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, February 28, 2014

Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926

Religious institutions have played an important role in the growth of the Pelhams for nearly three hundred years.  Indeed, no history of Pelham would be complete without a detailed history of such institutions and the role they have played.  

Few in Pelham today know that Lutheran services once were held in the Pelham Picture House on Sundays (when the showing of films was banned).  Even fewer may know that a time capsule was accidentally discovered in the debris of the first Church of the Redeemer after that edifice was demolished on December 18, 1969.  (The cornerstone that contained the copper box time capsule rests today with the Church bell in front of the Richard J. Daronco Town House on Fifth Avenue.)  Even fewer Pelham residents may be aware that the Little Red Church that was the predecessor building to today's magnificent stone sanctuary of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church is believed to be the only "Centenary Church" in the United States -- a church building that was unveiled in 1876 to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  (To learn more about these and other historical tidbits regarding religious institutions in our area, see the lengthy list of links to previous postings on such subjects at the end of this article.)

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article about the role that churches have played in the growth of the Pelhams that appeared in the October 15, 1926 issue of The Pelham Sun.  It contains a wealth of information about the early histories of a variety of churches in our area.  

A Glass Lantern Slide Created by Pelham Town Historian 
William Montgomery Between December 10, 1916 and June 10, 1917.  
It Depicts the "Little Red Church," the Predecessor Building to 
Today's Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church Sanctuary.
The Little Red Church was a "Centenary Church" Opened in 
July 1876 in Part to Commemorate the Centennial of the 
Signing of the Declaration of Independence.  To Read More 
About How This Lantern Slide Was Dated, See:

Original Church of the Redeemer Church Building 
in the Village of North Pelham from an Undated 
Post Card Issued in About 1910.

"Churches Have Played Big Part In The Growth Of The Pelhams
March of Progress in the Village Is Marked by Spiritual Aid of the Church.  Rev. Robert Bolton and His Sons Established First Church in Pelhamville

Pelham's religious history dates back to 1686, when a company of French Huguenots set sail from England where they had fled from the persecutions of their own country, and landed at Echo Bay, in the Manor of Pelham.  There they established a colony on the property owned by Lord John Pell.  Through the interest displayed in them by Jacob Leisler, a New York merchant, Lord Pell conveyed to Leisler six thousand acres of land for use of the Huguenots.  The consideration of the conveyance was 1,675 pounds sterling silver and one fat calf to be delivered to the Lord of the Manor every year on the festival of St. John the Baptist.  Pell also set apart another 100 acres for a French church in the new settlement known as New Rochelle.

At this time spiritual aid was administered by laymen.  In 1695 a clergyman of the Church of England settled in the Manor and established a small paris.  This, however, did not thrive in the sparsely settled district, and failed to survive more than a few years.

In 1697 the Lord of the Manor laid the cornerstone for the first church in the Manor.  It is now known as the First Presbyterian Church of New Rochelle.

Later St. Paul's Church in Eastchester was established and these two subscribed to the religious comfort of the settlers.  The Rev. Robert Bolton, rector of the Eastchester parish in the early 1800's, hearing of the condition at Pelham, moved to what is now the Bolton Priory.

For a time he conducted services both at Eastchester and in Pelham at his residence at the Priory.  He was responsible for the starting of a new parish and founding the first church of the Pelhams.  On April 28, 1843, the cornerstone of Christ's Church at Pelham was laid.

Most of the construction of the church was done by the Rev. Bolton and his five sons.  Washington Irving, a good friend of the Boltons, helped in the construction and made many suggestions as to its architecture.  It was constructed of common granite and patterned after a small country church in England.

The Boltons established the first stained glass works in America in what was known as Devoe Town, a quarter of a mile away from the church, and made the stained glass windows there.  The building is still standing on the Shore Road in Pelham Manor.

These windows made by the Boltons are still intact in Christ's Church.  Two of them represent the Adoration of the Magi, two of them are copies of windows in Salisbury Cathedral, and two bear respectively the arms of the Bolton and the Pell families.

Other members of the Bolton family aided in the work.  Some built the carved pulpit and a solid sounding board which was constructed above it.

At the same time a parochial free school for the parishioners was started.  The school building was erected by public subscription.  The earliest record of the student body shows that in 1854 there were 15 boys and 20 girls in the school.  In that year the church building was enlarged to accommodate the growing congregation.  

In 1856 the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton, fourth son of the founder of the church, became its rector, and remained such until 1860, when he became rector of St. Paul's Mission Chapel in New York City.  The Rev. N.E. Cornwall succeeded him and found 38 families connected with the church.  The next year a mission was started in City Island out of which the present Grace Church grew.

The Sunday School at Pelhamville and City Island was started through the efforts of Miss Nanette Bolton, daughter of the founder of the church.  Assisting her were the Misses Fanny and Grace Schuyler.  Later a memorial building was erected to the memory of Nanette bolton.

During the Civil War the ladies of the congregation were active in the hospital work among the soldiers at David's Island now Fort Slocum.  This is the first organization of Pelham women established for the aid of war veterans.

On October 30, 1874, the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association, which had been formed for the civic government of the community, established a second church in the Pelhams.  

The eight articles establishing the Huguenot Memorial Forest Church stipulated that the association give the land for the church, providing not less than $3,000 was subscribed for the erection of the building, and the church be Presbyterian.  A considerable portion of this amount was raised, and Rev. Dr. C.E. Lord, D.D., a retired clergyman whose researches into the history of the early Huguenot settlements in America had made him familiar with the district where the refugees from La Rochelle had founded their new homes, was retained as rector.

Silas Witherbee of Port Henry, N.Y., loaned the church $5,000 on mortgage and later made a gift of the loan.

When the site for the church building was being discussed, there was considerable opposition to the plt finally chosen, on the ground that it was too far from the center of population of the community, which was near where the Manor Club now stands.  To-day about nine-tenths of the congregation live on the north side of the Boston Post Road.

