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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another Account of Baseball Played in Pelham in the 1880s Is Uncovered

As I have written before on the Historic Pelham Blog, those who know me know that I have an abiding love for the sport of baseball and its history. Those who have followed my research regarding the history of Pelham also know that I have written about baseball in 19th century Pelham. For four such examples, see:

Thu., Oct. 6, 2005: Does This Photograph Show Members of the "Pelham Manor Junior Base Ball Team"?

Thu. Sep. 15, 2005: Newspaper Item Published in 1942 Sheds Light on Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Thu. Feb. 10, 2005: New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Baseball in Late 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 17, Apr. 23, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

Late Sunday night, while researching an entirely unrelated issue, I ran across another early account of baseball in 19th century Pelham. The account is significant for three reasons. First, it provides the last names of a few of the players on the "Giants" -- the name used by the baseball club of the "Country Club" located in Pelham in the 1880s. Second, it confirms long held suspicions that baseball "matches" in Pelham were accompanied by friendly betting among the spectators. Third, it confirms that such matches were gay social spectacles attended by spectators who lined the playing field with their carriages as suggested by the print below from the collections of the Library of Congress showing a baseball game in 1887.

The account, published in the July 4, 1886 issue of The New York Times, reads in part:

"Suburban gayety, which was at its height a fortnight ago, has gradually waned, and is about over until the early Autumn. The last notes as the first come from New-Rochelle and its vicinity, where the Country Club seems to be as potent as ever to provide entertainment and to keep gayety alive for its members and the people of the neighborhood. Yesterday afternoon a baseball match was played on the grounds of the club between the club’s famous nine, which lately defeated that of the Knickerbocker Club, and one from the Rockaway Hunt Club, at Cedarhurst, Long Island, the contest attracting hundreds of spectators, who surrounded the field and players with a line of carriages, making the scene a gay and attractive one. On the Rockaway nine there played Messrs. Tower, Hodges, Burrill, Cowdin, and the Messrs. La Montagne, and on the Country nine Messrs. Adee, Sands, Seton, Pyne, and others. Many members of the Knickerbocker Club were present to witness the game, and it is said that a considerable amount of money changed hands.”

Source: Society Topics of the Week, N.Y. Times, Jul. 4, 1886, p. 3.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Cleanup of Pelham Town Hall Basement Leads to Discoveries

The Town of Pelham is in the process of making some improvements to the basement of Town Hall located at 34 Fifth Avenue. Representatives of the Town asked The Office of The Historian to review materials that had been stored in the basement for decades since the material needs to be removed from the basement while the improvements are made.

I and Mimi Buckley spent most of the day on Saturday, January 28 moving, organizing, reviewing and sorting many, many boxes of dusty material as we determined what should be moved to the Historian's Office, what should be moved to a storage area that holds less frequently accessed Historian's Office materials, what should be sent to long term storage and what should be thrown away.

Since some of the records dated as far back as the 1870s, it should come as no surprise that during our review we located some interesting and significant items relating to the history of the Town. Today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting provides an image and a transcription of one such item -- a poster prepared as notice of a special election of the residents of the First Fire District of the Town of Pelham held on February 15, 1897. More of the materials will be highlighted in postings later this week.

Among the many materials located during our review of items from the basement of Town Hall were small containers containing hundreds and hundreds of "files" kept as papers stuffed into ordinary letter envelopes. Of course, the material stored in the envelopes was folded and packets of the envelopes were bundled by string. A large number of the records related to the fire units that served residents of the Villages of North Pelham, Pelham and Pelham Manor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Inside one of the envelopes was the folded poster that appears immediately below. The mere act of unfolding the poster was tedious and difficult given its age. It has been placed within mylar and stored in the steel flat files of The Office of The Town of Pelham. A transcription of the poster appears immediately below its image to facilitate searching.

Whereas, a Request of the Board of FIRE COMMISSIONERS,
Has been Presented to me, Requiring a
Special Election
Taxable -
of said District, Now, therefore, Notice is herby given that said Election
will be held at the
MONDAY, FEB'Y 15th, 1897
Between the Hours of 6 and 8 P. M., to Vote on the Following Appropriation,
$50 for Hose Rack to Dry Hose on.
$50 for Insurance Now Due.
$50 for Lighting Houses.
$50 for Bills Now Due.
$75 for General Running Expenses & Repairs
JAMES W. CAFFREY, Town Clerk, Pelham.
Press of the Mount Vernon Daily Argus"

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Lectures to Raise Money To Build the "Huguenot Memorial Forest Church" Building in Pelham Manor

On July 9, 1876 (the first Sunday after the Fourth of July that year), the Pelham Manor Church we know today as Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church opened the doors of its first church building for worship. The little wooden building was known for decades thereafter as the "Little Red Church". That first Sunday, The Rev. C.E. Lord, D.D. delivered the sermon. He spoke on “The Religious History of the Huguenots in America, and Reasons for the Erection of Huguenot Memorial Church”.

Raising money to build the Little Red Church was difficult given that the nation was in the throes of a financial depression that followed the Financial Panic of 1873. One of the ways that money was raised was through "lectures" during which money was solicited from attendees in support of the construction of what was called at the time the "Huguenot Memorial Forest Church". Such lectures were announced to congregations at churches in the region. Congregants were invited to attend.

One such example appears in a newspaper account of the services held by Plymouth Church on March 21, 1875. According to the account, during the service led by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher that day, Reverend Beecher announced "a lecture by Hon. David Dudley Field in aid of the Huguenot Memorial Forest Church, now building at Pelham". See Conscience And Its Auxiliaries - Sermon by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher Yesterday, N.Y. Times, Mar. 22, 1875, p. 2.

Only a few days later, an announcement for the same lecture appeared in The New York Times. It read:

"Hon. David Dudley Field will deliver his popular lecture, 'Voyaging Around the World,' to-morrow evening, in the Elm Place Congregational Church, near Fulton avenue [Brooklyn], in aid of the Huguenot Memorial Forest Church, at Pelham."

City and Suburban News . . . Brooklyn, N. Y. Times, Mar. 26, 1875, p. 12.

Such efforts played an important role in the construction of the Little Red Church. The littled wooden church building stood for nearly forty years at Four Corners in the Village of Pelham before it was replaced with the magnificent stone church building that remains today.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Notice of Sale at Auction of the Turnbull Farm in Pelham on March 23, 1820

Research in copies of the Westchester Herald published in 1820 has revealed a series of notices published in February and March of that year announcing the sale at auction of a large tract of land known as the Turnbull Farm. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting sets forth the text of the notice in its entirety.

State of New-York, ss.
David Lyon vs. William Crawford, junior, and Ann his wife, and George Crawford, junior, and Martha, his wife.

