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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Horace Crosby, the Civil Engineer Who Laid Out the Chestnut Grove Division for the Pelham Manor & Hueguenot Heights Association in the 1870s

The Pelham Manor & Huguenot Heights Association retained a Civil Engineer who practiced in New Rochelle to survey and lay out an early portion of the project known as the Chestnut Grove Division. His name was Horace Crosby. He prepared a “Map of the Chestnut Grove Division as Subdivided Into Two Hundred and Twenty Five Plots of Lands of the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association. Pelham. Westchester Co. N.Y. Surveyed by Horace Crosby CE. New Rochelle, N.Y. 1874” that was filed in the Register’s Office of Westchester County on July 1, 1875 (available from Westchester County Archives, Elmsford, NY).

This map depicted the Chestnut Grove Division extending from the branch line railroad tracks to today’s Boston Post Road. It included lots on the southeast side of Boston Post Road and on both sides of the following streets subsequently built by the Association: Highland Avenue, Prospect Avenue, Edgewood Avenue, Esplanade and Pelhamdale Avenue.

Horace Crosby was a notable local resident who later became known as the “Father of New Rochelle’s Public Library”. Born in Atkinson, Maine, he became a civil engineer and “laid out many of the exclusive sections of New Rochelle and all of Pelham Manor”, according to his obituary. See Horace Crosby Dies – “Father of New Rochelle’s Public Library” Was 76, N.Y. Times, Jul. 25, 1914, p. 7. He served as President of the Board of Education of New Rochelle and President of the local Public Library Board. He served as City Engineer of New Rochelle for many years. Id.

Horace Crosby and his family suffered a number of tragedies. Their eldest son, Norman Crosby, fought and survived the military campaign in Cuba only to return and die of typhoid fever in St. Luke’s Hospital, NY without ever reaching home. See New Rochelle Now A Mourning City, N.Y. Times, Jan. 9, 1902, p. 1. Later the family suffered another tragedy during the infamous Park Avenue tunnel train accident on January 8, 1902. Their son, Henry, died in that accident when a local train rear-ended an express train in the tunnel beneath Park Avenue killing 15 and injuring nearly 40 others. A heartbreaking story appeared the next day in The New York Times recounting the moment Horace Crosby and his wife were told of their son’s death and “fell in a swoon”. Id. See also The Dead and Injured, N.Y. Times, Jan. 9, 1902, p. 2. Horace Crosby sued the New York Central Railroad seeking $100,000 damages for the death of his son. On June 23, 1902, the jury returned a verdict in his favor but awarded only $7,500. See Tunnel Suit Verdict, N.Y. Times, Jun. 24, 1902, p. 3; $7,500 for Tunnel Victim’s Father, Brooklyn Eagle, Jun. 24, 1902, p. 12.

Horace Crosby died suddenly of heart disease at his residence, 38 Trinity Street, in New Rochelle on July 24, 1914, survived by his widow, a son and three daughters. See Horace Crosby Dies – “Father of New Rochelle’s Public Library” Was 76, N.Y. Times, Jul. 25, 1914, p. 7.

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