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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pelham Preservation Society Distributes Historic Architecture Plaques

In 2004, the Pelham Preservation and Garden Society (Pelham Preservation Society LLC) announced a "Historic Architecture Plaque Program" in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of Thomas Pell's acquisition of the lands that became Pelham and surrounding areas from local Native Americans. The Society solicited nominations for homes that met the following criteria: (i) the home must be at least 50 years old (1954 or earlier); (ii) the home must be within Town limits; (3) the home must be preserved or restored in an historically-sensitive manner; and (4) materials authentic to the period of construction must have been used whenever possible with changes complementary to the original structure. To read more about the program, see the Society's Web page devoted to the topic.

Plaques have been awarded for the first set of homes to receive the Society's recognition. One such home to receive the award is the home located at 20 Beech Tree Lane. Below is an image of the bronze plaque, a picture of the home noting its architectural styles and information about the history of the house.

To facilitate search, the text of the plaque has been transcribed below:

"20 Beech Tree Lane
Built in 1927 - 1928
Designed by Electus D. Litchfield for Lockwood Barr,
local historian and Wall Street Journal Managing Editor.
Center Hall Georgian Revival house with
Federal Revival elements, including prominent
Palladian window, and flanked by
New England and Dutch Colonial Revival style wings.
Pelham Preservation Society 2005"

Below is a recent photograph of the home. Above each section of the house there is an indication of the particular architectural style of that "section" of the structure. The service wing on the left is in the style of an 1810 shingle house in Maine. The center section evokes an 1800 Georgian house. The right sun porch is in the style of a 1680 Flatbush Dutch house.

The home is known as the "Lockwood Barr Home". It is named for the man who built it in 1927-1928. It is located at 20 Beech Tree Lane in Pelham Manor, New York. The home was designed by one of the nation's preeminent architects of his day: Electus D. Litchfield. A number of his works are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lockwood Barr served as Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal and later founded the "Publicity Department" (now known as "Investor Relations") of General Motors Corporation. Because Barr was an accomplished amateur historian, the home he built is a fascinating combination of three architectural styles of historic interest. As Barr wrote in a letter to his children dated January 1947, the home "is a composite of three distinct styles of architecture – the sunporch [sic] a Flatbush Dutch house of 1680; the whitewashed brick centre section, a Georgian house of 1800; and the service end, the Maine shingle house of 1840".

Each of these styles had special significance to Barr and his wife, Berenice, who lived in Flatbush when they first arrived in new York, vacationed in Maine for many years and were attracted by the Georgian style of a number of the great manor homes that once stood in the Manor of Pelham, particularly on the shores of Long Island Sound.

Barr incorporated into the home many historic items that remain a part of it today including a fireplace mantel from an 1820 Kentucky farmhouse (he was born in Kentucky); a giant pre-Revolutionary War front door lock with an eight-inch long skeleton key from a Norfolk, Virginia mansion, the brass lock from the front door of the St. Johnsbury, Vermont courthouse razed in the 19th century, an electrified whale oil lantern and much, much more.

In the rear of the home is a garden designed by the renowned landscape architect Loutrel Winslow Briggs (1893 - 1977). Briggs was among the nation's most treasured landscape architects much of whose work in Charleston, SC lies within a National Historic District. As one expert on his work has written, a Briggs garden is comparable to "something bearing the English Hallmark, or a piece of silver marked sterling."

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