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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dedication of the Post Office in the Pelham National Bank Building and More About Old Post Offices

The Pelham National Bank Building at One Wolfs Lane is unquestionably the most fascinating structure in the Town of Pelham.  It is fascinating because the original intent was to turn it into a true skyscraper.  It was designed so that many additional floors could be added.  It also is fascinating because the building has one of the saddest histories of any building in our Town.  

As I have written previously (and rather extensively), the Pelham National Bank failed at the outset of the Great Depression.  It closed on Roosevelt's National Bank "holiday."  Like so many other such banks, The Pelham National Bank never reopened after the holiday.

Pelham depositors were among the many across our nation who lost much of their life savings.  The criminal and civil lawsuits that followed the Pelham National Bank failure proceeded for many years, with the principal bank official spending significant jail time before his death.  

Nearly as interesting, however, is Pelham National Bank Building's relationship to the postal history of Pelhamville, the Village of North Pelham, the Village of Pelham, Pelham Heights and the Heights.  It seems that the first United States Post Office in the area was located as a shanty lean-to attached to  the Pelhamville Depot.  The post office then moved to Lyman's Pharmacy Building at One Fifth Avenue.  Thereafter, on November 1, 1936, it moved to the Pelham National Bank building.

At the time, it was hoped that during the depths of the Great Depression , rent paid by the federal government would improve the position of the bankruptcy estate of the failed bank and, thus, would allow a larger distribution to former depositors of the bank.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog transcribes articles from The Pelham Sun describing the opening of the post office and reproduces a couple of the images (though not all) that appeared with the articles.

Source:  Postal Officials Dedicate New P.O. Station, Pelham Sun, Nov. 6, 1936, Second Section, p. 9, col. 1.

Source:  Postal Officials Dedicate New P.O. Station, Pelham Sun, Nov. 6, 1936, Second Section, p. 9, col. 1.

"Postal Officials Dedicate New P.O. Station
Prominent Guests Attend Ceremonies in Quarters in Pelham Bank Building
Postmaster Albert Goldman Officiates at Dedication; Speakers Include Representative of Postmaster General at Washington, Congressman Fitzpatrick, Mayor Amato, Former Congressman Ben L. Fairchild and Others.

Pelham's new post office station at Fifth avenue and First street in North Pelham opened its doors to the public on Saturday morning [November 1, 1936].  The new office which occupies the ground floor of the old Pelham National Bank Building, was officially dedicated by Postmaster Albert Goldman, and postal officials in a short ceremony which was held at 10 o'clock.  The speakers were Joseph Betterly, Supt. of Post Office Quarters at Washington, Congressman James M. Fitzpatrick, Supervisor's Clerk W. E. Clark, representing Supervisor Harold W. Davis, Edward D. Loughman, Receiver of the defunct Pelham National Bank [Editor's Note:  Which closed during the National Bank Holiday of the Great Depression declared by FDR and never reopened, leading to the jailing of the Bank President]; former Congressman Ben L. Fairchild, and Mayor Dominic Amato of North Pelham.  The Rev. Arthur A. Campbell of St. Catherine's Church pronounced the invocation and the Rev. Herbert H. Brown of the Church of the Redeemer offered the benediction.

The cadet band of the New York Military Academy, which had come to Pelham for the N.Y.M.A.-Iona football game opened the program as they marched from the depot plaza to the new post office building.

As the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner,' a color guard of Pelham Post No. 50, American Legion, headed by Post Commander Frederick Swafford, raised the American Flag on the staff above the entrance of the post office.  Post-master Goldman officially opened the building, by unlocking the front door.  As the band played another selection the guests of honor and a large audience went inside the building for the dedication ceremonies which were presided over by the Postmaster.

The speakers addressed the audience from the mezzanine balcony of the new post office.  While the ceremonies were being conducted, there was a steady stream of customers purchasing stamps and mailing letters in the public lobby of the building.  

Amato Extends Welcome

Mayor Amato extended the welcome of the people of Pelham to the postal officials and the gratitude of the citizens for the increased post office facilities which will be afforded in the new station.

