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.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pelham's Playground: John H. Starin Develops Starin's Glen Island in 1879

During the late 1870s, John H. Starin acquired and developed "Locust Island" just off the coast of New Rochelle.  He renamed the island "Starin's Glen Island" and built the world's most successful amusement park up to that time.  Starin eventually operated a fleet of steamboats that brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to Glen Island each year.  By its sixth year of operation, more than a million visitors a year visited the amusement park.

Starin's Glen Island became Pelham's playground as well.  Pelham residents had but a short walk or carriage ride along today's Shore Road into New Rochelle where they could turn toward the shore to a mainland dock from which a chain ferry could carry them the short distance to the island.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an account of the early efforts by John H. Starin to acquire and develop the island as a new resort.  The transcription is followed by a citation to its source.



For the past two years the Hon. John H. Starin, so well known as being at the head of the transportation business on the North and East Rivers and the harbor, has been in search of a suitable locality near this City at which to establish a picnic ground that should be to the people of this City what Rock Point is to the people of Providence, R. I.  He and his agents examined innumerable sites, but found none that suited them until very recently, when they discovered one that more than realizes their requirements.  The locality thus discovered, and which so exactly conforms to what Mr. Starin hoped to obtain, is the beautiful island in Long Island Sound lying just opposite the Neptune House, in New-Rochelle, and heretofore known as Locust Island.  It contains something over 50 acres of ground, is well shaded by a heavy growth of maple and locust trees, and is most charmingly laid out as a landscape garden, with winding walks, clumps of shrubbery, grottoes, arbors, and the like.  Nearly $150,000 has been expended in beautifying the place.  For many years Locust, or, as it is to be hereafter known, Starin's Glen Island, was occupied by a gentleman of means as his Summer residence, and his house, standing on the most elevated portion of the island, is not the least attractive feature of this future pleasure resort.  It has extensive outbuildings, greenhouses, &c., all of which have been kept in good order and repair during the past two years, while the place has been in the market for sale.  The outlook from the house, and, in fact, from the whole island, is superb, commanding, as it does, an unobstructed sweep of the Sound, with its white sails and passing steamers, and beyond, in the distance, the blue hills that rise so abruptly along the northern coast of Long Island.  A breeze from any quarter cannot ruffle the blue waters surrounding the island without sweeping over it also, and under its shade trees oppressive heat is almost unknown. 

Mr. Starin's purpose is to make his island the most popular picnic resort in the country, and not only that, but to maintain it as the most orderly one and to banish from it all disturbing elements that are so frequently found at similar places.  On and after the first of next month the island will be opened for the exclusive use of Sunday-school picnic parties, which will be conveyed to it in Mr. Starin's own steamers.  Controlling thus the island and the means of communication with it, Mr. Starin will be able, not only to make, but to enforce, his own rules, one of the most stringent of which will be that on neither boat nor island shall a drop of liquor be sold.  It is to be a temperance resort in every sense of the word.  A force of men is to be set to work on the island at once to make the alterations and improvements necessary to fit it for its new uses.  Among other plans already projected is one for using several of the little coves for bathing places.  Bathing-houses will be erected, and life-lines will be stretched across the mouths of the coves, so that they will be absolutely safe for even the most inexperienced bathers.  Not the least of the attractions of the picnics will be the delightful sail along the entire length of the East River and over the most beautiful portion of the Sound in going to and returning from the grounds.  The whole trip will be interesting from first to last.  Up the East River the excursion-boats will pass under the great cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, past the Navy-yard, and on into one of the narrow channels separating Blackwell's Island from the mainland and from Long Island.  Further on, after passing Ward's and Randall's Islands on the one side, and the beautiful villas of Astoria on the other, come Flushing Bay, with its islands and the distant spires of Flushing, Port Morris, and the fine estates that extend to the water's edge on this side, North and South Brother Islands, on the former of which stands the little light-house known as 'Mary Ann's,' Riker's Island, the village of Whitestone, and the narrow passage between the fortifications of Willett's Point on the right and Fort Schuyler on the left.  Here the excursionists are fairly in the Sound, and the view is widely extended.  The first object of interest in the Sound is the new light-house on the Stepping-stones, after passing which City Island, with its yachts and coasters, is pointed out on the left, and just beyond Hart's Island.  This once passed, Starin's Glen Island is quickly reached, and the sail is ended, but only to be repeated in the glow of sunset or by moonlight, when the long day is over.

Next year, while maintaining its character for order and respectability, Mr. Starin intends to make his island a more general resort by running a regular line of steamers between it and this City.  These steamers, of which he intends putting two on the line, will each make a round trip every four hours, touching at Whitestone and New-Rochelle.  The distance of Starin's Glen Island from this City, or the lower part of it, is about 20 miles, and the trip to it by water will take about an hour and a half."

Source:  A New Picnic Resort, N.Y. Times, May 2, 1879, p. 2.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at http://www.historicpelham.com/.
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home