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, January 30, 2015

Stained Glass Window Honoring Philip Pell of the Manor of Pelham in St. Paul's Chapel of Columbia University

Philip Pell is one of the most illustrious and distinguished citizens ever to have lived in Pelham.  Born July 7, 1753, he was the eldest son of Philip and Gloriana (Treadwell) Pell.  He served as Acting Judge Advocate General of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  He rode with George Washington into Manhattan on Evacuation Day at the close of the War.  He served as a Delegate to the Continental Congress, a member of the New York State Assembly, a Regent of the University of the State of New York, and Surrogate of Westchester County.

Pell lived in a home that he built near today's Colonial Avenue (the old Boston Post Road) and today's Cliff Avenue.  The 1750 date stone from his home that no longer stands is embedded in the side of a monument to Pell standing next to the Pelham Memorial High School.  

Philip Pell has been memorialized by Columbia University as well.  In 1906, Columbia University completed and dedicated the St. Paul's Chapel of Columbia University.  The dome of the chapel includes sixteen stained glass windows that are the work Maitland Armstrong.  Each of the sixteen windows reflects a family coat of arms in honor of important Kings College and Columbia University graduates.  The windows appear in the order of the graduation dates of each of the graduates honored.  The Pell Family coat of arms graces the window in honor of Philip Pell which is the sixth window of the sixteen based on Pell's graduation date of 1770.  

Pell Family Coat of Arms Such as That
Depicted in the Stained Glass Window in the
Dome of St. Paul's Chapel of Columbia University
Honoring Philip Pell of the Manor of Pelham.

Immediately below is a brief article that appeared in the June 1, 1906 issue of The New York Times describing the installation of the sixteen stained glass windows in the chapel dome.

Sixteen Stained Glass Windows Being Erected in the Chapel Dome.

Sixteen stained glass memorial windows, designed and executed by Maitland Armstrong of this city, are being put in the dome of the new chapel of Columbia University, and will be unveiled at commencement.  They are in memory of graduates of Kings College and Columbia University.  Each window contains the family coat of arms of one of the graduates.  The are arranged in chronological order in relation to the date of graduation beginning with Van Cortlandt window, 1758.  Among those graduates commemorated are:

Philip Pell of Pelham Manor, Judge Advocate of the Continental Army and a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.  He rode with Washington to New York when it was evacuated by the British, and was one of the best Greek scholars of his time.

Gov. De Witt Clinton, a member of the de Peyster family.  He was known as 'the father of the Erie Canal,' and was the first student to enter Columbia after it gave up the name of Kings.  He was graduated at the head of his class.

Col. Nicholas Fish, an officer in the Revolution, one of the founders of the Society of the Cincinnati, and an intimate friend of Washington, Lafayette, and Hamilton.

Col. Thomas Barclay, a British Consul General at New York.

James W. Beekman, one of the chief promoters of Central Park.

Robert B. Minturn, a leading merchant of his time.

The following is a complete list of the windows:

1.  Van Cortlandt, class of 1758; given by Robert B. Van Cortlandt.

2.  Anthony Lispenard, class of 1761; given by Lispenard Stewart.

3.  Abraham de Peyster, class of 1763; Frederick J. de Peyster, class of 1862; given by Mrs. Frederic J. de Peyster.

4.  Egbert Benson, class of 1765; given by Julien T. Davies.

5.  Gerard Beekman, class of 1766; Gerard Beekman, class of 1792; James W. Beekman, class of 1834; Henry R. Beekman, class of 1865; given by Gerard Beekman.

6.  Philip Pell, class of 1870 [sic, should be 1770], given by Howland Pell.

7.  Thomas Barclay, class of 1772; given by George L. Rives.

8.  De Witt Clinton, class of 1786; given by Charles L. Clinton.

9.  William C. Rhinelander, class of 1808; given by William Rhinelander Stewart.

10.  Nathaniel Greene Pendleton, class of 1813; given by Francis K. Pendleton.

11.  Nicholas Fish, class of 1817; given by Stuyvesant Fish.

12.  Gouerneur Morris Ogden, class of 1838; given by David B. Ogden.

13.  George L. Kingsland, class of 1856; Ambrose C. Kingsland, class of 1856; given by Mrs. George L. Kingsland.

12. [sic, should be 14.]  Robert B. Minturn, class of 1856; given by Mrs. Robert B. Minturn.

15.  Mahlon Sands, class of 1861; Philip J. Sands, class of 1861; given by Mrs. A. B. Sands.

16.  Louis M. Cheesman, class of 1878; given by Dr. T. M. Cheesman."

Source:  MEMORIALS FOR COLUMBIA -- Sixteen Stained Glass Windows Being Erected in the Chapel Dome, N. Y. Times, Jun. 1, 1906, p. 9, col. 4 (paid subscription required to access link).

