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.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Town Board Considered Renovation of "Stink Field" to Create Parkway Field (Today's Glover Field) in 1952

The field complex known today as "Glover Field" took many years -- and one failed school bond vote -- to plan and construct.  By 1935, additions to the original Pelham Memorial High School complex required the School Board to cannibalize the adjacent athletic fields.  Thereafter, the High School had no varsity sports fields whatsoever as the Great Depression roared. Indeed, for years, Pelham varsity teams played most games "away."  Occasionally, they played "home" games.  (Typically that meant that they played on fields in Mount Vernon.)  Additionally, varsity teams had to practice on fields in Mount Vernon.

During the 1940s, however, the Town of Pelham arranged with the Westchester County Park Commission to allow the use of a large swath of land sandwiched between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Hutchinson River for athletic fields.  The acreage included a large swampy lagoon.  In addition, a Westchester County sewage pumping station stood directly across the Hutchinson River from the field.  Nearby there also was an incineration plant that routinely emitted noxious odors.  The lagoon, sewage pumping station, and incineration plant combined to give the land its time-honored epithet:  "Stink Field."  

The moniker "Stink Field" was first applied by the students attending Pelham Memorial High School during the 1940s.  Members of the Board of Education first learned of the "Stink Field" label during a School Board meeting held in April, 1945 when they asked the high school principal what the kids who used the field thought of it.  According to a published account, the principal "hemmed and hawed a little, then said, 'If you must know they call it Stink Field.'"  Apparently the name was accurately descriptive.  According to one published account, when the tide was out and, thus, the waters of the Hutchinson River were low, there was a stench in the area that made "passers-by retch and gawk."

At first, Stink Field was leased from the Westchester County Park Commission via five-year leases.  Slowly, Pelham organizations poured money into trying to maintain the poorly drained, swampy field to give high school athletes and the children of Pelham a place to play.  Citizens of the Town, however, began to complain about the money being spent to try to maintain fields that, essentially, could not be maintained in a playable condition.  Finally, in 1949, Pelham acquired the entire swath of land from the Westchester County Park Commission in the hope of improving the land for recreation.     

I have written about the history of the creation of Parkway Field, now known as Glover Field, before.  See Tue., Feb. 23, 2010:  A Brief History of the Development and Unveiling of Parkway Field in 1955 -- Known Today as Glover Field.  Part of that history includes the involvement of the Board of Education in the creation of The Pelham Citizens Committee, an advisory committee made up of representatives from virtually all citizen organization then in existence in the Town of Pelham.  

The Board of Education assisted with the creation of that Committee after the first failed bond proposal.  Thereafter, the School Board and members of that Committee worked tirelessly to gain passage of a second bond proposal to authorize the sale of $350,000 worth of bonds to fund development of a sophisticated athletic complex our of an area once described as a "barren, hilly strip of land with a 'field' which exuded rocks and broken glass -- a 'field' which became a swamp after heavy rains."  

The second bond proposal referendum was held on October 29, 1953.  The proposal passed by an overwhelming 6 to 1 margin in what was, at that time, the largest taxpayer vote turnout in Pelham's history.  Over the next two years, the School Board planned and constructed what was then considered to be a world-class athletic facility that opened on October 15, 1955.

Detail from First Page of the Program Issued on the Occasion
of the Dedication of "Parkway Field" (Today's Glover Field)
on October 15, 1955.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a series of pertinent articles including one published in late 1952 describing an appearance of the Pelham Citizens Committee before the Town Board of the Town of Pelham to lay out the initial plans for the creation of Parkway Field.  Based on landscape designs prepared by landscape architect Webster Cosse and a contractor's estimate from a local builder named Carl Capra, the Citizens Committee estimated that work to construct the field would total $52,700, plus the expense of seeding the area.  The text of that article and others appears immediately below, each followed by a citation to its source.

"Committee Lays Parkway Field Renovation Plan Before Board

PELHAM -- The Pelham Citizens Committee laid its plans for Parkway Field before the Town Board last night.  William B. Shaw said the committee already has received one contractor's estimate to do the entire project for $52,700, and that the development when finished would be 'second to none in the County.'

Supervisor Gordon Miller and the town councilmen said they would review the drawings with members of the Board of Education at a joint meeting set for Tuesday, Jan. 6.

In particular, they queried Mr. Shaw and Carl Capra, builder, who assisted with the plans, about drainage problems at the field and the steps proposed to assure a firm base under the turf.  

'Drainage,' said Councilman Paul R. Larkin, 'has been the main problem on that field.'

Supervisor Miller reminded Mr. Shaw that the Westchester County Park Commission from whom the land was acquired in 1949, also must approve any improvements.  

