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, March 17, 2006

1854 Advertisement for the Sale of the Old Stone House at 463 First Avenue in Pelham

There is a lovely old stone house located at 463 First Avenue in the Village of Pelham. It was one of the earliest homes constructed in the hamlet known as Pelhamville in the early 1850s. The legend of that lovely Old Stone House is a tale of romance, robbery and riches.

A man named Alexander Diack built the home in the early 1850s. On October 15, 1855, a man named James Parrish purchased the home. As the story goes, James Parrish had a business in which he employed a truckman named Adams. Parrish and Adams supposedly began an express business “as a sideline”. The business did well. When James Parrish died, his wife supposedly received dividend payments from the business paid in gold.

Masked men reportedly robbed Mrs. Parrish. She began to hide the gold she received as dividends somewhere on the property. According to Lockwood Barr’s popular history of Pelham:

"it is said that a million dollars in gold is hidden in the house, or buried in the gardens. Search has been made of the house, and grounds excavated, but without result. However, underneath a hearthstone in the basement kitchen, a hundred small coins of early date were found by one of the owners – but no pot of gold."

Some say the ghost of Mrs. Parrish can be seen about the house, even in daylight, dressed in elegant clothes of the period, searching for misplaced gold. There is also a story that a well-known actor who is a descendant of Mrs. Parrish, Edward Everett Horton, once visited the home, heard the ghost stories and said that the descriptions of the apparition resembled a daguerreotype he had seen of one of his great grandmothers.

Research has revealed an early advertisement published in 1854 offering the home for sale before it was finished. An image of the advertisement appears immediately below, with a transcription of its text below the image to facilitate searching.

"STONE HOUSE FOR SALE AT PELHAMVILLE, 17 miles from the City. - The above house is 36 feet by 36 feet, first-story with basement and attic, two stories deep in the back with oval window to the garden; a good well of water The house is unfinished, and will be disposed of reasonable. Title good. Terms easy. Corner lot 100x200 feet Apply to ALEX DIACK, No 77 1/2 Broome-st., New York"

A photograph of the Old Stone House, taken in 2004, appears immediately below.

In his popular book on the history of Pelham published in 2004, Lockwood Barr provided a little of the history of the Old Stone House. He wrote, in part:

"The old Stone House at 463 First Avenue, corner 6th Street, North Pelham, has accumulated many myths and traditions. The lot now measures 100" x 100". Map 346 of Pelhamville, dated August 4, 1851, by Wm. Bryson, was sold September 8, 1851 to Alexander Diack, by Lewis C. Platt and Henry Marsden, promoters of a real estate development of 1l0 acres, taken over from the Wolf family. The district then, of course, was Pelhamville.

Alexander Diack was born in Dundee, Scotland, and he copied the house of one of his ancestors. Alexander Diack sold the place to James Diack, his brother, on February 16, 1855. James Parrish in New York bought the house, October 15, 1855, and his widow transferred the house to Wm. H. Sparks, in whose home she resided in her later days. After that it passed through many hands until 1920, when it was purchased by Frank Miles Snyder, an architect who had studied abroad. He had great interest and understanding in the old place, and restored it. His family reside there."

Source: Barr, Lockwood Anderson, 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 & Manour of Pelham Also The Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams pp. 135-36 (The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946). See also The Junior League of Pelham, Inc., A Glance at the Past: Pelham's Growth From 1775-1975 p. 12 (The Junior League of Pelham, Inc. Sept. 1976) (Illustration at p. 12; Pamphlet associated with accompanying map; 32 pp. including Map Bibliography, Manuscript Bibliography and illustrations by Hedy Klein); Village of Pelham, Village of Pelham Centennial Celebration Walking Tour 1896-1996, pp. 19-20 (1996) ("The Stone House Located at 463 First Avenue, this is sometimes referred to as the 'Parrish House'. Built in 1851 by Alex Diack, a native of Dundee, this house was modeled after a Scottish townhouse of one of his ancestors. Some of the windows in the building contain colored glass brought from England. The Parrish family occupied the house starting in 1855. James Parrish employed a truckman named Adams who began an express business as a sideline. It prospered so that when James died, his widow received dividends in the form of gold coin. At a later point, she was robbed. Thereafter, she hid the remaining gold coins for safekeeping, in various parts of the house. Unfortunately, she could not remember all of the hiding places and died before all the coins were recovered. Legend has it that she appears at various times, even in daylight, to search for her gold. Some Pelham residents report having seen her, in ancient finery, walking about the house. To date, searchers have found only a few small coins beneath the hearthstone of the basement kitchen. Veteran actor Edward Everett Horton, a descendant of Mrs. Parrish, on visiting the house, heard the stories of the 'ghost'. He reported that the description very much resembled a photo that he had seen of his great grandmother.").

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