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, August 15, 2014

The Old Horse Fountain on Boston Post Road at the Esplanade

Long before the automobile came to rule the roads of Pelham, horses were the necessary mode of transportation.  More than one hundred and fifteen years ago, a notable member of the local community took pity on the poor beasts that pulled horse-drawn vehicles up and down Boston Post Road.  She decided to help.  She certainly could help.  She was Hope Iselin, the wife of Charles Oliver Iselin.

Charles Oliver Iselin was a wealthy American banker and one of the greatest American yachtsmen of his time.  He participated in and won six consecutive America’s Cup races: 1887, 1893, 1895, 1899, 1901 and 1903. He maintained a massive, lovely waterfront estate in New Rochelle where he docked such famous yachts as ‘’Defender,’’ ‘’Reliance,’’ and ‘’Columbia.’’

Hope Iselin donated a lovely horse drinking fountain to quench equine thirsts.  It was constructed of stone and stood for many years on Boston Post Road at the intersection with Esplanade.  The fountain had running water and was lighted with a lovely electric lamp.  It was a popular rest stop for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles whose beasts of burden needed some refreshment.  

Post Card View of the Horse Drinking Fountain at Boston
Post Road and Esplanade, Circa 1910.

The years passed.  Automobile traffic on Boston Post Road grew.  Horse traffic declined.  The importance of the little fountain declined.  Soon, the water seldom ran in the fountain.  The lovely lamp was lighted only on "infrequent occasions."  The horse drinking fountain lapsed into disrepair.  

The Village of Pelham Manor and the Town of Pelham did what they could to save the little fountain.  Flowers were planted around it.  After World War I, the "Roll of Honor" (also known as the "Service Board") listing those Pelham residents who served in the War was moved from Red Church Corners (known today as "Four Corners") to the center of the empty fountain.  

Still the little stone horse drinking fountain fell into further disrepair.  As traffic along Boston Post Road continued to grow and roadwork began to encroach closer and closer to the fountain, it became clear that the stone structure posed a danger to passing traffic.  In the fall of 1922, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor began to debate whether to remove the horse drinking fountain.  

Horse Drinking Fountain at Boston Post Road and Esplanade
in an Undated Photograph.  Source:  Courtesy of The Office of
The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Once the Board's plans were publicized, a group of residents along the Esplanade organized in an effort to save the little fountain.  There was talk of removing the Roll of Honor and replacing it with bronze tablets placed on each side of the fountain.  There was further talk of using the fountain as a planter, filled with soil and flowers (or ivy).  

Such grand talk turned out to be just that -- talk.  The little fountain was soon removed as a possible danger to traffic along Boston Post Road.  Clearly the quaint days of yore when horses were a principal mode of transportation in Pelham had passed.

Today's Historic Pelham blog posting publishes two images of the horse drinking fountain, and transcribes the text of several articles about the horse little fountain that appeared at the time its removal was being debated.  Each is followed by a citation to its source.

"Contemplating Removal Of Village Fountain
Old Horse Fountain on Boston Road At Esplanade Had Long Since Become Unsightly

The Pelham Manor Village Board is contemplating the removal of the long unused horse fountain and the service board at the Esplanade and the Boston Road.  The subject was brought up at the regular meeting of the board held in the Village Hall Monday night.  It was stated that the fountain abuts a little on the roadway that is being reconstructed and removal would be beneficial.

The old fountain is a relic of the days when the popular mode of travel was by horse-drawn vehicles and old settlers can recall many a hot day that the fountain was put to good use.  With the popularity of the automobile and the passing of the horse drawn vehicle the fountain gradually became out of date, and some time ago the water was turned off.

About a year ago, when the village decided to improve the corners at the Red Church Corner, the village service board was removed from the corner and placed at the fountain.  Since that time it has become, in the opinion of many, unsightly.  With the erection of the Memorial High School, the Village Board has received many requests that the service board be removed, as it is unnecessary."

Source:  Contemplating Removal Of Village Fountain, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 13, 1922, p. 5, col. 4.  

"Will Remove Old Fountain.

The old horse drinking fountain which was built on the junction of the Esplanade and Boston Post road in the years gone by when the usual mode of travel was with the reins in one hand and the whip in the other, is to be removed.  It was the gift of Mrs. Iselin of New Rochelle, and was an artistic and useful affair when the water was running in it, which was seldom, and when its lights were lighted, which was also on infrequent occasions.  After the advent of the automobile there was a question as to what should be done with the fountain.  Flowers came up of their own accord and were permitted to stay.  The honor roll was taken from the Red Church corner and piled atop the drinking basin.  Now the edict has gone forth that the whole business must be removed.  Like Old King Cole it is cluttering up the landscape."

Source:  Will Remove Old Fountain, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 19, 1922, p. 16, col. 1.  

"Request Fountain Be Not Destroyed
Residents of Esplanade Have Plans For Beautifying Old Horse Fountain On Boston Road

The old horse drinking fountain at the Esplanade and Boston Road has had a reprieve on its death sentence.  Residents in that neighborhood have requested the Village Board of Pelham Manor to withhold any action in regards to its removal while certain plans for its future are being prepared.  The village board granted the request.

Although there is nothing made public as to what the residents intend doing with the old landmark, it has been rumored that the service board is to be removed and bronze tablets placed on each side of the fountain, the grass cut and ivy or flowers planted in the trough that used to hold the water for the thirsty horses, before the automobile took their places."

Source:  Request Fountain Be Not Destroyed, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 22, 1922, p. 11, col. 5.  

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