In pursuance of a decretal order of the Court of Chancery, made in the above cause, will be sold at public auction, on the mortgaged premises mentioned in the pleadings in this cause, and hereinafter particularly described, in the town of Pelham, and county of Westchester, on Thursday the twenty third day of March next, at twelve o'clock at noon of that day, under the direction and superintendance of the subscriber as one of the masters of this court, all that certain messuage, dwelling house, or tenement, and piece, parcel or tract of land situate, lying and being in the town of Pelham county of Westchester, and state of New-York, and known by the name of the Turnbull Farm, bounded as follows, to wit: beginning at a ditch, commonly called Ben's ditch, which divides the said Turnbull farm from land now or late owned by Augustine James Frederick Prevost, and from land belonging to John Hunter : thence running nearly an easterly course along the said land now or late of Augustine James Frederick Prevost, and the land now owned by John Hunter, as the line fence now stands, until it meets the land now or formerly of one William Bayley : thence by and with the land now or formerly of the said William Bayley, on a southerly course, until it strikes the land of Morris Oakley at the southeast corner of the said Turnbull farm ; thence by and with the land of the said Morris Oakley, as the line fence now stands, to the Great Eastchester Creek, thence northerly by and with the said creek to the aforesaid Ben's ditch, or place of beginning -- containing by estimation one hundred and five acres of land, be the same more or less, together with the buildings and appurtenances to the same belonging or in any wise appertaining ; saving and reserving, nevertheless, to one Mary Turnbull, whose husband in his life time was seized and possessed of the above mentioned and described premises, her right of dower of and in the same.

Dated New-York, Feb 5, 1820.
Master in Chancery."

Source: IN CHANCERY, Westchester Herald, Mar. 7, 1820, p. 4 (notice also appeared in the same publication on Feb. 15, Feb. 22, Feb. 29, Mar. 14 and Mar. 21, 1820).

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Pelham Manor Protective Club Flexed its Muscles in the 1886 Town Elections

As I noted yesterday, occasionally I have published to the Historic Pelham Blog information about the work of the Pelham Manor Protective Club first established in 1881 as a "Vigilance Committee" to oversee the health and welfare of Pelham Manor residents a decade before the incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. See:

Tue. January 24, 2006: 1890 Circular of The Pelham Manor Protective Club on Lamp Lighting

Wed. February 23, 2005: The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club from Dealer in Tarrytown, NY

Mon. January 23, 2006: The Beginnings of Organized Fire Fighting in Pelham Manor?

Today's posting discusses what may, in fact, be the catalyst that prompted residents of Pelham Manor to incorporate as a Village in 1891. That catalyst may have been the success of the Pelham Manor Protective Club in its successful efforts to influence the outcome of the 1886 town-wide elections held on March 30, 1886.

For years residents of Pelham Manor had been dissatisfied with town officials, many of whom lived on City Island which then was part of Pelham. They did not feel that their hamlet was getting the service or the attention it deserved from distant officials who lived on City Island.

During the 1880s, Pelham Manor residents grew increasingly unhappy with the fact that through their "Protective Club" they were providing night watchman services while the Town's constabulary force resided on City Island. In late 1885 and early 1886 the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club decided that it would enter town politics by attempting to get a slate of candidates sympathetic to the needs of Pelham Manor elected to town-wide positions. When the smoke cleared, the Club's efforts had been so successful that its members began to realize for the first time that they had developed an organization with potent political pull.

Immediately below is the text of the April 3, 1886 report of the Executive Committee's subcommittee on Town Politics regarding the March 30, 1886 election as entered in the minutes of the Pelham Manor Protective Club on May 7, 1886:

"To the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club:

Your committee on town politics have the honor to report as follows:

We have been actively engaged in the matters intrusted to us, and the results as shown in the Town Election held March 30th 1886, were such as demonstrate conclusively that our Protective Club exerts and can continue to exert great influence in determining the election of our town officers. We know to a certainty that 29 votes were cast for the candidates recommended by your committee. Of these 23 would naturally have been cast for Republican and 6 for Democratic candidates. We have reason to suppose that the recommendations of your committee were adopted in the ballots of others of whose votes we have no certain knowledge.

For Supervisor your committee recommended the election of the Republican candidate, Robert H. Scott. Mr. Scott rec’d 206 votes against 207 votes cast for the Democratic candidate, Mr. Pell.

For Justice of the Peace, Jerome Bell, Republican, your committee’s candidate was elected by a majority of two votes.

For Town Clerk, our candidate, Ethan W. Waterhouse, Republican, was elected by a majority of 57 votes. The nomination of Mr. Waterhouse by the Republicans was largely due to the work of your Committee.

For Collector of Taxes, our candidate, John S. Adema, Democrat, received a majority of 78 votes; and for Assessor, our candidate, James F. Horton, Democrat, was elected by a majority of ^ 66.

Your committee secured the placing of the names of Joseph English for Poundmaster, and James Burnet and James Donlon for Constables on both of the regular tickets, so that all these three officers were duly elected.

To sum up the results of the active participation of the Protective Club as a body in the town elections:

Our candidate for Supervisor was defeated by only one vote. Our candidates for Town Clerk, Justice of the Peace, Collector and Assessor were elected: and we have secured for Pelham Manor a Poundmaster and two Constables residing in our midst. Further than this, the influence of our Protective Club as a potent factor in town politics is now fully established.

The exertions of your committee to accomplish these results would have been fruitless but for the cordial and almost unanimous support given by the members of the Club to the recommendations of the committee We believe that every member of the club who went to the polls, voted for the committee’s candidates. Only four members of the club, so far as we are aware, who could have voted, remained away from the polls. Two members are ineligible.
Your committee have been aided and supported at every step by members of the club. Our thanks and the thanks of the club are especially due to Messrs Barnett, Taft & Black & Townsend, without whose wise counsels and personal exertions, your committee would have been unable to present this satisfactory report.


Wm Allen Smith

Pelham Manor. Apl 3, 1886."

Perhaps the most interesting part of the 1886 election was Democrat Sherman Pell's victory over Republican Robert H. Scott for the position of Town Supervisor. (Pell later absconded with Town funds and was never caught.) There were allegations of voter fraud in the election and that such fraud was responsible for Pell's victory.

Sherman Pell reportedly was popular in Pelham. People remarked that he carried the town “in his pocket”. See No Tidings Yet of Mr. Pell, N.Y. Times, May 28, 1893, p. 9. In 1885, Pell ran as a Democrat against Republican Robert H. Scott for Town Supervisor of Pelham. The election was a close one. Scott beat Pell by ten votes. See City and Suburban News – Westchester County, N.Y. Times, Apr. 2, 1885, p. 8.

The following year, Sherman Pell ran once again against Republican Robert H. Scott for Town Supervisor. The election was even closer than the previous one. On March 30, 1886, Sherman Pell won the election by a single vote, but not without the shadow of scandal.

Pell’s Republican opponent announced that he intended to contest the election “on the ground that 25 persons who voted for Mr. Pell were brought over from Hart’s Island, and that two-thirds of them were New-York paupers having no right to vote.” Westchester County, N.Y. Times, Apr. 3, 1886, p. 8.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

1890 Circular of The Pelham Manor Protective Club on Lamp Lighting

Readers may recall that occasionally I have published to the Historic Pelham Blog information about the work of the Pelham Manor Protective Club first established in 1881 as a "Vigilance Committee" to oversee the health and welfare of Pelham Manor residents a decade before the incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. See:

Wed. February 23, 2005: The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club from Dealer in Tarrytown, NY

Mon. January 23, 2006: The Beginnings of Organized Fire Fighting in Pelham Manor?

