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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Pelham National Bank Building in the Village of Pelham

The Pelham National Bank was organized on March 18, 1921 with a capital of $50,000 and a surplus of $12,500. It opened its doors for business on Saturday July 30, 1921 in the lovely little building that still stands at 89-91 Wolfs Lane. The building, known originally as the “Brook Building” is today’s home of Integrity Fitness, Kravitz Realtors and Chiropractic Center of Pelham.

During its first four years, the bank grew modestly. But, it grew enough so that it became too great a burden for Bank President L. Ogden Thompson who still maintained “New York City interests.” Thus, on January 23, 1925, the directors elected John T. Brook president of the bank.

Almost immediately Brook began growing the bank and selling additional shares of stock in the bank. In January 1927, the bank acquired from Brook the plot of land we know today as One Wolfs Lane at the corner of First Street and Wolfs Lane. Brook had purchased it on behalf of the bank from Alfred B. Stone who had conducted a business known as Burke Stone Real Estate Corporation from a small building on the lot for some years.

The Pelham National Bank Building
at One Wolfs Lane as it Looks Today.
The bank planned to build a grand three-story bank building that could be expanded to a height of nine stories as the bank grew. By 1929, the bank’s assets supposedly had grown to nearly $3,500,000.

Architect's Rendering Showing Plans for
Future Expansion of Building to Nine Stories.

John T. Brook and the officers and directors of Pelham National Bank had confidence in the bank’s future. So much so, in fact, that they planned and built a solid and imposing structure at One Wolfs Lane that became the bank’s new headquarters. On April 10, 1928, Brook turned the first shovelful of earth at the new building site and was photographed in the cab of an immense steam shovel used to remove much of the rocky outcropping necessary to prepare the site.

On March 30, 1929, after the site had been prepared, a grand ceremony was held for the laying of the cornerstone of the building – in a driving rain that foreshadowed what was to come.

The bank opened its new headquarters on September 14, 1929. Built by John T. Brook Company, the building cost $250,000 to complete, an astounding sum at the time. The bank’s future looked promising, but looks can be deceiving.

Only weeks after The Pelham National Bank opened its new $250,000 headquarters, the stock market shuddered. Soon the bank failed and John T. Brook was jailed on charges relating to that failure. Today the Pelham National Bank Building houses Pelham’s branch of the United States Post Office.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An Early, Interesting Photograph of Bolton Priory in the Village of Pelham Manor

Bolton Priory stands at 7 Priory Lane near the Parish of Christ the Redeemer. It is also known as “The Priory” and “Pelham Priory”. The Reverend Robert Bolton, who founded Christ Church in 1843, completed this towering Gothic Revival mansion with his sons in 1838. Bolton Priory is one of two Pelham residences listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was added to the Register on June 28, 1974. See National Register of Historic Places: New York – Westchester County (visited Nov. 29, 2005).

Bolton Priory also was added to the Westchester County Inventory of Historic Places on January 5, 1988 and to the New York Register of Historic Places on June 23, 1980. See Westchester County Web Site: Sites Listed on the Westchester County Inventory of Historic Places, The New York State Register of Historic Places, and the National Register of Historic Places as of January, 2004 (visited Nov. 29, 2005).

Periodically I have published to the Historic Pelham Blog postings that deal with the fabulous history of the Bolton Priory. For examples, see:

Aug. 23, 2005: Society Scandal: The "Strange" Story of Mrs. Adele Livingston Stevens Who Acquired the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Jul. 13, 2005: 11 Priory Lane: The Rose Cottage

Jun. 10, 2005: Pelham's Most Magnificent Wedding Gift: The Bolton Priory

May 3, 2005: Colonel Frederick Hobbes Allen, An Owner of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Apr. 4, 2005: Art and Poetry of William Jay Bolton of Bolton Priory in Pelham

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting presents an unusual image from the William R. Montgomery Glass Negatives Collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham. The photograph that appears immediately below shows a rare view of the Priory from the façade that faces the Long Island Sound taken during the 1920s. Most photographs of the structure show a view of the front entrance next to the tower.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

The Historic Sanborn Map Building In The Village of Pelham

Nestled in the northern reaches of the Town of Pelham adjacent to the beautiful residential neighborhood known as Chester Park with its lovely central green is a building known as the Sanborn Map Building. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little of the history of that lovely building and photographs of the building including a few of the relief sculptures that adorn its façade.

The photograph above, taken two years ago, shows the east façade of the Sanborn Map Building located at 629 Fifth Avenue in Pelham, NY.

The Sanborn Map Building was built in 1906. In it the Sanborn Map Company produced maps for insurance company customers. The company's predecessor, founded by D. A. Sanborn in 1866, gained national recognition in the 19th century for its incredibly detailed fire insurance maps. The "Sanborn Map and Publishing Company, Limited" was established at the office of the Continental Insurance Company in New York in 1876.

The company changed its name to Sanborn Perris Map Company Limited in 1899 after it acquired the mapping firm of Perris and Brown of New York. In 1902 the company changed its name again, this time to The Sanborn Map Company. At about this time it began planning its new headquarters in Pelham. Architectural renderings were executed as early as 1904. The building was constructed in 1906 and the company relocated to its new facility in 1907.

The new publishing plant was located on five acres of land and is considered an early example of a "campus-like" setting for such a corporate headquarters. The main building, built of brick, is 75,000 square feet and is decorated with dozens of relief sculptures of ancient mapmakers that surround the facility at its roofline. The photograph below, taken two weeks ago, shows the south façade of the building. Note the sculptural reliefs that appear every few feet along the roofline of the building along the entire façade.

By the 1920s, The Sanborn Map Company was a major success. The company expanded its production facilities to include locations in Chicago and San Francisco. It had more than 1,000 employees preparing bound volumes of printed insurance maps (later loose-leaf collections of maps).