St. Paul's Chapel of Columbia University.
Source:  "2014 Columbia University St. Paul's Chapel"
by Beyond My Ken - Own work. Licensed under GFDL
via Wikimedia Commons.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge. 

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I have written extensively about Colonel Philip Pell in the past.  For a few of the many examples of such postings, see:

Fri., Mar. 9, 2007:  Abstract of Will of Philip Pell, Sr. of the Manor of Pelham Prepared in 1751 and Proved in 1752.  [This is an abstract of the will of the father of Col. Philip Pell.] 

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

R. Clifford Black of Black, Starr & Frost Bought the Martin J. Condon Mansion in 1913

One of the nation's most famous nineteenth century financiers and industrialists once lived in the Village of Pelham Manor in a mansion that rivaled the finest palatial residences in the nation.  His name was Martin J. Condon. 

For nearly four decades, Martin J. Condon served as president of the American Snuff Company.  Condon actually created two vast fortunes because, after creating his first fortune, he was adjudged a bankrupt in August 1912.  Consequently, he lost his lovely residence in Pelham Manor.  That massive home was razed during the Depression years. 

I have written about Martin J. Condon and his palatial Pelham residence before.  See: 

Tue., Sep. 16, 2014:  More Images of the Pelham Manor Residence of Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company.

Fri., Dec. 23, 2005:  The Pelham Manor Residence of Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company. (This posting includes a detail from a 1908 map showing where the mansion was located.)  

Fri., Jun. 23, 2006:  More About Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company Who Owned an Estate in Pelham Manor.

At the time of Martin J. Condon's bankruptcy, the bankruptcy receiver was Payson Mc L. Merrill of 481 5th Avenue in New York City.  The bankruptcy receiver was charged with responsibility for sale of Condon's assets including the massive mansion in Pelham Manor that cost more than $250,000 to construct (about $6 million in 2014 dollars).

R. Clifford Black, a member of famed Fifth Avenue jeweler Black Starr & Frost lived in Pelham Manor at the time.  Black acquired the Condon Mansion from the bankruptcy receiver for an undisclosed amount.  I have written about R. Clifford Black and other members of the Black family on a number of occasions.  See:

Fri., Aug. 01, 2014:  Obituary and Photograph of R. Clifford Black, a Prominent Pelham Manor Resident in the Early 20th Century.

Wed., Jun. 27, 2007:  Dissolution of Firm of Black, Starr & Frost and Reconstitution of the Firm as Corporation After Robert Clifford Black's Death. 

Thu., Sep. 28, 2006:  A Brief Biography of Mary Grace Witherbee Black of Pelham Manor. 

Tue., Apr. 11, 2006:  April 20, 1875 Marriage Certificate of Robert C. Black and Mary Grace Witherbee Black. 

Thu., Feb. 9, 2006:  Cortlandt W. Starr of Black Starr & Frost. 

Thu., Jun. 7, 2005: Obituaries of Robert C. Black and His Wife, Mary Grace Witherbee Black. 

Wed., Apr. 13, 2005: "The Dogwoods" - The Estate of Robert Clifford Black of Pelham Manor.

1912 Real Estate Advertisement Published in Country Life
Depicting the Pelham Manor Mansion of Martin J. Condon
for Sale by the Bankruptcy Receiver.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a brief reference to the purchase of the Condon Mansion by R. Clifford Black in 1913.  The reference appeared in the Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide in 1913.  A full citation to the reference and a link to the digitized version appear immediately below.

"Rural and Suburban. . . . 

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y. -- R. Clifford Black, a member of the firm of Black, Starr & Frost, 48th st. and 5th av., has purchased from Payson Merrill, receiver for Martin J. Condon, Mr. Condon's residence.  The buildings on the property, which consists of about 5 1/2 acres, on the corner of the Esplanade and Boston Post road."

Source:  Rural and Suburban, Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide, Jun. 21, 1913, p. 129, col. 2.  

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pelham Manor Resident Pushed for Removal of the Causeway from Shore Road to Hunter's Island in 1902

As early as 1902, a Pelham Manor resident named Frederick H. Allen was an aggressive advocate for removal of the stone causeway that connected Hunter's Island to the mainland at today's Shore Road.  Allen advocated in favor of removing the causeway to open a raceway course for local crews operating principally out of the New York Athletic Club boathouse on Travers Island.  Allen urged that the project be completed in an effort to attract the National Regatta to New York City.

In connection with efforts to encourage the New York City Park Department to create the raceway by removing the Hunter's Island causeway, Allen released a statement to The New York Herald that was published on June 15, 1902.  In that fascinating statement, Allen could not contain himself.  He revealed what plainly were his underlying motives for supporting the removal of the causeway.

He noted that in recent years the "bay" in the midst of Hunter's Island, Travers Island, and Glen Island had begun to fill with deposits that led to massive mud flats at low tide and that such deposits would not occur if the causeway were removed and the tides were allowed to "sweep" this "bay".  In his statement, he noted that the mud flats were "a great detriment, from a point of view of looks" and were a "menace from the point of view of health."

