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, September 05, 2007

More About the Opening of the Harlem and Portchester Railroad Line Through Pelham in 1873

Yesterday I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a brief item regarding construction of the railroad line in 1873 that came to be known as the New Haven Branch Line. See Tuesday, September 4, 2007: Constructon of the New Haven Branch Line in 1873.

Although construction of the line never led to the quick development of a suburban settlement as planned by local residents, there was a great deal of excitement about the potential for the area at the time. One article that appeared in 1874 described the opening of the line and the excitement it generated. That article is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.


The south-easterly quarter of Westchester County, embracing the towns of Portchester, Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, and White Plains, bounded on the west by the Bronx River, and on the east and south by Long Island Sound, has not yet been opened to popular suburban settlement, and, with the exception of the few towns on the line of the New-York and New-Haven, the New-York and Harlem, and the Harlem and Portchester Railroads, is unavailable to the masses. Throgg's Neck, a small peninsula in the town of Westchester, is, perhaps, the most desirable location in all this section of the county because of its comparative proximity to the Metropolis, and its charming situation and topography. This peninsula is bounded east by the Sound and Pelham Bay, and on the west by a rivulet known as Westchester Creek. The land is rich, rolling, and ridgy, and is occupied chiefly by large estates of from twenty-five to fifty acres, owned by wealthy New-Yorkers, and held by them as private Summer seats. Among them are Lorillard Spencer, Geo. T. Adee, the heiress of the estate of John D. Wolf, Francis Morris, Jacob Lorillard, Claiborne Ferris, Lawrence Waterbury, John Hunter, Peter Lorillard, and Daniel Coster. With such families as those in possession it will be many years before the section is opened for settlement, and they retain it as a sort of exclusive aristrocatic suburb of their own. It is at present approachable only by the Portchester Railroad, which has a couple of small local stations here, and by a local steam-boat ferry. Of course it is at all times accessible to its present holders by carriage, over the new boulevards in the lower portions of the Twenty-third Ward, the old Boston Post road, and other rural thoroughfares. That section lying south of this territory from a line running east and west from Lydig's Mill, on the Bronx, to the mouth of the Bronx River, and embracing North New-York and Port Morris, is, as a rule, low and unfitted for residences. A great portion of it has lately been laid out and improved by the Port Morris Land Improvement Company, but as it has good water frontage it will be almost wholly developed to commercial purposes, contingent upon the completion of the Hell Gate improvement. In the section lying west of Throgg's Neck and east of the Bronx, which is traversed by the Harlem Railroad, the old Westchester Turnpike, Fordham and Pelham avenues, and the Boston road, settlements have been very general about Olinville, Williamsbridge, now called Jerome, and Bronxdale. Land hereabouts ranges all the way from $800 to $2,500 per acre, and is generally held in large parcels by people who have the capital to wait for appreciation of values. Within the past four years there have been auction sales held at Mamaroneck and Rye, in which 3,000 lots were sold, but a great deal of the property went off in plots, and has not been improved in any way, but is 'held for a rise.'


The great trouble with the eastern and southern part of Westchester County is that it is not sufficiently opened by trunk railroads. Local railroads lack the amount of traffic which enables the companies to run frequent trains, and the growth of places along their lines is comparatively slow in consequence. In order to live in any remote suburb the people must have frequent facilities of communication. The rates of commutation by the Harlem Railroad seem scarcely to realize, as yet, the popular estimate of cheap rapid transit. The tickets are issued in packages of 100, good from three months, and the limit of the commutation route is Pawling. For all present or immediately prospective purposes White Plains is the limit of suburban travel of which commuters may avail themselves. Mott Haven is about five miles from Forty-second Street Depot, and the tickets are sold at $8 per 100, which would be equal to twenty-six cents per day to and from the City Hall. To Melrose, six miles, the commutation fare is nine cents; to Morrisania Station, One Hundred and Sixty-seventh street, ten cents; to Tremont Station, seven miles, twelve cents; to Fordham, eight and a half miles, fifteen cents; to Jerome, ten and one half miles, sixteen cents; to Woodlawn Heights, fifteen miles from the City Hall, or eleven and one-half miles from the Grand Central Depot, sixteen cents; to Mount Vernon, Bronxville, and Tuckahoe, the same fare, sixteen cents, though they range from one and one-half to five miles further on the route. These stations have from thirty to sixty trains daily, and are within from twenty to thirty-two minutes of Forty-second street. As far north as Woodlawn Heights stations have the advantage of the double service of trains of the Harlem and the New-Haven roads, as both lines use the same track to the diverging point of the routes at the latter station. The Yonkers division of the Hudson River Railroad extends on the west sid, from the old Thirtieth Street Depot, north, and runs about forty trains daily, connecting the City with Manhattan, the stations at Carmansville, Fort Washington (One Hundred and Seventy-sixth street,) Inwood, Spuyten Duyvil, Riverdale, Yonkers, Hastings, Dobb's Ferry, Irvington and Tarrytown, which is twenty-five miles distant, and is available as a suburban residence only for a very select class. The whole of these stations, up to and including Riverdale, are now within the City boundaries, the distance to this last place being twelve miles, and the commutation fare eighteen cents per trip. These rates are reductions of about twenty to twenty-four per cent. on the regular single fare prices of tickets."

Source: Westchester County Proper. Along the Line of the Harlem and Portchester and Other Railroads, N.Y. Times, May 31, 1874, p. 4, col. 3.

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