An Example of One of the Sculptural Reliefs.
(See Additional Examples Below).

During World War II, the company was designated a strategic war production plant with substantial security. During the War the company operated 24 hours a day to produce maps of locations around the world using aerial photgraphs.

After the War, The Sanborn Map Company began to downsize and, in 1950, closed all its offices except for the Pelham headquarters. According to a history prepared by the company, "[a]fter 1950, Sanborn reduce[d] the size of their maps and for many clients, [began producing] maps in black and white."

During the 1960s, Sanborn began to diversify its map offerings. It began preparing and offering maps reflecting issues such as market radius and land use according to a brief history prepared by the company. According to that same history, between 1970 and 1983:

"Sanborn enter[ed] photogrammetric mapping and geographic information systems industry. Sanborn acquire[d] aircraft and [began] aerial photography and photogrammetric mapping. Sanborn use[d] computers for tax parcel mapping and land/building usage databases. Sanborn enter[ed] the digital mapping age."

During the 1990s and in the last five years, the company has been on an acquisition binge, acquiring such businesses as Lockwood Mapping Company of Rochester; Walker Associates; Dynamics Corporation of Charlotte, NC; Barton Aerial Technologies, Inc. of Columbus, OH; and Williams Stackhouse of San Antonio, Texas.

In 2001, Sanborn acquired the Colorado Springs office of Analytical Surveys, Inc., doubling its size. Not long thereafter, it moved its corporate headquarters to Colorado Springs where it remains today.

Today the Sanborn Map Building contains a host of small businesses that lease commercial space for offices, dance studios and other purposes.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

The End of Pelham's Boy Scout Cabin Near The Hutchinson River Parkway

Periodically I have posted to the Historic Pelham Blog items relating to the storied Boy Scout Cabin that once stood in Pelham near today's Hutchinson River Parkway. The image immediately below shows the architect's original sketch of the cabin where a large chimney stands at the rear.

Sketch of the Pelham Boy Scout Cabin Published in the
August 29, 1941 Issue of The Pelham Sun (Page 6).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

On July 19, I posted to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "Pelham's Boy Scout Cabin Near The Hutchinson River Parkway". Additionally, on October 31, I posted an item entitled "Remnants of Pelham's Boy Scout Cabin Near The Hutchinson River Parkway".

All that remains on the site today is the large chimney. The photograph immediately below was taken recently and shows what is left at the site -- a giant stone chimney covered with vines.

Vine-Covered Remnants of the Massive Stone Chimney
and Hearth of the Pelham Boy Scout Cabin.  Photograph
by the Author Taken on October 30, 2005.  NOTE:  Click
on Image to Enlarge.

The story of what happened to the lovely Boy Scout cabin that served a generation of young Scouts who grew up in Pelham is a sad tale. Today's Blog posting will detail the sad end of the cabin.

In 1924, the Westchester County Parks Commission recommended that a motor parkway be built running north and south to take a little pressure off of Boston Post Road. The Parkway was intended to serve a host of purposes including the preservation of park lands near the Hutchinson River to reduce the deterioration of that waterway and to provide local residents with green space.

At about the same time, the local Boy Scout organization began planning the construction of a cabin near the planned parkway. The cabin was constructed in 1925.

In December 1927, work on a two-mile stretch of the parkway that passed through Pelham was completed. This two-mile stretch passed quite near the cabin. As the years passed and traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway grew, the solitude that had attracted Scouts to the area was destroyed.

By the early 1940s, the Cabin was subjected to repeated acts of vandalism. One report in the local newspaper published on December 16, 1943, for example, noted the following: "For the third time in a month the Boy Scout Cabin was entered the last offense being on Sunday afternoon, shortly after Pelham Manor police had investigated the property and found it all intact. The offenders got in through a hole in the roof which they forced open after it had been repaired." According to the same report, a local police representative said the culprits "are probably boys who are jealous of the Scouts who have access to the cabin" and that "[i]f they are caught they will be punished severely." Roof Of Scout Cabin Broken In For Third Time, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 33, No. 37, Dec. 16, 1943, p. 1, col. 7.

The vandalism, alas, did not end. Only a few years later the cabin was destroyed by fire. See Plan for Library Gets Support; But Historic Claim Is Challenged, The Pelham Sun, Jan. 29, 1948 (noting "The Boy Scout Cabin, recently destroyed by fire, was erected in the shadow of 'Gen Howe's Tree."). Another part of Pelham's history was lost.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."    

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Notes on Architects Responsible for Structures in the Town of Pelham: Part II

Yesterday I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "Notes on Architects Responsible for Structures in the Town of Pelham: Part I". In it I discussed three prominent architects who designed structures located in the Town of Pelham: William Augustus Bates, Charles Lewis Bowman and Electus D. Litchfield. Today's Blog posting will provide a list of the names and work of a few other architects who designed structures located in the Town of Pelham.

Bolton, Rev. Robert - Christ Church, 1415 Pelhamdale Avenue (1843) and Bolton Priory, 7 Priory Lane (1838)

Fletcher, Arthur - 155 Corona Avenue, 65 Harmon Avenue, 117 NYAC, 172 Pelhamdale Avenue

Gregory, Julius - 68 Young Avenue

Halbert, William C. - 60 Beech Tree Lane (1931)

Hart, Charles - 640 Ely Avenue, 649 Ely Avenue, 11 Westward Lane

Hering, Oswald C. - 542 Pelhamdale Avenue, 81 Witherbee Avenue

Hunt, F. Albert - 103 6th Avenue, 50 Mt. Tom Road

Nelson, Francis A. - Huguenot Memorial Church

Pelham, George F. - Pelbrook Hall Apartments

Scannell, 35 Beech Tree Lane

There are, of course, thousands of structures in Pelham designed by a host of architects. Those listed above are examples of interesting structures designed by notable architects identified to date.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Notes on Architects Responsible for Structures in the Town of Pelham: Part I

There are, of course, thousands of residential and commercial structures located within the Town of Pelham. Many of those structures were designed by notable architects. Today's Blog posting will list a few of the architects and the structures they designed.

