Historic Pelham

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Formation of the Village Improvement Association of Pelham Manor in 1901


On June 20, 1901, residents of the Village of Pelham Manor met and formed an Association to improve and beautify the Village. The organization later changed its name to the Pelham Manor Village Improvement Society.

For a number of years the organization shaped a number of projects that were important to the Village including the construction of a new stone train station at Depot Square, the extension of the "Toonerville Trolley" line from the railroad station to Shore Road, the construction of a stone horse watering trough at Boston Post Road and the Esplanade and much more.

One of the projects with which the organization was involved was the publication of a journal known as The Pelham Manor Review. There is only one known copy. It was published in October 1901 and is in the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham. In that issue an article about the association appeared. It is quoted in its entirety below.

"THE VILLAGE IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION OF PELHAM MANOR.

For a long time it has been in the minds of several members of this community that much might be done to beautify and to develop this unique and attractive suburb by combined effort.

This thought took form in a meeting called for this purpose on June 20th, 1901, from the minutes of which meeting we quote the following:

'A meeting of residents of Pelham Manor was held in Mrs. Hazen's parlor Thursday, June 20th, 1901.'

The following resolution, after discussion was passed: 'It is the sense of this meeting that an organization for matters of Village Improvement be formed. It shall be called the Village Improvement Association (later changed to Society) of Pelham Manor, N. Y. It shall have a President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary, and an Executive Board.'

The names of Officers and members of Executive Board elected will be found on previous page.

At this meeting it was also resolved to extend an invitation to every dweller in Pelham Manor to attend a meeting at an early date to request their cooperation.

In accordance with this resolution a meeting was called and held July 1 in Mrs. Hazen's school building. Great interest was shown in the movement to make our village a still more completely ideal country home.

The work which has been undertaken by the Pelham Manor Village Improvement Society is one which should appeal strongly to the civic pride and the personal interest of every public-spirited member of the community.

The Society makes no claim to originality. The movement for the betterment of the environment and the conditions of village life through the aid of voluntary associations like this has been in progress for half a century, during which period the value of such agencies has been demonstrated beyond question. This Society, therefore, is not an innovation; it simply takes its modest but confident place in the numerous ranks of similar organizations of longer standing which have come to form a class of the recognized institutions of progressive communities.

It follows, from what we have just said, that the Society is not intended in any way to reflect upon the duly constituted authorities or to relieve them of their official responsibilities. On the contrary, its aim is to uphold them in everything that they may do for the welfare of the village, and, by the cultivation of a proper public sentiment, render the discharge of their public dutes [sic] as easy and agreeable as possible. A friendly concord between the Village Fathers and the Society is most earnestly desired, and the Society invites from them the cordial sympathy and co-operation which it, for its part, extends to them.

The Society also wants it clearly understood that it aims to benefit the whole, and not a part, of the community. It wishes its membership to be, as nearly as practicable, co-extensive with the population of the village. It desires to represent all ideas and interests, and to have the aid of the discriminating intelligence and the neighborly support of everyone in reaching the best conclusions and pursuing the wisest courses. [Page 4 / Page 5] Its policy is one of persuasion, not of coercion.

Some features of the progressive work undertaken are indicated by the duties assigned to the various committees.

The Committee on Transportation is charged with the work of securing a new railroad station. The present structure, considering the amount and character of the traffic which it represents, is as discreditable to the village as it is unworthy of the wealthy corporation which inflicts it upon our daily sight. The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Co., with its enormous resources, can easily give Pelham Manor a commodious and artistic station, with sightly surroundings, such as it has given to other places of no greater importance, and the Society wishes to aid the village in securing this desirable end. This Committee approves the extension of the trolley line on Pelhamdale Avenue from the railroad station to the Sound, in order to give the residents of Pelham Manor the benefit of ready access to their beautiful waterfront. This extension will also afford access to Christ Church near the Sound, facilitate intercommunication between the railroad station and the New York Athletic Club grounds at Travers Island, increase the value of properties of all kinds throughout Pelham and Pelham Manor, and be of immense advantage to all who live within walking distance of the trolley line.

Through the Committee on Streets and Trees, the Society will work, within moderate and justifiable lines, for the preservation and cultivation of our noblest trees by the elimination of the less valuable ones; for the improvement of the health of the community by the judicious trimming of overburdened branches in order to admit the sunlight and permit a free circulation of pure air; and for the elevation of the village standard in matters pertaining to sidewalks and roadways.

The Committee on Sanitation will work on such problems as may present themselves from time to time on the improvement and extension of the sewerage system; the drainage of wet lands; the abolition of the mosquito pest, etc.

The Finance Committee has charge of the receipts and disbursements.

The Committee on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will materially aid all those who are interested in dumb creatures. It will also endeavor to have a fountain placed in one of the highways for the refreshment of man as well as beast.

The Committee on Public Improvement and Public Welfare will further the interests of the residents in every possible way.

The Committee on Membership will be glad to receive the names of persons desiring to join the Society. All who have the good of the village at heart will be welcomed by the Society, as it needs the hearty cooperation of all public-minded citizens in order to do the most effective and lasting work.

The Committee on Plans, Scope and Suggestions will explain to all who address themselves to it, the nature of the Society, its aims, work in hand, etc., and will receive all friendly suggestions made in the interest of the village.

The Committee on Publication invites contributions on literary, artistic, musical, dramatic, scientific and humorous subjects; and will print questions relating to the work of the Society in the interest of both the residents and the Society.

The Committee on Children's Auxiliary will interest all the younger residents who are anxious to be of real aid to their village.

In all its undertakings, the Society looks to the residents for a quick understanding of its work and their friendly appreciation of the problems to be solved. It will be to everyone's advantage not only to join the Society, but [also] to select some special committee whose work is felt to be most congenial to the member's tastes and abilities and have a talk with the chairman without delay. In this way the Society will be encouraged by the personal activity of its members, and the members will, in turn, deepen their own interest in the welfare of the village."

Source: The Village Improvement Association of Pelham Manor, The Pelham Manor Review, Oct. 1901, pp. 4-5 (original in the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham).

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