The building was erected, not only as a memorial to the Huguenot settlers, but in commemoration of the centennial of our national independence.  The old records often refer to it as the 'Centenary' Church, and emphasis is laid on the fact that it was the only church in the country to be thus specifically dedicated during the year of the great Centennial Exposition.

In the Eight Articles, special provision is made for the use of the church building as a day school.  A generation afterwards, the present building had hardly been completed when, in order to relieve the congregation in the public schools, one of the classes was housed in the church without charges except for the additional expenses of heating and service.

In 1881 the Church of the Redeemer was established in North Pelham.  Its first rector was the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton, son of the founder of Christ's Church, and its former pastor.  Services were held in a small frame building on Fourth Avenue near Third Street, which is now the home of Robert Martini.  In 1885 the property on which the present church stands were purchased and the rectory built.  On June 21, 1892 the cornerstone of the new church was laid and in the following February the building was completed.  It was dedicated in 1892 and consecrated by the late Bishop Henry C. Potter June 3, 1899.

The church stands as a memorial to the late Rev. Bolton, who died in his 88th year, on August 28, 1906.  

In 1888 the Congregational Church of North Pelham (now extinct) was organizaed by a group known as the Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville.  This church was disbanded after a short life.

In 1907 St. Catherine's Roman Catholic Church was established after a temporary church had been conducted in North Pelham by the Rev. Mgr. Kellner of St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic Church in New Rochelle.  The Rev. Mgr. Francis P. McNichol was first rector of the new church, which was constructed on property donated by Patrick Farrell.  First mass was celebrated December 8, 1907.

In 1921, the Congregational Church of the Pelhams was established by the Rev. William Milton Hess of New York City.  First services were held in the new church building on December 11, 1921.

Our Savior Lutheran Church, which holds its services at the Pelham Picture House, was organized in 1923 by the Rev. Carl O. Romoser of Concordia Collegiate Institute at Bronxville.  Services were first held at the Town Hall, and later transferred to the present location.  The Rev. H. Wittschen is present rector."

Source:  Churches Have Played Big Part In The Growth Of The Pelhams, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 15, 1926, p. 16, col. 1.

To learn more about the history of various religious institutions that have served the residents of Pelham during the last several centuries, see:  

Mon., Mar. 07, 2005:  What is That Bell Resting on a Stone Pedestal in Front of the Richard J. Daronco Townhouse at 20 Fifth Avenue?

Mon., Jul. 25, 2005:  The Columbarium at Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor.

Fri., Oct. 21, 2005:  Christ Church Dedicated its Columbarium in 1943 As Part of Its Centennial Celebration.

Tue., Dec. 06, 2005:  The Origins of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in the Village of Pelham, New York.

Fri., Jan. 27, 2006:  Lectures to Raise Money to Build the "Huguenot Memorial Forest Church" Building in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Mar. 2, 2006:  A Lecture in 1877 to Raise Money for the New Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Jun. 29, 2006:  A Biography of Lewis Gaston Leary, Early 20th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham.

Wed., Oct. 25, 2006:  A Biography of the Rev. Henry Randall Waite, Ph. D., a 19th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Wed., Nov. 08, 2006:  The Time Capsule in the Cornerstone of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelham.

Wed., Dec. 20, 2006: A Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1907.

Mon., Jan. 01, 2007:  Dating an Undated Glass Lantern Slide Showing the Little Red Church (Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church).  

Fri., Jan. 05, 2007:  The Early Years of Grace Church, City Island -- Once a Church in Pelham.

Wed., Feb. 28, 2007 Lord Cornbury Installs John Bartow as Rector of the Parish of Westchester, Eastchester, Yonkers and the Manor of Pelham in 1702.

Tue., May 08, 2007:  Rev. Francis Asbury, Methodist Minister, Preaches in Pelham in 1772.

Fri., Jun. 15, 2007:  Photograph of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1914.

Tue., Jun. 19, 2007:  A Brazen Burglary at The Little Red Church in 1904.

Mon., Aug. 06, 2007:  1714 Letter Reporting on the Establishment of the Church at East Chester Built in 1692.

Wed., Aug. 8, 2007:  A Description of an Eyewitness Account of Interior of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester During the Revolutionary War.

Mon., Aug. 13, 2007:  1865 Comments of Rev. William Samuel Coffey of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Regarding the Tenure of Rev. Robert Bolton of Pelham.

Wed., Aug. 15, 2007:  Plan of Pews in St. Paul's Church 1790.

Thu., Aug. 16, 2007:  Biographical Data About Rev. Charles Eliphalet Lord Who Served as Acting Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1874-79.

Fri., Aug. 31, 2007:  Announcement of the First Services Held in the Little Red Church of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church on July 9, 1876.

Thu., Sep. 6, 2007:  Information About St. Paul's Church, the Battle of Pelham and Other Revolutionary War Events Near Pelham Contained in an Account Published in 1940.

Wed., Sep. 12, 2007:  Announcement of Planned Construction of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in Pelhamville in 1895.

Thu., Sep. 13, 2007:  Dedication of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in the Village of Pelham in 1896.

Tue., Sep. 18, 2007:  Installation of the First Full-Time Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham Manor in 1877.

Fri., Sep. 21, 2007:  The Ringing of the Bell of St. Paul's Church of Eastchester on the 100th Anniversary of the First Service in the Stone Church.

Thu., Nov. 08, 2007:  Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1886.

Thu., Mar. 26, 2009:  Excerpt from Book Published in 1860 Provides Memories of Sundays at St. Paul's Church Before 1838.

Fri., Aug. 14, 2009:  The Consecration of the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel at Christ Church in Pelham Manor on April 28, 1887.

Mon., Aug. 24, 2009:  1878 Advertisement for Services of The Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville.