Three of the most famous and notable architects known to have designed structures located in the Town of Pelham are William Augustus Bates, Lewis Bowman and Electus D. Litchfield. So far, the only known example of work by Bates is 219 Pelhamdale although a number of other structures are suspected to be homes designed by Bates. To learn more about Bates and the home located at 219 Pelhamdale, see the May 10, 2005 posting to the Historic Pelham Blog entitled "Pelham's Only Known Example of a Home Designed by Master Architect William A. Bates".

The noted architect Charles Lewis Bowman is known to have designed numerous structures located in Pelham. To learn more about Lewis Bowman, as he was known, see Village of Bronxville, Prominent Village Architects: Charles Lewis Bowman (visited Nov. 21, 2005). Bowman is believed to be the architect of the following structures in Pelham:

Boulevard - 189 Boulevard
Country Club Lane - Addition to 127 Country Club Lane
Eastland Avenue - 261 Eastland Avenue
Elderwood Avenue - 216 Elderwood and 236 Elderwood Avenue
Monterey Avenue - 401 Monterey Avenue
Pelhamdale Avenue - 110 Pelhamdale and 244 Pelhamdale Avenue
Priory Lane - 4 Priory Lane

So far, noted architect Electus Darwin Litchfield is known as the architect of only one structure located in Pelham: 20 Beech Tree Lane in the Village of Pelham Manor.

Litchfield was a political force in New York City. For years he served as President of the powerful Municipal Arts Society. He designed many spectacular cooperative apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue and elsewhere on the upper east side of Manhattan. A number of his works are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as specified more fully below.

Litchfield’s Early Years

Electus Darwin Litchfield was born in New York on April 25, 1872. See University of Minnesota University Libraries, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota – Title: Electus Litchfield Papers (visited Nov. 21, 2005) http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/html/mss/nwaa0062.html (brief biography of Litchfield). He graduated at the age of 17 from the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1889. In 1892, he attended the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Litchfield reportedly worked for two years at one of the leading Beaux-Arts architectural firms, second only to McKim, Mead & White. The firm, Carrère & Hastings, was founded by John M. Carrère and Thomas Hastings and won the competition to design the New York Public Library.

Litchfield was a dashing young professional with society ties. As early as 1900 he served on the Floor Committee of the 41st annual Charity Ball attended by the cream of New York Society. See The Annual Charity Ball, N.Y. Times, Feb. 2, 1900, p. 7; Some Happenings in Good Society, N.Y. Times, Jan. 21, 1900, p. 17.

Litchfield became a partner in the architectural firm of Lord & Hewlett and remained a member of the firm from 1901 to 1908. That firm designed a number of well-known buildings including Brooklyn Masonic Temple (1909), Brooklyn Hospital (1920), St. John’s Hospital in today’s Long Island City and the Danbury, Connecticut Hospital. See id. See also Public Art in the Bronx – Lehman College Art Gallery The City University of New York, Biographies (visited Nov. 21, 2005) http://bronxart.lehman.cuny.edu/pa/biography.htm (scroll down to “James Monroe Hewlett”).

Litchfield Marries Elizabeth Rodman and Becomes Partner of Firm

While with Lord & Hewlett, the young architect became engaged to Miss Elizabeth Burnham Rodman, daughter of Mrs. Thomas Hardy Rodman, Jr. of New York. See What Is Doing In Society, N.Y. Times, Jul. 13, 1906, p. 9; Society at Home and Abroad, N.Y. Times, Sep. 23, 1906, p. SM10; Berkshire Hunt Meet, N.Y. Times, Sep. 26, 1906, p. 9 (paragraphs near end of article). The couple married on October 6, 1906 at St. Paul’s Church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Married, N.Y. Times, Oct. 7, 1906, p. 9. Rev. Arthur Lawrence, D. D., performed the ceremony. Id.

Even as a young architect, Litchfield showed a knack for attracting media attention with interesting and creative ideas – a talent that would serve him well for the rest of his career. For example, Litchfield attracted attention with a plan to beautify the Williamsburg plaza of the Williamsburg Bridge by erecting aerial gardens over the plaza. According to a news report in The New York Times, Mr. Litchfield had been requested by Commissioner Stevenson to design a passenger shelter for the plaza “but had gone further than he had been directed”. Plan For Aerial Gardens, N.Y. Times, May 7, 1906, p. 18.

In 1908, Litchfield became a partner in the firm of Tracy, Swartout & Litchfield, where he remained for five years until 1913. University of Minnesota University Libraries, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota – Title: Electus Litchfield Papers (visited Nov. 21, 2005) http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/html/mss/nwaa0062.html (brief biography of Litchfield). That firm is known for designing such buildings as the Byron White United States Courthouse in Denver, Colorado (1916). U.S. General Services Administration, Historic Preservation: Region 8 Rocky Mountain Region http://rmrpbs.gsa.gov/historicpreservation/linkpages/denver.htm (visited Nov. 21, 2005).

At about the time he became a member of Tracy, Swartout & Litchfield, Electus Litchfield seemed to make an effort to raise his visibility in New York City. An example is a letter to the editor that he wrote and that was published in the August 13, 1908 issue of The New York Times. In it he urged the New York City Code Commission to consider regulating population per lot in connection with the construction of skyscrapers so as not to overtax local transit facilities. Skyscrapers Overpeopled – Population Per Lot Must Be Gauged to Traffic Facilities, N.Y. Times, Aug. 13, 1908, p. 6. Another example involves speaking engagements such as his presentation to the Municipal Club on October 20, 1908 regarding “A City Plan” based on a report prepared by the City Improvement Commission by New York City Mayor McClellan. Tell How To Make The City Beautiful, N.Y. Times, Oct. 21, 1908, p. 4.