Frederick H. Allen, of course, was the owner of the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor -- a beautiful and towering stone mansion that looked out directly on the ugly mud flats created at low tide that Allen believed were a "menace from the point of view of health" . . . . 

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an article about Mr. Allen's efforts to have the causeway removed.  The article included Allen's statement as well.

Detail from 1905 Map Showing Area Addressed in Frederick H.
Allen's Statement Including the Stone Causeway Leading to Hunter's Island.
of the Bronx Easterly of the Bronx River" (1905) (Lionel Pincus and
Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Waterway Skirting Travers Island May Be Improved by Park Department.

New York city is likely to have another rowing course within its limits which promises to eclipse the picturesqueness any in the United States, as well as present to devotees of aquatic sports a waterway practically unaffected by strong tides.

The scene of the new Mecca for competitive and pleasure loving oarsmen will be adjacent to the new Sound driveway, which will skirt Pelham Bay Park and Travers Island, the beautiful country home of the New York Athletic Club.

Mr. Frederick H. Allen, a resident of Pelham Manor and former 'cox' of Harvard crews, who has been especially active toward the accomplishment of the scheme for the betterment of the waterway, is authority for the statement that John E. Eustis, Park Commissioner for the Bronx, has given every encouragement toward the furtherance of the new course.  Mr. Eustis is an old Cornell oarsman.  

In connection with this project, Mr. Allen made the following statement: --


'Since the solid stone causeway has been built connecting Hunter's Island with the mainland, the bay, which is formed by Hunter's Island, the mainland, Travers Island and Glen Island, has been rapidly filling up with mud and filth deposited at high water.  Formerly, and prior to the building of the causeway, there was a sweep for the tide through this bay, which has now been made into a sort of pocket.  

'Ten or twelve years ago it was possible to row at low tide up to the causeway, but not for at least a third of a mile the mud flats merge at low water.  This is not only a great detriment, from a point of view of looks, to the Park lands and other adjoining property, but also a menace from the point of view of health.

'If the Park Commissioners would remove the causeway and replace it with a bridge, the action of the tide, having a free passageway between Hunter's Island and the mainland, would rapidly wash out the accumulated deposit and make the whole neighborhood more attractive and healthy.

'Plans have been drawn up by the engineer of the Park Commissioner for a Sound driveway along the borders of the park.  The beauty of this drive would be materially improved by the opening of the causeway, as the mud flats would gradually disappear by the action of the tide.  The removal of the causeway would also give a stretch of about three miles for the rowboats of the New York Athletic Club.  The boat races along the line of this shore road would be a very attractive feature of the park and very popular among the people.

'The effort to have the causeway removed is to be thoroughly recommended, and, while for the present an inexpensive bridge is all that is needed, in years to come a very attractive feature in the park landscape would be made by the building of a picturesque and handsome bridge.'

It will be possible for four eight oared crews to row abreast under the proposed new bridge.  With the completion of the new course a bid will be made for the National regatta, which occurs this summer on Lake Quinsigamond, Mass."

Source:  NEW COURSE FOR LOCAL OARSMEN, The New York Herald, Jun. 15, 1902, p. 2, col. 4.  

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I have written about Frederick H. Allen on a number of occasions.  See:

Wed., Dec. 12, 2007:  Another Biography of Frederick Hobbes Allen, President of Pelham Manor and Owner of Bolton Priory in the Early 20th Century.

Thu., Mar. 1, 2007:  Biographical Data Regarding Frederick Hobbes Allen, President of Pelham Manor and Owner of Bolton Priory in the Early 20th Century

Tue., May 3, 2005:  Colonel Frederick Hobbes Allen, An Owner of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pelham Square Playground Built Behind Hutchinson Elementary School in 1932 After Seven Years of Effort

On October 21, 1932, during the very depths of the Great Depression, five hundred Pelhamites gathered behind the Hutchinson School in the Village of North Pelham on land known as "Pelham Square."  In addition, the Pelham Memorial High School band led a march from the High School to the festivities at Pelham Square.  The gathering was to watch the unveiling of the newly-constructed recreational fields and playground behind the school -- facilities that are still used by the youth of Pelham today.

The back story behind the creation of those recreational fields and the playground is a story of perseverance and dedication by leaders of organizations throughout Pelham who sought to give the children of the Village of North Pelham an additional place to play.  Efforts to create the recreational facility took seven years -- not merely five years as reported in one article quoted below.

In 1925, Mrs. Frank Chaloux of the Village of North Pelham appeared before the Village Board and requested that "Pelham Square" behind the Hutchinson School be fitted up as a playground for local children at a cost of about $350.  The Village Board took the matter under advisement.  Little did anyone know that evening that the project would take seven years.

