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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Manor Club's Celebration of its Golden Anniversary in 1932

The Manor Club, located at 1023 Esplanade in the Village of Pelham Manor, is a cultural, civic, and social club for women.  The Club had its beginnings in the 1870's.  It was not, however, organized formally until January 10, 1882. 

The clubhouse that stands today is not the original clubhouse. Today's clubhouse opened in 1922.  

On May 12, 2014, the Manor Club clubhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Reference No. 14000207).  The National Park Service Web site page devoted to the Manor Club is located here.  The full file reflecting the listing is located here

"THE MANOR CLUB," an Architectural Rendering Prepared by
William H. Orchard, Architect, in 1921.  Source:  Manor Club National
Register of Historic Places File (Reference No. 14000207), Enhanced
with Adobe Photoshop.

I have written much about the history of the Manor Club on countless occasions.  At the close of today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting I have included an extensive list of articles (with links where available) to prior articles on the topic. 

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes two wonderful articles that celebrated the golden anniversary of the Manor Club.  Both appeared in the same issue of The Pelham Sun on May 27, 1932, intended to honor what those in the Club at the time said was the Club's golden anniversary.  The first is the text of a paper on the history of the Manor Club that was read by the Club Historian to members of the Club during the golden anniversary celebration.  The second is an article describing the festivities the same day.

The Historical Sketch of the Manor Club Was Presented by the Historian at the Annual Luncheon Tuesday.

It is with considerable pride and pleasure that we meet together today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manor Club.  A club like this does not grow of itself.  It is the work of many minds and many hands, the reward of many years of unselfish effort.

There must be many new members who do not know that the present Manor Club is a combination of two clubs which grew up side by side and finally were amalgamated.

They were the old Manor club, a family club for recreation, and the Tuesday Afternoon club which was a study club for women.  Each had a separate existence until 1914 when they were combined, the club continuing as a woman's cultural club for the Pelhams.

We are fortunate in having the original minutes book of 1882, the first year of the club.  It shows a remarkable vitality in the monthly entertainments that were given and that explains why the club so soon desired a club house.  They first purchased two lots on the Esplanade (where Mr. W. R. Bull's house now stands) for the sum of $300, a sum even then so small as to make the lots practically a gift from the owner Mrs. Robert C. Black.  Later on these lots were exchanged for the narrow point on which the club house was afterward built.

The deed of the property was incumbered [sic] by several restrictions all of which have now been removed except the one forbidding the bringing of alcoholic beverages on the property, which still remains in force.  

In 1887 the first club house was built at a cost of about $10,000 and was financed by sale of bonds to the amount of $10,000.  

As the village was very small and the residents mostly of slender means the club was seldom able to pay the interest on the bonds, and certainly unable to redeem them.

The club house was of wood and consisted of one large room seating fewer than 100.  This room was entirely surrounded by the stage, alcoves and wide porches and was therefore dark in the daytime although lighted by gas at night.

There was a billiard room in one alcove, so small that the cues would touch the wall.  In the cellar there was a bowling alley less than regulation length.  There were two tennis courts which did not pay their overhead and were abandoned.

The club was managed by a board of fine men directors who smoked many cigars in the effort to finance the club.

The House Committee consisted of five women whose duty it was to give monthly entertainments for which no funds were available.  This hard working committee used to plan the programs, sell tickets, make the refreshments, arriving at the club in evening dress to run off the entertainment, pass the refreshments and do everything else except wash the dishes.  We were jolly if impecunious.

We used to dance or play whist on Saturday night and we had many excellent concerts, theatricals, lectures and cotillion.  One of the notable events was the concert of Itala Campanini, the Caruso of that period, through the kindness of Mr. Gilliland, the president of the Club.  The best men of the village served as officers and the best women served as House Committee.  As the club never had more than seventy five family memberships at twelve dollars each, the income of $900 was entirely inadequate to provide for interest, taxes, insurance, repairs and replenishments, heating and lighting to say nothing of the cost of club steward, monthly entertainments, printing stationery and various sundries.

Finally late in 1913 at the end of 30 years of effort, it came to pass that the Directors became weary of making up an annual deficit and the House Committee became weary of getting up endless entertainments.  The time had arrived when the old Manor Club was ready to give up the struggle and to let the club house and land revert to the original owner.