Litchfield Leaves His Firm and Gains National Prominence

In 1913, Litchfield left Tracy, Swartout & Litchfield and set up his own architectural practice. He practiced in this fashion until 1919 when he established the firm Electus D. Litchfield & Rogers. University of Minnesota University Libraries, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota – Title: Electus Litchfield Papers (visited Nov. 21, 20052) http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/html/mss/nwaa0062.html (brief biography of Litchfield). At about the time he left Tracy, Swartout & Litchfield, he seemed, once again to raise his profile in the New York City architectural world. He was elected as a delegate of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects to attend the 47th annual convention of the AIA in early December 1913. Architects To Meet, N.Y. Times, Nov. 30, 1913, p. XXI.

By 1918, Litchfield had risen to such prominence that he was provided “an opportunity no other architect ever had” as he once described it. He was instructed with the job of designing an entire town as quickly as possible – Yorkship Village, near Camden, New Jersey. (For more about Litchfield’s design of Yorkship Village – now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and known as Fairview in Camden, New Jersey – see the section below entitled “Architectural Designs of Electus D. Litchfield”). Yorkship Village, it seems, was Electus Litchfield’s “big break” – it made him a successful and wealthy architect of national renown.

In 1926, Litchfield seems to have returned to solo practice. Throughout his career he was a major force in shaping New York City. Indeed, he served as President of the Municipal Art Society (“MAS”) for a number of years. He died in New York on November 27, 1952.

Architectural Designs of Electus D. Litchfield

Electus Litchfield designed numerous grand buildings and notable monuments, a number of which are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Yorkship Village - He designed and planned Yorkship Village (now known as Fairview in Camden, New Jersey). Yorkship Village was an industrial town built during World War I to house persons affiliated with the Emergency Fleet Corporation, New York Shipbuilding Company. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. He designed the town to house workers employed by New York Shipbuilding Corporation as they built the ships necessary for the United States to fight in World War I. The name of the town is formed from the company’s name. According to one report, even before Yorkship was completed, Litchfield and his assistants, in the course of their work, “turned out tow and a half tons of blueprints!" Model Towns for Uncle Sam’s Shipworkers, N.Y. Times, Jul. 14, 1918, p. 55. In a published interview, while work to build Yorkship was underway, Litchfield said:

“It isn’t only houses that we must think of – hand in hand with the actual building work goes the construction of suitable streets, roads and sewers. At present we have 3,500 workmen on the job. Already more than 400 dwellings are built and the number is increasing by twenty to thirty a day.

Yorkship will be laid out on a plan providing for broad streets and boulevards. The streets will all be named after American naval heroes or ships famous in our naval annals – there will be a Paul Jones Street, a Constitution Stree, an Albemarle Square. When completed the place will house 10,000 shipworkers.

Don’t forget that Yorkship will not be just a lot of workers’ homes. It will be a real town. I have already mentioned how we are making provision for churches; in addition to that branch of our work, we are now arranging for a police force, with suitable accommodations, a well-housed Fire Department, a Red Cross station, moving-picture theatres, and other things that go to make up a well-regulated town. The workmen who live in Yorkship will have a real share in the happiness that comes from accomplishment.” Id.

United Sates Post Office, Courthouse and Custom House in Albany - He designed the United States Post Office, Courthouse and Custom House in Albany, New York. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Astoria Column - Other of his works listed in the National Register of Historic Places include the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon built as a tribute to the pioneering spirit that populated the western United States and the Franklin Pierce Tate House, a private residence in Morganton, North Carolina.

There are a number of other such works for which Litchfield was responsible that appear on the National Register of Historic Places.

Litchfield was prolific. Besides his works listed above, he also designed notable public buildings in Denver, Colorado (the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse) and in St. Paul, Minnesota (the St. Paul Central Library and James J. Hill Reference Library. He designed a number of buildings in New York City including 79 East 79th Street and 381 Park Avenue (since demolished), as well as the City Club, 800 Park Avenue and the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. He designed other monuments found in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota for the Great Northern Railroad.

Tomorrow's Blog Posting will list additional architects who designed structures located in the Town of Pelham.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Prospect Hill and Pelhamville Depicted on the 1868 Beers Atlas Map of Pelham: Part II

Yesterday I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "Prospect Hill and Pelhamville Depicted on the 1868 Beers Atlas Map of Pelham: Part I". In it I discussed a few of the insights that may be drawn about the development of the area known as "Prospect Hill" within the Village of Pelham Manor by comparing detail of that area from Plate 35 of the 1868 Beers Map (image below) with current satellite photographs of the same area. Today's Blog Posting will do the same thing for the area once know as "Pelhamville" within the Village of Pelham.

Plate 35 from the 1868 Beers Atlas.
Top Arrow Points to Portion of Map Showing "Pelhamville"


According to Lockwood Barr, at some point prior to 1850-51, two real estate promoters named Lewis C. Platt and Henry Marsden created an association named the Pelhamville Village Association "to develop certain tracts of unincorporated property in the Town of Pelham lying north of the Railroad and east of the Hutchinson River. This Association purchased Wolf Farm and laid out streets, residential plots and a business district." 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 & Mannour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 135 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946). Evidence seems to suggest, however, that the association involved with the purchase and development of Pelhamville was not named the Pelhamville Village Association but, instead, the United Brothers' Land Society.  In any event, the development was planned to cover approximately 110 acres. According to the Index of Maps, Office of the Register, Westchester County in White Plains, on June 21, 1851 the subdivision map of Pelhamville was filed. To learn more about the hamlet once known as Pelhamville, see Bell, Blake A., Early History of the Village of Pelham Part 4: The Railroad Comes To Town (Sept. 2003).

