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, April 11, 2014

Pelhamville's Name Was Nearly Changed To "Huguenot" -- Efforts in 1870 to Develop and Market Today's Village of Pelham

Research has revealed an initiative in 1870 to rename the tiny little hamlet known as Pelhamville.  The proposal was to change its name to "Huguenot" and seems to have been part of a broader ploy to develop and market building lots for sale to prospective home builders.

At about that time, the trains of the New York & New Haven Railroad did not stop in Pelhamville.  Rather, a red flag had to be raised to signal trains to stop.  As part of the initiative to develop the area, four petitions were circulated among local residents to request that all regular trains be required to stop in Pelhamville.  Such an arrangement would improve the local business climate and would benefit local merchants whose freight was delivered to Mount Vernon, three miles away, and had to be picked up.  

One of the principal proponents of the initiative was Col. Richard Lathers of New Rochelle.  Col. Lathers stood to profit handsomely from any such development.  

Richard Lathers was a commission merchant in New York City who dealt in cotton and rice and later founded the Great Western Insurance Company, with which he continued for nineteen years until 1869.  Born in Ireland, Lathers grew up in South Carolina.  In 1849, Lathers married Abbie Pitman Thurston whose father was President of the Exchange Bank of Newport, Rhode Island.  Lathers purchased 250 acres of undeveloped land in West New Rochelle and Pelhamville and built a large Tuscany-style home north of the old Boston & Westchester Railroad tracks and east of Storer Avenue.  He named the estate "Winyah Park," naming it after the Parish Prince George Winyah in South Carolina.  See Death of Col. R. Lathers -- Orator and Statesman Passes Away in His City Home, N.Y. Times, Sep. 18, 1903.  Lathers and his wife had two sons and four daughters, one of whom was educated at the Priory School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  

Col. Richard Lathers in an Undated Photograph Published in 1902.
Source:  Lathers, Richard, This Discursive Biographical Sketch 1841-1902
of Colonel Richard Lathers Compiled as Required for Honorary
Membership in Post 509, Grand Army of the Republic Embracing a
Sixty Years' Residence in South Carolina, New York, 
and Massachusetts:  Devoted Actively to Commerce, Agriculture,
Insurance, Banking and Railroad Enterprise,
Photo Page Following Index to the Volume 
(Philadelphia, PA:  J.B. Lippincott Co., 1902).

Col. Lathers opened up today's Webster Avenue through his property and opened Washington Avenue as well as a means of access from West New Rochelle to Pelhamville.  Col. Lathers transferred a large portion of his land to the Winyah Development Company.  A company named Winyah Realty Company took over the development of a large portion of the property in 1901 and used Pelham's Smith Brothers Contracting to begin to lay out streets and sewers in the neighborhood known today as Pelhamwood.  Lathers died in New York City on September 17, 1903.  See Death of Col. R. Lathers -- Orator and Statesman Passes Away in His City Home, N.Y. Times, Sep. 18, 1903.  

Development of the area slowed to a crawl during the Panic of 1907 and the subsequent Depression of 1907-1908.  In 1908, Clifford B. Harmon, a son-in-law of Commodore E.C. Benedict of Greenwich, Connecticut and Edward C. Storer, a Boston banker, formed the Pelhamwood Company and took over the land and its development.  They named Benedict Place for Commodore Benedict, Harmon and Clifford Avenues for Clifford B. Harmon and Young Avenue after George C. Young, President of the U.S. Mortgage & Trust Co. who was the husband of the famous opera singer, Mme. Nordica.  Storer Avenue was named for Edward C. Storer.  In 1912, the Pelhamwood Company arranged for the Joseph B. Lambden Agency to sell lots for the construction of homes and development of Pelhamwood followed.  Source: New Members Join Pelhamwood Association As It Celebrates The Thirtieth Year Of Its Existence, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 7, May 22, 1942, p. 3, col. 1.

Map of Pelhamville Published in 1868.
Source: Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity from Actual 
Surveys By and Under the Direction of F.W. Beers, 
Assisted By A.B. Prindle & Others, pg. 36 
(NY, NY: Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868) (Detail from Page 36 Map Entitled 
"Town of New Rochelle, Westchester Co., N.Y. (With) Pelhamville).

Although it took nearly forty years to develop the lands owned by Col. Lathers into Pelhamwood, in 1870 Lathers was beginning to formulate a grand design to name the area "Huguenot" and to cut a roadway from today's Shore Road near Bolton Priory all the way to the Pelhamville Depot.  He also planned to improve nearby roadways and to create "Huguenot Park" with a 20-acre lake for boating and fishing to attract prospective purchasers.

Thankfully, the name "Huguenot" never took hold.  Also thankfully, a New Rochelle resident named Richard Lathers had the foresight in 1870 to begin efforts to develop lands that included what is, today, the lovely neighborhood known as Pelhamwood.

*          *          *          *

Below is a transcription of the text of the article published in 1870, followed by a citation to its source.


THE NEW NAME. -- The name of this 'hamlet' has been changed to Hugurnot [sic].  (It is jocosely reported that the name was understood to be Hug-me-not, to the extreme dissatisfaction of the fair sex.)  Four petitions are being circulated among the residents of the vicinity, to request that all regular trains upon the New York & New Haven Railroad shall stop at that point.  It is calculated that business will be greatly increased by this movement.  Immense advantages will certainly be afforded the trading community by leaving freight at their doors instead of Mount Vernon, three miles distant.  A new road is being opened from Pelham Priory to Huguenot depot, at an expense of $10,000, which will shorten the traveling distance from 3-1/2 to 2 miles.  An additional sum of $20,000 is being expended upon various roads in the vicinity with a view of affording perfect facilities to the traveling public.  Col. Lathers is the prime mover in this worthy enterprise, and has devoted one hundred acres of his valuable property to its service.  

'Huguenot Park,' now being laid out upon a portion of these grounds, will extend within a half mile of the railway depot, and will be rendered a delightful location.

A lake will be constructed covering a surface of twenty acres, in a valley peculiarly adapted by nature for the purpose, and watered by a number of small streams.  The lake will be stocked with choice varieties of fish, and supplied with boats for the use of the public.  A fine grove is also to be arranged for the use of pic-nic parties.  Once these improvements are completed, Huguenot will, to say the least, be equally desirable as a place of residence to any village upon the New York and New Haven Railroad.  The subsoil being of a sandy nature permanent dampness is unknown, and the vicinity is entirely free from miastra, as well as those summer pests, musquitoes [sic]."

Source:  PELHAMVILLE, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Apr. 14, 1870, Vol. XV, No. 739, p. 1, col. 3.  

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