Among the many aspects of local life with which the Club became involved in the 1880s were efforts to light the area's streets with oil lamps. Research suggests that prior to 1885, a group of Pelham Manor residents initiated a voluntary system whereby about 20 local residents pooled modest amounts of money to purchase and place oil lamps on posts. The lamps were lit each evening and extinguished each morning by a lamp lighter. In 1885, the Pelham Manor Protective Club decided to hire a night watchman to patrol the streets of the area and considered whether to bring within its jurisdiction the lamp lighting system.

A subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Club concluded at that time that portions of the lamp-lit area benefitted residents who were not members of the Club. The subcommittee concluded that this would make it difficult to pay for such a service with Club funds and also that changes would have to be made to the Club's by-laws to permit such a move. The Executive Committee decided to "allow" the service to continue as it was, a system of cooperation among about 20 homeowners in the area.

By 1890, however, as more residents moved to the area and improvements such as the Manor Club had been built, the need to expand the lamp lighting service was perceived to be critical. The Pelham Manor Protective Club decided that it would be appropriate for it to administer and expand the program. Thus, on March 28, 1890, the Executive Committee of the Club issued a circular to Club members providing notice of a "general meeting" of the Club at which proposed amendments to the constitution of the Club would be considered to "bring the lamp and watchman service into the general service of the Club, where it properly belongs." The text of the circular appears immediately below:


It has been found impracticable to sustain the night patrol and street lamp service in Pelham Manor, upon the present basis, which is one of voluntary subscription, from about one half of those who receive the benefit of it.

The only alternative to abolishing the service seems to be to reconstruct it upon a new basis, and with this in view a geneal meeting of the Protective Club is called, to be held at the Manor House, on Monday, March 31st, 1890, at 8:30 P. M., to pass upon a proposed amendment to the constitution, which will bring the lamp and watchman service into the general service of the Club, where it properly belongs.

The proposed amendment will make the total Protective Club dues $2.00 per month, including lamps and watchman; besides which the Executive Committee will be authorized as at present, to levy extra assessments if required, not to exceed $9.00 in any one year. If all the residents of the Manor join the Club on this basis as they should, it is probable that the extra assessments will seldom or never be needed, as it is estimated that the regular dues will cover lamp and watchman, snow plow, arrest of tramps and all other duties now undertaken by the Protective Club.

All those who use the streets in the evening should be interested in having them lighted, and all those who have property either for their own use, or for sale or to rent will see the advantage of having the approaches to it through well lighted streets.

There are many defects in the distribution of existing lamps which cannot be remedied under the voluntary subscription plan, but which the Committee would hope to obviate with a new arrangement. As a whole however, our streets are believed to be as well if not better lighted than those of most small communities.

Whatever may be thought of the inefficiency of the night patrol it is a fact that many of the surrounding towns have been annoyed by tramps and sneak thieves to an extent that we have never been subject to, and the maintenance of a watchman has doubtless had a decided preventive effect upon these nuisances. Both the patrol and lamp service ought to be extended and improved, but this can be done only be general support, without which they must be discontinued.

All those to whom this circular is sent are invited to be present at the meeting on March 31st, and to express their views fully upon above questions.

Protective Club Members unable to be present, but who are in favor of the proposed amendments will please send, proxy to W. D. BAKER, Esq., Secretary, authorizing him to cast their votes. A two-thirds vote of all members is necessary to pass the amendments, so that any member failing to vote, either in person or by proxy, in effect votes against adoption.

Those who are not members and are unable to be present on the above date are requested to write to MR. BAKER before the meeting stating whether they will join the Club, the initiation fee of which is $3.00.

This question is of great importance to all residents of the Manor, and the adoption of the amendment and consequent improvement of the service depends largely upon general support. A full attendance at the meeting and a free discussion of the points involved is therefore earnestly desired.

By order of Executive Committee

W. D. BAKER, Secretary.

Pelham Manor, N. Y., March 28th, 1890."

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Monday, January 23, 2006

The Beginning of Organized Fire Fighting in Pelham Manor?

On January 19, 2006 I posted an item to the Historic Pelham Blog entitled "Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment". In it I described self-imposed "assessments" made on Village of Pelham Manor residents in 1890 to fund the purchase of fourteen dozen hand grenade extinguishers, fifty six racks for the extinguishers and a chemical engine (Chemical Engine No. 1) to fight fires in the area.

I have continued my research and have located even earlier organized firefighting efforts by residents of the area that became the Village of Pelham Manor in 1891. Today's Blog posting will detail a little of that research.

In the early 1880s, a group of local residents formed a “Citizen’s vigilante committee”. That committee, in turn, created an organization known as “The Pelham Manor Protective Club.” The Pelham Manor Protective Club was formally organized on December 15, 1881 – ten years before incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. Indeed, the Club might be viewed as a precursor to the organization of the Village because it was an important cooperative body created for the protection of the local citizenry.

Nearly the entire adult male population of the area – 52 local residents – subscribed as members of the Pelham Manor Protective Club. The list of subscribers reads like a “Who’s Who” of early Pelham, including such names as Robert C. Black, Robert Bolton, Benjamin Corlies, Henry W. Taft, Silas H. Witherbee and many others. The sole purpose of the Club was “to assist the public authorities in maintaining law and order within a radius of one mile from Pelham Manor Depot . . . and to prosecute all persons committing any crimes or misdemeanors within said district.” Given the importance of its work, the Protective Club was able to raise a substantial amount of money.

Upon “subscribing” to the Club, each new member was required to pay an entrance fee of three dollars and, thereafter, to pay “such dues, not exceeding fifty cents a month, as the Executive Committee shall determine.” In addition, the “Articles of Association of The Pelham Manor Protective Club” authorized the five-member Executive Committee “to levy assessments for any legitimate object of this club, provided that assessments levied by the executive committee on any one member in any one year shall not exceed in the aggregate the sum of NINE DOLLARS over and above the regular dues.”

Recently, Elizabeth G. Fuller, Librarian of The Westchester County Historical Society, discovered a very large leather-bound volume containing more than ten years' worth of handwritten meeting minutes and other records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club. I have been transcribing the ten years' worth of records contained in that volume. See Wed. February 23, 2005: The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club from Dealer in Tarrytown, NY.

This past weekend I reviewed my transcription of those records and located even earlier efforts by Pelham Manor residents to organize collective firefighting efforts. The idea seems first to have been explored by the Executive Committee of the organization on May 2, 1885. An entry that appears on page 101 of the volume states:

"It was moved and seconded, that a Committee of two be appointed to consider and report on the best means of providing security against fire in Pelham Manor. This motion was carried. The Chair appointed as members of this Committee Messrs. Black and Barnett."

About one month later, the Messrs. Black and Barnett made their report to the Executive Committee. They reported:

"The Committee on providing means for Protection against Fire reported that 50 feet of ¾” hose with a Pump-on-Wheels could be purchased for $25.00 @ $30.00 But the Committee recommended the purchase of the Harden Hand Grenades at price quoted to Mr. Barnett, viz $8.00 per dozen net, including wire racks; and stated that the agent of these grenades would be glad to give a public exhibition in Pelham Manor of the working of the grenades."

Records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club, p. 107.

The Executive Committee accepted the report and decided to purchase the grenades. The relevant entries that appear on the same page of the Journal, state:

"It was moved and seconded : That the Report of the Fire Committee be accepted with thanks. Carried.