During the ceremonies Mr. Goldman introduced Joseph Willon, Superintendent of Delivery of New York City and Postal Inspector O. M. Schaeffer who have been in charge of the preliminary work and the installation of the new post office station here.

After the ceremony the postal officials and guests attended a luncheon of the Lions Club held at the Pelham Country Club.  There were 89 present.  The luncheon program was arranged by a committee composed of Thomas M. Kennett, Robert A. Cremins and Ken G. Hancher.  William Avery, pianist, and James Moon, vocalist, provided entertainment during the luncheon.  

Mr. Betterly came as the representative of the 4th Asst. Postmaster General Smith W. Purdum, who was responsible for the final selection of the bank building for the post office station.  

Mr. Betterly's address follows:

'It is an honor and a privilege to be here today to join with the citizens of Pelham and Westchester County in these ceremonies marking the housing of your postal unit in modern up-to-date quarters.  

'The City of New York and those suburban areas within the district of the New York Post Office have been accustomed from the earliest days to the best possible postal service.  Under the efficient administration of your Postmaster, Honorable Albert Goldman, an able supervisory organization, and a small army of competent postal employees, this tradition is being well maintained.  

'Pelham is to be congratulated upon the location of its postal unit in this fine building.  It is equally deserving of congratulation that it is a part of the great New York postal district, sharing in the benefits that come from careful administration and efficient management.

'It is appropriate that postal facilities in Pelham should be the finest obtainable, having in mind the high character of its citizenship, its splendid civic institutions, homes, and business establishments.  

'It was a source of gratification to the department to be able to meet this requirement through the leasing of this splendid building which is being opened today; a post office building which would do credit to any community.  It was equally gratifying to the department that while serving its own interest in securing modern and convenient postal accommodations, its action also served to restore to useful service this splendid structure and to make available some return to those many citizens of Pelham, who had financial interest in the banking institution previously conducted herein.

John Bolton Was First Postmaster

'The Town of Pelham has had a varied postal history since 1849, when a post office was first established here with John Bolton as its first Postmaster.  This office was discontinued on August 8, 1860 and reestablished  on September 8th of the same year.  It continued in operation until 1893 when it was again discontinued, and all mail service was supplied from New Rochelle.

'The present branch of the New York Post Office, which now serves this community, was established in 1910, and the increase in postal business here has greatly exceeded the average for the country as a whole.  This is due of course to the rapid growth experienced in this section which has proudly surpassed all others in the country in the past decade.  But with its growth, Pelham and Westchester County have nevertheless retained those elements of beauty and charm which have, from the earliest days, made this an enjoyable place to visit, or in which to live.

'It is a far cry from those early days when our nation was struggling to establish itself, and postal service was not only expensive, but slow, mail being transported by horseback and stagecoach, to the present time when postal service is the most inexpensive commodity available to us, and our mail is transported by swift express trains, fast ocean liners and an airmail service that is unequalled [sic] in the efficiency of its operation in the world.  

'Your post office is an institution of service, providing facilities for all the people.  It is the constant endeavor of all of us in the Post Office Department and in the Postal Service, to so conduct its activities that it will always merit the confidence and support of the people which it now enjoys.  

Post Office Is A Barometer

'There is no better barometer of the condition of the business of the country than the postal revenues.  These revenues have been increasing from month to month for more than two years, and the indications are that they will continue to increase.  It is estimated that for the fiscal year 1936 postal revenues will be approximately $35,000,000 more than for the preceding year, and that for the quarter ended September 30, 1936 they will be about $15,000,000 more than for the same quarter in 1935.  This is indeed indicative of a marked improvement in business conditions throughout the nation.

'Permit me to express again my sincere pleasure in having the opportunity to participate in these ceremonies and to express the wish that as you use this building for your postal business throughout the years to come, you will be mindful of the ideals and principles of the postal service as enunciated by Postmaster General Holt in 1858:

'The Post Office Department in its ceaseless labors, pervades every channel of commerce and every theatre of human enterprise, and while visiting, as it does, kindly every fireside it mingles with the throbbings of almost every heart in the land.  In the amplitude of its beneficence, it ministers to all climes, and creeds, and pursuits with the same eager readiness and with equal fullness of fidelity.  It is the delicate ear trump through which alike nations and families and isolated individuals whisper their joys and their sorrows, their convictions and their sympathies, to all who listen for their coming.'

