an exhibition of the speed to be gained by these wonderful engines of locomotion. The carriage consists of but two wheels placed one before the other with a treadle apparatus to spin them on. Without speaking a word about the velocity with which one can cover ground while riding this machine, the wonder is how one can maintain a balance on it at all. Yet this seems to be no part of the difficulty in navigating. On the contrary, every effort of the rider seems bent on driving at a breakneck speed. The case and celebrity with which this new method of propulsion was turned around the corners of the building was amazing, and its performance was in the highest degree satisfactory."

When one recalls the "bone-shakers" of that period -- as the velocipedes of that day were called -- buggy wheels with treadles on the leader -- and thinks of the contemporary Safety, beating the mile record of the fastest running horse, one can well smile at the ingenuous wonder of the reporter at the primitive road scorcher he was describing.

Despite the present eclipse of track athletes they certainly will not die out of the clubs, for they form the basis for all efforts for physical excellence. And if but the chief Athletic Associations should resolutely abolish the giving of prizes of value and the offering of pecuniary inducements to contestants, the track might rationally be expected to fill a larger place in the life of the clubs. It would become more interesting to the rank and file of the membership, who, under the present condition of affairs would only be duffers if they ventured upon it, and it might reasonably be expected to become an implement of sport and exercise instead of simply a traditional weapon of inter-club competition.

But leaving Track Athletics, I want to set down a few things about Travers Island and the life there. The best thing about it is the opportunity that it offers for exercise: a track to run on, a turf to play ball on, courts to play tennis on, the water to row and sail on, the afternoons on the "course" or out on the Sound, the swim, the dinner on the piazza afterward, the pleasant afterglow of clean exercise, a pipe with "the Arcadia" mixture to give you a sense of life (for that is the secret of fire) and to enable you to construct a soothing melody from the singing of the frogs in the reeds when the tide is out.

That these pleasures are appreciated by the members is best illustrated by the fact, that all of the available rooms in the club-house are rented for the whole summer, and that the transient rooms are almost continuously in demand, and sometimes utterly inadequate to accommodate the men who would occupy them.

Travers Island is by no means a country club such as the Westchester, or the Meadow Brook, or the Essex County, where the members patronize the pouter forms of sport and stiffen up their enjoyment of the country with a good bit of style and society. Travers Island is much too democratic. It is laid out primarily for athletics, and everything in it and around it is for use. They haven’t left any artistic bushes or clumps of sumach-trees where you can look out of bay windows at them, or put up a wall about anything and let ivy grow on it. You do not want to go to Travers Island with the idea that you can take a volume of poems out of the library and calmly enjoy the restfulness of a summer's day there. If you sit down on the piazza you will hear the hysterically speedy melodeons from Glen Island, or the cries of the beasts in the menagerie. Or, perhaps, a member with some business friends from the West in thedry goods line, will be sitting at a table near you with cocktails and small whitenapkins, and they will be telling stories that are like the atmosphere of the smoking compartment in a Pullman; and they will all laugh so suddenly and inartistically that you will have to take up your peace of mind and carry it off with you. You cannot go into the house, for the small reading-room is next to the billiard-room, and there are sure to be men with brown derby hats and cigars playing billiards there witha proficiency that argues anything but a serious youth; and the sight of a multitude of sporting papers with their head-lines exposed will drive you thence. In the hallway there is a hearth, and over it the inscription: “Where friends meet hearts warm ;“ but a log fire underneath is no part of the life of the club and there are no easy chairs about. There is cordiality enough, though. In no place do you see more men slap each other on the back, and laugh and call each other by their first names. But it is a bit noisy. The stages wheel up and leave a crowd that come in as if they were going to do something. The club servants are raw, not a shade obsequious, and seem to think that they are in a hotel. If you wander out toward the boat-house you will find everybody in an energy over something. Men with strong backs and brown arms diving off the spring-board, and doing turns that would be a credit to a circus; or a school of swimmers plunging along with the overhand side - stroke that makes them look like some sort of a wheel-fish with a porpoise movement; or perhaps an eight are walking on their toes down the gangway carrying a shell; or if there is a bit of wind, the cat-boats are hoisting their sails. You are supposed to be there for the purpose of exercise, and unless you go in for it, you will be apt to leave with a feeling of having been out of sympathy with your surroundings.

There is no lack of entertainment provided at Travers Island. The season sets in with the spring regattas, a form of sport that has been held on in the club with very much the same persistency as Track Athletics. Then come Ladies' days when the Island is taken possession of by a host of Omphales. And family parties come from the surrounding country in rockaways on the invitation of members.

In the early days of the New York Athletic Club it was the custom to send out notices to the members to bring ladies with them to the club games, "in order that athletics might be made as respectable as they were in England." Perhaps nothing illustrates the change of sentiment in regard to athletic clubs better, than this continual public endorsement of the present New York Athletic Club by the present reigning half of humanity.

One of the most interesting features of the summer life is the Vaudevilles given on a stage built out on the rocky slope in front of the club-house. And very popular are these variety shows, out in the open air under the starlight, or with a big yellow moon shining up the inlet and with the accompaniment of summer night sounds in the air. A general sense of comfort and tobacco smoke pervades the audience, and many of the men who are detained in town on business are here. It is not exactly so polite an exhibition as a lawn performance of "As You Like It," but it is vastly more interesting. In the be-vaudevilled town of New York it would be impossible that such an alert audience should not be quite even with the very latest thing on the boards, and they are not there half so much for the show as they are for the fun in it. They are sure to recognize all the popular songs, and they appropriate the choruses with great effect, and take the cigars and pipes from their mouths to give them a judicious rendering.

