Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, 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.


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