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 07, 2014

Early History of The Pelham Home for Children, an Early Pelham Charity

In 1888, a group of Pelham residents organized "The Pelham Home for Children" as a summer home for New York City's underprivileged children. The home began as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. Pelham citizens reportedly raised money and purchased a portion of the Prevost Farm located near Split Rock Road where it intersects with the Boston Post Road. Later, Pelhamites raised additional monies and constructed an entirely new building. Over the years, the charity evolved into a convalescent summer home for children, particularly girls, with cardiac issues.  The entire town supported the institution which became a year-round place of rest that offered youngsters schooling and medical care.

The Pelham Home for Children operated until 1950.  On June 15, 1950, the board of the institution decided to dissolve the institution and distribute its assets to other charitable organizations because "more recent and beneficial treatments could be given the youngsters than the home was equipped for."  See Cardiac Home To Give $62,945 To 2 Hospitals, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], p. 1, col. 4 and p. 2, col. 5.  

In June, 1950, the Pelham Home for Children sold the property on Split Rock Road to the "Westchester Association for the Help of Retarded Children."  Nearby residents immediately banded together to oppose the use of the facility by the organization that had purchased it.  Ten months later, on April 8, 1951, it received permission in New York State Supreme Court to donate its total assets of $62,945 to the New Rochelle and Mount Vernon Hospitals.  The directors of the Pelham Home for Children chose the two hospitals to receive the disbursements of the institution's assets because both hospitals maintained clinics for the care and treatment of children with cardiac issues.  See, id.    

The early years of the institution have been somewhat obscured by the mists of time.  It turns out, however, that in 1932 a member of the institution's board presented a paper on the history of the organization.  That paper was published in its entirety in The Pelham Sun on March 11, 1932.  The text of the entire article is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.  

Post Card View of the "Pelham Summer Home" In About 1908.

Detail from Plate 18 of G.W. Bromley's "Atlas of Westchester County" Showing
Location of the "Pelham Summer Home for Children" on Today's Split Rock
Road Slightly Northwest of its Intersection with Jackson Avenue.
The Address of the Institution was 975 Split Rock Road.

"Growth Of The Pelham Home A Tribute To The True Spirit Of Charity Here

Foresight, Courage and Perseverance of Early Sponsors Carried the Home to Its Present Position of Helpfulness.

The early history of the Pelham Home for Children, a cardiac convalescent home located on Split Rock road, Pelham Manor, and often called Pelham's 'pet charity,' was presented in an interesting paper at the meeting of the Board of Directors on Thursday, March 3, at the Home.  Mrs. Albert C. Field is president of the Home.

The paper was as follows:

'Few of the early records of the Pelham Home for Children are available, so that only a brief account of its founding can be given.  Mrs. Charles Frederick Heywood of Pelham Manor and Mrs. Richmond Emmett of New Rochelle were its founders, and it was named the Pelham Summer Home for Children.  In a report made to the State Board of Charities in 1898, the date of founding was given as being 'about 1888.'

'Different small houses were rented in what was then Pelhamville, now North Pelham, and about 8 children were brought from New York during the summer months for two or three weeks' outing in the country.  

'Funds were pitifully small as the community boasted of few families, but the courage and persistence of those interested should be a source of inspiration to those in charge at this time who are fortunate in having the actual life of the Home assured by the Community Chest.  Some of the early records show that 'in weathering financial gales' the Home was kept open from week to week without being able to be assured of enough money to plan for an entire season.  Nevertheless, its doors have been closed only for alteration, for a few weeks in 1908 because of the matron's illness, for a case of scarlet fever in 1910 and for a few months in 1918 because of the exigencies of war time.

'The Home was incorporated on June 16, 1898, the legal matters taken care of by Mr. H. B. B. Stapler whose home was the house now owned by Mr. Newton Argabrite.  

'During the summer of 1898 the present land was purchased, 232 x 200 feet on Split Rock road adjacent to the spot where Ann Hutchinson of Revolutionary fame was massacred.  The property was owned by Mrs. Adelaide S. Prevost, a descendant of Aaron Burr, and was purchased for a sum of $1,500.  A letter from Mr. James F. Secor, dated July 23, 1898, referring to the purchase of this site on 'Bartow Lane,' is among the Home records as is also one from Mr. B. Collins who acted as Mrs. Prevost's agent.  Mr. William B. Randall remembers that it was necessary to raise $100 in 24 hours to bind the contract.  He says that 'although it was as hard to find $100 then as it is now, Mrs. Randall and he found some of it and that Mrs. Hazen went upstairs to the First National Bank and found the balance' which was then taken to Mr. Secor.