It was moved and seconded : That the Executive Committee purchase 6 dozen of the Harden Hand Grenades at $8.00 per dozen, including racks and, an exhibition, and that the Treasurer and Mr. Barnett be appointed a Committee for making the said purchase. This was carried.

It was moved and seconded : That the Executive Committee purchase 6 dozen of the Harden Hand Grenades at $8.00 per dozen, including racks and, an exhibition, and that the Treasurer and Mr. Barnett be appointed a Committee for making the said purchase. This was carried."

This, for now, seems to be the earliest collective effort by Pelham Manor to organize firefighting capabilities for the benefit of local residents.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

The Fire Bell in the Tower of Pelham Manor Village Hall

The bell in Pelham Manor Village Hall tower was designed as a "toller". Set in a stationary mount, a bell hammer is mounted beneath and can be operated by a rope from the base of the tower.

The bell is engraved as follows:

"Van Gilder & Kirk
Buckeye Bell Works
Village of Pelham Manor"

Though today Pelham Manor residents catch their collective breath when they hear the Village fire horn, for many decades our predecessors cringed at the tolling of the Village Hall fire bell.

Below is a post card view of the new addition to Village Hall added in 1922. It clearly shows the bell tower and the bell within.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment

After a series of fires suffered by homes in the Prospect Hill section of the Town of Pelham (now part of the Village of Pelham Manor), residents of the area decided something had to be done. They began to organize a fire fighting organization in early 1890. Even though the Village of Pelham Manor had not yet been incorporated, owners of fifty of the fifty-three homes located in the area agreed to pay an "assessment" of $30 per home to fund the purchase of firefighting equipment, among other things.

Among the first equipment the collective acquired were fourteen dozen hand grenade extinguishers for $84 and fifty-six racks for the hand grenade extinguishers. Each homeowner who paid the assessment received a rack and three grenades.

Fire grenades typically were glass globes or bottles filled with a chemical fluid. When a fire broke out, the grenade was thrown at the base of the fire, breaking the globe and spreading the chemical fluid to extinguish the flames. An image of the widely-available "Harden Star Hand Grenade" appears immediately below.

Such "equipment" provided little hope of fire safety, however. As Henry E. Dey, one of the fire-fighting organizational leaders later noted, "A meeting was called, someone suggested the fire-grenades, so we bought them, but they offered only slim assurance".

To supplement such "slim assurance", the organizers acquired a "25-gallon chemical tank mounted on two wheels". According to a transcription of portions of the early records of the Pelham Manor Fire Department compiled by Warren P. Lyon, the group ordered the new piece of equipment, which cost $400, on April 18, 1890.

The sketch below depicts what was known as Pelham Manor's "Chemical Engine No. 1" in action. Pulled by hand to the scene of a fire, the equipment was part of the earliest organized effort to protect the lives and property of residents of the area that soon became the Village of Pelham Manor.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Newspaper Report of the Infamous Vaughan's Livery Stable Fire in North Pelham in 1907

In 1907, a man named Richard L. Vaughan operated a large livery stable on Wolfs Lane. He and his family lived with a housekeeper and a boarder above the stable.

At about 4:00 a.m. on February 5, 1907, a blinding snowstorm accompanied by a forty-five mile gale raged throughout Pelham. An acting police sergeant named Champion was at nearby Police Headquarters when he noticed a reflection on the snow that looked like fire. He ran outside and saw the stables ablaze. He broke open the front door yelling “fire”! He raced to a nearby apartment building known as “the Lyons flats” yelling “fire” and ringing doorbells.

In the apartment above the stables, liveryman Vaughan realized what was unfolding. He woke his wife and child and began pushing them toward the front staircase of the building. Before reaching the staircase, Mrs. Vaughan collapsed from the smoke. As liveryman Vaughan tried to save his wife, child, housekeeper and a boarder named Thomas McKay, he collided with an iron column in the hallway, rendering him partially unconscious.

The entire building was engulfed in flames. Nearby Lyons flats was next. For the first time in the Town’s history, it looked as though the entire business section of Pelham would be wiped out by fire. With the entire downtown at risk, fire fighters from Mount Vernon and New Rochelle joined the battle.

Inside the inferno, Richard Vaughan regained consciousness and searched for his family. As he stumbled about, he fell down the stairs to the first floor where firemen rescued him, though he was badly burned.

Seconds after rescuers carried Vaughan out of the building, the entire structure collapsed in a burning heap. Vaughan’s family, the boarder and the housekeeper perished in the blaze. Thirty horses died in the fire as well.

Ater the building collapsed, the fire was brought under control. The business district was saved. The cause of the fire was never determined.

Research has revealed an extensive account of the Vaughan Livery Stable Fire that appeared in the February 5, 1907 issue of The Daily Argus published in Mount Vernon. The account appears immediately below:


Mount Vernon Sends Four Fire Companies In Terrific Blizzard to the Scene

Vaughans Livery Stable Completely Destroyed --- Mrs. Vaughan, Her Two Year Old Son, Thomas Hickey [sic], A Stableman and a Colored Servant Lose Their Lives --- Three Bodies Had Been Recovered at Noon --- Thirty Horses Burned --- Property Loss Between $10,000 and $15,000


At the heighth [sic] of the terrific blizzard, between three and four o'clock this morning. North Pelham was visited by a holocaust which is without parallel in the history of the section and which, coming so suddenly on the disaster at White Plains, has brought sadness to the entire county. Four persons were burned to death by the destruction of Vaughan's well-known livery stable at North Pelham, several of the firemen were slightly injured, thirty horses were destroyed and the monetary loss impossible to figure accurately at noon today, is variously estimated at between $10,000 and $15,000.

Heartrending scenes were enacted at the conflagration. The grief and horror of Richard Vaughan, who in some miraculous manner made his way from the burning building, and the loss of his wife and son, aged two years, who were in the same room with him at the time the fire broke out, is beyond description. The accounts of the first scenes at the fire are somewhat confused but enough is known to show that the flames spread with such lightning like rapidity, that it seemed within a few minutes after Mr. Vaughan first detected the odor of smoke, the deadly blaze had wrought death and destruction . . . [illegible].

The forty-five mile an hour northwest gale that was prevailing at the time undoubtedly fanned the flames into the terrible fury that they presented. An alarm was turned in promptly and the Pelham department responded on the instant, it seemed. They made a gallant fight against the flames but the elements were so formidable that help from Mount Vernon was summoned and four companies from this city went to Pelham shortly after five o'clock to help their neighbors there.

Heroism such as is read of in books was enacted by the firemen of both towns. When the alarm was sounded in this city people who heard it thought from the reflection of the fire that encompassed almost the entire sky, that a conflagration was ensuing here and a number of citizens turned out. A central alarm had been sounded, however, to assemble the firemen and the four companies assigned by Chief Angevine, who was in command, started, despite the terrific cutting wind and snow, for the scene of the fire.

The harrowing incidents that took place at the conflagration have been related by the many people who rushed to the place from everywhere. Business and professional men hurried from their homes to lend aid. Individual acts of fortitude and suffering in the intense cold have been told of at least a hundred men, and it is probable that the full account and every detail will never be written.

Four persons lost their lives in the fire. They are:

MRS. NELLIE VAUGHAN, 28 years old.
RICHARD VAUGHAN, 2 years old.
THOMAS MICKEY, 35 years old, stableman.
Colored woman, a domestic, name not ascertained.

