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, March 26, 2015

Fire Destroyed the Old Pelham Manor Post Office in 1945

Helen Mann, whose husband was away on business, was sound asleep in the couple's ground floor apartment in the old Pelham Manor Post Office building that once stood at the end of the Esplanade (where it ends at today's I-95 concrete sound barrier).  It was shortly before four o'clock in the morning on April 19, 1945.  There was no hint yet of a rising sun. 

Mrs. Mann startled from her sleep.  She thought she had heard the sounds of heavy objects falling, but wasn't sure if it was a dream.  She arose and crept to the door of her apartment.  She opened the door and looked into the lobby.  

Flames were roaring and climbing the stairs toward the apartments on the upper floors.  She began screaming to warn other apartment occupants in the building.  She ran to her bedside telephone and called in the alarm.  

The old Pelham Manor Post Office building, long since converted to apartments, a small grocery, and a plumbing shop was burning.  The blaze was a bad one.  When the flames were extinguished more than two-and-a-half hours later, four were hurt.  Seven occupants were saved by firemen.  Two firemen were hospitalized.  The structure was not rebuilt because it lay in the path of the proposed I-95 New England Thruway.

Map Detail Showing Location of Pelham Manor Post Office Building.
(NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge).

I have written before about the history of the Pelham Manor Post Office that once served the neighborhood and was the center of business activity in the area.  See:  Tue., Jan. 28, 2014:  The Pelham Manor Post Office.  

Immediately below is a previously-unpublished and rare post card view of the Pelham Manor Post Office.  Train cars on the tracks of the Branch Line may be seen in the lower left of the image.

Post Card View of Pelham Manor Post Office, 1908.
"No. 206.  Post Office Pelham Manor, N. Y."
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog collects a little more about the history of the Pelham Manor Post Office building and also transcribes the text news reports about the fire that destroyed the building as well as other news items relating to the history of the building and its occupants. 

The Pelham Manor Post Office operated in the Pelham Manor Depot for many years until 1904 when the post office was moved to a nearby residence on Terrace avenue, a roadway that no longer exists due to the construction of I-95.  The post office remained in that residence until a new post office building was built near the front entrance to the nearly new Pelham Manor Train Station built of stone that was designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert and opened in about 1908.  

The Pelham Manor and Pelham post offices were designated as branches of the New York City post office in 1910.  The Pelham Manor branch operated in the same building for the next 26 years.  The Pelham Manor branch was closed due to lack of business on December 31, 1936.

A small grocery operated in the Pelham Manor Post Office building for many, many years.  In about 1925, two brothers from New Rochelle named Harry B. and Joseph Adolph O. "Al" Bernsohn, became proprietors and ran the grocery until the building burned in 1945.  

In 1926, Joseph Adolph O. Bernsohn was involved in an unusual traffic accident while driving a grocery truck for the Pelham Manor Grocery.  On November 1 of that year a woman from Tennessee, Mrs. Leota Pennington, was walking along Boston Post Road when a vehicle driven by Arthur Anderson of Newark, New Jersey struck the grocery truck at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Fowler Avenue causing Bernsohn's truck to leave the road and strike a road sign.  The sign toppled onto Mrs. Pennington and injured her ankle.  

Mrs. Pennington and her husband filed lawsuits in New York state court against Al Bernsohn and the Newark driver seeking $50,000 in damages, but the Newark driver "stayed out of the jurisdiction of the court."  A first trial of the suit against Bernsohn ended in mistrial.  A second trial, however, resulted in a verdict against Bernsohn of $3,200.  Articles about the accident and subsequent lawsuits are also transcribed below.

Once the Branch Line ended commuter service to Pelham Manor in the 1930s and the Pelham Manor Post Office closed in 1936, the area around the old Pelham Manor Post Office building grew quiet.  The train station was abandoned (although it later served as the headquarters of a model railroad club).  A plumbing shop owned by Robert M. Mullins opened in the former post office space.  In addition to the grocery and plumbing shop, apartments were carved out of the remainder of the building.  There was an apartment on the ground floor, two apartments on the second floor, and another apartment on the third floor.  This was the building layout when the fire gutted the building on April 19, 1945.

The Mullins Plumbing shop moved to 517 Pelhamdale Avenue, around the corner from the old Pelham Manor Post Office building.  Below is an advertisement for the relocated business that appeared in the September 27, 1945 issue of The Pelham Sun.

September 27, 1945 Advertisement for
Relocated Business of Mullins Plumbing.
Source:  R. M. Mullins [Advertisement], The Pelham Sun,
Sep. 27, 1945, p. 12, col. 6.

*          *          *          *          *

"Three Hurt in Manor $25,000 Fire; Seven Saved by Firemen
Manor Grocery Store, Mullins Plumbing Shop and Four Apartments Gutted in Blaze Early This Morning in Old Manor Post Office Building.

One woman and two firemen were taken to New Rochelle Hospital early this morning during a stubborn $25,000 fire which was fought by combined forces of Pelham Manor and North Pelham for two and a half hours.  The flames gutted the big frame building at Esplanade and Pelham Manor abandoned railroad station.  

