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, 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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