'In the early days of the Home a Junior Auxiliary was very active and the first money for the Building Fund was received from the proceeds of a fair held at the residence of Mrs. Robert C. Black in the early 1890's.  The enclosure speaks for itself:

'In 1900 the Juniors gave $300 to the Building Fund.  A Director was in charge of the young people, supervising sewing meetings and guiding them in their entertainments.  This Auxiliary became inactive about the War time but was revived in 1924 and has been most helpful since.

'The cornerstone of the building was laid on May 15, 1899.  A report read at the next meeting is as follows:

'The cornerstone of the Pelham Summer Home was laid on the afternoon of May 15, 1899, at 3 o'clock, with simple but impressive ceremonies, in the presence of about 50 members and friends of the Association, the teachers and young ladies of Mrs. Hazen's School and members of the Junior Association.  Addresses were made by Mr. Adriance of New York and Mr. Robinson of Pelham Manor, the exercises being begun by a short reading from Scriptures by Mr. Tenny of Pelham Manor.  After the mortar was placed by the President, Directors and Junior members, using a trowel made for the occasion, the exercises closed with singing the Doxology by Mrs. Hazen's School, and the Benediction pronounced by the venerable Mr. Bolton of Pelham.  This occasion being the first material evidence of years of work, by interested members, the beautiful natural landscape, aided by ideal Spring weather, will long be remembered by those who participated.'
'Sec. of Com.'
'A report of the Chairman of the Building Committee dated October 12, 1899, states that the contract was let to George Watson for $3,893.55, including grading.
'A committee whose chairman was Mrs. W. B. Baker took charge of the furnishings, and the Home, capable of caring for 14 children, was opened in June, 1900, carrying a mortgage of $2,000, which was paid off in a few years.  As early as this, a need was felt for some sort of play supervision and a 'kindergartner' was engaged for from one to two hours a day to entertain and instruct the children.  In 1900 there were 67 members who contributed to the support of the Home.  
'In the President's report of 1901 she states that the cost per child was $3 a week.  Children were received from different Day Nurseries and Settlements in New York through application to the Children's Committee.  This Committee for many of these early years was under the direction of Mrs. Alfred L. Hammett, a charter member still living in Pelham Manor and one of the earliest and most valued members of the Board and Mrs. Robert C. Black during her lifetime a friend and patron of the Home.

'The Home has had several gentlemen whose interest, advice and financial help have supported the Directors in their task.  The first was Mr. Coffin of New Rochelle, then Mr. Robert C. Black of Pelham Manor, also Mr. E.E. Sinclair, Mr. Walter Finlay, Mr. James Elliott, Mr. A.C. Field and Mr. Edwin Gould.

'For several years after 1900, Mrs. Hazen rented the Home for the 8 winter months as she and the girls of her School had organized a charity known as the Pelham Hall Shelter to aid 'first, unfortunate women and later convalescent women.'  The sum of money, $25 per month, derived from this rental was of material assistance to the Home.  

'In 1905 the Home was enlarged to accommodate 30.  $1,476 was raised in this year and in addition $100 was borrowed from '6 Directors and one friend' to meet the obligation.

'Until 1910 the Board consisted of first 16 then 18 Directors.  At that time a new Constitution and By-Laws were adopted and the number of Directors was increased to 30.

'At the meeting of April 23, 1915 a letter was read from Miss Ruth Morgan asking if the Home would take care of children with heart trouble.  At the May meeting the Board voted to take 29 children from Bellevue for the month of June.  A quotation from the minutes of June 3, 1915 is as follows:  'Mrs. Currie, Chairman of the Children's Committee, had interviewed different settlements concerning children to come to the Home during the summer and was pleased to report that this was the first time any Fresh Air Home had ever taken the little cardiac patients; they were to come today with a nurse in charge, Mrs. Black having sent a wagon to meet them.'