We will now turn for a moment to the story of the Woman's Club which for years had been growing at the side of the Manor Club.

In the late nineties a few of the women began to meet weekly to read and study together.  The beginnings were small and tentative, but in 1900 they adopted a name and a constitution and elected officers.  Mrs. James F. Secor was president, Mrs. Charles B. Hull, vice-president; Mrs. William B. Randall, secretary; Miss Charlotte E. Cowles, treasurer.  Mrs. Secor remained president until the two clubs were united in 1914 and then served as president of the new Manor Club, making 25 years of service in all.

The Tuesday Afternoon Club used to meet in one of the alcoves of the Manor Club, for use of which it paid the munificent rental of four dollars per meeting.  There were seventy-five members, and as the dues were then but two dollars per year and there were practically no expenses, the club constantly grew and prospered.  An increase of dues provided lectures.  A great deal of honest  effort was expended in study, principally literary, and many papers were read and discussed.

By the year 1913 when the Manor Club was at the point of expiring, Mr. Henry E. Dey had the happy thought of asking the women of the Tuesday Afternoon Club to take over the Manor Club as the women's club was prosperous and growning.

They gasped at the suggestion.  But old associations had made the club house dear to their hearts and they could not bear to let it go.

They met and talked and canvassed and conferred, they increased their dues to twelve dollars and increased their membership to nearly 200 and bravely undertook the task of rejuvenating the Manor Club.  In 1914 in one eve the old Manor Club and the Tuesday Afternoon Club were amalgamated.  One by one women were elected as Directors to take the places of the five men Directors as they resigned.

The Tuesday Club relinquished its name and took the name of the Manor Club, its charter, its constitution and its property.

This was the most exciting period in the club's history.

The men who resigned were:  Mr. Gerald Mygatt, Mr. Wm. Currie, Mr. E. C. Beecroft, Mr. Henry E. Dey, and Mr. Theodore Hill.

The women who were elected were:  Mrs. James F. Secor, Mrs. Robert C. Black, Mrs. W. T. Tiers, Mrs. Clifford Black and Mrs. Wm. B. Randall.  

When the new Directors quieted down, they found that with the old club house they had inherited $9,000 of bond indebtedness and one thousand of current indebtedness which was rather discouraging.

Time went on, with the usual studies, lectures and entertainments, and as the village grew the club grew with it.

At the end of three years of effort the entire bonded indebtedness had been wiped out by purchase or by gift of the bonds.  As many owners of bonds had long considered them worthless, perhaps, they did not so much mind giving them up.

At the end of this struggle the members stopped just long enough to catch breath when they began to clamor for more room, more light and more convenience in the old club house.  

For two years they discussed, they raised a little money and finally decided to enlarge the club house.  

For two whole years more they discussed as to how it should be altered, until in a wave of enthusiasm they finally decided to tear down the old club house and build one entirely new.  (This was the second most exciting moment.)

Our first subscription of one thousand dollars came from Mrs. Clifford Black.  Mrs. Robert Black bought life membership for her entire family.

Mr. Wm. T. Grant spoke publicly encouraging us in our project.

Mr. J. C.  Wilberding originated the working plan for raising the funds.

The Pelhams had been growing.  The entire community felt the value of our work, and supported us by their sympathy and their subscription.  

We raised by subscription some $30,000 and borrowed as much more from the kindly disposed New Rochelle Trust Co.

During this time our studies and lectures were kept up.  Our membership increased and our activities had broadened from the study of literature to include the study of the fine arts, music and drama.  Later on we added civic and horticultural activities.

By 1922 our present club house was finished.  We celebrated by giving a large entertainment on the new stage with its modern lighting and dressing rooms; the inclined floor which enabled everyone to see and hear.

In addition we found we had an assembly room for smaller affairs, a sun porch, kitchens and rooms on the second floor.  Joy swelled up in our hearts to see the fulfillment of our dreams.

A speaker on that occasion said that the building was a 'monument to the women of the club who had given so lavishly of their time, money and effort, not for their own glory but for the enrichment of the life of the community.'

The club house is the outward symbol of an inward spirit, an intense love for the finer things of life, the beautiful, intellectual and spiritual.

Editor's Note -- The facts in the above paper were derived from the minutes of the Manor Club."

Source:  Randall, Evelyn, FIFTY YEARS OF THE MANOR CLUB, The Pelham Sun, May 27, 1932, p. 14, cols. 4-6.