Shaw Urges Speed

Mr. Shaw recommended that the work be done as soon as possible.  Contractors' prices are lower now than they will be in the Spring when firms are busier, he said.

He also said that Pelham residents will be made well acquainted with the Committee's proposal.  'We are going to appear before every official board and organization in Pelham,' he explained.

The plans aired for the first time last night were drawn by Webster Cosse, landscape architect, who is doing work in New York City and Yonkers.  He is giving his time to the project, Mr. Shaw said, because he subscribes to the belief of the entire committee that Pelham can have an athletic field with facilities for varsity sports and recreation and it need not be prohibitively expensive.

The $52,700 estimate, according to Mr. Shaw, covers everything but seeding.  Surface drainage will be utilized, and any existing problem will be turf over the whole area, he asserted.  

The plans call for grading the area, with considerable fill to be pushed into the lagoon which now is responsible for Parkway Field's time-honored epithet, 'stink field.'  Mr. Shaw said there would be 'about 10 acres on which you can put nearly anything you want.'

Mr. Cosse's plans call for a ball field, baseball and softball fields, a half-mile track with a 200-yard straightaway, a girls' hockey field and a parking space.  A wooded area at the upper end would be left as is.

The Board granted Supervisor Miller authority to obtain any suitable fill to be dumped in the portion of Parkway Field that the Town is attempting to fill in.  Specifically, Mr. Miller had asked permission to use debris from the Black mansion being demolished on Boston Post Road.  

Final payment on the Boston and Westchester demolition will not be made until the contractor removes his steamshovel from the site, Supervisor Miller declared.  He said an allowance of $500 has been made for work which could not be done because insurance coverage expired.  The contractor will allow $100 for ledge rock which remains between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and $400 for an area not leveled to grade.  This makes $17,500 due on the initial contract of $36,000.

The Board also made two appointments for the coming year, voted its year-end transfer of accounts, fixed salaries for 1953 as covered in the new budget, and amended the town's compensation plan to cover the new pay scale.

Edward F. Hallahan was renamed town assessor and Haskins and Sells were appointed auditors."

Source:  Committee Lays Parkway Field Renovation Plan Before Board, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 23, 1952, p. 5, cols. 2-4.

"Hutchinson Field Appropriation Is Cause of Split

There was a wordy interchange at the Board of Education on Thursday when the matter of expending more money on the $18,000 Parkway playground was discussed.

Trustee Wm. B. Shaw, chairman of the building and grounds committee, estimated $2,500 would be needed for seed, fertilizer, top soil, embankment and manpower to bring the field into condition and prevent Hutchinson river high tides from flowing over the field.

Chairman Bristol was against the expenditure of large amount.

The playground is leased from the county park commission on a five-year basis.  Across Hutchinson River, which borders it is the county sewage pumping station.  

Trustee Ken Kelly said he did not think much of the field and Trustee Zerbey wanted to call a halt to further expenditures on a dirty, muddy field.

Trustee McIntosh -- I'm not for it.

Trustee Shaw -- You never were for it.  I'm going to get off the Board.  I think I've been on too long.

Trustee Chenery was for putting the requested amount in the budget.  If engineering opinion is favorable to go on with the work.  

Trustee Connolly -- I think we're overlooking one thing.  What do the kids who use the field think?  You can tell us that, Fairclough.  He pointed at the school principal.

Principal Fairclough hemmed and hawed a little, then said, 'If you must know they call it Stink Field.'

'That settles it,' said Trustee Connolly.  'This is recommended by the committee.  Let's put it in the budget.  The budget is not passed yet.  It goes before the public meeting.'  

The Board agreed.  Trustees McIntosh and Zerbey noting an emphatic no."

Source:  Hutchinson Field Appropriation is Cause of Split, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1945, p. 1, col. 7.

"In The Mail Box

Use Travers Island

To the Editor,
The Pelham Sun,

Dear Sir:  

Much has been said in recent months about the plans for the improvement of the athletic field along the Hutchinson River Parkway in Pelham Manor where the high school athletic teams have been playing varsity games.  As I understand it, the school district has been put to considerable expense attempting to put that field in good condition.  However, no matter what the expense conditions never seem to get any better.  Many of the boys who use the field have suffered severe injuries due to the poor condition of the field.  It seems to me that in times such as these the public funds could be turned to much better use than to pour into a project that gets nowhere.

On the other hand Pelham is not without adequate athletic field facilities, which could be turned over to the school district for varsity athletics with little trouble, it seems to me.  I refer to the athletic field formerly used by the N. Y. A. C. teams at Travers Island.  Here is an athletic plant without equal in this part of the country.  For years the athletic club teams drew large attendances not only from the Pelhams but from all over the metropolitan area.  The Travers Island athletic field is not being used at all now, and I am sure that the Board of Education could with little difficulty, arrange with the athletic club authorities for the temporary use of Travers Island pending other suitable post war arrangements for an athletic field closer to the high school.  True it's not next door to the high school, but it's closer than the athletic fields of many hundreds of other schools or colleges for that matter.