They consider the member of the entertainment committee who introduces the performers as fair prey, and as he escorts before the footlights a beautiful lady in tights with a long purple captivator with red lining, who shortly will sing a song in a peacocky voice as an apology for her being there, he receives a most embarrassing storm of congratulations, and the audience lets itself loose to enjoy its own humor. It's a bit common, perhaps, but it's good fun, and it is unique.
Again, perhaps the club celebrates its birthday with a clam-bake at which all the queer timber in the membership turns up, and lean men whom nobody knows are on hand and devour great quantities of clams. And as a clam-bake with beer in pitchers is a sort of basic happiness (technically known as an "Al-a-ba-zam"), voices begin to sing that have plainly no right to sing, and by the time the green corn appears, the tables are beginning to look half-seas over, a large body of men are persuading themselves that they are enjoying themselves, and one man is attempting to make a speech and is being pulled down whenever he gets up. These are times when anyone who loves quiet had better take to the woods. As the middle of night settles down, and the spirits who own the night are again making themselves felt to the listening ear, the last speech is only reiterating the first speech, that the New York Athletic is devoted to pure amateur athletics; and the stages that go up the country lane roll away with the joyous refrain, so popular at Travers Island to express the feeling of having spent a pleasant evening, floating back from them,

How dry I am, how dry I am,
Nobody knows how dry I am."

Source: Edwards, Duncan, Life At The Athletic Clubs, 18(1) Scribner's Magazine pp. 4-24 (Charles Scribner's Sons; July 1895) (these materials are transcribed from pp. 8-15).

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Using Cornell University Library's "Making of America" Digital Library of Primary Sources to Perform Research Regarding Pelham

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The Cornell University Library has developed a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection includes a large number of important works regarding American history. According to Cornell University, the site "provides access to 267 monograph volumes and over 100,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints." The collection is entitled "Making of America" and is available at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/.

As of June 19, 2005, the collection reportedly holds 907,750 pages of material including 267 monograph volumes and 955 serial volumes. There are few such free resources of important historical data available online today.

Visitors may view images of the actual pages of the original publications. Because all of the scanned material has been "OCRed" (i.e., processed for so-called "Optical Character Recognition"), the collection can be searched. The site's search function allows for fairly sophisticated searches of the full text of the materials in the collection.

The "Advanced Search" page located at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/moa_adv.html is a good place to start. There a visitor must choose from six basic types of search: (1) Simple Search (allows visitors to search for a word or phrase wherever it appears in the collection); (2) Boolean Search (uses basic Boolean search terms such as AND, OR) to find simple combinations of two or three words on a page or in a text; (3) Proximity Search (finds phrases as well as words near one another); (4) Frequency Search (finds texts that contain a term appearing at least a specified number of times); (5) Bibliographic Search (finds texts by author or title); and (6) Index Search (permits visitors to browse through alphabetized lists of texts organized by authors, names, titles or subject headings). Although you should use the search that best suits your particular needs, I have found the Proximity Search to be the most helpful for my own purposes. That said, if you are searching for a simple phrase (such as "Thomas Pell") the Simple Search is the quickest and easiest way to search the collection.

To try the search, go to the Simple Search page located at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/moa_search.html. Try searching for Thomas Pell. I have noticed that the system seems to ignore quotation marks, so the search results are the same whether you search for the phrase with or without quotation marks. The screen shot below shows the Simple Search screen.

If you type Thomas Pell into the "Word or phrase" box and then click on the gray button marked "Submit Query" your search should retrieve: (1) 8 matches in 3 books; and (2) 2 matches in 1 journal article. Clicking on the search results links, you can review search results in the following resources:

1. Bunker, Mary Powell, Long Island Genealogies: Families of Albertson, Andrews, Bedell (1 match in 1 of 354 pages).

2. Nadal, E. S., The New Parks Of The City Of New York (2 matches in 1 of 17 pages).

3. Pelletreau, William S., et al., Early Wills of Westchester County, New York, from 1664 to 1784; Also the Genealogy of "The Havilands" of Westchester County, and Descendants of Hon. James Graham (Watkinson and Ackerley Families) With Genealogical and Historical Notes (6 matches in 4 of 506 pages).

4. Tuckerman, Bayard, Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General for the West India Company in New Netherland (1 match in 1 of 204 pages).

All of the hits seem promising. As an example, select the third choice: William S. Pelletreau's work. You first will see bibliographic information for the work and will observe that it was published in 1898 by F. P. Harper. You have the option to search within the entire work. You can click on links that will take you to the pages (pp. 73, 298, 318 and 423) of the text containing the phrase "Thomas Pell". You also can click on links that will take you to the first page, the table of contents, the title page, and the volume index. Click on each of the links to pages where the phrase "Thomas Pell" appears.

Alas, in each instance the "Thomas Pell" referenced is a descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham -- not Thomas Pell, 1st Lord of the Manor. In each instance, there is a summary of an 18th century will involving or witnessed by Thomas Pell.

Such a search provides a simple example of the power that such a collection holds for online research. The "Making of America" collection is an incredible resource that simply cannot be ignored no matter what aspect of Pelham history you are researching. Happy hunting!