The bodies have been burned almost beyond recognition. Shortly after eleven o'clock, the body of the child was found. Only the skull of the stableman was found and the body of one woman had been found, but it is beyond recognition.

The origin of the fire is not known. One report was early today, that it had originated from an overheated stove in the office which is below the sleeping quarters, while another report is that this could not be so as there was no fire in the stove at the time. Probably the origin will not be definitely established until the coroner holds an investigation.

The fire was not gotten under control until after six o'clock and then the horror of the conflagration became fully understood. The Mount Vernon firemen worked splendidly at the fire in the Lyon building and Pelham residents heaped unstinted praise upon them for their efforts. Undoubtedly they saved the building from total loss.


The fire started, according to all accounts, between 3:30 and 4 o'clock. It originated in the little room on the ground floor used by Mr. Vaughn [sic] as a livery office. This office fronted on Wolf's Lane, and was about in the middle of the building. Directly over it were the sleeping rooms of the Vaughn family.

In these rooms the proprietor of the stables, Richard L. Vaughan, his wife, Mrs. Nellie Vaughan, and their two-year-old boy, Richard, Jr., were sleeping.

Vaughn was the first to discover that the place was on fire. In some miraculous way he reached the street, his hair and clothes on fire, but Mrs. Vaughn and the child were lost. By the time Vaughn had reached the street, the building was a mass of flames and when he realized that his wife and child were not yet out of the place, it was to [sic] late to go back after them. He became frantic and tried to reenter the place.

About the first person to see Vaughn after he got out was Gerry Walsh, who was responding to the alarm with the hose wagon of the Pelham department. Walsh came upon Vaughn in the street in front of the burning stables. Vaughn had on a pair of trousers and a shirt, and the hair was burned off one side of his face.

Vaughn, according to Walsh, was endeavoring to get into the building again. He afterwards disappeared and later Walsh met him again in the alleyway between the row of wooden tenements which adjoined the burning stables on the south and what was formerly Lyon Hall, a two-story wooden structure purchased by Vaughn and turned into an auxiliary stable.

Vaughn seemed half crazed when Walsh met him in this alleyway. He was muttering to himself and when he saw Walsh, the latter says he exclaimed, 'My God, Gerry, I believe my wife and child are in there,' pointing to the flame-swept building. Some of Vaughn's friends took charge of him, as he was almost beside himself with grief, and had him go to the home of his mother, Mrs. Agnes R. Vaughn, in Sparks avenue, near Wolf's Lane, Pelham Heights.

The stable was a large, two-story wooden structure, and once the fire secured a start, burned like tender. John Smith, who has a grocery store beneath the tenements to the south of the stables, was one of the first to discover the fire outside of Vaughn himself. He noticed it from the cracking of the glass windows in some of the stores, evidently about the same time as shortly before Vaughn discovered it. It had a good start then and was rapidly eating into the tenements which stood close to the stable.

The Pelham firemen were aroused by the ringing of the bell on the fire house on Fifth avenue, North Pelham, and Relief Hook and Ladder Company, followed shortly afterwards by the Hose Company, made all haste in getting to the scene of the blaze. Chief Walter G. Parker was in command, but before long found he was going to have difficulty in saving the tenement houses while it was useless to make any effort to save the stable as that was doomed from the first.

A telephone message was accordingly sent to Mount Vernon as quickly as possible asking for help. The message was received by Sergeant DeVeaugh at police headquarters in this city. The person telephoning informed DeVeaugh there was a big fire in Pelham, which threatened a whole block and asked for immediate assistance. 'Send us help as quickly as you can,' DeVeaugh heard, and then there came a break in the telephone line. The sergeant was unable to re-establish telephone communication, and it developed afterwards that a cable running outside the stables was burned at the moment DeVeaugh was receiving the message. This destroyed telephone communication between Mount Vernon and Pelham as the local operators could not get Pelham afterwards.

Sergeant DeVeaugh telephoned to Chief Angevine at the latter's home. The latter notified fire headquarters giving instructions that an alarm be sent in from box 37, a hundred feet north of the headquarters, as this was the quickest way of assembling the companies and instructing the men where to go. Clinton Hook and Ladder [illegible] Fire Patrol of Chemical Company No. 4 and independent Hose Company responded and made the trip to the village of Pelham, over snow filled roads in not more than ten minutes, a record breaking run. Independent Hose Company was sent home again by Chief Angevine, soon after its arrival.

When the Mount Vernon firemen reached the scene of the fire, the stable had already burned to the ground and it looked as if the tenements were also doomed. Through good work on the part of the Mount Vernon men, however, the greater part of the tenement building was saved, and only the end next to the stable was badly burned. The four families living in the tenement got out safely.

Thomas Mickey, the stableman, who slept in the rear on the second floor, was never seen or heard from after the fire started, and nothing was known about him until his body was found this morning.

Two bodies were recovered this morning from the smoking ruins, one of which is supposed to be that of a woman. The other is that of a man. The first body, that of the woman, was discovered about twenty minutes after 6 o'clock, by a crowd of men, who were working around in the ruins near the rear of the stables. Members of Relief Hook and Ladder Company recovered the body.

The body was lying among the remains of several dead horses and [illegible] was no hope of recognizing it. Practically all the skin was burned off the head, leaving only the whitened skull. About an hour later, Gardner Minard, a member of Relief Hook and Ladder Company, found another body, by stumbling over it not more than ten feet from where the first was discovered. This body was lying between two horses and was also burned to such an extent as to me [sic] unrecognizable. It was carried out and laid beside the other behind the work and covered with blankets.

Up to the middle of the morning, no trace had been found of the child or of its mother, as the front portion of the ruins where the fire started were hot for a long while, and no attempt at searching could be made.

The Pelham firemen and many of the spectators were loud in their praises today of the Mount Vernon department which responded to their appeal for help and made a marvelously quick run through drifted snow was at times over the hubs of the wheels of the apparatus. The Mount Vernon firemen left here at 5:30 o'clock, and some of the apparatus got back about 3 o'clock.

The tender of Engine No. 3 was stalled in Third street near Fourth avenue on the way back, in a deep drift and required a considerable amount of work to get it out. The work of the [illegible] department was responsible for the saving of the tenement house, and the Pelham firefighters today are giving the Mount Vernon department all the credit due it, without reserve.

Chief Barker of the Pelham department, said, at noon, that as soon as an investigation could be made, he might have something to say as to the cause of the blaze, but until then could advance no theory as to its origin. The stable was owned by Mrs. Louise Lyon and was valued at $4,000 or $5,000, without insurance.

Close to the barn stood a two-story modern building, the property of Antonio Orlando. It is located to the south. The flames communicated quickly to this building which housed several facilities and stores, and outside was burning fiercely when John Smith was aroused.

As he opened his eyes, he saw tongues of fire leaping across the front of this building. Half awake he grabbed his wife, threw his overcoat over her and carried her down the stairs. At the same time he grabbed a trunk and pulled it down after him. No sooner had he left the building than the flames had reached his apartments and they were burning.

