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, February 26, 2015

The Use of Pelham's Town Hall on Shore Road as a Public Schoolhouse During the 1880s

During much of the nineteenth century, most of Pelham’s population lived on City Island, Pelham Neck and along the mainland on Long Island Sound. There were few homes on Boston Post Road or in the areas that came to be known as Prospect Hill, Pelham Manor, and Pelhamville. 

The Town of Pelham decided in 1857 to build its first Town Hall and Post-Office building.  Construction began a year later on today’s Shore Road near today’s Pelham Bit Stables / Bronx Equestrian Center in Pelham Bay Park.  The building was constructed on the mainland near City Island in recognition of the fact that, although most Town residents lived on City Island, there were pockets of Town residents on the mainland as well.  To learn more, see:  Wed., Dec. 03, 2014: Pelham Proposed To Build A Town Hall and Post Office in 1857.

In about 1882, both the Town Supervisor (James Hyatt) and the Town Clerk of the Town of Pelham had offices in the tiny little Town Hall building.  Both, however, were residents of City Island and found the office on the mainland inconvenient.  One day the Town Clerk could take it no more and packed up the Town's records and moved to a corner of a Town "lock up" maintained by the Town on City Island.  Soon, the Town Supervisor followed the records and the Town Clerk and moved to another part of the Town lock up on City Island.  The Town Hall building was virtually empty.  I have written about this state of affairs before.  See Tue., May 11, 2010:  Mystery Solved - Pelham Town Hall That Once Stood On Shore Road Was Used as a School.

Undated Photograph Showing Pelham Town Hall on Shore Road.

Detail from 1868 Beers Map of Town of Pelham with
Red Circle Indicating Location of Pelham Town Hall. 
Note: Click Image to Enlarge.

Rather than leave the Town Hall building virtually vacant, it was used temporarily as a public school building.  By the spring of 1883, there were twenty pupils who studied in the tiny school.  All were overseen by a single teacher, Miss Mary A. Denton.  See PELHAM, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Apr. 13, 1883, Vol. XIV, No. 708, p. 3, col. 3 (stating "PELHAM.  The Bartow school has about 20 pupils.  Miss Mary A. Denton is the teacher, and the Town-hall is used temporarily as its headquarters.").  

With the opening of the school in the Town Hall building at Bartow, the Town of Pelham was operating at least four public schools at the time:  (1) the school at Bartow; (2) the school on City Island; (3) the Prospect Hill School; and (4) the Pelhamville School.  See BARTOW, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Jun. 15, 1883, Vol. XIV, No. 717, p. 3, col. 4 (stating "By a resolution of the Board of Education of District No. 1, the school at Bartow is to be closed from June 29th until November 5th.  This action on the part of the Trustees from the upper part of the district, has created a bitter feeling on the part of the inhabitants of Bartow, and the next meeting of the Board is likely to be a stormy one."); CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Jun. 15, 1883, Vol. XIV, No. 717, p. 3, col. 4 (stating "Last Tuesday, Mr. W. L. Ginnel and Miss Ella A. Stearns, daughter of Mr. Isaac Stearns, principal of the City Island public school, were married in Brooklyn.").

Miss Mary A. Denton remained the teacher at the little school at least until 1886 and, likely, thereafter until the school closed.  Cf. PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Mar. 19, 1886, Vol. XVII, No. 864, p. 1, col. 5 ("PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND.  The school at Bartow has closed a part of this week, on account of the illness of the teacher, Miss Denton.").

The tiny little school at Bartow operated until 1889 when it was closed "on account of that part of the town of Pelham having been taken by the city of New York, for a public park."  See LOCAL NEWS, New Rochelle Pioneer, Sep. 14, 1889, p. 3, cols. 1-2.  Although the building continued to stand in Pelham Bay Park for many years, it was vandalized repeatedly and, eventually, converted into a storage facility for the Park Department.  It was razed during the 1950s.  

Undated Photograph of Pelham Town Hall on
Shore Road Not Long Before it Was Razed.

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