The immediate catalyst for the request was the fact that there was to be a six-week student program at the Hutchinson School during the summer of 1925.  The request seems to have languished and, once the immediate need passed, the proposal to create a simple playground died on the vine for a period of time.

Within two years, however, local officials took up the cause.  Despite grand plans, the onset of the Great Depression soon delayed any implementation of those plans.  

By 1931, the community and the School Board were ready for action.  The School Board appropriated the then-massive sum of $10,000 to grade the hilly and rocky location to create a combination football and baseball playing field and an area for a new playground.  

The project was slowed for nearly a year by four local homeowners who filed a lawsuit seeking to block the project.  Eventually, the homeowners conceded the futility of their challenge and abandoned their lawsuit.  

The School Board accepted a bid of $4,000 to perform the principal construction on the site.  An additional amount of about $1,300 was sent for new playground equipment.  Another additional sum was spent to fence the entire area.  The total cost was far below the $10,000 appropriated by the School Board.

Construction proceeded through the summer of 1932.  On October 21, 1932, the playground and recreational fields opened to wide acclaim.  The children of North Pelham had a new place to play -- a place on which children from throughout the Town of Pelham continue to play to this day.

Detail of 1908 Showing "Pelham Square" Behind Hutchinson School.
(Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library).
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

"Playground At Pelham Square Asked By Women
Mrs. Frank Chaloux Seeks Appropriation For Expert Supervision of Child Play in North Pelham

Mrs. Frank Chaloux, 530 Fifth avenue, appeared before the North Pelham village board Tuesday night with a request that Pelham Square in the rear of Hutchinson School be fitted up as a playground for the children of North Pelham.  

Mrs. Rosensheid, representing Mrs. Frank S. Marsh, chairman of the Westchester County Recreation Commission, told the board that an appropriation of $350 would be enough for the summer program.  She urged expert supervision of the playgrounds.  She said the county has established 22 playgrounds in Westchester County thus far and in each instance it has met the approval of the people.

President Thomas J. James said:  'I am personally in favor of doing all I can to make the Pelham Square presentable.  We must also bear in mind the County is to take a great deal of our land for park purposes and will have innumerable playgrounds.

Trustee Dillon suggested that the site on Sixth street, which is under consideration for a future school site be adapted for playground usage.  Mrs. Chaloux explained that the board of education has a six weeks summer course at the Hutchinson school and it would be necessary to have a building on the grounds during the summer months.  President James said the matter would be taken under consideration by the board of trustees and the women advised what could be done at a later date."

Source:  Playground At Pelham Square Asked By Women, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 10, 1925, p. 13, col. 1.  

"Children, Adults Mark Opening of Playground
Pelham Square Land Is Dedicated -- Parade, Addresses Featured

An outdoor audience of 500 made up of about 100 adults and 400 school children, attended dedication exercises yesterday afternoon at the new Pelham Square Playground at the Hutchinson School in North Pelham.  School Trustee William B. Shaw, chairman of the committee which arranged the exercises, presided.

Other speakers were Arthur S. Ives, president of the Board of Education; Joseph C. Brown, Superintendent of Schools and Mayor Edward B. Harder of North Pelham.  Guests of the committee included Mrs. Garabed Locke, chairman of the Hutchinson School group of the Parent Teachers Association; Mrs. Forrest M. Anderson, president of the Parent Teacher Association; William McNulty, president of the Pelham Lions Club; Mayor Lawrence F. Sherman of Pelham Manor; Harry J. Phillips, Village Engineer and other school board and village officials.  

Mr. Shaw sketched the history of the move to establish the playground.  He said the idea had been put under way five years ago, had been encouraged by former Mayor James Reilly and his Administration and had been brought to completion through the cooperation of Mayor Harder and the present village administration.

A parade of the Pelham Memorial High School Band from the high school building to the new playground was held before the ceremonies.  The band also played throughout the afternoon.  After speeches by officials the playground was inspected.

Later the facilities of the field were opened to the hundreds of children who played on swings and slides.  Many of the 'oldsters,' unable to resist the new and shiny equipment, entered into the fun with the children.  Mayor Harder, School Trustee George Lambert, Village Clerk George O'Sullivan and a number of the Lions Club members had their fill of fun on the slides and swings.

Work at the property since late in the Summer has transformed rocky, uneven land to level, graded areas.  An area large enough for football and baseball has been graded and put in finished shape and in addition another spacious section has been improved and equipped with a variety of equipment for the younger children.

The cost is expected to be well below the original $10,000 appropriated by the School Board, which accepted a bid for the main part of the construction of less than $4,000.  In addition, approximately $1,300 was expended for play equipment and the cost of the fence around the property also was extra.

Realization of the new improvement in the community was delayed a year by litigation, in which four owners of nearby property sought to prevent use of the land for playground purposes, but eventually abandoned their case.  The land was deeded to the School District by the Village of North Pelham."