The fire had been underway only a short time when the other occupants of the flats were aroused from their sleep and left the house as quickly as possible. Mr. and Mrs. Pinney and three children occupied the flats next to those in which Mr. Smith lived. They had only time to escape from the burning building in their night clothes. They were aroused by the shouts of fire. Mr. Pinney and his wife jumped out of bed and rushed for the children. The flames were roaring in the rooms right next to them. Realizing that a moment's delay would mean death to them, they grabbed hold of their three children, Gertrude, Charles and Ray and ran out into the street. They were hurried over the snow to the residence of Col. DeStyak.

The other occupants of the house were Mr. and Mrs. E. Paustaine and Mr. and Mrs. Gustave Lunquist. Mr. Lunquist lived in the extreme West end of the building. Mrs. Lunquist stood outside on the snow in the cold wind thinly clad in her bare feet.

As soon as the firemen arrived they directed their efforts on the apartment house. The flames were burning out from the roof and windows of the north wing when the Mount Vernon firemen arrived. Great tongues of flames leaped skyward and lit up the surrounding districts so that it was as light as day. The fire ate its way about half way through the apartment house when it was brought under control.

Outside of Mr. Vaughn and those who had horses and vehicles in the livery stable, the heaviest losers were John Smith and Charles A. Pinney. As before stated, Mr. Smith had a large grocery store which occupied a part of the north section of this block. His living apartments were directly over the store. He said this morning that he lost everything, both in the store and in his home. He was unable to estimate his loss. It will however figure up into the thousands. He is partially insured.

Mr. Pinney who lived next door also lost everything. What was not destroyed by the flames was finished by the water. He lost all of his furniture and all of the clothing belonging to his family. He also had a valuable library of about a thousand volumes which he prized very much. He thinks that a thousand dollars will cover his loss with no insurance. 'While our loss is heavy' Mrs. Pinney said, 'we have our children.'

E. Paustain who owned a butcher shop on the first floor directly underneath his own home and that of Mr. Pinney says that he thinks that his [illegible] although it is badly damaged by water. The flames did not reach very far into his home. He places his loss at about $500 with no insurance. Mr. Paustian [sic] was able to rescue his wife's mother who is a cripple.

Directly beneath the Lundquist flats are located the headquarters of the Pelham Police department and the real estate office of Jules Nelson. The damage that was done there was caused by water.

The building is the property of Antonio [illegible]. The principal loss is confined within the northern half of the building which is badly burned.

Mr. and Mrs. John Stofeney had a narrow escape from being burned to death. He is one of the workmen employed by Mr. Vaughn and occupied rooms in the left of the barn. He said this morning that he escaped from the burning building by rushing to the rear of the loft and jumping out of a window.

There are a number of contradictory stories as to how Mrs. Vaughan lost her life. One story as told by Mr. Vaughn himself to a friend is that he did not get through work until 1 o'clock this morning and he accordingly did not take off his clothing. He laid down on the bed a while and had been asleep but a short time when his wife aroused him and told him that there must be a fire somewhere. He jumped up and ran downstairs. When he reached the first floor he found it ablaze and rushed back upstairs and took hold of his wife and child and led them to the rear of the building with the intention of dropping them out of the window. The barn was rapidly filliing with smoke and he could not see very well. On the way he lost his wife. He ran back and came across a woman whom he supposed was his sife. He picked this woman up and running to the rear of the building dropped her out of the window. He said that this woman was a Mrs. Stofany. How he lost his wife he cannot tell.

Another story is that Vaughn was leading his wife down the stairs to the street when he struck his head against a post. He then lost his wife and she ran to the rear of the building. She was never seen again.

It is said that Thomas Mickey lost his life in an attempt to save the horses. He had already reached the street and went back into the barn to get some of the horses. He was caught in the flames.

Mr. Vaughn said that he had in the barn some twenty-eight horses and many valuable carriages and vehicles. They [sic] were also valuable carriages and horses belonging to President Jacques of the Village of Pelham. John Butler, Ex-president Albert R. Searles, W. F. C. Tichborne and Mrs. Alexander Church Ward. Mrs. Ward had furniture stored in the barn which was insured for $2,500. Mr. Tichborne lost a 'roustabout' which he valued at $2,500. Mr. Vaughn said that the property of the barn was valued at about $15,000, and there was an insurance on the property estimated at $7,000. Five horses belonging to him and several vehicles were saved.

One man was injured in the person of Joseph Ciarecover, who was standing on a ladder which was leaning against the block when he slipped and fell to the ground a distance of some twenty feet. He was assisted to his home on the corner of Fourth avenue and Fourth street.

The body of the child was found burned to a crisp in the rear of the barn lying among the horses shortly before noon. The three bodes were brought to the morgue of Durr Davis & Son in Mount Vernon.

The ruins of the barn were smoldering this morning and one stream of water was directed by the firemen of North Pelham. The fire broke out afresh in the store of John Smith at about 10:50, but was quickly extinguished. Details of firemen were about the ruins all day to keep watch lest the fire should break out afresh, and a search was [illegible] body."

Source: Four Burned To Death At North Pelham, The Daily Argus, Feb. 5, 1907, pp. 1, 4.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

John Pugsley, An Early Owner of Appleby's Island Later Known as Hunter's Island

Research in colonial-era newspapers has, once again, revealed an interesting tidbit that seems to shed light on long forgotten facts regarding Pelham and surrounding areas. An advertisement for sale of lands at "public Vendue" (a public auction) appeared in New-York newspapers in 1770 and 1771. The advertisement is for lands located on "Applebe's-Island" and Pell's Neck. The reference to Applebe's Island, also known as Appleby's Island, is a reference to what later came to be known as Hunter's Island, now part of the Orchard Beach complex in Pelham Bay Park. The advertisement indicates that before his death, a man named John Pugsley owned the island.

Lockwood Barr traced the ownership of the island in his popular history of Pelham published in 1946. Although he noted that early ownership records could not be found, he attempted to trace ownership of the tract but made no reference to John Pugsley. The following advertisement, therefore, may be significant. Thus, I am reproducing it in its entirety.

"To be sold at public VENDUE, on Wednesday the 14th of March next, or at private Sale any Time before, on the Premises, at the Manor of Pelham ;

THE Farm whereon John Pugsley, deceased, lately lived, in the Manor of Pelham, in Westchester County, containing a certain Island called Applebe's-Island, containing 200 Acres on said Island, and 20 Acres on Pell's Neck, (so called) adjoining their Causeway leading to said Island ; which Land is well watered, and about 60 Acres of excellent good Timber Land adjoining the Sound, with two good Dwelling-Houses, two Barns, Cyder-Mill, Mill-House, and sundry other Out Houses, with a good Orchard and Meadows, and other Improvements ; there is plenty of fowling and fishing, oystering and claming, and sundry other Conveniences ; and lies within 22 Miles of the City of New-York. And also one other Tract, lying in the Borough Town of Westchester, on a Neck, called and known by the Name of Cow Neck, containing 200 Acres of Up-land, and Salt Meadow, well wooded and watered, and convenient for the Sheep Pasture; fit for a Gentleman's Seat, as there is the best fowling, fishing and oystering, and twenty Rights of undivided Lands of the Borough Town of Westchester. The Vendue to begin at 10 o'Clock of said Day, and to continue daily till all is sold. And a good Title will be given by us,



Source: The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Feb. 26, 1770, p. 3. (The same advertisement also appeared in the March 5, 1770 issue of the same newspaper.)

