Edgewood, a Grand 19th Century Estate Owned by Frederick Prime Overlooking Long Island Sound
I even learned of a lovely painting by noted artist Rickarby Miller purporting to show "Edgewood" as it appeared in 1855. The painting seemed to confirm that the home that stood on the estate was, indeed, a substantial one.
Edgewood, in short, remained a Pelham mystery -- at least to me -- for several years.
Recently, I ran across yet another reference to Edgewood indicating that it was an estate in Pelham that existed as early as 1852. I finally could not take it anymore. I threw myself into the task of solving the mystery and started where I should have begun long ago -- poring over old maps of the area.
I could find no maps of the Town of Pelham from 1853 through 1893 that referenced either an estate known as Edgewood or a property owned by anyone with the last name Prime. It was time to expand the search.
Soon the mystery was solved. As I should have anticipated, an early map of New Rochelle published in 1868 revealed that Frederick Prime owned a substantial estate overlooking Long Island Sound at a location just across Pelham's border with New Rochelle near Shore Road. A detail from the map appears immediately below.
Source: F.W. Beers, Atlas of New York and Vicinity from
Actual Surveys by and Under the Direction of F.W. Beers,
Assisted by A.B. Prindle & Others, p. 36 "Town of New Rochelle,
Westchester Co, N.Y. (with) Pelhamville" (NY, NY: Beers, Ellis,
& Soule, 1868). Note: The New Rochelle / Pelham
Border Later Was Moved Even Closer to Prime's Estate.
Frederick I. Prime was born in New York City on October 30, 1807. He was the youngest son of Nathaniel Prime. He was baptized at Grace Church, February 27, 1811.
Frederick Prime's Father, Wall Street Banker Nathaniel Prime
Nathaniel Prime was a successful and wealthy banker who founded the then well-known banking firm of Prime, Ward & King. Nathaniel Prime found a business in 1796 known as "Nathaniel Prime, Stock and Commission Broker, No. 42 Wall street." His business grew and, in 1808, he took in Samuel Ward as a partner, changing the name of the firm to Prime & Ward. In 1816, the partnership accepted Joseph Sands as a partner and became known as Prime, Ward & Sands, still doing business at No. 42 Wall Street until 1825 when the building was demolished to make way for a grand marble building to house the expanded firm. That same year, James G. King was made a partner and the firm became Prime, Ward, Sands, King & Co. Sands left the firm in 1826 and it became Prime, Ward, King & Co.
There is an apocryphal story about Wall Street banker Nathaniel Prime. It was related in a book published in 1870 as follows:
"Old Nat Prime was an extraordinary man -- stout, thick, short, and heavy in person, yet he was a wonderfully shrewd calculator. It was stated that the original head of this firm was in early life a coachman to the rich William Gray, an eminent merchant in Boston. Mr. Gray loaned him a small sum of money with which to commence the brokerage business in a very small way. The ex-coachman shaved notes, and got bravely ahead. He was invited to a dinner party, where there were several gentlemen, and one a planter of wealth from Georgia. The conversation turned upon the best mode of investing money. Mr. Prime took a part in this conversation, and after giving his financial views, added: 'If I had $5000, I could invest it to-morrow in a manner that would enable me to double the sum inside of a year.'
'What security can you give me, Mr. Prime, if I lend you the sum named?' asked the Georgian planter.
'The word of an honest man,' said Mr. Prime.
'You shall have the money on that security alone,' said the Georgian. He gave Mr. Prime $5000 the next day. The broker did double the sum, and within a year returned the $5000, with interest, to the generous and confiding lender. But there is a sequel to that, not so pleasant to narrate. Some years after the $5000 transaction, the Georgian planter became embarrassed. His plantation and slaves were mortgaged, and he was unable to pay the interest and prevent a foreclosure and sale. He could not raise the money. In this emergency he thought of Mr. Prime, who had meanwhile become the great Wall street banker. He went to him, and recalled himself to the memory of Mr. Prime, and then stated his desperate circumstances. 'I need,' he added, 'about the same amount I once loaned you.'
'What security can you give?' asked Prime.
'The word of an honest man,' replied the Georgian.
'That will not pass in Wall street,' said Prime, and he refused to make the loan, and the planter became a beggar in consequence."
Source: Barrett, Walter [pseudonym for Joseph Alfred Scoville], The Old Merchants of New York City, Vol. I, pp. 11-12 (NY, NY: M. Doolady, 1870).