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Friday, June 17, 2005

"Skipper Louie" of Pelham Manor's Toonerville Trolley

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Early last century Pelham and its citizens inspired the creative genius of a man named Fontaine Talbot Fox (1884-1964) who created one of the most popular comic strips in the United States that became known as "Toonverville Folks". The strip centered around the quirky inhabitants of a town called "Toonerville" as well as a rickety and unpredictable trolley car that came to be known as "The Toonerville Trolley". The operator of the trolley was known as "The Skipper". The comic strip was based in part on the artist's experience during a trolley ride on a visit to Pelham. The strip ran in hundreds of newspapers from about 1910 to 1955 and brought national attention to The Pelhams.

The picture above shows one of the Pelham Manor trolley cars that ran from Wolf's Lane at the New Haven Line overpass along Wolf's Lane to Colonial Avenue for a short distance, then eastward along Pelhamdale Avenue to Shore Road where it turned around and repeated the trip. The two trolley operators standing in front of the car were Skippers "Dan" and "Louie". They were successors to James A. Bailey, the blue-eyed skipper of the trolley the day cartoonist Fontaine Fox took his historic ride on the trolley that inspired "The Toonerville Trolley that Met All the Trains".

"Louie" was a nickname used by Emil Matter who worked for 35 years as a motorman for the Third Avenue Railway system. He lived for many years in Mount Vernon and piloted the little Pelham Manor trolley for 25 years. "Louie" is pictured on the right in the image above. He died on June 26, 1941. His obituary appeared the next day on the front page of The Pelham Sun. It read:

"'Louie', Skipper Of The 'Toonerville Trolley' For 25 Years Died Yesterday

Emil Matter, affectionately known as 'Louie' during the many years he piloted the Pelham Manor trolley car, the original 'Toonerville Trolley,' died yesterday at his home at No. 208 Union avenue, Mount Vernon.

'Louie' served for 35 years as a motorman on the Third avenue railway system, 25 of which he spent on the Pelham Manor line. It was 'Louie' who operated the car on the amusing 'Last Ride of the Toonerville Trolley' on July 31st, when the cartoonist Fontaine Fox was guest of honor.
With the substitution of buses for trolley cars on the Pelham Manor line, 'Louie' was transferred to the Hudson Park line in New Rochelle. He retired two years ago.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced."

Source: "Louie", Skipper Of The "Toonerville Trolley" For 25 Years Died Yesterday, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 31, No. 12, Jun. 27, 1941, p. 1, col. 2.

The New York Times also published an obituary for Mr. Matter. That obituary, however, incorrectly stated that Mr. Matter was the actual motorman running the trolley on the day that Fontaine Fox took his famous ride. Though the matter is not free from doubt, it seems most likely that James Bailey of the Bronx -- not Emil Matter -- was the motorman on that day. In any event, Mr. Matter's obituary published in The New York Times on June 28, 1941, read:



Emil Matter, Pelham Motorman, Was Fox Cartoon Original


Special to the New York Times.

MOUNT VERNON, N. Y., June 27 -- Emil Matter of this city, known to thousands as Skipper Louie of Pelham Manor's 'Toonerville Trolley,' died yesterday in the Mount Vernon Hospital at the age of 74.

As a former motorman for the Third Avenue Railway System for forty years, he operated the small trolley car in Pelham Manor that caught the eye of Fontaine Fox, and inspired Mr. Fox's 'Toonerville Trolley' cartoon. That was in 1909 and from that time until the trolley was discontinued in 1937 to make way for buses, Mr. Matter was skipper of the line.

He was born in Switzerland and came to this country about forty-five years ago."

Source: Toonerville Skipper Dies, N.Y. Times, Jun. 28, 1941, p. 15.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

"German Village" Planned In Pelhamville Area in 1870

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The reference is brief and cryptic. But, there it is in the June 1, 1870 issue of The New York Times. It indicates that in 1870 a development described as a "German Village" was planned near the Pelhamville Station. The reference, contained in the "Westchester County" section of "Local News In Brief", read in its entirety:

"A new German village named Eisenbach is about to be founded between Chester Hill, Mount Vernon and Pelhamville station."

Source: Local News In Brief . . . Westchester County, N.Y. Times, Jun. 1, 1870, p. 8.

There appear to be no further references to any such "village". Furthermore, a review of available maps from roughly that time period turns up nothing that suggests any such planned development between Chester Hill and the Pelhamville depot. In later years, of course, there were enclaves of German residents in Eastchester and in North Pelham. But, whatever planned "village" prompted this brief reference remains -- for now -- a mystery.

If you have any information about "Eisenbach" or any theories about the plan for its development, please click on the Comment link below and let readers know.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The New York Athletic Club Saved a Portion of the Kemble House Property on Shore Road in the 1920s

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During the late 1920s, the City of New Rochelle decided to widen Pelham Road (known as Shore Road within the Town of Pelham). To widen the road, Westchester County and New Rochelle decided to arrange the exercise of eminent domain to take a large strip of land in front of the Kemble House, one of Pelham Manor's only two pre-Revolutionary War homes that still stand. The Kemble House -- so-called because it long was owned by members of the Kemble family in the 19th and 20th centuries -- was a Pell family structure built in about 1760 along Long Island Sound. The home and the property on which it sits lies half in Pelham and half in New Rochelle.

The Kemble House is located at 145 Shore Road in Pelham Manor. It stands adjacent to, and immediately north of, Manor Texaco near the intersection of Pelhamdale Avenue and Shore Road.