Below is an image that shows a detail from Plate 35 of the Beers Atlas showing "Pelhamville" on the left and a recent satellite photograph showing the same area as it exists today.

One of the first things that you may notice is that by comparing the very top of the map with the very top of the satellite photograph, one street no longer exists. Construction of the Hutchinson River Parkway destroyed the street. Apart from this one difference, the original layout of Pelhamville can easily be seen incorporated into today's Village of Pelham north of the New Haven Line tracks.

Pelhamville was much closer to the Pelhamville Depot and the railroad tracks of the New Haven Line than Prospect Hill was to the Pelham Manor Depot and the railroad tracks of the New Haven Branch Line. Perhaps that explains why Pelhamville developed more quickly than Prospect Hill during roughly the same period of the early 1850s until 1868. As the map detail on the left indicates above, by 1868 there were about 50 residential structions as well as the train station located in that portion of Pelhamville that sat north of the New Haven Line railroad tracks.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Prospect Hill and Pelhamville Depicted on the 1868 Beers Atlas Map of Pelham: Part I

In 1868, the firm of Beers, Ellis & Soule published an Atlas entitled "Atlas of New York and Vicinity From Actual Surveys by and Under the Direction of F.W. Beers, Assisted by A.B. Prindle & Others. Published by F.W. Beers, A.D. Ellis & G.G. Soule. Assistants F.S. Fulmer, W.T. Comstock, A.M., A.J. Bingham, W.S. Roe, J.A. Cline. 95 Maiden Lane, New York. 1868. Entered . . . 1868 by Beers, Ellis & Soule. . . New York. Engd. By Worley & Bracher, 320 Chestnut St. Phlada. Printed by James McGuigan, Cor. 3d & Dock Sts. Phila."

The 1868 Beers Atlas includes Plate 35 entitled "City Island, Pelham Township, Westchester Co., N.Y. [With] Town of Pelham, Westchester Co., N.Y." An image of Plate 35 appears immediately below with arrows pointing to the area then known as "Pelhamville" near the top and the neighborhood known as "Prospect Hill" near the middle of the image.

Careful analysis of Plate 35 provides fascinating insights into today's Town of Pelham. Today's Blog posting will discuss a few of those insights with regard to the area known today as "Prospect Hill" in the Village of Pelham Manor. Tomorrow's Blog posting will address the area reflected on the 1868 Beer's map known as "Pelhamville".

Prospect Hill Village

On August 11, 1852, a man named William Bryson filed a development map entitled "Map of Prospect Hill Village, Town of Pelham, Westchester County, New York." The map encompassed a prime area described by Lockwood Barr as "on the crown of the ridge near the Boston Post Road, bounded by what are now Highland, Prospect, Esplanade, New Haven Branch, Washington and Old Split Rock Road." 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 & Mannour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 123 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

On March 30, 2005, I posted to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "Prospect Hill Village --- Yet Another Early Hamlet in the Town of Pelham". As I noted in that posting, more information about the Prospect Hill Village development recently has come to light. There is a brief but information-filled advertisement and notice relating to the development that appeared in the September 15, 1854 issue of the New York Daily Times (the predecessor to today's New York Times). The text and an image of the notice appear immediately below:

"LOTS FOR SALE. - A very few desirable acre and half-acre lots, beautifully situated on Prospect Hill, in the town of Pelham, Westchester Co., N. Y. They are situated on the turnpike-road, between New-York and New-Rochelle, and conveniently to three stations on the New-Haven Railroad - Mount Vernon, Pelhamville and New-Rochelle. Apply to AMOS JUDSON, Real Estate Agent, Mount Vernon; WM DALLY, on the premises, of THOMAS SPOTTEN, No. 118 Bowery New-York.


The members of the above association are requested to attend a meeting to be held at the Westchester House, corner of Bowery and Broome at, MONDAY EVENING, Sept. 18, at 7 1/2 o'clock P M Punctual attendance is requested as business of importance will be brought before the meeting. By order of the Board of Directors."

It seems that it was quite some time before the Prospect Hill Village development took root. Plate 35 in the 1868 Beers Atlas -- published 14 years later -- shows only six structures on Prospect Hill south of Boston Post Road, one of which is the little school house. The homes, as indicated on the map, were owned by J. Dodge, W. Bertine, H. Steif, W. Dally and T. Maloy. (Careful readers of the Historic Pelham Blog will notice that the family names "Bertine" and "Dally" also appeared on the list I posted on Friday, November 18 of Pelham's Civil War Dead in the posting entitled "In Memoriam: A List of Pelham's Civil War Dead".)

I have juxtaposed a detail from Plate 35 of the 1868 Beers Atlas showing Prospect Hill with a satellite image of the exact same area in today's Pelham. As one might expect, the match is perfect and it is possible to determine the names of currently existing streets in Pelham that are also reflected as streets within "Prospect Hill" on Plate 35 of the 1868 Beers Atlas. Below is a low resolution image of the juxtaposed images.

It is now rather easy to determine the earliest portion of Prospect Hill that was developed between 1854 and 1868. Boston Post Road borders the area on the north. Split Rock Road borders the area on the west. The two streets that run parallel to Split Rock road are -- denoting them from west to east -- Peace Street and Plymouth Street. The three streets that run parallel to Boston Post Road -- denoting them from north to south -- are Townsend Avenue, Jackson Avenue and Hudson Street. The southern "boundary" of the area is Washington Avenue. In the image above, I have colored certain portions of the streets shown in the satellite photograph that are also reflected on the detail from the 1868 map in white. Compare the pattern of the two. They are identical.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A List of Pelham Residents Who Served the Union During the Civil War

Records of early Memorial Day commemorations in the files of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham include references to Pelham residents who served their country during the Civil War. Today's Blog posting provides the list and, for each, adds information about the serviceman's unit where it can be determined. Please note that no effort yet has been made to determine the accuracy of this information (including the spelling of the names below as they appeared in various records including old Memorial Day programs).

