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, November 07, 2006

Tour of City Island and Portions of Pelham Published in 1909

City Island once was part of the Manor of Pelham and, later, the Town of Pelham. New York City annexed the island in the mid-1890s. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes the text of a "tour" of City Island and surrounding areas published not long after New York City annexed the area. The transcription appears immediately below.


(Figures refer to Plate XLI).

(Latter part of trip recommended as a carriage or bicycle trip, as it involves between 4 and 5 miles walking.)

At One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated take Harlem Rver Branch of the New Haven R. R. to Bartow (trains leave 15 minutes before every hour). At Bartow take horse car for City Island, passing

100. Glover's Rock. Read the tablet -- (erected by the Mt. Vernon Chapter of the D. A. R. in 1901), describing the Battle of Pell's Point (Oct. 18, 1776), which began near this rock, when 750 men under Colonel Glover detained Howe long enough for Washington to reach White Plains in safety. Cannon-balls were found here when the railroad track was being constructed, and a distinctly marked Indian pot-hole was discovered.

101. Site of Indian burying-ground, where Indian remains have been found. There were two Indian villages on this neck, one near the Eastern Boulevard and one on the very extremity of Pelham (Rodman's) Neck. Before crossing the bridge see the

102. Marshall Mansion, or Colonial Inn. While crossing the new bridge, see just north of the present structure the approaches of the

103. Old City Island Bridge, originally spanning the Harlem at Harlem Village, some of the timbers having been taken from the old frigate man-of-war 'North Carolina.' Previous to its erection here, City Island was reached by ferry.

City Island, 'the Pearl of the Sound,' or 'Gem of the Ocean,' received its present name because a city was planned here to outstrip New York. It is said that the oyster culture started here. Note the rural appearance of streets and houses.

From the end of the car line, walk on to the end of the island, passing on the left the

104. Horton Homestead, the oldest house on the island. Most of City Island was once comprised in the Horton Farm. Close by is the Belden Mansion, with extensive grounds, at Belden's Point. To the shipyard here some of America's Cup Defenders are sent to be broken up into scrap iron.

From the dock see about one mile south

105. Stepping Stones Light, so called from its location on one of the 'Devil's Stepping Stones,' an irregular line of rocks jutting into the Sound. According to an old legend the Evil One made retreat over these stones from Westchester County to Long Island to escape the vengeance of his Indian foes. Heaping up all the stones he could find in Long Island at cold Spring, he hurled them at his enemies in Westchester and the freedom from them in Long Island. I a boulder southeast of Eastchester may be seen the likenewss of a foot said to be the Devil's imprint.

Returning go to the right at Ditmar's Street to see the

106. Macedonia Hotel, on the eastern shore. Read the inscription which states that the wing is part of an English frigate 'Macedonia' captured by Decatur during the War of 1812. Visit the old cabin and see the mast-hole, hammock hooks and iron ring to fasten the guns, also the officers' staterooms.

Wee from here Hart's Island, the 'Potter's Field' of New York City.

Take the car back to Barton [sic], and follow the Eastern Boulevard about half a mile north to the

107. Bartow Mansion, the summer home of the Crippled Children's Association.

Not far away is the site of the original Pell Manor House, though some say that it was on the extreme end of Pelham Neck. Many tales are told of this house, under the title of 'Mysteries of a Pelham Farm House.' In the center of a large field in front are the remains of the

108. Pell Treaty Oak, the famous tree where Thomas Pell in 1654 signed the treaty with the Sewanoe Indians, purchasing about 10,000 acres from them (see Comfort's History of the Bronx, p. 53).

Between the Bartow Mansion and the Sound is the

109. Pell Family Burial-ground. Note the four (modern) stone corner-posts, with the emblem off the Pell family, A Pelican Gorged, and each bearing a different inscription. Read the inscription on the large centre-stone.

Return to the Boulevard and continue to the white stone gate-posts leading to

110. Hunter's Island, where see [sic] the Hunter-Iselin Manion, former home of 'The Little Mothers.' On the southeast side of the island are said to be the great Indian rock Mishow and the graves of two Indian sachems. The Indian name for this region was Laaphawchking (the place of stringing beads).

Take the right-hand road over to Hunter's Island leading to the

111. Twin Island, on the second of which stands the Ogden Mansion. From this point a fine marine view may be enjoyed.

Return on the Boulevard to Prospect Hill Avenue (Split Rock Road). along [sic] which Glover's gallant men so stubbornly resisted the advancing British.

Follow Split Rock Road to the

112. Collins House, or John Joshua Pell Mansion, one of the Pell homes.

113. Split Rock is a gigantic boulder, cleft squarely in twain, a good sized tree growing in the crevice. Tradition states that the early home of Ann Hutchinson (for whom the Hutchinson River is named) was near this spot. She came here in 1642 with her younger children and her son-in-law, and in the same year her cabin was burned by the Indians, and all but one of her family were killed, her eight-year-old daughter escaping, only to be captured. Some say she perished on the crest of Split Rock.

Cross the City Line and continue to Boston Road; then follow Wolf's Lane line of the American retreat.

At the corner of this lane and Boston Road is another

114. Pell House, remodeled and modernized. At the foot of the hill is

115. The stately stone Pell Mansion, perhaps the finest of all, with its splendid columns and iron lattice-work, and the family coat of-arms. In the woods near by is the

116. Lord Howe Chestnut, where Howe and his generals lunched on Oct. 18, 1776, while resting during their pursuit of the Americans. Some say that they lunched at the Pell House (114), taking the old lady's last turkey.

117. Hutchinson River Bridge, where the battle of Pell's Point ended and the day was saved for Washington. This bridge is on the line of the original Boston Road, opened in 1672.

Take trolley to Mt. Vernon."

Source: City History Club of New York, Historical Guide to the City of New York, pp. 209-12 (NY, NY: 1909).

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