'On August 12, 1915 a special meeting was called to decide if it would be possible to accede to the request of Bellevue to keep the children 'til October 1st.  After discussion, it was voted to keep the Home open.  As there was only $102 in the treasury, it was imperative to raise money.  This was accomplished by means of a Fair.  $2,845 was raised and $400 was added to this sum by Mr. Vail.  

'On September 16, 1915 a motion was carried to keep the Home open all winter if possible or as long as there was sufficient money.  The previous summer a report of the Home had been mailed to subscribers suggesting that the Home be kept open all years and asking them to signify their wishes on an enclosed card.  There is no record of the results of this vote, but in any event, the friends of the Home came loyally to the support of the Directors and the work continued through the winter months.

'In February 1917 it was voted to cooperate with Bellevue and take only their children for a period of 4 months, that their doctors might find how much benefit was derived from staying a longer period of time in one Home under one regime.  They provided for this experiment $50 per month for a nurse and about $200 for extra invalid food, their own doctors making weekly visits.  During 1918 Bellevue sent a group of boys to the Home but they proved difficult to manage and it was with relief to the Directors that the Doctors at the hospital decided that the plant and the staff were more fitted for girls than for boys.

'During the years 1919 and 1920 a number of requests were received from other hospitals and clinics asking for beds for their children and as Bellevue alone was not always able to keep the Home filled to capacity, it was decided to take children from other sources as well, thereby broadening the usefulness of the Home.  The length of the children's stay is determined by their state of health and not limited, and no children are returned to their homes or hospitals without instructions from the doctor in charge.  

'In January 1921 it was decided to enlarge and renovate the building.  Mr. Orchard was selected as architect and on April 7th a motion was carried to accept his plans.  Mr. Weldon was selected as builder.

'A Finance Committee was formed headed by Mr. Walter Finlay and Mr. James Elliott.  A drive for funds was made by a large group of men and the sum of $24,232.54 was raised.

'On November 30, 1921 a reception was held at the Home to celebrate its re-opening.

'On May 10, 1921 the name was changed to Pelham Home for Children, Inc., legal services rendered by Mr. Ralph Rogers.

'In 1917 arrangements were made to have several young ladies come and entertain and instruct the children for a few hours daily, and in 1920 Miss Ann Hammett started regular school instruction.  In 1924 the Board of Education of New York City was persuaded to accept the Home as part of their system.  It thereby became allied to P.S. No. 192 of which Dr. H.H. Goldberg was Principal.  Miss Aimee Gibbon was sent by them to teach and she has organized a regular graded school which has been of inestimable value to the children who are thereby able to keep up their school work, many of them to graduate, while still receiving medical care.  'Till 1929 they also sent Miss Gibbon as a recreational teacher for 2 hours in the afternoons, but at that time their budget was cut and they were unable to continue.  Arrangements were made, however, which enabled Miss Gibbon to continue this valuable afternoon work.  Her patience and interest in the children is great and she has taught them to make the most elaborate costumes and favors of paper, and to give plays which are enjoyed by friends of the Home.

'In the autumn of 1929 Dr. Duchez and Dr. Alvin F. Coburn of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center requested that they be allowed to keep minute records and take daily cultures of the children's throats to aid in elaborate research which they are conducting to endeavor to understand more fully rheumatism in connection with cardiac children.  Miss Kelly, the Superintendent, has cooperated most wonderfully with these doctors and valuable data are being assembled.

'The Home has always had a matron in charge.  Records show the names of Mrs. Moore prior to 1900, of Miss De Baun and of Mrs. Wood for short periods of time, of Miss Sneath for many years a loyal friend and competent head of the household, and since May, 1923, Miss Mary C. Kelly, R.N., whom the Board feels most happy to have as Superintendent.  She is untiring in her devotion to the children and has the interests of the home always in mind.  The well run small hospital into which the Home has developed is largely due to her efforts.  The staff has been enlarged necessarily as the demands have become greater and in 1931 consists of 3 graduate nurses, a superintendent, her assistant and a night nurse, 1 undergraduate nurse, a cook, a maid and a houseman.