By 1830 or so, Nathaniel Prime was among the five richest men in New York with most believing that his fortune was second only to that of john Jacob Astor.
In 1832, Nathaniel Prime retired from the banking firm he had founded. Though it seemed that Nathaniel Prime had it all and would live his years in luxury on his country estate at Hurlgate, looks were deceiving. As one source recounts:
"All seemed fair in the future for old Mr. Prime. Vast wealth, excellent sons, daughters all well married, he had nothing else to do but live and enjoy himself. Did he do so? No. The strange fancy seized upon his mind, that he was becoming poor -- that his destiny was to die in the almshouse. Under this singular monomania, and hallucination of mind, he cut his throat with a razor, and died on the instant."
Source: Barrett, Walter [pseudonym for Joseph Alfred Scoville], The Old Merchants of New York City, Vol. I, p. 12 (NY, NY: M. Doolady, 1870).
Frederick I. Prime, a Son of Nathaniel Prime and Owner of Edgewood
Frederick I. Prime attended Yale, studied law and was admitted to the bar of the State of New York as a young man. He married his first wife, Mary Rutherfurd Jay, and entered practice with her father, his new father-in-law, Peter A. Jay who served as Recorder of New York City.
Frederick and Mary Prime had three children before Mary died on September 9, 1835. (She is buried in the Jay Graveyard in Rye, New York.) Their children were Mary Rutherford Prime, born in New York on August 24, 1830; Harriet Prime, born in New York on September 11, 1832; and Helen Jay Prime, born in New York on August 22, 1835. Frederick Prime's wife, Mary Prime, died only eighteen days after the couple's third child was born.
After the death of his wife, Mary, Frederick Prime married Lydia Hare in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 15, 1838. Lydia was a daughter of Harriet Clark Hare and Dr. Robert Hare, of Philadelphia. Dr. Hare was a well-known chemist and Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Frederick I. Prime and his second wife, Lydia Hare Prime, had one child: Frederick Prime, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania March 1, 1846. For more on Frederick I. Prime, his wives and family, see Prime, Temple, The Family of Prime of Rowley, Mass. with Notes on the Families of Platts and Jewett, pp. 23-24 & pp. 12-22 (2d Edition, NY, NY: 1897).
Research has not yet revealed, to this author at least, when Frederick Prime acquired what became the estate known as Edgewood. It seems clear, however, that at least by 1852, he and his second wife, Lydia Hare Prime, were using the estate as a country home away from their primary residence in New York City. (A book of poetry written by Lydia Hare Prime that her husband published after her death in her memory included at least one poem indicated as written while at "Edgewood" in "New Rochelle" in "1852.")
In any event, certainly by the time Rickarby Miller painted the estate as seen from Long Island Sound in 1855 (see image above), Frederick Prime and Lydia Hare Prime were using it part of each year as their summer residence. Eventually, the estate consisted of forty acres of meadow lands, agricultural fields, and woodland, commanded by a mansion built in the "Swiss style of architecture, large [and] substantially and expensively built of rough-hewn brown stone." There also were a coach-house and stables built of stone, with flower gardens, kitchen gardens, and two "tenant houses."
Frederick I. Prime outlived his second wife, too. Lydia Hare Prime died May 24, 1883, in her 65th year. Her will, dated July 30, 1859, was proved June 6, 1883 and is on file with the Surrogate's Office of the City of New York, Liber 309, Fol. 491. She is buried in Beechwood Cemetery, New Rochelle, New York. Immediately upon his second wife's death, Frederick I. Prime collected poetry that she had been writing since childhood, organized it and published a book of her poetry that he distributed to family and friends. See F.P., ed. [Prime, Frederick], In Memory of L.H.P. (NY, NY: Frederick Prime, Jr. 1884).
Frederick I. Prime died on July 13, 1887. His will is on file with the Surrogate's Office, City of New York. He is buried in Beechwood Cemetery, New Rochelle, New York.
