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, May 09, 2014

The Origins of the Pelham Manor Association, an Important Local Civic Organization Founded in 1926

In mid-1926, residents along Pelhamdale Avenue in the Town of Pelham were upset.  The Roaring Twenties were well under way and the population of the area was exploding.  Traffic likewise was growing and Pelhamdale Avenue was becoming a busy thoroughfare.  Trolleys rattled loudly up and down the Avenue.  Trolleys and trucks sped along the street at excessive speeds.  

The local citizenry was fed up.  They decided it was time to do something.  A group gathered and resolved to create an organization to be known as "The Pelhamdale Avenue Association" to deal with such issues of local import.  From the very outset, however, it became apparent to members of the group that there were a wide variety of quality of life issues that were beginning to affect the entire Village of Pelham Manor.  Consequently, the group promptly changed its name to the "Pelham Manor Association."

The first President of the organization was William F. Fitzsimmons.  He and his fellow officers embraced their new responsibilities with gusto.  They approached the Third Avenue Railway Company and forced it to replace noisy equipment and "flat wheels" on its trolleys.  They worked with the street railroad to create an enforced trolley car stop at Witherbee and Pelhamdale Avenues.  

Harold B. Barnett succeeded Fitzsimmons as the next President of the Pelham Manor Association.  These early successes seem to have emboldened the young organization.  .The group lobbied successfully in favor of the proposed Hutchinson River Valley Sewer project entered into by the three villages of the Pelhams at a cost of about a million dollars.  The organization also became an avid proponent of electing women to the local School Board.  

The taxpayer's organization held monthly meetings that typically involved presentations on topics of civic interest.  Among the presentations made during its monthly meetings early in the history of the organization were:

"General Seasonal Care of Trees, Shrubs and Gardens"

"The Westchester County Charter"

"Taxpayers' Associations in the Suburbs"

"The Value of the New Haven Rebate Slip"

"The Westchester County Parkway System"

The organization also worked with three other taxpayers' associations in the Pelhams in an effort to influence civic matters.  

The Pelham Manor Association has been a civic and taxpayer association force in Pelham for many decades.  The organization was formally incorporated as "The Pelham Manor Association, Inc." on January 11, 1937.  It subsequently was involved in a number of litigations in support of enforcement of zoning ordinances in Pelham Manor.  

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an article published in 1927 that discussed the origins of the organization and described much of its work in the first two years of its existence.  The transcription is followed by a citation to its source.    

Harold B. Barnett, 2nd President of the Pelham Manor Association.
[Pelham, NY], Dec. 16, 1927, p. 13, cols. 1-4.

*          *          *          *          *

Pelham Manor Association Has Proven Its Ability In the Eighteen Months Of Its Existance [sic].  Brilliant Future Predicted
By Harold B. Barnett, President of the Pelham Manor Association

The Pelham Manor Association extends to all, its best wishes for a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.  

Organized but eighteen months ago, the Pelham Manor Association has during that period shown considerable activity, demonstrating on many occasions the desire of its members to promote the welfare of the village in every way.

While in number of years probably one of the baby organizations of the Pelhams, the Association, under the able leadership of its first President, William F. Fitzsimmons, and his fellow officers, has grown rapidly and now fills a place in civic matters in the Manor that had for a long time been unoccupied.  

It is unnecessary to go into a detailed account of the activities of the organization which have been so fully set forth in the issues of 'The Pelham Sun'.  However a brief resume will doubtless prove of interest to those who have not followed its progress in the press.

Formed through the combined efforts of many of the Pelhamdale avenue residents to combat the noise and speeding of trolleys and trucks along that thoroughfare, it was originally planned that the new body should be known as 'The Pelhamdale Avenue Association'.  At the very outset, however, it was apparent that other important matters involving all sections of the village would come before it from time to time and its name and purpose were therefore changed so as to include all residents of the village.

Through the co-operation of the Third Avenue Railway Company, favorable action was secured in respect to the trolley situation by the elimination of noisy equipment and flat wheels and the establishment of an enforced car stop at Witherbee and Pelhamdale avenues.  An active part was taken by the association in the approval of the proposed Hutchinson River Valley Sewer project which the Pelhams have agreed to enter at a cost to them of approximately one million dollars.  

Early in its existence the organization went on record as favoring the election of women to the local School Board.  Other bodies joined the movement which last June aroused such interest as to bring out over a thousand taxpayers to a school election, but which was defeated by the narrow margin of 33 votes.

Various other civic matters with which all are familiar have been given due consideration and have been endorsed or opposed as seemed best for the interests of our members.

The organization is now starting off its second season with some most interesting meetings which promise to grow more enjoyable and more widely attended as the Association becomes better known and proves of value to our residents.

So far this winter we have been addressed by Thomas Fieldhouse of Troy's Nurseries on the 'General Seasonal Care of Trees, Shrubs and Gardens', Benjamin A. Howes on 'The Westchester County Charter', Stewart Browne on 'Taxpayers' Associations in the Suburbs'.  Judge Charles A. Van Auken on 'The Value of the New Haven Rebate Slip', and Major Gilmore D. Clarke on 'The Westchester County Parkway System'.  Our November meeting was a joint session with the three other taxpayers' associations in the Pelhams and went far toward fostering a friendly relationship between them.

At all times the Association expects to take an active part in all civic matters which involve the interests of its members, and it heartily invites all residents of the Village of Pelham to attend its meetings and other functions and to unit with it in promoting the welfare of the village."

Source:  Barnett, Harold B., PELHAM'S JUNIOR CIVIC ORGANIZATION HAS MADE REMARKABLE PROGRESS, The Pelham Sun [Pelham, NY], Dec. 16, 1927, p. 13, cols. 1-4. 

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