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.

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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