The decision to take land from in front of the home caused an outcry among historically-minded citizens of Pelham. A fight ensued. Finally, the New York Athletic Club (which owned land on the opposite side of the roadway across from the Kemble house) stepped forward to quell the outcry. It donated a strip of realty on the east side of the roadway to save the land belonging to the Kemble House. Today's Blog posting will set forth a few of the articles that appeared at the time describing developments related to the matter.



Westchester Residents Stirred by Plan to Seize Land for Road.
Special to The New York Times.

NEW ROCHELL, N. Y., June 18. - Agitation to prevent Westchester County and the City of New Rochelle from taking a large strip of land from in front of the old Pell mansion at the Pelham Manor - New Rochelle boundary line to widen Pelham Road, continued in this city and the Town of Pelham today. Petitions were drawn up to be presented to the county authorities asking to have the course of the road changed.

The Pell mansion, now the home of Mrs. Richard Kemble, lies half in New Rochelle and half in Pelham Manor, taxes on the property being paid to both municipalities. The building and land are part of the holdings of the Pell family, who settled here in the early Colonial days.

Patrick J. Rooney, an attorney of this city, on behalf of residents, has asked that the work be held up until some compromise can be reached to 'save this beautiful old landmark from destruction.'

Court action to prevent the seizure of the land is threatened by Mrs. Kemble."

Source: Fight For Pell Mansion, N.Y. Times, Jun. 19, 1927, p. 15.



Objections Made to Taking Land for New Rochelle Project.
Special to The New York Times.

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y., June 16. - New Rochelle city officials were told today that if they persisted in carrying out their plans to widen the Pelham Shore Road and take land from in front of the old Pell Mansion for that purpose, legal steps would be taken to contest such action and no cooperation would be given their plan by officials of the town of Pelham Manor."

Source: Pell Mansion Dispute, N.Y. Times, Jun. 17, 1927, p. 27.

"Act to Widen Pelham Road.
Special to The New York Times.

WHITE PLAINS, N. Y., Aug. 28. - With the appointment by Supreme Court Justice Taylor this week of three Commissioners of Appraisal, the city of New Rochelle will begin the work of widening Pelham Road from Pelham Manor to the Larchmont line, at a cost of $1,000,000. Real estate men will testify before the Commissioners as to the value of the land necessary to widen the thoroughfare to sixty feet."

Source: Act to Widen Pelham Road, N.Y. Times, Aug. 29, 1927, p. 19.

"Historical Landmark Spared By Change In Course Of Shore Road


New Rochelle Agrees To Accept New York Athletic Cloub Land To Avoid Sacrifice Of Kemble Property


Due to the firm stand of the Pelham Manor Village Board in refusing to allow the historic Kemble property to be sacrificed in the reconstruction of the Shore Rd., the City of New Rochelle has consented to change the course of the proposed roadway. Communication was received at the meeting of the Pelham Manor Board Monday night in which it was announced that but a small portion of the Kemble property would be taken under the new plan. The New York Athletic Club has consented to dedicate sufficient land on the opposite side of the road to allow for the highway.

The Kemble property on which is situated one of the oldest houses in the Pelhams around which much historical lore is woven, is located on the boundary line of the village. Part of the property lies within the city of New Rochelle. Last Spring the New Rochelle officials announced that the Shore road was to be widened and straightened at the Pelham Manor boundary. Such improvement it was announced would necessitate the condemnation of a large section of the spacious lawns of the Kemble property and would bring the new highway within fifteen feet of the historic mansion.

This announcement aroused strong sentiment in the Pelhams. The village officials were asked to protest against a disturbance of the historical property. When New Rochelle asked Pelham Manor to join in the widening plan, the Trustees flatly refused to continue the new highway on its proposed course. Thus New Rochelle was blocked in the move.

Through the efforts of public spirited citizens an amicable settlement has been reached whereby a new course was mapped out for the highway. This new course will only take six feet of the Kemble property. Monday night, the Manor Trustees approved the plan."

Source: Historical Landmark Spared By Change In Course Of Shore Road, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 3, 1928.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ceremony in 1915 to Open Bartow-Pell Mansion as Headquarters of International Garden Club Marred by Tragedy

On May 1, 1915, the Bartow-Pell Mansion in Pelham Bay Park was officially turned over to the International Garden Club. New York Governor Charles S. Whitman attended the ceremony to take part in replacing the Pell Treaty Oak on the grounds of the mansion. The ceremony, however, was marred by tragedy. Below is the account that appeared in The New York Times the following day.

Bartow Mansion in Pelham Bay Park Turned Over to the International Garden Club
Private Charles Vail of Battery D Is Crushed by Horse Frightened by a Salute.

When the first gun of a nineteen-gun salute for Gov. Whitman was fired at the International Garden Club at the Bartow Mansion, Pelham Bay Park, yesterday afternoon, a troop horse reared and fell back, crushing Charles Vail, a private in Battery Day. The guardsman, with a fractured skull and probably mortal injuries, was rushed to the Fordham Hospital. Vail was standing at the head of a horse attached to a caisson wagon. As the first fun boomed out, the animal reared straight up, and, descending, struck him on the head with its hoofs and trampled on his body as he lay helpless on the ground.