Fri., Dec. 25, 2009 1906:  Christmas Day Celebration at Christ Church in Pelham.

Sat., Jan. 25, 2014:  Putting the Finishing Touches on the Lovely New Church in Pelhamwood in 1923.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

More About the Fabled "No-Man's Land" of Pelham Manor: A Tiny Strip of New York City

I have written before of the strip of land in Pelham Manor known as "No-Man's Land," saying:  

"Sandwiched between the southern boundary of the Village of Pelham Manor in the Town of Pelham and the northern boundary of Pelham Bay Park is a tiny strip of land only 250 feet wide that long has been known as "no-man's land". While the phrase may evoke images of a forsaken strip that no one wishes to frequent, nothing could be further from the truth.

No-man's land is a long strip of land made up of about thirty-five properties that sit in the Bronx. Because they are separated from other Bronx residential areas by Pelham Bay Park, however, they derive many of the amenities of the suburban lifestyle offered by the lovely Village of Pelham Manor. For example, the children of homeowners located on the strip attend schools in Pelham Manor. Yet, the lucky homeowners who live on this strip pay modest New York City property taxes (at least when compared with property taxes in Pelham)."

For more about this interesting strip of land, see:  Mon., Dec. 5, 2005:  The Fabled "No-Man's Land" of Pelham Manor:  A Tiny Strip of New York City.  

1899 Map by John Fairchild Showing Beech Tree Lane
Section of Pelham. White Strip Extending from
Lower Left to Upper Right with Words "New York City"
Shows Portion of No-Man's Land That, Today,
Includes Elm Tree Lane.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article that appeared in The Pelham Sun published on May 3, 1945.  The article noted that there was alarm in Pelham Manor and among the members of the Village Board of Trustees after local developers acquired a portion of "No-Man's Land" on the New York City side of Elm Tree Lane and planned to develop it with "a number of small houses of 50-foot lots."  The Village Trustees "expressed concern at the loss of realty values that would follow the erection of any such proposed houses and the loss of tax revenue which would ensue."  Those concerns, with hindsight, certainly seem to have been exaggerated.

Below is a transcription of the text of the article, followed by a citation to its source.

Have No Control Over Building on New York Side of Elm Tree Lane Where Unwelcome Development Threatens.

The announcement last week that a group of investors headed by Chester Warm of the Warm Oil and Coal Co., of Pelham Manor, had purchased a tract of land on the New York City side of Elm Tree Lane and propose to develop it with a number of small houses of 50-foot lots, had a sequel this week.

Arthur Zerbey, who resides on Beach [sic] Tree lane in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development, sent to the Pelham Sun office a letter which he had received from Edward J. Hamberger a realty operator of Yonkers.  Mr. Hamberger is Mr. Warm's cousin.  The communication set forth that the purpose of the syndicate purchase of land on Elm Tree Lane is to develop it 'into small plots' and continued:  'We are, however, giving the people in the immediate vicinity . . . the opportunity of making first purchase.'  Other property owners in the highly restricted residential vicinity received similar letters.

The Pelham Sun is informed that village officials have been called into conference on the matter.  They have expressed concern at the loss of realty values that would follow the erection of any such proposed small houses and the loss of tax revenue which would ensue.  Two of the village officials have agreed to follow up the developments.  

The tract on which the proposed small houses are to be erected adjoins the property on which the coal company has its pockets."

Source:  Proposed Small House Building Alarms Trustees, The Pelham Sun, May 3, 1945, p. 1, col. 1.  

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Research Regarding "Greystones," The Elegant DeLancey Estate that Became Hunter Island Inn and Once Stood in Pelham on Today's Shore Road

During the early to mid-nineteenth century, Pelham Manor became the summer playground of the wealthy. Country estate and fabulous mansions were built along Long Island Sound from the mainland near City Island to today's New York City boundary with the Town of Pelham. 

Among those mansions was one owned by the DeLancey family and built in the Second Empire style that was most popular between about 1865 and 1880. The Second Empire style evolved from 17th century origins into an eclectic mix of earlier European styles including the Baroque style, frequently combined with mansard roofs. See Copplestone, Trewin, ed., World Architecture: An Illustrated History, p. 310. (Publisher Paul Hamlyn, 1963). An early post card view of the mansion (see immediately below) showing it right after a rather crude "modernization" to turn it into an inn and restaurant, shows the Second Empire architecture of the lovely stone mansion fairly well. 

Undated Post Card View of the DeLancey Mansion After It Was Remodeled to Serve as the "Hunter Island Inn" (See Below)

In its earliest days, the DeLancey mansion (and the estate that surrounded it) was known as "Greystones." It was located in a place familiar to all Pelhamites. It overlooked Shore Road just within today's New York City boundary on a small hill just past the low spot on Shore Road at the small cove often referenced as "Plum Cove" where a small creek sometimes called Roosevelt Creek still floods the roadway occasionally. The roadway curved at that spot and, consequently, was the scene of countless automobile accidents in the early days of the twentieth century. The three map details immediately below (each followed by a citation to its source) show where the structure once stood. 

Map Detail from Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35 (NY, NY: F.W. Beers, et al., 1868) (plate entitled "City Island, Pelham Township, Westchester Co., N.Y. (with) Town of Pelham, Westchester Co., N.Y.").  Note: References the structure and estate as "GREYSTONES Wm. H. De Lancey."

Map detail showing area around Delancey Mansion from hand-drawn map entitled “Hunter Island – Being a Map of an Ancient Isle First Inhabited by the Siwanoy Indians in the Pellucid Waters Off Pelham Shore. – Now the Residence of John Hunter, Esq. of New York City” by local historian John McNamara (original in the collections of the City Island Historical Society and Nautical Museum). Image Courtesy of Jorge Santiago. Note: References the structure and estate as "DELANCEY."