William Dorrance Beach

Samuel D. Bertine

William Dally - Company D, 133rd Infantry Regiment New York
Patrick J. Gleason

James C. Hazen

William P. Hibler

John T. Logan

David Lyon

Samuel E. Lyon

William Mercer

Peter McLaughlin

William H. Valentine - Company D, 5th Veteran Infantry Regiment New York

Charles A. Walker

Over the next few months I will be working to confirm this information and to learn more about these Pelham residents said to have died during service to their country during the Civil War.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Proposal in the 1940s For Tunnel Beneath Boston Post Road To Carry Twelve-Lane Highway

For more than fifteen years in the 1940s and 1950s, residents of the Village of Pelham Manor fretted over plans to construct a stretch of what we know today as the New England Thruway through the quiet village. On September 14, 2005, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "Early Plans to Construct the New England Section of The New York Thruway Through Pelham" detailing some of the early plans to build a giant highway through a portion of the grounds of the Pelham Country Club.

As one would expect, even in the early 1940s the "Not In My Backyard" contingents were pressuring local lawmakers and lobbying vigorously regarding precisely where the planned New England Thruway should pass through Pelham. For example, according to one account:

"'It was first suggested that the Thru-Way should run parallel with the New Haven Railroad [i.e., the Branch Line] on the south side,' said the Mayor, 'then pressure was brought to bear by interested property owners and its proposed route was shifted to the north side and then another pressure group caused the route to be again changed."

Planning Board Should Control Thru-Way Route, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 33, No. 24, Sep. 16, 1943, p. 1, col. 6.

In 1943, local realtor Guy Mariner floated an odd trial balloon obviously intended to avoid all such controversy. On the evening of Tuesday, August 10, 1943, Mr. Mariner made a presentation to attendees at the annual dinner of the Pelham Realty Board in which he proposed construction of a twelve-lane tunnel beneath Boston Post Road to carry New England Thruway traffic through Pelham Manor. According to one account, this was "the first public announcement of a plan on which Mr. Mariner has been working for many months."

The local newspaper reported that:

"The Mariner plan continues the super-truck highway which is planned to gather the traffic from east and west side of New York and concentrate it at a meeting point near Boston Post road and Eastchester Creek. In this respect it coincides with the Moses New England Thru-Way, the six-track highway planned to bisect Pelham Manor parallel with the New Haven shore line tracks on the surface. From the focal point at Westchester County border line, the Mariner plan contemplates a twelve-track tunnel under the Eastchester Creek, the exit of which would be at the base of the Boston Post road hill near the Hutchinson Parkway. At this point the plan provides a twelve-lane tunnel which will run underneath Boston Post road and deliver the traffic load at the New Rochelle boundary line, from whence it may be taken on a new highway through New Rochelle to the Pelham Port Chester highway this side of Larchmont."

New Traffic Plan To Provide For 12-Lane Tunnel Under Post Road, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 33, No. 19, Aug. 12, 1943, p. 1, col. 7.

Alas, the Mariner Plan (as it was called) failed due to the monumental expense of such a project that would have been Pelham's own version of the "Big Dig". During the 1950s, the Thruway Authority built the New England Section through Pelham and across the grounds of the Pelham Country Club. This section of the Thruway opened to traffic in 1958, much to Mr. Mariner's chagrin.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

New Theory Regarding Identity of the Architect of the Pelham Picture House Built in 1921

For the last several years, a small army of people has been feverishly researching the history of The Pelham Picture House located at 175 Wolfs Lane in the Village of Pelham. The Pelham Picture House is believed to be the last single screen movie theater showing first run films in Westchester County. The theater opened in 1921 and still stands. To read more about The Pelham Picture House, see the November 9, 2005 posting to the Historic Pelham Blog entitled "The Historic Pelham Picture House at 175 Wolfs Lane in Pelham, New York".

So far, the identity of the architect who designed the fascinating building is unknown. However, recent investigation by Barbara Bartlett suggests one lead that a number of people are now investigating. In an email dated November 15, 2005, she has informed me that "Mary Huber, Bronxville Historian, says she remembers seeing something about Penrose Stout with a picture of the building leading her to remember that he was the architect." A photograph of Penrose Vass Stout appears immediately below.

Penrose V. Stout was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1887 and died in Boston, Massachusetts on October 24, 1934. He graduated from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn in 1909 with a B.S. in architecture. According to an obituary, his "early practice was in Pensacola, Florida and in New York City until the beginning of World War I". He achieved a notable record in the Air Service in France and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. According to the citation awarded him:

"While engaged in a solitary patrol of the enemy lines, Lieutenant Stout attacked an artillery regulating machine. He was almost immediately attacked by five enemy plans and subjected to infantry and anti-aircraft fire, but fearlessly continued the unequal fight until his machine guns were broken and he was shot through the should and lung."

See Penrose V. Stout, Architect, Dead, N.Y. Times, Oct. 26, 1934, p. 21. After the war Stout practiced architecture in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and New York, designing many homes in Westchester County, particularly Bronxville. Among his work on the National Register of Historic Places is:Green Pastures (added 2002 - Fauquier County, VA - #02000596) 2337 Zulla Rd., Middleburg (2361 acres, 13 buildings).

It is possible that at about the time The Pelham Picture House was built in 1921, Penrose Stout was working in New York for Harry Lindeberg. Lindeberg designed country estates for the wealthy.

Because Stout lived in Bronxville, New York for a few years and designed homes and other structures located in Bronxville, there is an excellent discussion of his life and career on the Village of Bronxville Web site. See Bronxville, Prominent Village Architects - Penrose Stout (visited Nov. 16, 2005).

