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, October 16, 2009

The Famed "California Ramblers" and the "Ramblers Inn" that Once Stood on Shore Road

Yesterday I received an inquiry regarding the location of the "Ramblers Inn" that once stood along Shore Road inside Pelham Bay Park just beyond Pelham's border with the Bronx.  The inquiry prompted me to jot a note summarizing some of what I have learned about the "Ramblers Inn" also once known as the "California Ramblers Inn".  The story is an interesting one.
The Morris family once owned an estate with a lovely home that stood slightly north of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum along Shore Road opposite today's Pelham Bay Golf Course (part of today's Pelham Bay and Split Rock Golf Courses).  During the 1880s, the forerunner to today's New York City Department of Parks & Recreation arranged the acquisition of the property including the home on behalf of the City.  The red arrow on the map detail below shows the location of the Morris home in 1868.

At some point, a man named Shanley leased the property, renovated and changed the home, then turned it into a roadhouse called the "Pell Tree Inn".  Click here to see a post card image showing the exterior of the structureClick here to see a post card image showing an interior view of one room of the Inn

By the 1920s, the business had changed hands and was known as "Ramblers Inn". In those years, of course, jazz bands played in many of the local roadhouses. Among those who played at Ramblers Inn were members of a group that included Red Nichols, Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey.  To see an undated picture of the group, please click on this linkTo read a little about the background of the band, please click on this link.

Tradition has it that the group became so successful so quickly, that they named themselves the "California Ramblers".  They supposedly took the name of the Inn where they became famous and changed the name slightly to add the panache of a name that included a reference to the sun-drenched state on the West Coast.  One thing is certain, however.  During the 1920s, the group became one of the most successful of their day.  The group recorded hundreds of successful jazz tunes on many record labels including Columbia Records throughout the 1920s.  One of the oddest "facts" about the band is that it recorded under a very, very large number of "pseudonyms" during the 1920s.  One fan has attempted to assemble a list of nearly 100 such pseudonyms.  Please click on this link to view that list.

By the early 1930s, the business had changed hands once again and was known as the Hollywood Gardens.   Paul Whiteman and his orchestra played to large crowds at the Hollywood Gardens until Robert Moses ordered the structure razed in the mid-1930s while work was being done to destroy the bungalows at old Orchard Beach. 

Reviews of old newspapers reveal that the Inn was often referred to as "California Ramblers Inn".  Searches of such materials can be annoying because there were many institutions throughout the area (and the country) known as "Ramblers Inn".

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