Bromley, G.W., Atlas of Westchester County, New York From Actual Surveys and Official Records by G. W. Bromley & Co., Civil Engineers, pp. 56-57 (Philadelphia, PA: G.W. Bromley & Co., 1881) (Plate entitled “Town of Pelham, (with) Pelham Manor”). Note: References the structure and estate as "De Lancy."

Greystones once stood almost directly across Shore Road (then known as Pelham Road) from the two gate posts and causeway that led to John Hunter's grand estate on Hunter's Island. That estate also once was owned by the former New York City Mayor, Ambrose Cornelius Kingsland, who purchased Hunter's Island in 1864. 

Numerous sources indicate that the mansion belonged to Elizabeth DeLancey, a daughter of Elias DesBrosses Hunter. See, e.g., Cook, Harry T., The Borough of the Bronx 1639-1913: Its Marvelous Development and Historical Surroundings, p. 178 (NY, NY: Published by the Author 1913); Jenkins, Stephen, The Story of the Bronx: From the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day, p. 315 (NY, NY: 1912). Other sources indicate that the mansion belonged to William Heathcote Delancey, Jr., a son of the famed clergyman of the same name, the Right Reverend William Heathcote DeLancey (1797- 1865), who was appointed the first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York in 1839. See, e.g., Fifteenth Annual Report, 1910, of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of the State of New York Transmitted to the Legislature April 19, 1910, pp. 63-64 (Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, Printers 1910); Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35 (NY, NY: F.W. Beers, et al., 1868) (plate entitled "City Island, Pelham Township, Westchester Co., N.Y. (with) Town of Pelham, Westchester Co., N.Y."). 

Elizabeth DesBrosses Hunter, a granddaughter of John Hunter of Hunter's Island, Town of Pelham, was born about 1838 on Hunter's Island, only steps away from what later became her estate on the mainland known as Greystones. Elizabeth was a daughter of John Hunter's son, Elias DesBrosses Hunter, and his wife, Anna Maria Munro Hunter. On September 6, 1860, Elizabeth DesBrosses Hunter married William Heathcote DeLancey, Jr. in a ceremony held on Hunter's Island. See The New York City Society Library, New York City Marriage and Death Notices, Vol. III, 1857 to 1870, p. 22 ("MARRIED 1860: DeLancey-Hunter-At Hunter's Island, Westchester County, Sept. 6, by Rt. Rev. Dr. DeLancey, Bishop of Western New York, William Heathcote DeLancey, Jr., to Elizabeth DesBrosses, daughter of E. Des Brosses Hunter, Esq."). The couple soon kept house in the beautiful gray granite Greystones mansion overlooking Hunter's Island where Elizabeth was born and the couple was married. 

In 1881, the second edition of Robert Bolton's two-volume history of Westchester County, released shortly after Bolton's death, described the Delancey mansion as follows: 

"On the main, nearly fronting the causeway leading to the Island [Hunter's Island], is situated the residence of Mrs. Elizabeth DeLancey, eldest daughter of the late Elias DesBrosses Hunter, (who died on the 22d of March, 1865, aged 65.; son of John Hunter, Esq., the former proprietor of those lands and the adjoining Island). The building is of native granite, and commands beautiful views of the Sound and adjacent creeks and islands. Here is the original portrait of the Hon. Caleb Heathcote, Esq., Lord of the Manor of Scarsdale in this County. Surveyor General of H. M. Customs, and Judge of the Court of admiralty, and one of H. M. Council for the Province of New York. On the day of his death, Feb. 28, 1721, this excellent man went about doing good in procuring a charitable subscription. Adjoining this estate on the south, is the residence of John Munro, Esq., son of the late Peter Jay Munro, and grandson of Rev. Harry Munro, first Rector of St. John's church, Yonkers." 

Source: Bolton, Robert, The History of The Several Towns, Manors, and Patents of the County of Westchester, From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. II, p. 89 (NY, NY: 2d Edition, Chas. F. Roper 1881).

Within a few years of Bolton's description of the mansion quoted above, New York City's efforts to acquire the lands encompassed by Pelham Bay Park intensified. Elizabeth DesBrosses Hunter DeLancey moved to the Washington, D.C. area, but later became involved in a lengthy litigation back in New York regarding underwater lands near City Island. I have written about that litigation on a couple of previous occasions. See

Mon., Nov. 27, 2006: The 19th Century Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island

Mon., Sep. 07, 2009: More on the Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island.  

Soon the Greystones mansion and estate were owned by New York City and were under the oversight of the New York City Parks Department where they languished for a number of years. With the annexation of the area by New York City during the mid- 1890's, the former Greystones estate passed from within the boundaries of the Town of Pelham to an area within the boundaries of the City of New York. 

In 1898 or 1899, New York City began to develop a tiny nine-hole golf course called the "Pell Golf Course" on some of the lands that once were part of the Greystones estate. According to the 1900 New York City Parks Department Annual Report, as the course was being built, the Parks Department removed stone walls and trees that once served as boundaries between various of the estates that previously occupied the land including the Greystones estate. The first hole of the Pell Golf Course was only a few short steps away from the rear of the DeLancey mansion. Indeed, a portion of the mansion served as the clubhouse for the tiny nine-hole course. 

At about the same time, Jacob P. Schwind, who was the steward at the summer facility of the New York Athletic Club for several years, resigned his position and leased the DeLancey Mansion with the intent of developing "a modern hotel to be known as Hunter's Inn." Source: Hunter's Island Inn, New Rochelle Pioneer, May 5, 1900, p. 1, col. 4. According to the same article:

"The building is being refurnished and decorated and will be opened about the 15th inst. [I.e., May 15, 1900.]  The hotel is at the entrance of Pelham Bay Park and is beautifully situated. A fine view of the Sound is afforded from the verandas and the hotel grounds cover a large area. Mr. Schwind will have the services of his chef and force from the New York Athletic Club. Mr. Schwind has an enviable reputation as a steward, and has a large circle of friends who wish him success in his new venture. Hunter's Island Inn under his management will be synonymous with courtesy and excellence." 