Gov. Whitman came down from Albany to be present at the opening and to take part in the replacing of the Treaty Oak in the grounds of the clubhouse, and the officers of the International Garden Club sent out many invitations to view the ceremony, meet the Governor, and have tea in the historic Bartow mansion. The city turned over the house to the club with seventeen acres of wooded ground surrounding it, without rental. In return the club has put the house, which was sadly in need of it, in good repair, furnished it, and laid out the grounds, which are to be transformed by gardens. Mrs. Charles Frederick Hoffman is President of the club, Dr. George Norton Miller, Vice President; Mrs. H. de Berkeley Parsons, Secretary, and William A. Jay is the Treasurer.

Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, Honorary President of the club, made the speech of the day, and greeted the Governor, who arrived at 4 o'clock, accompanied by two aids [sic] ablaze with gold. After the ceremonies attending the planting of the oak, the Governor visited the clubhouse and had tea. He left a little before 5 o'clock.  

In the evening the Governor attended a dinner, given for him and Mr. Whitman by Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Hoffman, at their residence, 620 Fifth Avenue. The rest of the day, however, he spent on the thirty-day bills, and received no callers except Bainbridge Colby, an old college friend. On May 26 the Governor will start for California, and his Military Secretary, Major J. Stanley Moore, is now working out his iternerary [sic].  

A walk marked by many little red flags showed the way from the clubhouse to the roped-in inclosure, in which the speeches and the planting took place, and ropes marked with red flags indicated the parking space for the many motors. Tea and other refreshments were were served in the Colonial dining room and on the veranda and terrace outside.

The oak planted yesterday took the place of the famous treaty oak recently destroyed by lightning [sic], which was planted in 1643 [sic] when the Pell family obtained frm the Indians the property on which Bartow Manor stands for $17 [sic].

Dr. Butler outlined the history of the tree, and said the city had now turned the ground over to the International Garden Club to be made into a breathing spot for the people. The club, whose headquarters will be in the Manor house, has already spent $25,000 in improvements.

The Governor used a silver trowel in planting the tree, and said that the new treaty between the city and the public was more important than the orginal one. The exercises also marked the turning over of the property to the club's use.

Bartow Mansion is a substantial and roomy stone house, and the front lawn is one of several acres. In the rear the ground slopes away to the Sound, and a series of descending terraces has been arranged. In the center of the middle terrace is a large fountain.  

On either side are tall old trees, and a wide veranda taken in the entire back of the house. On this and the upper terrace many pale-green tables, with lattice chairs to match, are placed. At the right of the house is a large conservatory, done entirely in white and pale, dull green. As yet few flowers are seen, but some rare orchids were on view yesterday, and outside the trracs [sic] showed some old-time gardens in pansies and primorses [sic].  

The walls throughout are done in palest dull blue and the woodwork in dull finished white. Each room is in a different color. One upstairs room is done in the most vivid colors in old-time chintz, with flowers of many kinds. Another is done in black and white stripes, with an occasional flower, and pink roses abound in another. A reception room on the first floor is done in brownish orange, with old-time black wooden plaques, and another room is in deep blue.  

Mrs. Hoffman, the President; Mrs. Parsons, the Secretary, and others received, and the official receiving committee included the President of the Board of Aldermen.

Commissioners of Parks for the Bronx and Manhattan and Richmond, the President of the Botanical Garden, the President of the New York Horticultural Society, the President of the Florists's [sic] Club of New York. On the committee also were Mrs. C. B. Alexander, Mrs. A. B. Boardman, Mrs. Amory S. Carhart, Mrs. Alfred Ely, Miss Sarah Cooper Hewitt, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver J. Jennings, Mr. and Mrs. F. K. Pendleton, Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Parsons, Mrs. Moses Taylor Pyne, Mrs. James Speyer, Mrs. Charles H. Senff, Miss Amy Townsend, Mrs. H. McK Twombly, Mrs. John Hobart Warren, Mrs. J. J. Wysong, Mrs. Newbold LeRoy Edgar, Mrs. J. Archibald Murray, Mr. and Mrs. John Callender Livingston and William Adams Delano.  

Among others who were present to receive or as guests were Mr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, Bishop David H. Greer, Mr. and Mrs. Seth Low, Mrs. Herbert C. PYell [sic], Mrs. Herbert L. Satterlee, Mr. and Mrs. H. W. Taft, Mrs. Whitney Warren, Mr. and Mrs. James B. Clews, Mr. and Mrs. F. Ashton de Peyster, Mrs. Lewis Cruger Hassell, Mrs. George B. de Forest, Mrs. Burke Roche, Mrs. Lauterbach, Mrs. Nicholas Murray Butler, the Misses Catherine and Margaret Leverich, Mrs. Gouverneur Kortwright, Mrs. E. Reeve Merritt, Lady Herbert, Mrs. E. H. Harriman, Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert C. Pell, Mrs. Oakleigh Thorne, George I. Rives, John D. Crimmins, Frederick C. Bourne, Miss Eleanor Hewitt, Mrs. James O. Green, A. M. Bagby, and Mrs. Henry S. Redmond."