'It has been my privilege to officiate at a number of openings of post office stations,' said Post Master Goldman.  'In most cases the new stations are in Federal buildings erected for post office purposes.  This is not the case in the present instance.

'This building was originally erected for banking purposes, but as you see, there being an affinity between banks and post offices, it has been converted late into what I think is a very fine type of post office, one befitting the dignity of this town and a place wherein the patrons of the office will be provided with proper facilities for the transaction of their postal business, and where the employees of the post office will be housed in a commodious and comfortable building.  

'Your very fine town is a landmark in this state.  It is the site of one of the early settlements, and as its name implies, was first settled by those sturdy Anglo Saxon pioneers who have developed this into the Empire State.

'It is a matter of history that this town almost three hundred years ago, in 1642, offered shelter to Anne Hutchinson and her little band who first formed a community in this place.  Their spirit lives in the many social, religious, civic and other welfare organizations that are so representative of this community.

Records Date Back 75 Years

'From a postal standpoint the first available record of post offices listed by the Post Office Department that we have in the New York Post Office, dates back almost 75 years, and I have no doubt that if I were to go into the files of the Post Office department for the information, we would find that the Pelham Post Office had been established long before that date.

'In acquiring these quarters, the Post Office Department is aiding the gentleman who is acting as the Receiver of the bank and at the same time aiding the people of Pelham by adding to the assets of the institution.

'The Post Office Department is also following the practice which has been inaugurated by this administration, of either replacing leased quarters with government owned buildings, wherever such a practice was to the advantage of the department, by lessening the rental cost to the government, or where this was not possible, to replace the present leased quarters with others in which improved facilities for both patrons and employees were provided.

'Up to the present time there have been eighteen government-owned buildings authorized for the New York Post Office and its stations.  Of this number eight have been completed and are now occupied.  All of the remainder are in course of construction and will be occupied within the coming calendar year.

'These Federal buildings in every case replaced leased quarters which have been in use for many years.  The old quarters have become obsolete and did not properly fill the conception of what a United States Post Office should look like.  

'The accommodations for patrons were insufficient, and the employees did not have the facilities that they rightfully should have in order to perform their work in the best surroundings.  

'In the case of both new Federal buildings and new leased quarters, there is a vast improvement in both appearance and use over the quarters they have replaced.  

'It is also a fact that in the erection of these government-owned post offices in New York City, several million dollars have been spent, and this has benefitted [sic], not alone the workmen engaged in the erection of the buildings, but also those engaged in the fabrication of the materials used in the erection of the buildings.

'I desire to congratulate the Town of Pelham upon the fact that this portion of the building which has been idle for some time past is now again occupied with profitable results to all concerned.  

'Your post office, which was established as a branch of the New York Post Office more than 25 years ago, is the best indication of the growth of your town.

'When the post office at Pelham was established as a branch of the New York Post Office on February 16, 1910, there were 2 employees assigned here, and the receipts for the year following the establishment of the station were $4,700.00.  

'The establishment of a free carrier delivery service followed almost immediately, and since that time the growth of the station has been steady and constant.

'At the present time you have here in your station more than 35 employees.

'The receipts which were less than $5,000 the year the station was established, will approximate almost $50,000 for the year 1936, this revenue equalling [sic] the receipts of many first class post offices.

'There are approximately 90 money orders issued here daily, and the average amouunt of such orders is approximately $1,000 a day.

'The registry and insurance business of this station bear favorable comparison with any town of similar size.  

'There are mailed in Pelham approximately 5,000 pieces of mail each day.

Open Postal Savings Branch

'I have made recommendation to the Post Office Department that a postal savings branch be installed here for the convenience of thos 
(Continued on Page 10)

Post Office Was Dedicated Saturday
(Continued from Page 9)

who desire to make use of that important post office facility.  This is now possible because of the added facilities that we have in this new office.