Source: Hunter's Island Inn, New Rochelle Pioneer, May 5, 1900, p. 1, col. 4. 

The decision to lease the mansion to Schwind was criticized as another in a series of "'graft' in renting buildings in city parks for trifling sums." See Ellison Shakes Up Brooklyn Offices, The N.Y. Press, Mar. 12, 1907, p. 3, col. 1.  According to one report, although the City funded "several thousand dollars" worth of repairs to the DeLancey Mansion, "The Hunter Island Inn, Pelham Bay Park, brings the city $50 a month" in rent. Id. 

Schwind converted the structure and operated it as a destination road house and hotel for those who wished to get away from New York City for a brief stay or merely for a lovely evening of good food and drink. Schwind only operated the establishment for a few years before his death on August 30, 1907. His obituary read: 

"'JAKE' SCHWIND DEAD ----- -Jacob P. Schwind, proprietor of the Hunter Island Inn, on the Pelham Parkway, died yesterday at his home, after a lingering and painful illness. He was removed there sometime ago from a New York hospital, and his death was not unexpected. 

Mr. Schwind was one of the most popular and well known hotel men in Westchester County. He came to this city [New Rochelle, NY] from the Lotus Club of New York, to fill the position of manager and steward of the New York Athlectic Club. Of late years he has been the proprietor of the Hunter Island Inn. He was born in Lohr, Bavaria, forty-one years ago, and was a widower. Relatives in this country consist of a nephew, niece and sister-in-law, who lived with him. 

Deceased was an honorary member of Huguenot Lodge, F. & A.M., of this city, and a member of Majestic Lodge, 348, of New York City. 

The funeral will probably take place to-morrow afternoon." 

Source: "Jake" Schwind Dead, New Rochelle Pioneer, Aug. 31, 1907, p. 1, col. 6.

Following Schwind's death, a New York City police officer became the next proprietor of the Hunter Island Inn. According to an announcement published in 1911: "John F. Tappin, a captain in the New York City police department, it is reported, has purchased the business at the Hunter Island Inn and will continue that hostelry." Source: Town Topics, New Rochelle Pioneer, Apr. 15, 1911, p. 5, cols. 1-2. 

John F. Tappin seems only to have served as proprietor and operator of the Hunter Island Inn for a short time. In 1915, Arthur E. MacLean became the new proprietor of the Hunter Island Inn. MacLean seemed to reinvigorate the road house and even remodeled it, according to a story published in Variety magazine in 1915. That article stated: 

"Hunter Island Inn is preparing for the summer season by having its interior remodeled. A new maple dance floor has been laid in the big room that runs at right angles. With the new arrangement Hunter Island has as large a dancing space as any downtown place. Along with the floor improvement Arthur MacLean, its proprietor, has refurnished the Inn. Everything from tables to the ceiling is in pure white. The scheme for a road house is a very pretty one and inviting. Hunter Island Inn has been about the most popular road house around New York this winter. Mr. MacLean says it is his best season. Hunter Island has taken the trade away from a number of places around Pelham Park and along the Boston Post Road. It has also built up an afternoon business. With anything like a break in the weather even in the coldest spell, Hunter Island does business. Located just above Pelham Park, it draws patronage from up and down the road." 

Source: Cabarets, Variety, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 3, p. 8, col. 1 (1915). 

Undated Post Card View of Hunter Island Inn with Following Notation:

By the Roaring Twenties, the Hunter Island Inn was roaring itself. It attracted national radio artists as performers and had its own nationally-renowned "Dinty Moore's Hunter Island Inn Orchestra." Henri Gendron served as Musical Director for the establishment. Dinty Moore served as Producer and Manager. 

Advertisement Touting "Internationally Famous Dinty Moore's Hunter Island Inn Orchestra" from the Wed., Apr. 9, 1924 Issue of Variety magazine, p. 45, cols. 1-5. Note that the foot of the advertisement says "This will be my ninth successful summer season on the Pelham and Boston Road," suggesting that Arthur E. MacLean became proprietor in 1915. 

In the early morning hours of May 25, 1922, the Hunter Island Inn was saved from burning to the ground only through luck and a hard fight by local firefighters.  Arthur E. MacLean and his family lived in the Inn and had closed the roadhouse for the night.  There were half a dozen guests in the Inn.  Two employees lived in an adjacent two-story frame building also used as a garage and storehouse a few feet away from the Inn.  Shortly after the two employees retired for the night in the frame building, they were awakened by flames.  They raced out and awoke the occupants of the Inn.  They removed two automobiles from the garage.  Directly across Shore Road, near the Hunter's Island causeway, there was a police booth manned by New York City policeman Edward Au.  They alerted him and he telephoned an alarm.  MacLean and employees began to fight the flames with a garden hose.  According to one account:

"Many times the rear of the Inn smoked and cracked and all but burst into flames, but when firemen arrived from city Island three miles away, and from the Williamsbridge Road, five miles away, it was still safe, though badly scorched."

Source:  Hunter's Island Inn Saved From Blaze After Hard Fight, The Evening World, May 25, 1922, Wall Street Final Edition, p. 25, col. 1.

In the 1920's, the Hunter Island Inn was extraordinarily popular with New Rochelle, Pelham and New York City residents. There was at least one important reason. It was the height of Prohibition and Hunter Island Inn had evolved into a speakeasy where liquor flowed freely.

Indeed, during a Federal bribery, graft and corruption trial in 1924 involving allegations that prohibition agents had been bribed to "look the other way," one defendant brewery owner took the stand in his own defense and was forced to admit that at a party at the Hunter Island Inn "there was 'plenty to drink'" and, during that party he passed a prohibition agent named Saul Grill a package containing $10,000 as a bribe. Grill disputed the allegation. He testified that "the sum was only $6,000". . . . Source: Katz Admits Paying Dry Agent $25,000, N.Y. Evening Post, Mar. 28, 1924, p. 2, col. 1. 

