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, January 25, 2007

A Brief Account of the Early History of City Island, Published in 1909

A brief history of the early days of City Island appeared in a small book published in 1909 entitled "New York, Old and New: Its Story, Streets and Landmarks". The excerpted text of that brief history appears immediately below, followed by a full citation to its source.

"City Island, at the head of the Sound, was once a part of Westchester County, but since 1895 has been included within the corporate limits of the city. It was in 1654 that Thomas Pell bought from the Indians a tract of land which included what afterwards became the towns of Westchester, Pelham, and New Rochelle, along with what was then known as Minneford's Island. John Pell, second lord of the manor established by his uncle, sold this island in 1685 to one John Smith, and after passing through sundry hands it became in 1781 the property of [Page 358 / Page 359] Joseph Palmer, of Throg's Neck, who soon after conveyed it to his brother Benjamin. Then it was that it earned the name of City Island and a place in history, for its owner was a man given to dreams, and the dream which most held his thought was the founding of a city on his island domain which should rival New York. Hell Gate made the passage from the Sound into the waters of New York harbor a perilous one, and Palmer argued that any plan by which it could be avoided would be hailed with enthusiasm. Minneford's Island seemed to him to offer an admirable solution of the problem. It was a central point in the highway of commerce, there were natural harbors and protection from storms, and land for dwelling-houses and stores.

Palmer accordingly set to work with energy and considerable shrewdness to give shape and substance to his dream. A bridge was projected from the island to the main-land; the former was plotted and a city plan prepared which provided slips and dock for ships of all sizes; and advertisements were published setting forth the good fortune that would accrue to all who shared in the enterprise. And for the moment all went well. Many of the lots in the future city sold for ten pounds each, and Palmer was offered [Page 359 / Page 360] three hundred and a thousand pounds for different portions of his land. But then came the Revolution, and with it the capture of the island by the British. Palmer himself was taken prisoner, and though he was allowed after a time to go with his family to New York, where he remained until the end of the war, it was upon conditions which later led to the seizure of his property. He petitioned in vain for its return, and in helpless age was only saved from want by the generous aid of Aaron Burr and a few other friends. And such was the sorry ending of his dream of a water-girt city. Seventy years after his death, however, the bridge he had hoped to build was opened to the public, while now trade has sprung up on his island, and all about it is heard the hum of enterprise."

Source: Wilson, Rufus Rockwell, New York, Old and New: Its Story, Streets and Landmarks, Vol. II, pp. 358-60 (Philadelphia and London: J. B. Lippincott Company 1909).

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home