"MRS. JAMES F. LONGLEY," President of the Manor Club
at the Time of its 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1932.
Source:  Mrs. J. F. Longley Honored At Manor Club Golden
Anniversary Program, The Pelham Sun, May 27, 1932,
p. 14, cols. 1-3.

"Mrs. J. F. Longley Honored At Manor Club Golden Anniversary Program
One Hundred and Seventy Women Attend Annual Luncheon; Sections Present Novel Historical Program.

After six years as president of the Manor Club, Mrs. James F. Longley turned the gavel over to Mrs. Walter B. Parsons, newly elected president, on Tuesday, at the annual luncheon which marked the Golden Anniversary of the club.  More than 160 women, including presidents of other women's clubs, charter members, past presidents and directors were present at the Fiftieth Anniversary program.

Mrs. J. F. Longley in her final address said that she felt the club had reached a distinct landmark in its history.  Its founders she characterized as people of high ideals and standards and the past year as perhaps the most successful and active year in the club's history.  During her term of office, Mrs. Longley said, her aim had been to uphold the traditions of the club and she bespoke for her successor the same cooperation and loyalty which she had received.  With expressions of the greatest confidence Mrs. Longley presented the president's gavel to Mrs. Parsons.

Mrs. Edward Penfield presented Mrs. Longley with a gift from the club members in recognition of her devoted services.  The Board of Directors had also presented a gift to the retiring president at a previous meeting.

On receiving the gavel Mrs. Parsons explained that the first meeting in the club building eleven years ago, was her initiation to Manor Club membership and since then the club has been an absorbing interest.  Mrs. Parsons said:  'My work with the club has made me understand more, probably, than anything else could have, what a heritage we in the Pelhams have to cherish and develop.  These charming villages, unspoiled by their nearness to the largest city in the world, have in their community spirit, of which the Manor Club is probably the most dominant factor, realized all and more than their founders hoped for them.'  

In speaking of the club traditions, Mrs. Parsons said:  'As traditions are made from our best experiences, it is not wise to lightly put them aside.  But as times and customs change, we must build on those traditions, to meet the changing needs -- so that we in turn can hand on to our successors a heritage worthy of us.'

Of paramount interest on the program, especially to the older club members was the reading of a greeting from the club's honorary president, Mrs. James F. Secor.  Mrs. Henry E. Dey who headed the committee arranging the anniversary program, spoke briefly and feelingly of Mrs. Secor's services to the club.  Mrs. Secor was leader of the Tuesday afternoon club and president of the Manor Club for thirteen years.  Mrs. Dey spoke of her generosity of spirit and mind and also of the late Mrs. Robert Black, the first vice-president, to whose good sense and wisdom the members turned for advice.  Mrs. Black, Mrs. Dey called the fairy godmother of the club.  Mrs. Secor's greeting from California was as follows:

Greeting From Mrs. James F. Secor

'To the President, officers and members of the Manor Club, warmest greeting!

'Greetings from the far away California coast, where I lived until I was in my 23rd year and then upon the occasion of my marriage to Mr. Secor, in 1880, I came to New York and shortly afterward to Pelham Manor.  I can truly say that I have lived my life in Pelham Manor, that is, in its working years, and they are the years that count.  It was the Manor Club which gave me my first experience in the art of managing public affairs, and I learned as much as I gave during the thirteen years when I was its president.  It is not the length of time one is in office, but what one accomplishes while there which counts.  I now see that the whole-hearted cooperation in things that are uplifting, the generous willingness to do something to make the club better, more stimulating to what is highest and best in our daily lives, had made the Pelhams a finer place in which to live.  This was the great aim of our young years, and it has been accomplished as I can see and feel although so many miles away.

'Life in the Pelhams is a finer thing by reason of the influence of a group of women who worked, and still do, to bring out the best qualities of those about them through the study of literature, music, art, the drama, and various sections.

'Therefore, I say to you who thus labor:  'Go forward, be not weary in well-doing.'  To my dear friend Mrs. Longley who is to retire from the office of president I send my warm love and congratulations upon her successful presidency, and now, my dear Sophie (Mrs. H. E. Dey) I will close with kind remembrances to my many friends in the Manor Club, among which you are surely included.

'Honorary President.'