The Hunter Island Inn was under suspicion of Prohibition violations as early as 1919 (involving War time Prohibition provisions) when a Federal Grand Jury was impaneled and began an investigation of potential Prohibition violations by an entire group of roadhouses including The Hunter Island Inn as well as the Pell Tree Inn, the Pelham Heath Inn, Shanleys and The Arrow Head Inn.  Arthur MacLean was among those targeted in the investigation.  See Dry Law Graft Hunt Grows as One Confesses - Federal Grand Jury Starts Hearing Men from Large Cafes and Roadhouses on Monday in Big Inquiry, New-York Tribune, Oct. 24, 1919, p. 3, col. 1.  

Federal agents even raided the Hunter Island Inn on at least one occasion, in their quest to find and destroy demon alcohol during Prohibition. See Raid Inn, Dobbs Ferry Register, Jan. 4, 1929, p. 3, col. 2. 

Though Federal agents were never able to bring the Hunter Island Inn to its knees, the Great Depression did. The company that held the lease for the Hunter Island Inn declared bankruptcy at the height of the Great Depression in 1933. According to one account: 

"Hunter Island Inn Bankrupt 

A voluntary petition in bankruptcy was filed Friday in United States District Court by Zitland, Inc., holder of the lease of Hunter Island Inn, Shore Road, Pelham Bay Park. Liabilities of $22,819 and assets of $13,225 were listed. 

Among the creditors are John F. Curry Agency, Inc., 70 Pine Street, $1,600.73 for unpaid insurance premiums; Charles F. Zittel, $4,723, and Samuel Lanzer, $3,600. The Inn lease, which is due to expire in October 1934, is valued at $1,000. The Department of Parks of the City of New York is the lessor." 

Source: Hunter Island Inn Bankrupt, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 25, 1933, p. 6, col. 8. 

The road house continued to operate in bankruptcy for a short time after its voluntary petition was filed. Its days, however, were numbered because it faced the expiration of its lease in October 1934. What seems to have sealed its fate was a move by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to shut down all parks concessions throughout New York City and to end all leases "except in cases where an investigation would show that such revocation would cause the public to suffer."  See Park Concessions That Remain Must Cut Their Prices - Moses Says Profiteering on Public Will End - Many Permits to Be Revoked, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p. 15, col. 8.  In the case of the Hunter Island Inn, Robert Moses had particularly stinging words. He said Hunter Island Inn would be the first to be closed and the building would be demolished. According to Moses, "It was just a cheap, gaudy roadhouse" anyway.  Id. 

True to his word, Robert Moses had Greystones demolished with nary a trace. Today the area is wooded and silent except for the occasional automobile streaking along Shore Road. It is hard to imagine the magnificent grey granite Second Empire style mansion that once stood there, much less a Roaring Twenties roadhouse with music, dancing, drinking and the occasional raid by federal agents when, most of the time, all one can hear is the wind rustling the leaves of the trees above . . . .

Undated Post Card View of Hunter Island Inn with Notation:
"Hunter Island Inn [on Flag], SHOPE [SIC] ROAD

Undated Post Card View of Hunter Island Inn from Shore Road with Notation:
View From [sic] Hunter Island Inn, Pelham Bay Park, N.Y.C.
A. E. MacLean, Prop.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Below are transcriptions of references to the Greystones estate from a variety of sources to facilitate search for future research purposes. 

"Another early public golf course was the Pell Golf Course was, opened in 1901. The bucolic countryside of Pelham Bay Park, established in 1888, provided the new links with a scenic, natural backdrop. The pastures upon which the Pell course was laid out had once been productive farmland. The estate had been known as "Greystones," and was owned by the De Lancey family who were descendants of John Hunter (for whom Hunter Island is named). In 1911, the course was upgraded to a full 18–hole course. . . . The 1900 Parks Annual Report notes that when the original nine-hole Pell Golf Course was built, Parks removed trees and stone walls that demarcated the estates that previously occupied the land. The De Lancey family were descendants of John Hunter (for whom Hunter Island is named); their second empire-style mansion was leased by Parks from 1898 until 1918 and operated as a popular roadhouse, the Hunter Island Inn, also serving as the golf clubhouse until it was demolished." "On the Link in Parks" (New York City Department of Parks & Recreation), available at http://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/golf (visited Feb. 23, 2014). 

Greystones estate is attributed to "Wm. H. De Lancey" on Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35 (NY, NY: F.W. Beers, et al., 1868) (plate entitled "City Island, Pelham Township, Westchester Co., N.Y. (with) Town of Pelham, Westchester Co., N.Y." -- available via DavidRumsey.com). 

"De Lancey Mansion: Almost opposite the twin gate posts of Hunter's island is 'Greystones,' the former splendid residence of William H. De Lancey. On the walls used to hang the original portrait of the Hon. Caleb Heathcote, lord of the manor of [page 63 / page 64] Scarsdale. This native stone building has been known as Hunter's island inn, and is situated at a sharp curve in the road that has provided such a thorn in the flesh to scorching automobilists." Fifteenth Annual Report, 1910, of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of the State of New York Transmitted to the Legislature April 19, 1910, pp. 63-64 (Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, Printers 1910). 