Source:  Children, Adults Mark Opening of Playground, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 22, 1932, p. 11, col. 1.  

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Hidden Treasure that Once Belonged to the Father of John Hunter of Hunter's Island in Pelham Found in a Discarded Chest in the 19th Century

There are a surprising number of treasure stories -- some true and some apocryphal -- in the history of the little Town of Pelham.  I have written about a number of such treasure stories in the past.  For examples, see:

Mon., May 16, 2005:  The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889.

Wed., Jun. 11, 2014:  Buried Treasure Off the Shores of Pelham: The Legend of Pirate's Treasure.

Mon., May 01, 2006:  The Legend of the Recovery of Pirate's Treasure on an Island Off Pelham

Throughout our region, which was known as the "Neutral Ground" during the Revolutionary War, Patriots and Tories alike buried their family treasures in an effort to hide them from the depredations of the so-called Cowboys and Skinners who roamed the region and tormented any who remained.  Even St. Paul's Church in Eastchester buried treasure -- later recovered -- to protect it against thievery.  See Mon., Apr. 06, 2009:  Paper Recounts Burial of the Bell of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester To Save it from the British During the Revolutionary War.  One can only wonder if there remain buried treasures never recovered by their Patriot or Tory owners in and around Pelham.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article describing the discovery of a fabulous treasure -- a chest of Spanish silver coins -- by John Hunter of Hunter's Island.  After discovering the coins in a forgotten chest that once belonged to his father, Robert Hunter, John Hunter had the coins melted and smithed into a fabulous silver service that he used to entertain guests in his luxurious mansion in Pelham and in his home in New York City.  

John Hunter was born August 4, 1778 and died in his home on Hunter's Island on September 12, 1852.  He was a son of Robert Hunter (born ca. 1735, died 1800) and Ruth Hunter (born ca. 1757, died 1840).  He graduated from Columbia College in 1799 and married a wealthy heiress, Elizabeth Desbrosses who died in 1839.  He was a New York City businessman and a politician who served for eight years in the New York State Senate representing the Second District.  He also served as a member of the Constitutional Convention that revised the New York State Constitution in 1846. Before 1812, Hunter bought an island in the Town of Pelham known as "Appleby's Island," afterward known as Hunter's Island.  His mansion became an historic showplace in the Town of Pelham.

Immediately below is the text of the article about discovery of the silver service.

Better Than Captain Kidd's -- It was Found in a Discarded Chest.

One of New York City's most famous hosts in the early days of this century was John Hunter, of Hunter's Island, which is now part of Pelham Bay Park.  In the fine old mansion still standing on it, which he built, in 1807, for a country home, and in his town house at 7 State street, he entertained in a lavish and splendid manner, gathering often as many as forty guests at a time around his table.  The silver that helped to make these banquets princely was as famous in its day as the owner's good sheer [sic], and there yas [sic] a story connected with it, too.

When John Hunter's father, Robert Hunter, who was a nephew of the Colonial Governor of that name, and a man of wealth, came to this country, he brought with him among his baggage an old iron strong box, which he kept in the State street house.  At his death, his son, John Hunter, knowing nothing about it, and considering it too clumsy an article to be given house room any longer, packed it off to a storage warehouse with a lot of other stuff.  It lay there for years forgotten, till finally the storage-keeper, taking a fancy to it, asked Mr. Hunter if he might have it.  Mr. Hunter consented, but decided to have a look inside of it first.  The key to it was not forthcoming, and a locksmith was sent for to force it open.  Within were rows of canvas bags.  Mr. Hunter picked up one of them; it fell to pieces, and Spanish silver dollars rolled over the floor.  The chest was full of silver pieces.  Mr. Hunter sent them to a silversmith and had them made into the service that is still to-day one of the finest in the country.  There was a plateau for the middle of the table 7 feet long, and every guest seated about it was served exclusively from silver dishes. -- New York Commercial Advertiser."

Source:  HIDDEN TREASURE -- Better Than Captain Kidd's -- It Was Found in a Discarded Chest, The Farmer Review [Farmer, Seneca County, NY], May 7, 1898, Vol. XI, No. 42, p. 3, col. 2.  

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Bay View Hotel on City Island, a Pelham Landmark for Many Years

During the late nineteenth century there was a magnificent hotel named the Bay View Hotel that stood at Bridge Street and City Island Avenue on the former Bowne-King estate.  The hotel was built in the Second Empire style described as "[a]n eclectic architectural style based on French Renaissance and Baroque models."  The style first became popular in the United States in about 1860 and was well-represented in Pelham Manor and on City Island before the island was annexed by New York City during the mid-1890s.  

As City Island grew into a popular tourist resort and fishing destination during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Bay View Hotel provided a beautiful setting for boarders and overnight tourist guests.  During the 1880s, the hotel was known as "Von Liehn's Bay View Hotel."  