Source:  Governor Plants A New Treaty Oak, N.Y. Times, May 2, 1915, p. 14, col. 1 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park: More Pieces of the Puzzle

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Recently I have been doing research on the history of the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park located on the Esplanade at Boston Post Road behind Huguenot Memorial Church. Information about the park has never been collected in one place, so the research is slow, consisting principally of reading microfilm images of The Pelham Sun from the early 1940s as time permits. I have been doing the research to assist The Junior League of Pelham, Inc. That organization is engaged in an effort to raise approximately $200,000 to restore the park. Recent postings on the topic include:

Mon. June 6, 2005: Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park in Pelham Manor - Origins of the Idea to Create a Park

Thu. June 2, 2005: Obituary of Martha Emmons Weihman From The Pelham Sun, August 16, 1940

Tue. May 24, 2005: Clifford and Martha Weihman of Pelham (Part I of II)

Wed. May 25, 2005: Clifford and Martha Weihman of Pelham (Part II of II)

Tue. May 31, 2005: The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part I of II)

Wed. Jun. 1, 2005: The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part II of II)

Today's Blog posting will provide additional information regarding creation of the park based on the research I was able to do over the weekend. Several articles from The Pelham Sun are transcribed below. They document the approval of the Village of Pelham Manor's plan to issue bonds to fund the purchase of the site for the park and the successful sale of those bonds.

“$16,000 Park Land Purchase Bonds Approved


The Pelham Manor Board of Trustees on Monday night [Dec. 9, 1940] approved a $16,000 bond issue to finance the purchase of property on the southeasterly corner of the Boston Post Road and the Esplanade, which will be used for park purposes. The property was formerly the site of a frame apartment house, which was gutted by fire early in June.”

Source: $16,000 Park Land Purchase Bonds Approved, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 37, Dec. 13, 1940, p. 1, col. 7.

“Park Bonds to be Sold on Jan. 24th [1941]


The Board of Trustees will receive bids on a $16,000 park bond issue on Friday, Jan. 24 at 3.45 p. m. The bond issue will be sold to finance the purchase of property on the southeasterly corner of the Boston Post Road and the Esplanade, which the village recently took over to protect the zoning ordinance against the threat of apartment house construction thereon.”

Source: Park Bonds to be Sold on Jan. 24th, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 41, Jan. 17, 1941, p. 1, col. 6.

“Gibbons Company Buys Manor Bonds


The Pelham Manor Board of Trustees on Friday afternoon accepted the bid of the George B. Gibbons Co. of New York City for the $16,000 park bond issue floated to finance the purchase of property at the Boston Post Road and the Esplanade. The successful bidder offered a premium of $57.44 and an interest rate of 2.1%. The village will pay off the bonds at the rate of $1,000 per year. The issue will be paid up by 1954.

The other bids were as follows: Roosevelt & Weigler Inc., 2.2% interest and a premium of $71; Bacon & Stevenson & Co., 2.25% interest and a premium of $33.60; Manufacturers’ Traders Trust Co. of Buffalo, 2.1% and a premium of $43.04; Gremmel & Co., 2.2% interest and a premium of $44.32; R. D. White & Co., 2.2% interest and a premium of $88; A. C. Allyn Co., 2.3% interest and a premium of $24.80; Adam, McEntee & Co., 2.2% interest and a premium of $83.20.”

Source: Gibbons Company Buys Manor Bonds, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 44, Jan. 31, 1941, p. 8, col. 3.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Pelham's Most Magnificent Wedding Gift: The Bolton Priory

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Virtually everyone in Pelham knows The Bolton Priory located 0n Priory Lane in the Village of Pelham Manor. The lovely home built by the Reverend Robert Bolton in 1838 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the many interesting stories associated with the home involves the fact that it was given as a wedding gift in 1892 to Miss Daisy Stevens on the day that she married Mr. Frederick H. Allen. An interesting article about the gift of the home appeared in the July 31, 1892 issue of The New York Times and is reproduced below:






Two generations ago few rich Americans followed the English custom of erecting solid, lasting manor houses to stand as family monuments and homes for their descendants.

The Rev. Robert Bolton, in 1830 the well-to-do rector of the parish of East Chester, was an exception to the rule. He built himself an ideal English mansion on the border line between the towns of New-Rochelle and Pelham and called it the Bolton Priory. The mansion stands today a conspicuous landmark in Westchester County and is one of the most interesting homesteads in the country.

Public attention was called to the Bolton Priory last Thursday, when the Duchess de Dino presented the mansion as a wedding gift to her daughter, Miss Daisy Stevens, who on that day became the wife of Frederick H. Allen. The Duchess de Dino purchased the property six years ago, not long before her divorce from Frederic Stevens, paying for it $100,000.

The Rev. Robert Bolton was intimately acquainted with Washington Irving, and upon one of his frequent visits at Sunnyside in the Spring of 1838 he told the author of 'Sleepy Hollow' that he intended building himself a home that would last for generations.

Irving advised that the homestead be made typically English, and suggested the idea of putting the date up in the front wall. He said also that while making some repairs at the Sleepy Hollow Church many of the old yellow bricks had been thrown aside which could be had for the carting. The rector followed the advice of the author, and the Rev. C. W. Bolton, son of the rector, went to the church and carted home some of the bricks. Thus the material of the seventeenth century entered into this building of the nineteenth.

The Bolton Priory, as completed fifty-three years ago, stands nearly intact to-day in the midst of a fine old park of trees a short distance back from the road. It is approached by a winding carriage drive. The spot is isolated and romantic. From the roadway through the trees and bushes can be caught glimpses of the stone mansion, looking strikingly like an English rectory with the walls overgrown with ivy.

The house was originally 115 feet deep and half that in width, but several years after it was completed a projection was added to the rear.

Over the arched doorway is the date '1838,' set in the yellow bricks from the Sleepy Hollow Church. The front door, to carry out the English ideas of the Rev. Mr. Bolton, is of heavy, solid oak, completely covered with a studding of great bolt heads. A ponderous iron knocker, brought over from Venice, hangs upon the door. Even the scutcheon around the keyhole was imported. Upon it is engraved the date, 'M. D., 1557.'