Advertising Indicating Efforts to Sell or to Lease Edgewood
In early 1881, advertisements began to appear in local metropolitan newspapers indicating that Frederick and Lydia Prime were trying to sell or to lease their country estate. See, e.g., FOR SALE, OR TO LEASE, FOR A TERM OF YEARS [Advertisement], N.Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1881, p. 6, col. 6; COUNTRY REAL ESTATE -- FOR SALE, OR TO LEASE FOR A TERM OF YEARS, The Evening Post [New York, NY], Apr. 8, 1881, 2nd Edition, p. 2, col. 6; FOR SALE OR TO LEASE [Advertisement], The Evening Post [New York, NY], Apr. 8, 1882, 2nd Edition, p. 1, col. 7; FOR SALE OR TO LEASE [Advertisement], The Evening Post [New York, NY], Apr. 13, 1882, 2nd Edition, p. 2, col. 7. (Examples of such advertisements appears at the end of this posting.)
After the death of Frederick Prime's wife, Lydia, in 1883, it seems that the estate was no longer offered for lease -- only for outright sale. See FOR SALE -- "EDGEWOOD" [Advertisement], NY Times, May 1, 1885, p. 7, col. 2; FOR SALE -- "EDGEWOOD" [Advertisement], The Evening Post [New York, NY], May 19, 1885, 2nd Edition, p. 2, col. 8.
Confusion Over Whether Edgewood Was in Pelham or New Rochelle
As noted above, over the years I noticed some confusion in various records regarding whether the estate known as "Edgewood" was or was not located in Pelham. It seems that the confusion may stem from the fact that although the estate was actually located in New Rochelle on Long Island Sound near the border with Pelham, Frederick Prime used a Pelham post-office address. See, e.g., Swinton, William, History of the Seventh Regiment, National Guard, State of New York, During the War of the Rebellion, p. 191 (NY, NY: Charles T. Dillingham, 1886) (quoting a letter from Frederick Prime containing the following return address: "PELHAM POST-OFFICE, WESTCHESTER Co., N. Y., EDGEWOOD" -- see letter quoted in full below).
* * * * *
Below are transcriptions of a number of resources related to Edgewood, its owner (Frederick Prime) and Prime's family.
"DEATH OF FREDERICK PRIME.
Frederick Prime, who died at his residence, 13 West Twelfth-street yesterday, was born in this city Oct. 30, 1807, and was the youngest and only surviving son of Nathaniel Prime, the founder of the at one time well known New-York banking frim of Prime, Ward & King. Mr. Prime attended Yale College, studied law, and in early life practiced his profession with Peter A. Jay, formerly Recorder of this city, whose daughter was his first wife. He afterward married a daughter of Dr. Robert Hare, of Philadelphia, the well known chemist, surviving her about four years. Mr. Prime retired from business 25 years ago, and for many years passed the greater part of each year at his country seat, Edgewood, at New-Rochelle, where he took a deep interest in promoting public school affairs.
In politics Mr. Prime was a Republican from the formation of the party, and during the war he was a stanch and active supporter of the Union cause, taking a prominent part in politics in Westchester County. He had been frequently solicited, but always declined to take office. He leaves four daughters and one son. He was the father-in-law of Francis T. Garrettson and of Louis F. Delafield, of this city, and of Dr. Gibbons, of New-Haven."
Source: DEATH OF FREDERICK PRIME, NY Times, Jul. 14, 1887.
MY DEAR SIR, -- Some threescore young ladies, relatives of the young men of your command, have with their own hands prepared a silk flag, which they very much desire should be presented to the regiment during its absence from our city on its present sacred mission. I am requested to ask your permission that it may be sent to you (it is a national flag, and perfectly simple, the staff made of lance-wood, with a silver spear-head), in the hope that it may be used on all proper occasions, and not kept merely for parade. The contributions made by the young ladies exceed the cost of the silk and mounting of the flag, and they request you to receive and dispose of this money for such useful ends as to your individual judgment may deem advisable.
I remain, with respect, yours, &c.,
PELHAM POST-OFFICE, WESTCHESTER Co., N. Y.,
EDGEWOOD, May 5, 1861."
Source: Swinton, William, History of the Seventh Regiment, National Guard, State of New York, During the War of the Rebellion, p. 191 (NY, NY: Charles T. Dillingham, 1886).
"Letters relating to the removal of the Sands remains from Nassau Street to St. Paul's Church, Eastchester, Westchester Co., N. Y.
EDGEWOOD (PELHAM), October 20th 1874.
To RUFUS PRIME, Esq., Huntington, L. I.