Mary Huber of Bronxville reportedly recalls seeing at one time a photograph of Penrose Stout and The Pelham Picture House. Research indicates that there is a rare and difficult to locate book that collects information about the work of Penrose Stout. A citation appears immediately below:

A MONOGRAPH OF THE RECENT WORK OF PENROSE V. STOUT, ARCHITECT (New York: Privately Printed, 1928) (102 pp.).

I suspect that this book may include information about The Pelham Picture House and may even be the source of Ms. Huber's recollection that she has seen a photograph of Penrose Stout and The Pelham Picture House. Efforts are now underway by a number of people to locate a copy of the monograph.

For now, the best that can be said is that there is at least a possibility that Penrose Vass Stout was the architect of The Pelham Picture House. Hopefully the Historic Pelham Blog soon will include a posting confirming what is -- for now -- merely a theory.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Plaque Dedicated at the Historic Pelhamwood Clock Tower

The Village of Pelham honored the late Helen Leale Harper Jr. by dedicating a plaque in her memory on Saturday, November 5, 2005. A group led by Village Mayor Michael Clain unveiled the plaque at the base of the historic Pelhamwood Clock Tower on Harmon Place near the Pelham Train Station.

Postcard View of the Pelhamwood Clock
Tower in 1910.
The Pelhamwood Clock Tower was among the earliest structures -- though not the earliest -- built in the neighborhood known as Pelhamwood by Clifford B. Harmon & Co. The company took possession of the land on which it built the clock tower shortly before January 31, 1909. Although the precise date the company completed the clock tower is unknown, it had been built by 1910. Clifford B. Harmon & Co. built the tower and a number of gates marking the boundaries of Pelhamwood to attract buyers to the new subdivision near the Pelham train station.
For many years Helen Leal Harper Jr., a resident of Harmon Avenue near the clock tower, cared for the structure as an unpaid volunteer. She tended flowers and plants at the base of the tower and paid costs for upkeep of the tower out of her own pocket. She died in March of this year.
At 2:00 p.m. on November 5, a group gathered at the base of the tower to dedicate a plaque in Miss Harper's honor. Miss Harper's cousin, Virginia Brookins, attended the ceremony. The plaque reads: "IN MEMORY OF HELEN HARPER 'CLOCK TOWER KEEPER' ~ IN APPRECIATION FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE". Photographs of the plaque appear immediately below.
Photograph of Plaque on its Pedestal Taken
on November 13, 2005.
To read more about the ceremony, see Helen Harper Plaque Dedication at Clock Tower, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, No. 44, Nov. 11, 2005, p. 13, col. 2.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Historic Signs Mark Pelham's Border with New Rochelle

During the 1920s, the New Rochelle Art Association commissioned a series of signs constructed of iron and hand-painted by well-known artists including several who lived in and around New Rochelle. The City erected the signs on major roadways to mark its borders with the Village of Pelham Manor, the Village of Pelham, Mamaroneck and Scarsdale. Several of the signs have stood at Pelham's borders with New Rochelle for nearly 80 years. Today's Blog posting provides photographs of, and information about, three of the signs that mark New Rochelle's border with Pelham.


Sign by Frederick Dana Marsh Depicting Huguenot
Ship La Rochelle.
The ten signs commissioned by the New Rochelle Art Association are cut from sheets of iron and are hand painted. The sign above, by Frederick Dana Marsh, stands on Shore Road just north of its intersection with Pelhamdale Avenue.
Frederick Dana Marsh was born in Chicago in 1872. He was educated at the Chicago Art Institute and became known for murals and bold brush work typically focused on traditional topics. After completing his education at the Chicago Art Institute, he moved to Paris where he married Alice Randall who also had attended the institute. They lived in Montparnasse and had two sons.
After seven years in Paris, he and his family returned to the United States, settling in Nutley, New Jersey. He and his wife later had a third son.
Marsh was a successful commercial and commissioned artist. His clients included members of the Rockefeller family, E. H. Hutton and other noted socialites. During the 1920s, he suffered a series of losses. His parents, wife and youngest child died.
In 1928 he retired. He maintained homes in Woodstock, New York and in Ormond Beach, Florida. He remarried in 1930 to Mabel Van Alstyne. He died on December 20, 1961.

Sign by Clare A. Briggs Entitled "New Rochelle The Place
To Come When a Feller Needs a Friend"
The sign above, by Clare A. Briggs, represents one of the artist's many comic characters and uses a theme near and dear to the artist's heart: "When a Feller Needs a Friend". That phrase, based on his work as a comic artist, entered the lexicon of the early 20th century based on his popular boy-life comic series by the same name. The series was published in book form in 1914 and was adapted for a silent film in 1919. The sign stands on Colonial Avenue at the border between the Village of Pelham and the City of New Rochelle.
Clare A. Briggs was born in Reedsburg, Wisconsin on August 5, 1875. As a youngster, he moved with his family to Dixon, Illinois then to Lincoln, Nebraska.
Briggs attended the University of Nebraska and began his career as a sketch artist for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. During the Spanish-American War he created political cartoons for the St. Louis Chronicle, then moved to New York for a time where he worked for the World and the Evening Journal.
He returned to Lincoln, Nebraska at about the turn of the 20th Century and, on July 18, 1900, married Ruth Owen of Lincoln. The couple had three children, but were divorced in 1929.
Not long after his marriage, Briggs began work as a political cartoonist on the Chicago American and, later, the Chicago Tribune. In about 1914 he moved back to New York to work for the New York Tribune. He worked for that paper until his death. He died of pneumonia on January 3, 1930 after entering the hospital for an eye treatment.
Known as a prolific "graphic humorist", Briggs most popular series included "When a Feller Needs a Friend", among others.