'I wish to extend my good wishes  to the Town of Pelham and to the postal employees here, and to assure you that it is my desire of the Post Office Department, to give the best possible service to the patrons of the office.

'I know that with the friendly relationship existing between the employees of the Pelham Post Office and the patrons of the office, the employees of this station will in their new home exert themselves to prove that our postal service is what we claim it to be, the best public service facility in the world.'  

Congressman James M. Fitzpatrick had high praise for the post office officials and the employees, paying distinct tribute to the 'boys in gray' the carriers who he said, are generally overlooked when the service is commended.

The effort of the Receiver's office to secure government approval of the plan to locate the Post Office in the bank building was related by Receiver Loughman.  He highly commended Warner Pyne, former Receiver, for his work in this behalf, and expressed his gratitude in the interest of the depositors of the bank,, to the postal officials for leasing the premises.

Mr. Clark expressed the regret of Supervisor Harold W. Davis, who was unable to attend the program.  He extended to the postal officials the welcome of the Town of Pelham and predicted that the business of the local office in its new quarters would soon double that of the former location.

Postmaster Goldman read a telegram from former Supervisor William M. McBride, expressing regret at not being able to attend.

The days when the post office was situated in the Pelhamville depot of the New Haven Railroad were recalled by former Congressman Ben L. Fairchild whose memory dated further back than those of his audience, with the possible exception of one or two of the older residents who were present.

Post Office Was At Station

'The New Haven Railroad track was at grade crossing when I first came to Pelham 45 years ago,' he said.  'The Pelhamville station was a frame shanty, and the gentleman who was station agent was also the postmaster.  Pelham Heights was nothing but a woods, and there were only a few scattered houses along the Esplanade in Pelham Manor.'

He told how the increase in population on both sides of the railroad tracks prompted the residents to incorporate the villages of Pelham and North Pelham.  The villagers called for their mail at the Post Office, which had been moved to Lyman's drug store, First street and Fifth avenue.

'The advance was so promising, that it became necessary to consider means of distributing mail by carrier service.  When the Postmaster, Seth T. Lyman, was approached, he sacrificed his position as postmaster to become superintendent of the station so that Pelham could gain the benefit of carrier service under the supervision of the New York City Post Office.  I want to thank Mr. Lyman for this splendid service in the interest of his community, and I know that the citizens of Pelham echo this appreciation.'

Mr. Lyman, who is still a resident of Linden avenue, Chester Park, has been spending a few months at his Summer home at Lake St. Catherine, Vt.  He was unable to come to Pelham for the ceremony."

Source:  Postal Officials Dedicate New P.O. Station, Pelham Sun, Nov. 6, 1936, Second Section, p. 9, col. 1.

"N.Y.M.A. Cadets Add To Color Of Dedication

The spectacle of the dedication of Pelham's new post office station on Saturday was greatly enhanced by the presence of the 32-piece band of the New York Military Academy at Cornwall, which staged a parade from the depot plaza to the post office.  It played a short musical program before the ceremonies inside the building.  The band was secured through the courtesy of John G. Shattuck, of Pelham Manor and Capt. Frank Patillo, headmaster of the school.

The bank later led the parade of the New York Military Academy Corps of Cadets from Travers Island to the Memorial Stadium in Mount Vernon before the N.Y.M.A. - Iona football game."

Source:  N.Y.M.A. Cadets Add To Color of Dedication, Pelham Sun, Nov. 6, 1936, Second Section, p. 9, col. 7.

"First Stamp Purchased By Mrs. H. Brown
To Mrs. Robert Brown of Harmon avenue the honor of purchasing the first stamp and mailing the first letter at the new Pelham Station of the New York Post Office.  When postal clerks opened their windows for business at 7 o'clock on Saturday morning they found Mrs. Brown waiting for them.  The first stamp sold was used on the first letter mailed.  The addressee of the letter got the souvenir.

Supt. Frank Grant reports that although business at the new post office station on the first day was below the usual Saturday average, the Money Order business exceeded the average day."

Source:  First Stamp Purchased By Mrs. H. Brown, Pelham Sun, Nov. 6, 1936, Second Section, p. 9, col. 7.

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