The Bay View Hotel, City Island, Circa 1904.
Source:  Image from Post Card Postmarked in 1904.

The location of the hotel was ideal.  It faced the City Island Bridge on the island side and was a grand sight to behold as visitors to the island crossed the bridge.  Below is a detail from a map of City Island prepared in 1899 showing where the hotel complex was located.  City Island Bridge can be seen extending off into the waters at about the 10 o'clock position in the image on the left side.  

Detail from Map of City Island Published in 1899
Showing Bay View Hotel Complex in Block Bounded
to the North Bridge Street and to the West by Today's
City Island Avenue.  Source:  Board of Public Improvements
Topographical Bureau, Map or Plan Showing a General 
of the Bronx (1899) (Available via Lionel Pincus and Princess
Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library).

There are many brief accounts published in period newspapers describing outings, celebrations, and gatherings at the Bay View Hotel complex.  One such account is transcribed in its entirety immediately below.


The Protean Society had its annual outing last Friday, to City Island.  

The Society was organized in 1890, and since then has had its outing a week before the close of school, except in 1895 and 1896.  Little interest was manifested in the organization, until last Fall, when it was re-organized, and the following officers elected:  President, Robert H. McVea; Vice-President, Herman F. Beck; Corresponding Secretary, Louis A. Cohen; Recording Secretary, William Konkel; Treasurer, Emil Mayer.

The Society was formerly composed of members of the High Class, but now all the cadet officers are members, namely:  Robert H. McVea, Herman F. Beck, Emil Mayer, Louis Cohen, James Avens, William Konkel, Anthony Reiff, Edward Rappholdt, Henry Prinsinzing, Charles Sanford, Henry Muench, James Burke, E. V. Moeslein.  The invited guests were Messrs. W. H. Van Tassell, E. A. Hodgson and A. Capelli.

Principal Currier is counselor of the Society, and its prosperity is owing a great deal to his advice.

It is not for me to go in detail and give a history of the society, but sufficient to say that it seems to have regained its lost energy and has made its presence felt at Fanwood after a lapse of two years. 

The outing this year was to Bay View Hotel, City Island, by a tally-ho drawn by four horses.  The tally-ho arrived on time at the Institution, at 8:30 A. M., but the members were not all ready to start.  Another delay was caused by the non-appearance of the official photographer, Mr. Ranald Douglas, who was prevented from arriving at the scene of starting, to photograph the members in their outing costumes, grey coats and caps and white duck trousers.  So after waiting till twenty minutes to ten for Mr. Douglas, they decided to start.  Just as they left the grounds, Mr. Douglas appeared, but too late.

The route taken this time differs somewhat from the previous outings of the society, although the destination was the same. 

The boys were well provided with fish horns, bugles, bicycle whistles, and other kinds of instruments, and at intervals the noise they made startled the natives on the route, which was across Washington Bridge to University Heights, where a fine view was had of the magnificent new buildings of New York University and 'Ohio Field,' where our foot ball and base ball team have met their rivals for glory.  Of course the party let themselves loose, and gave as a parting the Fanwood yell.  The coach was going at a lively rate of speed.  Soon University Heights was out of view; Morris Heights was next reached, and Berkeley Oval, where our boys past and present have achieved glory, was passed, and although at that early hour deserted, the party again gave another ringing yell which must have been heard for miles aroudn.  The next place of special importance was Fordham, here still stands the house where Edgar Allen Poe lived; also St. John's or Fordham College, whom our boys have time and time again met both on the gridiron and the diamond.  There is still another place that interests the sporting element in Fordham, and that is the fallen champion, Corbett's Hotel.  Bronx Park and Morris Park are passed, so is Westchester, Westchester creek, in short order.  The Catholic Protectory is perhaps the greatest institution of Westchester.  Here are housed over one thousand boys.  Not far off is the Westchester Institution for Catholic Deaf-Mutes. 

Besides these attractions which were passed and noted upon, the scenery all along the route is very beautiful, and would recommend it to the Silent Wheelmen for a run some day this summer.  Pelham Manor has so many shade trees and many desirable lots for sale, that it would be well for the Silent Wheelmen to try and secure land to erect a club house at some future time.  Being in the borough of Bronx, it is a part of the City of New York.

At the End of Pelham Manor is a bridge, and from this bridge City Island is in sight.  The party arrived at the Bay View Hotel at 12 o'clock, and dinner was served at 1.30 P. M. -- and such a dinner it was too.  To say that all dd have good appetites is not doing them justice, so we will draw the curtain here.

After dinner, a trip around the island was had on a Naphtha launch owned by the proprietor of the Bay View Hotel, which took up one hour.

A bowling contest was the next attraction, the bowlers were A. Capelli and Wm. Van Tassell against Robert McVea and E. A. Hodgson.  The former won by th score of 157 to 156.

