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.

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.  

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