Graystone was used in the construction of the house. The mortar being unpainted gives to the building an appearance of very great age. To the right of the doorway rises a high tower, from the top of which the country can be seen for ten miles around.

The interior of the Priory is more curious than the exterior. Passing through the door, one enters a wide, dark hall, opening from the left of which is the library. The members of the Bolton family were all artists of considerable talent. The dining room gives evidence of this. The carved frescoing, representing 'The Battle of the Chariots,' was the work of the Rev. William J. Bolton of Bath, England. The elaborately-carved mantelpiece was also wrought by the Bath rector. On the mantelpiece there stood for years a bust of George Whitefield in black porcelain.

The walls are covered with rare old paintings, among them being an original portrait of John Bunyan, once in the possession of Whitefield. The portrait was given by Whitefield to the Rev. Cornelius Winter, who bequeathed it to William Jay of Bath, grandfather of Robert Bolton.

On the sides of this portrait are two ancient paintings bought originally for their frames. They were discovered in an old English shop in Reading, Berkshire, and purchased for 2s 6d. When William J. Bolton cleaned the canvas, one proved to be a rare Gainsborough and the other a portrait of a French lady.

Among a hundred curious things found in the dining room are the cap worn by the last Doge of Venice, a framed panel from the coach in which George Washington made his last tour of the States, four Elizabethan chairs with high, carved backs topped with crowns; six huge volumes of Macklin's Bible, and a copy of Eliot's Indian Testament, one of the first works written and printed in the United States. The volume was printed in the United States. The volume was printed by Samuel Green in 1661, at Cambridge, Mass. There are also a rare collection of autographs, the oldest of which is that of Henry VII, and the original edition of Piranesi, once belonging to Napoleon and bearing his signature.

The rich stained-glass windows of the library, as also of other rooms in the house, were made by John Bolton, son of the builder.

In the parlor are more treasures of art. Over the door leading from the library is a 'wool picture' of 'Peter Repenting.' The picture was made by Charles W. Bolton from wool sheared by himself from his own sheep. The method of making the picture was a family secret. This is the only 'wool picture' in America, and there are only two in England. The chairs in the parlor were brought over from the Louvre.

The armory is the next room south. Portraits line the walls. There is one of Charles I., supposed to have been painted by Stuart, and others of Henrietta, of the Pretender, and of Falstaff. Standing by the doorway are two complete suits of Venetian armor. In the armory is an armchair bearing the date 1639, purchased at Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, by the Rev. Charles W. Bolton. The Trustees of Harvard College made repeated efforts to get this relic for a President's chair, but the Boltons refused to part with it. Valuable pieces of old armor and weapons hang on the walls.

In the armory is a huge fireplace, 6 feet high and 10 feet long, with chimney-corner seats inside. In days gone by, the Bolton family used to observe the twelve nights of misrule. The yule log used to be drawn in by a donkey ridden by the rector.

When the priory was erected, it was not intended to be turned to a purpose which subsequently made it widely known. A few years after it was finished a young ladies seminary was opened in the building, the rear extension being used as the schoolroom. In the west wing was the studio where the artist family worked with their pupils. With the death of the Bolton sisters several years ago, the school was discontinued, and Bolton Priory has been used for many seasons past as a Summer residence.

Through the instrumentality of the Rev. Robert Bolton a parish was organized in Pelham, and the cornerstone of the Gothic church standing on the Priory grounds was laid April 28, 1843. The church was the first building devoted to religious worship and instruction erected in the town of Pelham. The incorporation bears the date of Sept. 25, 1843, with Richard Morris and Henry Grenzebach as Wardens, and Grace Roosevelt, George F. Mills, John J. Bolton, William J. Bolton, Peter V. King, Jacob Le Roy, Cornelius W. Bolton, and Robert Bolton, Jr., as Vestrymen.

The Rev. Robert Bolton was the first rector and remained such until 1852, when he resigned. The Rev. C. W. Bolton and the Rev. Alexander Shiras were later rectors of Christ Church, Pelham. There is a Schuyler vault at the church. The Schuylers have spent many Summers at Bolton Priory.

The old house will undergo considerable alteration previous to its occupancy next Fall by Mr. and Mrs. Frederick H. Allen."

Source: A Priory For The Bride - Mrs. Frederick H. Allen's Gift From Her Mother, N.Y. Times, Jul. 31, 1892, p. 11.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Coaching to Pelham: Colonel Delancey Astor Kane Did Not Operate the Only Coach to Pelham

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Those who follow such things, know that for many years Col. Delancey Astor Kane operated the Pelham Coach (known as the "Tally-Ho") between Hotel Brunswick in New York City and Pelham. For more about the Pelham Coach, see Bell, Blake, Col. Delancey Kane and "The Pelham Coach", The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XII, No. 38, Sep. 26, 2003, p. 1, col. 1. See also Col. Delancey Kane and "The Pelham Coach" available on the HistoricPelham.com Web site.

Although for a few years Col. Kane may have operated the most famous coach to Pelham, he was by no means the only one who operated a coach to Pelham in the 19th century. Other Pelham coaches existed. Today's Blog posting will provide the contents of two news articles about such coaches. The first one addressed below, known as the Greyhound, was operated by the Country Club of Westchester founded in the hamlet of Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham in 1884.