'The Board of Directors has always been most fortunate in having the cooperation and help of the medical profession.  The first doctor, C.T. Washbern, drove frequently to the Home with his horse and buggy.  Since he left Pelham, the Visiting Staff of Doctors has been as follows:  Dr. Walter Brundage, Dr. Henry W. Titus, Dr. Fairfax Hall, Dr. F. Duncan Barnes, Dr. A. F. Heyl, Dr. Warren L. Swift, D.D.S., Dr. Seymour Trischett.

'The Consulting Staff has been as follows:  Dr. Robert C. Reese, Dr. J.J. Sinnott, Dr. George C. Adie, Dr. Edward Dench, Dr. Robert Halsey, Dr. William St. Laurence, Dr. Algeron T. Reese, Dr. Morley T. Smith and Dr. Holland N. Stevenson.

'The Home is non-sectarian.  The first clergyman holding services for the children were the Rev. A. F. Tenney of Christ's Church and the Rev. Joseph Robinson of the Huguenot Memorial Church.  Since they left Pelham, the Directors are grateful to a number of clergymen who have given their time to hold services at the Home.  At the present time when their health permits, the children are taken to a regular church service.

'In 1930 the Board of Directors voted to join the Community Chest which started operating in January, 1931, and so ended the many year in which a large proportion of members' strength and interest was given to the great absorbing question of how to raise funds.  The years of fairs, concerts, silver teas, etc., are over.  Let us hope that the community will continue to feel the same bond with the Home that it has in the past.  The Home was supported by dues of $3 a year 'til 1921, then $5 a year or multiples of $5 by donations and by entertainments until 1931.  Legacies have been received from the following friends of the Home:  Mr. Robert C. Black, Mrs. Pierson R. Eagan, Mrs. Robert C. Black, Miss Jenkins and Mr. Edmund E. Sinclair.

'On January 1, 1932 the Endowment Fund which has been subscribed to through the years amounted to $11,625.62, and the Building Fund amounted to $24,474.28.

'The past Presidents of the Home have been as follows:  Mrs. Charles F. Heywood followed by Mrs. John C. Hazen 'til 1899; Mrs. Charles F. Roper, 1899 to 1910; Mrs. James F. Secor, 1910 to 1914; Mrs. Clark Mellen,, 1914 to 1915; Mrs. Hugh Herndon, 1915 to 1916; Mrs. Edward King, 1916 to 1919; Mrs. Ralph Rogers, 1919 to 1922; Mrs. Albert G. Field since 1922.

'Mrs. William B. Randall for many years Secretary of the Home, now an Honorary Director, Mrs. James F. Secor, once President, now an Honorary Director, and Mrs. Ezra T. Gilliland, a member of the Board since 1893 or 4, and First Vice-President, are valued life-long members of the Board of Directors.

'For those who have lived in Pelham for many years the names of some of the early members of the Board seem to be intimately identified with the life of the Home, and certainly they deserve recognition for their foresight and courage in persevering in what was then a tiny community to establish such an efficient Home as now exists.  Mrs. Charles F. Heywood, Mrs. Richard Emmet, Mrs. David T. Carson, Mrs. Alfred L. Hammett, Mrs. Maurice Kingsley, Mrs. William B. Randall, Mrs. John C. Hazen, Mrs. James F. Secor, Miss Anna Secor, Mrs. Henry N. Babcock, Mrs. Harris E. Adriance, Mrs. Charles R. Gillett, Mrs. James M. Townsend, Mrs. Charles F. Roper, Miss Cowles, Mrs. Robert C. Black, Mrs. K.J. Muir, Mrs. W.D. Baker, Mrs. H.B.B. Stapler, Mrs. H.G.K. Heath, Mrs. John Butler and many others.'

The report was presented by Mrs. Henry H. Fox, secretary of the Board."

Source:  Growth of the Pelham Home a Tribute to the True Spirit of Charity Here, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 11, 1932, p. 14, col. 1.

I have written about the Pelham Home for Children on a number of occasions.  To learn more about the institution and its history, see:

Thu., Apr. 14, 2005:  The Pelham Home for Children that Once Stood on Split Rock Road.  

Fri., Mar. 13, 2009:  Pelham Women Stage Benefit for the "Summer School for Children" in 1900.  

Tue., Jul. 14, 2009:  Successful Fundraiser for the Pelham Home for Children that Once Stood on Split Rock Road.  

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