"New Rochelle Rich in History" a Sign by
Norman Rockwell.
The sign above was created by world-famous illustrator Norman Percevel Rockwell. It stands near the intersection of Eastchester Road with Pelhamdale Avenue north of Chester Park not far from the Hutchinson River Parkway.
Norman Rockwell was born in New York City on February 3, 1894. He attended Mamaroneck High School but did not finish high school. He enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City and studied illustration under Thomas Fogarty.
Early in his career he illustrated children's books and became art editor for the magazine Boys' Life. As he honed his art, Rockwell began painting covers for the Saturday Evening Post. Eventually he created more than 320 covers for the magazine and became known for humorous scenes from the everday lives of average citizens.
He married Irene O'Connor in 1916, though the couple had no children. They divorced in 1930 and he remarried to Mary Rhoads Barstow in April 17, 1930. The couple had three periods.
Though Rockwell lived in New Rochelle for nearly two decades, he and his second wife moved to Paris for a time in 1932. Although they remained there for only a short time, the couple later moved to Arlington, Vermont where they had previously maintained a summer home.
The couple moved once again, in November 1953, to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It is then, some have said, that his career reached its artistic peak. Mary Barstow Rockwell died in 1959, however.
Norman Rockwell remarried on October 25, 1961 to Molly Pundersen, a retired schoolteacher. As the Saturday Evening Post began to experience financial problems, Rockwell continued painting, but did not work regularly for any publication.
In 1977, shortly before his death on November 8, 1978, U.S. President Gerald Ford awarded Rockwell the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Between 1911 and 1976 Rockwell created more than 2,000 paintings, illustrations and other such works of art.
According to a recent article prepared by Ken Valenti for The Journal News, an effort by Mickie Fosina (wife of former New Rochelle City Councilman Joseph Fosina) is underway to restore the signs. According to the article:
"In recent years, the signs have been maintained on occasion by a Salesian brother, Andrew LaCombe, an architect by trade and artist by hobby, who does the work when the city asks him for the favor.
Fosina says she hopes to raise $70,000 to restore and illuminate the signs. Already, her project has raised more than $12,000 in donations. New Rochelle City Manager Charles Strome III said city officials are considering including perhaps $30,000 or $35,000 for the project in the city's 2006 capital budget.
The work is expected to be done in the winter by New Rochelle resident Joe Lanza at his Port Chester shop, Sign Design. Any money left over when the signs are done would be given to the city for the maintenance of the signs Fosina said." Source: Valenti, Ken, Move Afoot To Spruce Up New Rochelle Signs, The Journal News, Sep. 20, 2005.

Friday, November 11, 2005

More on the History of Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park in Pelham Manor

Readers of the Historic Pelham Blog know that I recently have researched the history of the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park located on the Esplanade at Boston Post Road behind Huguenot Memorial Church. I have been doing research on the history of the park to assist The Junior League of Pelham, Inc. That organization is engaged in an effort to raise funds to restore the park. Recent postings on the topic include:

Wed., Oct. 19, 2005: Acquiring the Land for the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park in Pelham Manor.

Wed., Aug. 10, 2005: More on the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park: The Landscape Designer.

Wed., July 20, 2005: The Pelham Manor Village Board Decides To Dedicate Park as "Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park" on September 8, 1941.

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

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

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).

Recently I distilled my research into an article on the history of the park that appeared two weeks ago in The Pelham Weekly. Yesterday I received a letter, care of The Pelham Weekly, from Ms. Betty Jelstrup of Durham, NC. She is a former resident of Pelham who still reads the local Pelham newspaper. Her letter contained such important and interesting information about the structure that once stood on the site of Weihman Park that I am reproducing excerpts below.

"I am surely the last soul alive who lived at 4638 Boston Post Road, which you call the Reynolds mansion -- a title I had never heard of. My parents moved to Pelham in 1924 and lived in the apartments on the Esplanade in the former school for young ladies and later, after my birth, at 236 Cliff Avenue until my father died in 1930. Mother leased the house to save money and we lived in Pelhamdale Lodge and, when I was in 6th grade in Colonial School, took up residence on the Post Road next to Huguenot Church and the Esplanade. The mansion was owned by the bank and leased by a southern lady who was an interior decorator for wealthy New York clients, who cut it up into six or seven apartments rented to Pelham people who needed to down-size from larger homes, like the turreted mansion on the Esplanade or L. Ogden Thompsons, former President of the Pelham National Bank, who sold his large home on Witherbee and Monterey in an endeavor to reimburse the depositors whose money had vanished in the crash of 1929. Mrs. Thompson held on to a few treasures, which she sold off from time to time to raise money [including, for example] . . . a silver tea and coffee service with her initials . . . Your article mentioned Mrs. Geddes, a charming lady from Whitinsville, Mass. who had composed a song about a glade of cherry blossoms where four-leaf clovers grow -- a source of some income as it was often performed by young ladies called upon to entertain their parents' guests. Mr. and Mrs. Shepard Cabanne, from New Orleans, were other residents - she a sister of Mrs. Lodwick whose son Lyle was one of the young Pelham men killed in World War II. You also mentioned Mr. Tegeder - a German custodian who kept up the building and did the painting and decorating under Mrs. Macon's discerning eye.

Mr. Macon preferred hunting and fishing to working, but did grow specimen Dahlias in the garden, along with some vegetables. One of the treasures of the grounds was a glorious copper beech tree that towered over the house and with its smooth gray bark and evenly spaced branches was too tempting for climbing, and my mother would get agonized calls from other apartments that 'that child' was up in the tree again! I also remember the first hurricane that passed through Westchester. It followed several days of heavy rain, and we watched helplessly as several trees toppled over and blocked the driveway along the sid of Huguenot Church. I had never heard about the cause of the fire, but it certainly disrupted the lives of the residents who had shared not only their apartments, but a warm, friendly and caring spirit. Thank you for taking me back to the late 1930's. Betty Hess Jelstrup".

Source: Letter from Elizabeth Jelstrup to Blake Bell, undated but postmarked Nov. 5, 2005, p. 1 (original in author's files).

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