Let's not waste any more money on 'Stink Field.'  In wartime until we can get a new athletic field closer to the school, let our varsity contests be played at Travers Island.  Many champions have been made there.  It will have added inspiration for our young athletes.  Let's get our teams out of the mud and onto a decent playing field.


Source:  In The Mail Box - Use Travers Island, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 12, 1945, p. 2, cols. 2-3.  


It was our unpleasant experience to drive on Hutchinson River Parkway past the Colonial Avenue pond a few nights ago.  The tide was out and the pond was a mass of mud and worse.  From it there arose a stench that makes passers-by retch and gawk.  An open sewer could not have caused a more objectionable odor.

For a good many months The Pelham Sun has called attention to the disgusting conditions prevailing at this point whenever the tide is low.  

The pond adjoins the school recreation field of the High School.  The pupils call the spot Stink Field.  

Heretofore complaints have been met with a helpless gesture by county parkway authorities.  Nothing can be done, they said, until after the war.  Well, the war is over, and the odor remains.  It is a foul, unholy mess that must be remedied before a fearsome disease is bred in its filth.

The adjoining sewage pumping station, we are given to understand, has a bypass, by means of which raw sewage can be discharged into the Hutchinson Creek.  Our olfactory nerves lead us to believe that in some manner or other sewage IS emptying into the stream.  Only in a like manner could such a foul effluent be created.

How long have the residents of adjoining Pelham Manor had to submit to the stench of the pond adjoining Stink Field and the varied but all objectionable odors wafted over them from the Mount Vernon incineration plant?

The time is ripe now that the war is over for an emphatice demand that conditions now existing be remedied quickly.

People have rights and there are health laws on the statute books that guarantee them protection from health endangering conditions.  For years The Pelham Sun has advocated that a hard tidal barrier with an operating gate about six feet wide in the center be constructed in Hutchinson Creek so that a minimum depth of three feet of water could be maintained in Colonial Avenue pond at all times.  This, we believe, would eliminate the foulness of its present conditions.  Otherwise let's have it filled and the creek put into a condition that can be cleaned.

As to the incineration plant, the need for repairs is visible.  The need for better operation is obvious to those living in the vicinity whenever a westerly wind blows.

Both of these unhealthy forms of nuisances can be attacked and remedy demanded.  They are a menace to public health.  We look to the village fathers and the head of the town board to take action right away.  The war is over.  The remedying of these conditions should be the first post-war project."

Source:  MUST BE REMEDIED QUICKLY, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 6, 1945, Vol. 36, No. 21, p. 2, col. 2.  

"Students Urge Parkway Field Expansion In Recreation Parley


Determined that their attempts to speed up action on developing Parkway Field be brought to the attention of all official bodies concerned, delegates from Pelham Memorial High School appeared before the Recreation Commission at its monthly meeting in Town Hall last night.  

The three students, part of a larger delegation which had approached the Town Board previously, indicated their intention of appearing before the monthly meeting of the Board of Education tonight.

Answering a question posed by Commissioner George Erickson, the students said they believed it was important to establish not only a football field but also a wider range of play area for girl students.  The Recreation Commission indicated that the matter would be considered by the joint committee of Town, School and Recreation officials. . . . "

Source:  Students Urge Parkway Field Expansion In Recreation Parley, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 9, 1950, p. 4, cols. 4-5.  

"Parkway Field Dedicated at Pelham

One of the most important days in recent school history occurred in Pelham during 1955.  

It was the dedication of the community's 11-acre recreation area, Parkway Field, in the process of completion during the past two years at a cost of $350,000.  

Subject of planning (and occasionally sharp public debate) for more than five years, the new field provides a much-needed football field, track, field house, tennis courts, baseball diamond and other facilities.

It was started in October, 1953, under Board of Education auspices and occupies a tract along Eastchester Creek opposite Hutchinson Field, Mount Vernon.  

In addition, the school board during 1955 spent approximately $17,000 for a girls' play area adjacent to Memorial High School.

This area, known as Franklin Field, will consist of two sections, the second scheduled for completion this year.

Building renovation at some schools may be considered, according to school officials, but these projects will not be clarified until preparation of the new budget begins.

A pre-school census recently completed and compiled by the office of Radcliffe Morrill, superintendent of schools, indicates that Pelham will experience a little growth in school population, but not sufficient to warrant expenditure for new buildings or additions."

Source:  Parkway Field Dedicated At Pelham, Yonkers Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Jan. 17, 1956, p. 18A, cols. 5-8.

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