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.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Pelham Manor Residence of Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company

One of the nation's most famous financiers and industrialists of the 19th century once lived in the Village of Pelham Manor in a mansion that rivalled the finest palatial residences in the nation. His name was Martin J. Condon and, for thirty-eight years, he served as president of the American Snuff Company. Condon actually created two vast fortunes because, after creating his first fortune, he was adjudged a bankrupt in August 1912. Consequently, he lost his lovely residence in Pelham Manor. That massive home was razed during the Depression years. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little information about the Pelham Manor home of Martin J. Condon.

Immediately below is a detail from a map published in a local Atlas in 1908 showing the location of the Condon mansion on today's Boston Post Road at the Esplanade. The red arrow points to the mansion, with Boston Post Road running up the length of the detail on its far left.

At the height of his career, Martin J. Condon served not only as President of American Snuff, but also as a director of the Carnegie Trust Company. He made the mistake, however, of endorsing notes held by a bank that failed plunging him into the bankruptcy abyss. At the time, he owned a "country home" in Pelham Manor and a residence in Nashville, Tennessee. His property in Pelham Manor included about 5-1/2 acres on which sat a palatial Spanish Renaissance home designed by the architectural firm of Little & O'Connor.

In connection with Condon's bankruptcy, the home was put up for sale. An image of a real estate advertisement for the home published in 1912 appears immediately below.

The advertisement includes a great deal of information about the home. It states, in part, as follows:

"This unusually desirably [sic] estate of five and one-half acres in the choicest section of Pelham Manor is offered for sale at less than the original cost of the buildings. It is situated at the southwest corner of the Boston Turnpike and Esplanade, with a frontage of six hundred and fifty feet on the former and of three hundred and eighty-five feet on the latter.

The dwelling, Spanish Renaissance in design, was erected by George Mertz's Sons from plans of Little & O'Connor and has every modern convenience. The house is equipped throughout with an indirect hot water heater system and all bathroom fittings, electrical fixtures, etc. are the finest obtainable.

The first floor contains large living room 46 x 44, drawing room 33 x 21, billiard room 33 x 21, dining room 33 x 21, breakfast room 25 x 21, two dressing rooms with lavatories, kitchen, laundry, servants' sitting room, pantries and numerous closets.

On the second floor are four masters' bedrooms 25 x 21 and two masters' bedrooms each 24 x 14. Each bedroom has its own private bath and unusually spacious closets. There are also two large dressing rooms connecting with two of the larger bedrooms. The servants' rooms, eight in number with two baths, are in a separate wing on the same floor.

The furniture now in the main rooms of the first floor, most of which was especially designed for the house, as well as furniture for some of the masters' bedrooms, can be secured at a very moderate cost at the option of the purchaser.

There is a private chapel on the third floor with stained glass windows and decorations from designs by the Church Glass & Decorating Company.

Surrounding the southerly and easterly sides of the house are numerous porches and terraces. There is a stable, of the same general design as the house, containing four box stalls, accommocations for six automobiles, harness rooms, cleaning rooms, etc."

During his bankruptcy, Mr. Condon provided testimony regarding his assets including his home in Pelham Manor. One report of his testimony said: "Condon testified that he owned five and a half acres at Pelham, in which his equity was $220,000, his home property at Nashville, Tenn., in which he had a $15,000 equity, and an automobile, and that $91,000 was due him from a brokerage account with Moore & Schley." Receiver for Condon, N.Y. Times, May 4, 1911.

Martin J. Condon died of pneumonia in Memphis, Tennessee on February 24, 1940 at the age of 82. His obituary appeared in the February 25 issue of The New York Times. It noted:
"In August, 1912, Mr. Condon was adjudged a bankrupt in the United States District Court in New York. At that time his liabilities amounted to approximately $5,000,000 and virtually his only asset was a country home at Pelham Manor. Mr. Condon laid his financial difficulties to the endorsement of notes held by a bank that had failed. He predicted that he would make a financial comeback.

That his prediction was borne out could be determined no more strongly than in the report of the Securities and Exchange Commission in April, 1935, showing Mr. Condon to have been earning the previous year $65,000, one of the high salaries in this country. Still active head of the American Snuff Company at the time of his death, Mr. Condon went from New York to Memphis when the headquarters of the concern were transferred following dissolution of the American Tobacco Company by a Supreme Court decree."

Martin J. Condon, N.Y. Times, Feb. 25, 1940, p. 38.
Below is an early postcard view of the Condon residence showing it in about 1910.


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