"Opposite the gate-posts [to Hunter's Island] is the Hunter's Island Inn, formerly the mansion belonging to Elizabeth De Lancey, a daughter of Elias des Brosses Hunter." Source: Cook, Harry T., The Borough of the Bronx 1639-1913: Its Marvelous Development and Historical Surroundings, p. 178 (NY, NY: Published by the Author 1913). NOTE: "(b) Elias Des Brosses Hunter (1800-1865) lived on Hunter's Island until his death, and is buried in a Desbrosses vault in Trinity Church, New York City. Helped his father John 2nd, manage the Island and their several farms. Elias received a life interest in the estate, but John 3rd, his son, was Executor and principal beneficiary under the will of John 2nd. Elias was a Supervisor from New Rochelle, 1837 to 1840, and again 1846-47." See Lockwood Barr, History of Pelham, p. 108.

"Opposite the gateway, on the west side of the Shore Road, are the property and mansion belonging formerly to Elizabeth De Lancey, a daughter of Elias Hunter. The mansion is now used as a road-house, and is known as the 'Hunter's Island Inn.'" Source: Jenkins, Stephen, The Story of the Bronx: From the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day, p. 315 (NY, NY: 1912). 

"This view of the Hunter Island Inn was taken from the Shore Road in the early 1900s. A.E. MacLean served as its proprietor for many years. The inn stood along the Shore Road opposite the gateway to Hunter Island. The property and mansion formerly belonged to Elizabeth DeLancey, a daughter of Elias Hunter, a descendant of John Hunter." Scott, Catherine A., Images of America: City Island and Orchard Beach, p. 105 (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing 1999). 

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Interesting Description of the Country Club at Pelham Published in 1884

During the Autumn of 1883, a group of Pelham Manor residents and "club men" residing in New York organized a new "Country Club" in Pelham Manor dedicated to the enjoyment of all "legitimate sports."  By 1884, the Club had commenced operations in a 34-acre area between Shore Road and the Long Island Sound with a club headquarters in the Italian Villa-style mansion built some forty years earlier by wealthy New Yorker David Lydig Suydam.  

The Club was not a predecessor to today's Pelham Country Club.  To make matters more confusing, the Club was known by many different names including the Pelham Country Club, the Country Club at Pelham, the Country Club, the Westchester Country Club, the Country Club at Westchester, and more. 

Members of the Pelham Country Club rode to the hounds, sponsored and competed in steeplechase races, played baseball, tennis, billiards and more.  The Club's great steeplechase races became nationally-renowned and attracted gamblers and spectators from all over the northeast.  I have written extensively about the Pelham Country Club and, particularly, the baseball games and steeplechase races that it sponsored.  (See the lengthy list of links at the end of this posting.)

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a fascinating article about the opening of the Autumn steeplechase races at the Pelham Country Club on October 18, 1884.  The article is particularly notable because it includes an extensive and detailed description of the Club's facilities as they existed in October, 1884.  

(As an aside, I have included a wonderful image of the cover of "Spirit of the Times" published in October 1884 depicting the winner of the steeplechase on October 18, 1884:  Barometer and his owner and rider, Mr. J.D. Cheever.)

Source: Barometer, Winner of the Great Pelham Steeplchase, Owned and Ridden by J. D. Cheever, Esq., The Spirit of the Times, Vol. 108, No. 18, Oct. 25, 1884, p. 409, col. 1.

Diagram of the Pelham Steeplechase Course for the Race Run on October 18, 1884.  Source:  Pelham's Gay Pastime - A Day of Glorious Steeplechasing Provided by the Country Club, N.Y. Herald, Oct. 17, 1884, p. 6, cols. 3-4.


Everything is in readiness for the first fall meeting of the Pelham Country Club, which is to take place at Pelham, to-morrow afternoon.

There are to be six races; the first a Farmers Dash, which will be followed by polo handicap sweepstakes, light weight handicap sweepstakes, pony do., heavyweight do., and finally the great Pelham steeplechase and open handicap sweepstakes, for which the following entries have been made and weights assigned:

Rourke Cockran . . . . . 175
Charlemagne. . . . . . . . 167
Post Guard. . . . . . . . . . 160
Kebo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
Disturbance. . . . . . . . . 150
Captain Hurry. . . . . . . . 147
Trombone . . . . . . . . . . .150
Hose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .145
Miss Moutney. . . . . . . . .143
Jim McGowan. . . . . . . . 143
Wooster. . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
Imagine. . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Barometer. . . . . . . . . . . 135
Paris. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Pilot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
Peanuts. . . . . . . . . . . . . .135
Response. . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Little Jack. . . . . . . . . . . . 142

Seven pounds added for professionals.  

The handicappers are Capt. J.M. Coster and J.G.K. Lawrence.

As some of our readers perhaps know but little of this club or its objects, the following points may be of interest.  

The Country Club was organized only last Autumn, and had for its object not only the social enjoyment of its members, but the promotion of legitimate sport of all kinds.

It is situated at Pelham, on the Sound, half way between the villages of Westchester and New Rochelle.  Its grounds consist of 34 acres, beautifully laid out and wooded with a number of Tennis Courts, pigeon shooting grounds, and the best polo field in the country.  The club house is old, but substantial, and was built by Mr. Lydig Suydam, about 40 years ago, as an Italian villa.

There is a long broad hall painted white with blue and white paper on the wall, which gives it a particularly bright and cheerful appearance.  The dining room is on the right of the entrance, and the servants' offices in the rear of it.  On the left is a ladies' drawing room, back of which is the card room; and at the rear of the house is the club room proper, about 25 by 40 feet, which is used as a billiard room and reading room.  This club room is new and is most tastefully decorated.

Ladies accompanied by a member have access at all ties to the grounds of the club and to the ladies drawing room and the dining room.  This has tended to make the club particularly popular with the ladies, and is one of the strong elements of its success.  

On the south side of the house, overlooking the water, is a broad veranda about 100 feet long. 

The stabling is ample, the stable containing 16 stalls and 3 loose boxes, and 9 more loose boxes are to be put in next week.