I am not certain as to the year the remains were removed from our grandfather's vault in New York to Eastchester, but it was either in 1844 or 1845 * [Footnote * reads: 'It was in 1845; Rufus Prime assisted at this removal, he was in Europe in 1844, but was in New York during the spring of 1845.'] . . . I find the deed for the vault was given by the Rector of St. Paul's Church, Eastchester, grant to Cornelia Prime; this vault, in which she caused to be placed the remains removed from the vault of her father Comfort Sands, in the Dutch Church in Nassau Street, New York, has no steps or door, but is divided into two parts and covered with heavy marble flags. The division nearest the church contains the remains, the other division was not used. The deed is dated ninth of June 1846, the six being written over five erased, but as it is difficult to get instruments signed properly in country church bodies, it is probable it was prepared for 1845, but not executed until next year.
EDGEWOOD (PELHAM), October 20th, /74.
RUFUS PRIME, Esq.:
Since writing enclosed I find the memorandums respecting an inscription proposed to be placed over the vault containing the remains from Comfort Sands' vault, of which we talked last year. In one of yours you seem to think the vault was under the Church; this is a mistake; it is very near but on the outside of the south-east wall of the church. I will put a rough diagram on the back of this.
Your affectionate brother,
The vault was a square solid wall of masonry, divided by a cross-wall, making as it were two distinct pits; as I was entirely ignorant of what space would be required, when the remains came, one division was found to be twice as large as was necessary -- the covering flags were long, rough, and heavy, each flag long enough, I think, to extend over both divisions from side to side.* [Footnote * reads as follows: 'The gravestone which was over the vault in Nassau Street is now over this one.']"
Source: Prime, Temple, Descent of Comfort Sands and of His Children, with Notes on the Families of Ray, Thomas, Guthrie, Alcock, Palgrave, Cornell, Dodge, Hunt, Jessup, pp. 17-18 (NY, NY: 1886).
The text of the advertisement immediately above reads as follows:
"COUNTRY REAL ESTATE.
FOR SALE, OR TO LEASE FOR A TERM OF YEARS -- 'Edgewood,' on Long Island Sound, near New-Rochelle, the country seat of Frederick Prime, Esq., superbly located, commanding most extensive views of water and inland scenery; house, Swiss style of architecture, large substantially and expensively built of rough-hewn brown stone, coach-house and stables of stone, flower and kitchen gardens, two tenant houses; about 40 acres meadow, agricultural, and woodland; suitable as residence for a portion of or throughout the whole, year; nearly equidistant from New-Rochelle Station, on New-York and New-Haven Railroad, and from Pelham Manor Station, on Harlem River Branch Railroad. If leased, will be leased partly furnished. Apply to E. H. LUDLOW & CO., No. 3 Pine-st., or F. T. GARRETTSON, counselor, &c., No. 26 Broad-st., New-York City."
For the same advertisement as that quoted immediately above, see COUNTRY REAL ESTATE -- FOR SALE, OR TO LEASE FOR A TERM OF YEARS, The Evening Post [New York, NY], Apr. 8, 1881, 2nd Edition, p. 2, col. 6.
The text of the advertisement immediately above reads as follows:
"FOR SALE OR TO LEASE -- FOR A term of years, 'Edgewood,' on Long Island Sound, near New Rochelle, country seat of Frederick Prime, commanding extensive views of water and inland scenery; house large, Swiss style, of rough hewn brown stone; coach-house and stables of stone; two tenant-houses 40 acres; suitable as residence for both Summer and Winter. Apply to F. T. GARRETTSON, No. 26 Broad Street, New York, or W. LE COUNT, New Rochelle."
For the same advertisement as that quoted immediately above, see FOR SALE OR TO LEASE [Advertisement], The Evening Post [New York, NY], Apr. 13, 1882, 2nd Edition, p. 2, col. 7.
"FOR SALE--'EDGEWOOD,' ON LONG ISLand Sound, near New-Rochelle, equi-distant from New-Rochelle and Pelham Manor Depots, country seat of Frederick Prime, Esq., commanding extensive views of water and inland scenery; house very spacious; Swiss style; most substantially built of rough-hewn brownstone; coachhouse and stables of stone; 40 acres; suitable for both Summer and Winter residence; terms easy. Apply to FRANCIS T. GARRETTSON, Counselor, &c., 26 Broad-st., New-York."
For the same advertisement as that quoted immediately above, see FOR SALE -- "EDGEWOOD" [Advertisement], The Evening Post [New York, NY], May 19, 1885, 2nd Edition, p. 2, col. 8.