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, December 06, 2007

Biography of John F. Fairchild, Engineer of the Pelham Heights Company During the 1890s

John Fletcher Fairchild lived in Pelham in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a civil engineer with offices in Mount Vernon. He servied as engineer of the Pelham Heights Company and was principally responsible for the layout and civil engineering aspects of that lovely neighborhood. He also published two editions of a superb Atlas that contained maps of Pelham in the first decade of the 20th century. Below is a biography of Fairchild that appeared in a book published in 1900, followed by a citation to its source.

"FAIRCHILD, JOHN FLETCHER, civil engineer, of Mount Vernon, a son of Benjamin and Calista (Scheaffer) Fairchild, was born in the City of Washington, December 22, 1867. He received his literary education in the public and high schools of the national capital. At the age of seventeen he entered the office of Henry H. Law, a Washington architect, and for [Page 146 / Page 147] the next five years he diligently pursued architectural and engineering studies. He remained with Mr. Law for two and one-half years, becoming a skillful draughtsman, and then began seriously to prepare himself for the profession of civil engineering. To that end he obtained employment with Herman K. Vielé, C.E., of Washington, and later (1889-90) took the second year's course in the Engineering Department of the Columbian University. While at the university he attended evening lectures only, meantime continuing his regular duties as an office assistant.

In March, 1890, Mr. Fairchild became engineer to the Pelham Heights Company, and took charge of the work of laying out and improving the property of that corporation, comprising 177 acres at Pelham Station, this county. The work included the subdividing of the property, the designing and construction of sewerage, drainage, gas, and water systems, and the making of macadamized roads. In 1891 he opened an office in Mount Vernon, and from that time to the present he has been actively and prominently identified with public and private improvements in Westchester County, besides pursuing a general private practice as civil engineer, in which he has enjoyed marked success and gained a high reputation.

He served as engineer to the commission appointed by the Westchester County courts for draining the marsh lands near Elmsford, on both sides of the Sawmill River. This work involved the draining of a tract about five miles in length. It was successfully finished in 1897. In the same year he completed a similar drainage undertaking near Tuckahoe, also carried on under the auspices of the county courts.

Upon the appointment by the governor of the important commission authorized by the laws of 1895 'to inquire into the expediency of constructing a sewer along the valley and on the edge of the Bronx River, through Westchester and New York Counties,' Mr. Fairchild was selected as engineer to the commission. This body was composed of the mayors of New York, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers, the commissioner of street improvements of the 23d and 24th wards, the chairman of the board of supervisors of Westchester County, and several other members. The object of the proposed improvement was to provide a continuous sewer from Kensico, above White Plains, to the water in Long Island Sound, and thus put a stop to the contamination of the waters of the Bronx. Mr. Fairchild, in conjunction with J. J. R. Croes, the consulting engineer, made a careful study of the conditions, submitting his report to the commission in January 1896. In consequence of various complications - chiefly political - nothing further has been accomplished. According to Mr. Fairchild's estimates, the cost of this public work would be in the neighborhood of $3,600,000. [Page 147 / Page 148]

He has also held the position of engineer to the Mount Vernon Water Commission, and is at present engineer for the Westchester County extension of the Union Railroad Company. In addition, he continues as engineer to the Pelham Heights Company and other landed enterprises.

Since 1892 he has been connected with the teaching staff of the University of the City of New York, as lecturer on Architecture and Landscape Gardening to the senior class, and on Sewerage to the post-graduate class.

He is one of the leading members of the Board of Trade of Mount Vernon, and has for some time served as its treasurer. He is a director of the Mount Vernon Young Men's Christian Association, and is a member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Mount Vernon. Since 1892 he has resided at Pelham, where also he is active and prominent, being a member of the Pelham Hook and Ladder Company and the Pelham Country Club. He is an associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a member of the sons of Veterans.

Mr. Fairchild was married, July 19, 1892, to Mamie E. Welch, of Washington, D.C."

Source: Spooner, Walter Whipple, ed., Fairchild, John Fletcher in Westchester County New York Biographical, pp. 146-48 (NY, NY: The New York History Company, 1900).

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