The passenger coach Greyhound, the property of the Country Club, made the first trip of the season yesterday between the Hotel Brunswick and the club-house in Bartow, Westchester County, and back again on schedule time. The start from Brunswick was at 11 o'clock in the morning, and this fact induced a number of young men who had only gone to bed a few hours previously to get up much earlier than is their wont, and there was a fine display of gorgeous morning suits, crook-handled walking-sticks, light top-coats, yellow gaiters, and gay boutonnieres in the portals of the famous hostelry as early as 10:30 o'clock. The proprietors of these outfits took occasional turns into the bar-room of the hotel and drank brandy and soda and lighted long cigars.

Shortly before the hour for the start the Greyhound came up before the door and was greeted with a shout of welcome. Every spoke and panel was shining with fresh paint and varnish, the silverplated hubs glistened in the sunshine, and the metal of the harness gleamed as the impatient horses restlessly awaited the start. The leaders were a black and a brown, the former the thorough-bred Irish mare Dolly and the later the gelding Dandy. The wheelers were a dapple gray and a bay - Barnum and Colonel. The party to take the trip to Bartow were the governors of the club, who went as the guests of James M. Waterbury, the President. Just before 11 o'clock Mr. J. R. Roosevelt emerged from the holy of holies in the interior of the Brunswick, attired in a long, white top coat, a tall white hat, and yellow gloves. He examined the four horses critically and then ascended to the box. Mr. Pierre Lorillard, similarly arrayed, climbed up beside him. Mr. Alexander Taylor, Jr., and Mr. Delancey Kane took the next seat, and Messrs. Kent, Fairman, Haight, and Jackson likewise disposed themselves about the coach.

Then Mr. Roosevelt gathered the lines in his left hand and took the whip in his right. The four horses began to prance in anticipation, the grooms removed the blankets of the leaders, the whip cracked, the coach started, the grooms snatched the wheelers' blankets as they plunged past and dexterously climbed up behind, the guard blew a blast on the great tin-horn, and away they went, Dolly and Dandy doing the ornamental prancing in front and Colonel and Barnum tugging honestly in their russet leather collars at the pole. The trip was up the Boulevard and out Macomb's Dam Bridge road to Mott Haven, and out through Westchester and Middletown over Pelham Bridge to Bartow which was reached a few minutes before 1 o'clock. Here a dinner was waiting at the Country Club, and at 3:45 o'clock the Greyhound started back again for the Brunswick.

All dudedom was out on the steps and on the sidewalk before the Brunswick and Victoria to see them back, before 5 o'clock, and all looked up the avenue incessantly. At 5:25 the blast of the horn was heard, and a moment later the coach was descried bowling down Murray Hill among countless other gorgeous turnouts, and at 5:29 it drew up before the Brunswick exactly one minute ahead of the schedule time. The gentlemen descended with dust on their boots and coats, and likewise in their throats; and being wise in their generation they turned into the hostelry to obtain an antidote for the latter difficulty. They of the high collars and tight trowsers continued to gaze at the coach and the team admiringly from the steps of the hotel, until Mr. Roosevelt issued forth again, and drove swiftly around the corner into Twenty-sixth-street."

Source: The Trip of the Greyhound - First Coaching of the Season From the Brunswick to Bartow, N.Y. Times, Apr. 29, 1884, p. 2.

Another example of an entirely different coach that ran between the Hotel Brunswick and Pelham during the 1880s was the Tantivy. The article below describes a run of the Tantivy.



The black and yellow four-in-hand coach Tantivy made its first trip of the season yesterday from the Hotel Brunswick to the Country Club's house at Pelham and back. It was chartered by Mr. Woodbury Kane. He and his friends were favored with a bright sky, balmy breezes, and the best of good luck. The party included Mr. Kane, Mr. and Mrs. F. Bronson, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt, Miss Berriman, Miss Winthrop, Mr. W. Cutting, Mr. Cary, Mr. Howard, Mr. B. Cutting, and Mr. Potter. Mr. Kane and Mr. Bronson drove and handled the reings with skill.

There was a good-sized crowd at the hotel to see the start at 11 o'clock, and those who were not there to see the exhilarating sight might have become aware of the send-off had they been within a radius of several blocks, for the departure was signalized by a perfect din of noises, principally blasts on the horn by the guard. The coach rattled away at a lively rate up Fifth-avenue. Half an hour later it stopped at the Point View House, where the horses were changed. The fresh teams drew the Tantivy to Harlem in 10 minutes and to Mott Haven in 15. They were exchanged at Hunt's Point at 12:03 P. M. The schedule was kept on the run to Fox's Corners, Union Port, (Swan's Inn,) West Chester, Pelham Bridge, Bartow, and finally the Country Club at Pelham. The destination was reached at 12:50 precisely, and the approach was heralded by loud trumpeting from the rear seat.

Dinner was served at the clubhouse and the return trip began at 3:40. At 5:30 the coach drew up in front of the Brunswick and while it remained there was an object of great interest. The party attracted much attention coming through Central Park and down the avenue. Until further notice the Tantivy will make daily trips, Sundays excepted, to the clubhouse, starting from the Hotel Brunswick at 11. The booking office is at the hotel. It will stop for passengers wherever hailed, except between the hotel and the Point View House."

Source: The Tantivy's Horn - It Wakes The Echoes From The Brunswick To Pelham, N.Y. Times, May 3, 1887, p. 9.

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