The boys amused themselves in various other ways.  Some went boating, others fishing, and a few, although the water was rather cold, went in swimming.  Taken all in all they had a very enjoyable time.  Supper was served at half past five, and all I can say in praise of the feast is that it took one hour to get through it.

The return trip was begun at 6.40, and ten minutes after it began to rain, but not very hard.  Despite this the boys kept up their spirits, and their yell and noise was kept up all the way to the Institution, which was made via 155th Street Viaduct.  The party arrived at the Institution at 9 o'clock, all expressing themselves having had a good time.


Source:  THE  ANNUAL OUTING OF THE PROTEANS OF FANWOOD, Deaf Mutes' Journal, Jun. 10, 1897, Vol. XXVI, No. , p. 1, cols. 4-5.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lawsuit in 1884 Cleared the Way for Construction of Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to Lower Part of City Island in Pelham

Prior to the opening of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line in the early 1870s, a stage coach line established by a man named Robert Vickery traveled from City Island to Mount Vernon.  In about 1873, so-called horse cars replaced the stage coach line. When the horse car line first began, it was owned by Judge Henry DeWitt Carey, a banker. 

The first horse car line involved a car pulled by a single horse. According to one source, "it left Belden Point and stopped at three locations on the island - Horton, Fordham, and Bridge Streets. People desiring to travel to New York City would then take the horse car to Bartow Station, pay a 5ยข fare to Westchester County and board a trolley to 177th Street, where they would make another connection to the Battery." See Scott, Catherine A., Images of America: City Island and Orchard Beach, p. 48 (Arcadia Publishing 1999; reissued 2004). The cars looked much like trolley cars. Later, beginning in the mid-1880s, the horse cars were replaced with a "horse car railroad" that ran on tracks, but were pulled by a pair of horses.  Indeed, for sixteen years the two principal horses used to pull the horse cars were known as "Bob" and "Harry".

When the time came to convert the simple horse car line to a horse railroad line, two things had to happen:  (1) the commissioners of highways of the Town of Pelham had to approve the laying of tracks; and (2) either a majority of adjacent property owners had to consent to installation of the line or a court had to find the horse railroad to be "necessary."

In 1883 and 1884, plans were underway to build a horse railroad from Bartow Station on the New Haven Branch Line and the southern tip of City Island.  Two companies were created, each to build half of the line.  The Pelham Park Railroad Company was created to build the tracks on the mainland from Bartow Station to the City Island Bridge.  The City Island Railroad Company was incorporated to build the tracks from the City Island Bridge to the tip of City Island.  There reportedly were plans to merge the two companies after the horse railroad tracks were constructed.

Once the tracks were laid and the horse railroad began running, City Islanders were livid and felt they had been snookered.  Each line charged a separate fare.  In effect, a passenger had to pay two fares to proceed from Bartow Station onto City Island.  That resulted in controversies that should be the subject of a future Blog posting.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an excerpt from a news article published in 1884.  At the time, both companies had successfully obtained the approval for construction of the two railroads from the commissioners of highways of the Town of Pelham.  However, although the City Island Railroad Company successfully obtained the consents of a large majority of property owners for the construction of its half of the railroad, the Pelham Park Railroad Company failed to obtain such consents from a majority of the property owners its half of the line would affect.  The Pelham Park Railroad Company went to court to obtain a judicial determination that its half of the line was "necessary" so that it could build its half without the necessary consents of affected property owners.  The news article excerpt describes a resulting judicial decision that cleared the way for the construction of the horse railroad.


Last spring, the Pelham Park R. R. Co. and the City Island R. R. Co. were incorporated, for the purpose of building a railroad from Bartow to City Island.  The road was divided into two parts, the first-named company agreeing to build the part on the main land, and the City Island Company the part on the island, it being understood that the two roads should be consolidated after their completion.  Both companies readily obtained the consent of the commissioners of Highways to the construction of their roads, and the City Island Company also obtained the consent of a large majority of the property owners along its line.  The Pelham Park company was, however, unable to obtain the consent of the requisite number of the property owners along its division of the road, and it accordingly appealed on Monday of last week to the General Term of the Supreme Court in Brooklyn for the appointment of commissioners to determine whether its road was necessary and should be built, notwithstanding the objections of the property owners.  At the hearing the company was represented by W. R. Lamberton of Pelham Manor, and the property owners by chas D. Burrill of Bartow, Miller, Peckhouse & Dixon, of New York and others.  The opposition to the motion was based upon alleged defects in the moving papers and in the incorporation of the company, on the unconstitutionality of the statute under which the company was incorporated, and on the law prohibiting the construction of a railroad in a public park.  The court reserved its decision at the time, but on the following day decided in favor of the company, and appointed Elisha Horton, of White Plains, Arthur Burns of Yonkers and Stephen D. Horton of Peekskill as Commissioners.  This decision, it would seem, finally settles the question of a railroad to City Island, as there appears to be no doubt regarding its necessity.  City Island now contains over 1500 inhabitants and has the distinction of being the only place of its size in the United States without the convenience of a railroad, and this fact is the more remarkable because of the close proximity of the Island to New York City.  With the completion of the new road it is expected that the Island will have a regular 'boom,' and will become within a few years the most popular summer resort in the neighborhood of New York.  It has every advantage in the way of location, and all it now needs is a convenient means of communication with the metropolis."