The club can be reached by taking the Elevated R.R. to Harlem River, and then the Harlem River Branch of the New Haven R.R. to Bartow on-Sound, whis is only about five minutes walk from the club.  It can also be reached by the main New Haven line from 42nd street, changing cars at New Rochelle, and taking the branch road to the same place.  When the 2nd avenue bridge is finished across the Harlem River, there will be direct communication from any port of the city to the club without change of cars, making it the most easy of access of any club in the neighborhood of the city.  It is only 8 miles from the Madison avenue bridge over the Harlem River; 3 miles from New Rochelle; 2 1/2 miles from Mt. Vernon; 2 1/2 miles from Westchester; 5 miles from either Williamsbridge, Tremont, or Fordham; and 6 1/2 miles from Yonkers.  The club trap meets all trains to bring members to the club house.  It also has a good dock and landing stage so that members coming to the club in their yachts find every facility for landing.  

Its governing committee consists of Henry A. Coster, Lorillard Spencer, Jr., William Kent, Pierre Lorillard, Jr., William S. Hoyt, C. Oliver Iselin, Delancy [sic] A. Kane, Alexander Taylor, Jr., James M. Waterbury, Alfred Seton, Jr., Frederick W. Jackson, Francis A. Watson, and John C. Furman.  All well known New York club men, and all residing in summer in the neighborhood of the Country Club.  Its officers are James M. Waterbury, President, William S. Hoyt, Vice-president, William Kent, Secretary, and Alfred Seton, Jr. Treasurer.

The club has been particularly careful in the selection of its members, which include all the best people of the neighborhood and some 200 from New York city.  Its membership was limited to 250, and the club was full during the summer, but as there were a number of men who wanted to get in and whose names were put up for election, the committee determined to increase its membership to 300 at the last meeting, and to make that final, as the committee do not consider they have facilities to take care of a larger number.

The club has been very actively managed, and all through the Summer there have been any number of tennis, polo and pigeon shooting matches.  It probably has the two best polo players in the country, for they won the Sandford cups at Newport, this year, against all comers.

During the Summer, it was determined to give a steeplechase meeting this Autumn the club feeling itself bound to try and encourage all such sports and to elevate especially steeplechasing which has already been started by the Meadow Brook, Rockaway and Essex County hunts.  The course has been pronounced by many judges the best and most picturesque steeplechase course in the country.  

The grand stand and members boxes are situated on the South side of the polo field; the start of the races isken [sic] place in front of the stand.

The meeting to-morrow, takes place at one o'clock, and the club have taken pains to make it, if possible, the most successful steeplechase meeting ever held in this country.  

There will be a special train from 42nd St. on the New Haven R.R. at 12.10, and one from Harlem River on the branch New Haven Road at 12.30, returning after the races.  

In the evening there is to be a grand race ball, at the club, which the committee are endeavoring to make the social event of the season.  There will be a large tent for dancing connected with the house.  The veranda will be enclosed and the large club room will be used for a supper room.  The patronesses are Mrs. Adrian Iselin, Mrs. John Monroe, Mrs. William S. Hoyt, Mrs. Pierre Lorillard, Jr., Mrs. James M. Waterbury, Mrs. Henry A. Coster, Mrs. Frederick W. Jackson, Mrs. Delancey A. Kane, and Mrs. William Kent.

The large country houses in the neighborhood will be full of guests for the occasion, and as there will be a special train to New York after the ball, we have every reason to hope that it will be a very successful affair.  

This race meeting has been extensively advertised all through the country and all the neighboring towns, as well as New York City and Brooklyn.  It has therefore been given every chance to be a great success, and if it is, the club expect to repeat it every Spring and Autumn."

Source:  Country Club Meeting, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, N.Y.], Oct. 17, 1884,  p. 2, col. 3.  Substantially similar accounts appeared at about the same time in a variety of other publications.  See, e.g., The Country Club of Westchester County - The Steeplechase Meeting, New Rochelle Pioneer, Oct. 18, 1884, p. 3, col. 5; Pelham's Gay Pastime -- A Day of Glorious Steeplechasing Provided by the Country Club, N.Y. Herald, Oct. 17, 1884, p. 6, col. 3.    

I have written extensively about The Pelham Country Club and its famous steeplechase races of the 1880's.  For a few of many more examples, see:  

Bell, Blake A., The Pelham Steeplechase Races of the 1880s, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 12, March 25, 2005, p. 10, col. 2.

Thu., Mar. 23, 2006:  Baseball Fields Opened on the Grounds of the Westchester Country Club in Pelham on April 4, 1884.

Tue., Apr. 14, 2009:  1889 Account of the Sport of Riding to Hounds by Members of the Country Club Located in Pelham.

Wed., Apr. 15, 2009:  More About the Country Club Sport of "Riding to Hounds" During the 1880s in Pelham.

Thu., Apr. 16, 2009:  A Serious Carriage Accident and Many Tumbles During the Country Club of Pelham's Riding to Hounds Event in November 1889.

Fri., Apr. 17, 2009:  A Brief History of the Early Years of "Riding to Hounds" by Members of the Country Club at Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 09, 2009:  1884 Engraving of Winner of the Great Pelham Steeplechase, Barometer, and His Owner and Rider, J. D. Cheever

Wed., Sep. 16, 2009:  September 1884 Advertisement for The Country Club Steeplechase.

Thu., Sep. 17, 2009:  Controversy in 1887 When The Country Club Tries to Dedicate a Large Area of Pelham as a Game Preserve.

Wed., Sep. 30, 2009:  Score of June 1, 1887 Baseball Game Between The Country Club and The Knickerbocker Club.

Mon., Oct. 19, 2009:  Polo at the Country Club in Pelham in 1887.

Fri., Oct. 30, 2009:  Preparations for Annual Country Club Race Ball Held in Pelham in 1887.

Thu., Apr. 15, 2010:  Account of Baseball Game Played in Pelham on June 9, 1884: The Country Club Beat the Knickerbockers, 42 to 22.  

Labels: , , , , , ,