It appears that the all lands but the island were sold at the public auction. More than a year later on March 25, 1771, the same newspaper carried the following advertisement:

"To be sold at publick vendue, on the premises, on Tuesday the 16th day of April next, or at private sale any time before ;

THE Farm of the late John Pugsly, deceased, containing about 240 acres of good upland and salt meadow, 60 or 70 acres is good timber-land, 220 acres is an island known by the name of Appleby's-Island, and joined to the Manor of Pelham, by a causeway, on which Manor is the other 20 acres; There is on the farm, two good dwelling-houses, two barns, a mill-house, and other out-houses, three very fine gardens and an orchard, containing about 200 fruit trees, with a good well and excellent springs, and streams of water ; the whole lies on the Sound, about 21 miles from New-York, where is good fishing, fowling, and claming, and would be very suitable for a Gentleman or Farmer. A good title will be given by



Source: The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Mar. 25, 1771, p. 3. (The same advertisement appeared in the same newspaper on April 8, 1771.)

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Thomas Pell Offers Land for Sale in the Manor of Pelham in 1784

In 1784 Thomas Pell (a descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham) began trying to sell approximately 300 acres of his land adjoining Rodman's Neck in the Manor of Pelham. He placed an advertisement that appeared in The New York Packet and the American Advertiser on July 8, July 15 and July 19, 1784. The advertisement read as follows:


AN excellent NECK of LAND, lying in the Manor of Pelham, adjoining Rodman's Neck, in the county of Westchester, containing about 300 acres, a large quantity of timber and considerable salt meadow, the soil is exceeding rich, and the whole, with little expence, may be made good mowing ground ; it is advantageously and beautifully situated, having Eastchester Bay on the one side and the Sound on the other, so that a vessel may load on either ; well calculated for a gentleman retiring from business ; It is furnished with plenty of shell and other fish, most seasons of the year. Any person inclining to purchase will be pleased to apply to the subscriber, living on the aforesaid Manor, who will give an indisputable title for the same.
1 96 3 THOMAS PELL."

Pell seems to have later revised the advertisement a little to include references to "a good dwelling house, orchard and well of good water, and several springs of excellent water". The revised version of the advertisement appeared in The New York Packet and the American Advertiser on September 6, September 13, October 4 and October 18, 1784. The revised advertisement read as follows:


AN excellent NECK of LAND, lying in the Manor of Pelham, adjoining Rodman's Neck, in the county of Westchester, about twenty three miles, from New-York, containing about 300 acres, on which is a good dwelling house, orchard and well of good water, and several springs of excellent water, a large quantity of timber and considerable salt meadow, which runs round the whole farm, the soil is exceeding rich, and the whole, with a little expence, may be made good mowing ground ; it is advantageously and beautifully situated, having Eastchester Bay on the one side and the Sound on the other, so that a vessel may load on either ; well calculated for a gentleman retiring from business ; It is furnished with plenty of shell and other fish, most seasons of the year. Any person inclining to purchase will be pleased to apply to the subscriber, living on the aforesaid Manor, who will give an indisputable title for the same.
1 17 6 w. THOMAS PELL."

Below is a detail from a map of the area published in 1868. On it I have added a red arrow to indicate where I believe the land described in the advertisement was located.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Detail of Pelham From Rare Map Published in 1851

There is an exceedingly rare map of Westchester County that shows a detailed view of Pelham and surrounding areas that was published in 1851. The citation for the map is: Sidney & Neff, Map of Westchester County N.Y. from Actual Surveys by Sidney & Neff (White Plains, NY: Newell S. Brown 1851). A detail from the map showing the Pelham area appears immediately below.

An interesting feature of the map is that it clearly shows the old Split Rock Road extending from today's Shore Road to today's Boston Post Road. There is shown, near the northern end of Split Rock Road, the little school house that served the area.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Beer Battle of 1933

In about 1910, Westchester Brewery constructed and opened a brewery on Sparks Avenue in the Village of Pelham. At the time, the brewery was on the outskirts of an undeveloped village with part of its five-acre premises, according to one account, located in the City of Mount Vernon. From 1910 until the fall of 1918, the brewery manufactured ice for commercial uses and brewed beer.

As the Prohibition movement gained momentum and ratification of the eighteenth amendment to the United States Constitution seemed likely, the brewery sold its facilities to the Knickerbocker Ice Company. For a number of years the Knickerbocker Ice Company used the facilities for the manufacture of ice.

In 1921, the Village of Pelham adopted its first zoning ordinance. The area west of Wolfs Lane was designated as an area available for development. Only three years later, however, a Zoning Commission appointed by the Village recommended changes to the zoning ordinance that restricted much of the area west of Wolfs Lane to residential uses (although uses then existing were permitted to continue).

Eventually, the Knickerbocker Ice Company ended its operations at the site. The facility sat unused for some time.

In 1933, however, as it became increasingly apparent that the end of Prohibition was near, The Metropolis Brewing Company leased the facilities in preparation for the full operation of the plant to manufacture so-called "3.2 beer".

The great beer battle had begun. Metropolis argued, in effect, that operation of a brewery was an "existing use" and, thus, was permitted under the Village's zoning ordinances. The Village argued that such a use had been "abandoned" and, thus, was no longer a permitted use. Litigation ensued.

Eventually, the Village prevailed and Metropolis reportedly leased a facility in Brooklyn to brew its beer.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

1931 Artist's Rendering of the Planned Store Complex at Four Corners on Boston Post Road

There is a tudor revival style commercial complex that stands at Four Corners in Pelham. (Four Corners is the local designation for the intersection of Pelhamdale Avenue and Boston Post Road in the Village of Pelham Manor.) Though many Pelham residents visit the stores in the complex all the time, few know much about the little complex.

The image below, from the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham, is an artist's rendering of plans for the complex submitted to the Village of Pelham Manor in connection with zoning hearings held in 1931. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little background on these hearings.

In 1931, Pelham residents Arthur W. Cole and Bradley Randall proposed to build the store complex on the southeast corner of the intersection of Boston Post Road and Pelhamdale Avenue. Though today we know that intersection as "Four Corners", for more than sixty years it was known as "Red Church Corner" because of the Little Red Church built by the congregation of Huguenot Memorial Church that once stood on the southwest corner of the intersection where today's Huguenot Memorial Church stands.

There were several preexisting structures on and near the site at the time including small real estate offices, a gasoline station and the old Red Church building that had been moved from its original location and transformed into a store and apartment complex. Messrs. Cole and Randall could not build the proposed store complex without a zoning change for the site. In 1931, the Village of Pelham Manor's zoning restrictions called for apartment house construction of "not less than four stories" on the site.

The history of the apartment zoning for the site is somewhat odd. For years, zoning along Boston Post Road east of Pelhamdale Avenue had been a sore point. According to one report, "[p]roperty owners themselves set the restriction at four story construction" in an effort to avoid hodge-podge development of the real estate along Boston Post Road in this area.

Pelham Manor Mayor Lawrence P. Sherman announced in 1931 that the Village Board would not rezone the site in the absence of consent from each of the property owners that previously had agreed to the four story construction restriction. Messrs. Cole and Randall worked hard to obtain those consents and the Village rezoned the site to allow for construction of the complex. One report at the time noted proudly that:

"Plans for the new building, as outlined by Mr. Randall, will greatly enhance the beauty of the historic Red Church Corner. Setbacks have been arranged to provide parking space in front of the building. The plan also includes the remodeling of the old red church building to conform with the Tudor architecture of the new building. Mr. Randall has announced that several of the stores and offices are already contracted for."