Sourcve:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, Supplement to The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 19, 1884, p. 1, col. 7.

Below are a number of interesting images of the City Island Horse Railroad over the years.

"City Island Car"
Source: "Chapter XX: City Island" in History of Bronx Borough City Of New York
Compiled for The North Side News By Randall Comfort, p. 62 (NY, NY: North Side
News Press: 1906). NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Pelham Bay and City Island Horse Railroad Car, Circa 1910.
Source:  Image Captured from eBay Auction.

"Antiquated Railroad Car, Connecting City Island City With the Outside World"
The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), Mar. 30, 1902, Part II, p. 12, cols. 3-4.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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I have written about the City Island Horse Railroad on numerous occasions.  For a few examples, see:

Mon., Sep. 22, 2014:  New York City Sport Fishermen Travel the Horse Railroad in 1886 to Fish in Pelham.

Mon., Jul. 18, 2011:  City Island Horse Railroad Temporarily Shut Down in 1892 Over Cruelty Concerns.

Thu., May 13, 2010:  More on the Early History of the Pelham and City Island Railroad.

Tue., May 4, 2010:  Questions Regarding the Trolley Franchise from Bartow Station to the Tip of City Island Arose in 1915.

Mon., May 3, 2010:  Efforts To Reorganize the Operators of the City Island Horse Railroad and Monorail in 1914.

Fri., April 30, 2010:  "Truly, An Illuminating Little Passage in the History of New-York!" - Efforts to Develop Shore Road Trolley Line in 1897.

Thu., April 29, 2010:  City Islanders Complain and Force the Operators of Their Horse Railroad to Agree to Replace Antiquated Cars in 1908.

Wed., April 28, 2010:  Efforts by the Pelham Park Horse Railroad to Expand and Develop a Trolley Car Line on Shore Road in 1897.

Tue., April 27, 2010:  New York City's Interborough Rapid Transit Company Sued to Foreclose a Mortgage on the Horse Railroad in 1911.

Mon., April 26, 2010:  Public Service Commission Couldn't Find Marshall's Corners in 1909.

Fri., March 5, 2010:  Construction of the City Island Horse Railroad in 1887.

Thu., March 4, 2010:  Beginnings of Horse Railroad - News from Pelham and City Island Published in 1884.

Wed., March 3, 2010: 1879 Advertisement for Robert J. Vickery's City Island Stage Line, A Predecessor to the City Island Horse Railroad.

Tue., March 2, 2010:  1901 Report Indicated that The Flynn Syndicate Planned to Buy the Pelham Bay Park & City Island Horse Car Line.

Mon., March 1, 2010:  Flynn Syndicate Buys the City Island Horse Car Line in 1907 to Incorporate It Into Electric Trolley Line.

Fri., February 26, 2010:  1913 Decision of Public Service Commission to Allow Reorganization of City Island Horse Railroad for Electrification.

Thu., February 25, 2010:  Photograph of Patrick Byrnes and Article About His Retirement of the City Island Horse Car in 1914.

Wed., February 24, 2010:  Attempted Suicide of City Island's Long-Time Horse Car Driver

Wed., February 3, 2010:  Early Information Published in 1885 About the Organization of the "City Island Railroad", a Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to City Island

Tue., February 2, 2010:  Information About the Pelham Park Railroad at its Outset

Fri., January 22, 2010:  1884 Account of Early Origins of Horse Railroad Between Bartow Station and City Island.

Mon., January 4, 2010: 1888 Local News Account Describes Altercation on the Horse Railroad Running from Bartow Station to City Island.

Wed., December 2, 2009:  Accident on Horse-Car of the Pelham Park Railroad Line in 1889.

Thu., December 31, 2009:  1887 Election of the Board of Directors of The City Island and Pelham Park Horse Railroad Company.

Tue., September 1, 2009:  Pelham News on February 29, 1884 Including Talk of Constructing a New Horse Railroad from Bartow to City Island.

Wed., Jan. 04, 2006:  Another Post Card Image of the Horse Car That Ran Between Bartow and City Island.

Fri., Dec. 30, 2005:  Subdivision Development Map Created in 1873 for Bartow Village in the Town of Pelham.

Mon. Dec. 12, 2005:  19th Century Subdivision Map of Planned Bartow Village.

Thu. Jul. 21, 2005:  Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island.

Thu., June 23, 2005:  Horse Cars Come To City Island in the Town of Pelham in the 1880s.

Thu. Mar. 24, 2005:  The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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