The members of the club rose and applauded at the conclusion of Mrs. Secor's message.

Of considerable value and interest was the historical sketch of the Manor Club presented by Mrs. William B. Randall, historian of the club.  It will be found in full in another part of the paper.

The various divisions of the club each contributed to the interesting program in the auditorium, celebrating the club's fiftieth birthday.

'The Bachelor's Reverie' from an old program of the 'Nineties,' directed by Mrs. J. Sheppard Cabanne.  Those taking part in a series of charming tableaux included:  Mrs. Willard H. Cobb, Miss Claire Specht, Mrs. Louis Carreau, Miss Helen Haskins, Mrs. Charles M. Chenery, Mrs. Dermot Gale, Mrs. Richard Souther, Miss Katharine King, Mrs. A. N. Hutchinson, Mrs. Julius A. Migel and Miss Margaret Stobie.

A revival of a meeting of 'The Tuesday Afternoon Club' in 1900 was presented by the Literature Section.  Mrs. Alexander F. Fromhold impersonated Mrs. James F. Secor, president, Mrs. H. C. Birney, Mrs. Charles B. Hull, vice-president, and Mrs. Richard H. Lee, Mrs. William B. Randall, secretary-treasurer.

A most amusing rendition of a musical afternoon of the Gay Nineties was presented by members of the Music Section and the Choral, taken from a program at the Manor Club in 1930.  Mrs. Laurence T. Hemmenway took the part of the hostess.  Others assisting were Miss Temperance P. Reed who 'rendered' 'Monastery Bells,' Mrs. E. A. Jurgensen who presented a 'Mazurka,' Mrs. Harold Garton and Mrs. Chauncey Williams who presented that touching duet 'Whispering Hope,' and 'Goodbye' by Tosti, was dramatically rendered by Mrs. Clinton T. Miller during which, one by one, the dear ladies wilted in true Victorian style.

Mrs. Holmes Contributes to Program

A unique and entertaining note was introduced into the program by Mrs. Robert A. Holmes who served as Manor Club president from 1925 to 1926.  In a witty verse Mrs. Holmes sketched the Genesis of Women's Clubs, going back two thousand years to the days of Sappho.

Mrs. H. G. K. Heath who called herself 'the oldest active member of the club' spoke informally and delightfully.  She has been associated with the club for 42 years and those years present a record of pleasant memories and valued friendships.

'Almost Any Day,' an amusing monologue of the life of a very busy society woman was presented by Mrs. R. C. Heyl, Jr., and the Civic and Junior Sections concluded the program presenting 'future directors of the club, little tots of very tender age.'  The Nursemaids included:  Marie Villari, Marion Russell, Barbara Trowbridge, Marjorie Curtin, Donna Brace, Kathryn Tolbert, Betty Best, Norma Rubino, Lucille McAuliffe, Catherine McHugh and Betty McDonagh.

On the motion of Mrs. Robert A. Holmes a telegram of love and congratulations was sent to Mrs. Secor in California.  

Incidental music was supplied by the Music Section of the club and the Garden Section had charge of decorations.  Two interesting murals depicting 1882 and 1920 were the work of Henry E. Dey.

The program committee of the club for 1931-1932 was headed by Mrs. Charles M. Chenery.

Mrs. Henry E. Dey was chairman of the Anniversary Committee.  The advisory committee included:  Mrs. Robert P. Bacon, Mrs. Charles Gillett, Mrs. E. T. Gilliland, Mrs. H. G. K. Heath, Miss Geraldine O'Neill, Mrs. Edward Penfield, Mrs. William B. Randall, Miss Anna Secor, Mrs. William Twell Tiers and Mrs. Joseph C. Wilberding."

Source:  Mrs. J. F. Longley Honored At Manor Club Golden Anniversary ProgramThe Pelham Sun, May 27, 1932, p. 14, cols. 1-3.

*          *          *           *          *

Bell, Blake A., Early History of the Manor Club, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 20, May 14, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

Tue., Dec. 13, 2005:  The Manor Club's First Clubhouse Built in 1887-1888

Wed., Dec. 28, 2005:  The Mystery of the "Manor Club Girl" That Set Pelham Tongues Wagging in 1913

Fri., Aug. 4, 2006:  Early Images of the Original and Current Clubhouse Structures of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor, New York.

Mon., Feb. 15, 2010:  Early History of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor.

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