Source: Application For Zone Change In Manor To Be Reviewed at Public Hearing, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 5, 1931, p. 1, col. 5.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mrs. Aaron Burr Describes Roads in Pelham in 1791

The record of the Manor of Pelham in the decade after the close of the Revolutionary War is somewhat scant. Yet, pieces of it may be found in hundreds and hundreds of different sources waiting to be assembled not unlike a child's jigsaw puzzle. One such source is the collection of letters exchanged between Theodosia Prevost Burr and her infamous husband Aaron Burr. Theodosia Prevost Burr owned a home that once stood in Pelham named the Shrubbery. Although the home burned in the 19th century, a photograph remains. That image appears immediately below.

In a letter to her husband dated July 23, 1791, Mrs. Burr made brief reference to the terrible condition of the roads in and around Pelham at the time. There were, at that time, only a few extant roads in the area so her account likely describes either the old Boston Post Road (today's Colonial Avenue), the road that today we call "Split Rock Road" (although a portion no longer exists because it is beneath I95 and within the Split Rock Golf Course) and, perhaps, the roadway we know today as Shore Road. Mrs. Burr's letter, written from Pelham on July 23, 1791, states in part:

"As you gave me leave to dispose of the old wheels as I pleased, I gave them as my part towards a wagon; we have a good plain Dutch wagon that I prefer to a carriage when at Pelham, as the exercise is much better. We ride in numbers and are well jolted, and without dread. Tis the most powerful exercise I know. No spring seats, but, like so many pigs, we bundled together on straw. Four miles are equal to twenty. It is really an acquisition."

Source: Pidgin, Charles Felton, Theodosia - The First Gentlewoman Of Her Time - The Story of Her Life, and a History of Persons and Events Connected Therewith, p. 159 (Boston, MA: The C. M. Clark Publishing Co. 1907).

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Monday, January 09, 2006

The First Prospect Hill School in Pelham Manor

Today's beautiful Prospect Hill Elementary School building located between Washington and Clay Avenues near Hudson Street was dedicated in October 1930. The building is the third school building to serve children of Prospect Hill and surrounding neighborhoods. Today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting will provide a little information about the second such building -- the immediate predecessor building that today's school building replaced.

The Jackson Avenue School, frequently referenced as the "First Prospect Hill School," was a two story building of stone and red brick that stood near the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Plymouth Street.  The building stood approximately where the homes at 212-220 Jackson Avenue stand today, not far from today's Prospect Hill School.

Pelham voters authorized a $4,000 bond issue to fund construction of the new school building on October 14, 1879. The building had been erected by the time G. W. Bromley and Co. published a map of the area in 1881. A detail from that map showing the school appears immediately below.

Detail from 1881 Map with Arrow Pointing to Jackson Avenue School.

This school served Pelham schoolchildren for nearly forty years. After construction of the Siwanoy facility, the Jackson Avenue School was closed and stood abandoned although occasionally used for storage.  In 1917, the school building burned in a fire thought to be arson.  Only the exterior brick walls remained standing after the fire.  

By the 1920s, the population of the Village of Pelham Manor had grown so substantially that a larger school building was necessary.  This time, however, $4,000 would not do the job. Pelham voters approved a $398,000 bond issue to fund construction of the lovely school building known today as Prospect Hill School.

Detail from 1899 Map by John Fairchild Showing Jackson Avenue School.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pelham Loses its Right To Use the Town Dock in the Early 1900s

In 1871, Elbert J. Roosevelt owned lands in the Manor of Pelham on the shore of Long Island Sound near and south of today's Shore Park. That year he conveyed to the Town of Pelham a right of way over his lands extending from Shore Road to the Sound in exchange for an agreement by the Town to build a dock at the end of the right of way for use of the Town of Pelham. Elbert J. Roosevelt died in 1885.

The Town of Pelham built the dock. The people of the Town used the dock for years. Immediately below is an image (admittedly of rather poor quality) from a map of the area published in 1889 noting the location of the dock. Travers Island is visible just north of the dock.

By 1902, the dock was in a terrible state of disrepair. It even lacked flooring boards and supporting stringers across the decrepit piers driven into the land beneath the waters of the Long Island Sound. According to one account, no use of the dock had been made for many years "except that men and boys occasionally 'fished from the dock and went in swimming'".

In September, 1902, persons including Augustus V. H. Ellis purchased the land that included the right of way to what was left of the dock. The new owners claimed that the Town had breached a condition in the grant of the right of way to the dock by failing to maintain it. They commenced a lawsuit to clear title to the land. Ultimately, New York courts agreed with their claim. The Town of Pelham lost its right to use what was left of the dock for access to Long Island Sound.

To read one of the number of reported opinions issued by courts in the case, see Ellis, et al. v. Town of Pelham, 94 106 A.D. 145, 94 N.Y. Supp. 103 (App. Div. 2d Dep't 1905).

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Organizational Plans for North Pelham's Victory Gardens in 1943

Previously I have published to the Historic Pelham Blog brief articles describing efforts by patriotic residents of the Town of Pelham to create, tend and harvest Victory Gardens designed to make the town as self-supporting as possible during the early years of World War II. To read those articles, see:

Mon. Nov. 7, 2005: World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham

Thu. Nov. 10, 2005: More About World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog will provide additional information about the Victory Garden program and the volunteers who administered it.

The Village of North Pelham (which merged with the Heights in the 1970s to form today's Village of Pelham) formed meticulous plans in the early part of 1943 to organize its efforts to support Victory Gardens in the little village. Those planning efforts were coordinated by William B. Shaw who served as Chairman of the Victory Gardens Committee in 1943. Ken G. Hancher led efforts to develop Victory Gardens in the Village of North Pelham that year. Organizers divided the Village of North Pelham into five zones and installed a coordinator in charge of each of the zones.

District 1 was the Chester Park area. Kneeland S. Durham coordinated efforts in this zone. He developed a community plot on vacant land north of Pine avenue.

District 2 extended from Chester Park to Fourth Street. Fred P. Schall coordinated efforts in this zone. Plans were made to approach the Parkway Commission for permission to cultivate the "strip of land bordering the parkway just north of Fourth street bridge".

Philip Godfrey coordinated Victory Garden efforts in District 3. According to a published account, for many years Godfrey "raised crops on Fourth avenue and Second street that were the envey of all who saw them or were lucky enough to obtain produce from the lot."

District 4 extended from Fourth street north to the border with New Rochelle and was bounded on the east by Fifth Avenue. J. Knettles who lived on Park Place coordinated this zone. He was selected for the role because he held an agricultural degree.

District 5 covered the neighborhood of Pelhamwood. A. R. Dummett of Harmon Avenue coordinated efforts in this district.

Source: Dr. Hancher Is Head of North Pelham Gardens, Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 48, Mar. 5, 1943, p. 10, col. 7.

The Victory Gardens program in Pelham during World War II was exceptionally successful. Careful organizational planning such as the efforts detailed above were an important factor in that success.

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