The injured woman is:

MRS. CHARLES HARMON, who sustained a fractured pelvis and burns on the right foot and leg when she and Mr. David leaped from the second story.  He was treated for smoke inhalation.  Firemen said that Mr. David jumped after Mrs. Harmon had landed on her prostrate fo[illegible].  This could not be verified.

The injured firemen are:  

HAROLD HOCKING, 432 Fifth avenue, North Pelham volunteer fireman who sustained a badly bruised hip when a section of floor caved in.  He is in New Rochelle Hospital, detained for further examination.

GEORGE TRUCKENBROUGH, 56, of 1151 Clay avenue, a volunteer fireman of Pelham Manor and well-known Legionnaire, cut an artery in his right arm severed by glass.  He was treated at New Rochelle hospital and returned home.

On the ground floor of the building is the Manor Grocery operated for 20 years by Harry and Al Bernsohn of 315 Sickles avenue, New Rochelle.  The store was gutted and loss heavy.  The plumbing shop of Robert Mullins, which occupied the site of the old post-office abandoned years ago, was gutted.

Mrs. Helen Mann, who occupied a ground floor apartment awakened about 4 a.m. by sounds as of heavy objects falling, opened the door of her apartment and saw the building was on fire.  She raised an alarm from her bedside telephone.  Her screams aroused the other occupants of the buildding and neighbors.  Mann was alone her husband, a Federal inspector, being in Washington, D. C.

Mr. and Mrs. Carl Jenzen and her children, Carl, 11, Robert [illegible] and Margaret, 5, were rescued in their night clothes from a third-floor apartment.  They suffered from shock.

Mrs. E. Harmon and Mr. Davidson and Mrs. Constance Moore and baby occupied apartments on the second floor.  Mrs. Moore's husband is in the armed forces overseas.  She and her children were rescued by firemen.  Harmon and Mr. Davidson climbed or jumped.

When Manor firemen and Chief Nelson Rundlett arrived, the building was blazing.  Fire poured from the windows and rose up from the roof.  Chief Rundlett called for aid from North Pelham and two pieces of apparatus and 20 men turned out to help with a stubborn fight [to bring] the flames under control about 6:30 a.m.

Kenneth R. Kelly, county [illegible] man of disaster and relief of the Red Cross, was on hand.  He procured hot coffee from Mrs. Southland at the Country Club and served firemen and fire victims.  

Mrs. Goldie Russell of 1155 Clay avenue opened her home to the scantily-clad victims and neighbors sent in clothing for them.  

Most of the occupants of the building carried insurance.  The co-operative work of the two fire departments was excellent.

The building may not be restored as it is on the route of the projected track of the New England Thru Way."

Source:  Three Hurt in Manor $25,000 Fire; Seven Saved by Firemen -- Manor Grocery Store, Mullins Plumbing Shop and Four Apartments Gutted in Blaze Early This Morning in Old Manor Post Office Building, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1945, p. 1, cols. 1-3.  

"Pelham Manor Fire Injures Four Persons

PELHAM MANOR -- Four persons were injured yesterday morning when flames raced through a three-story shingle and stone building at 1107 Esplanade damaging the structure beyond repair in a fire described by Chief Nelson Rundlett as 'the largest and toughest in this village in many years.'

The building which houses the Manor Grocer and the Robert Mullins plumbing establishment and four apartments was burned throughout its interior as the flames which are said to have broken out in the lobby spread up the stairs and quickly burned through the second floor apartment rooms."

Source:  Pelham Manor Fire Injures Four Persons, The Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Apr. 20, 1945, p. 7, col. 3.  

"Obituary News

*     *     *

Harry B. Bernsohn

Harry B. Bernsohn, 68, of 710 Warburton Ave., former proprietor of the Manor Grocery in Pelham Manor, died last Thursday at St. John's Riverside Hospital.  He had been a resident of Yonkers for the past 26 years.

Born Sept. 14, 1896 in New Rochelle, Mr. Bernsohn was the son of the late Adolph Otto and Caroline Bernsohn.  He married the former Elizabeth Boyd, served as a seaman with the Naval Reserve in World War I and later became a member of the American Legion, New Rochelle Post 8.

Surviving are his wife; a daughter, Mrs. Anne Bennett of Brooklyn; a brother, Alfred Bernsohn of Ormond Beach, Fla.; and three sisters, Mrs. Helen Himmell of Forest Hills, N. Y., and the Misses Ruth and Clara Bernsohn, both of New Rochelle.


BERNSOHN--Harry B. Of 710 Warburton Avenue.  On July 15, 1965.  Beloved husband of Elizabeth Boyd.  Father of Anna Bennett.  Brother of Helen Himmell, Ruth, Clara and Alfred.  Services at the Geo. T. Davis Memorial, 14 LeCount Place, New Rochelle 3:00 P.M. today."

Source:  Obituary News . . . Harry B. Bernsohn & DEATH NOTICES -- BERNSOHN--Harry B., Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Jul. 19, 1965, p. 2, col. 1.  


Trial was started yesterday before Supreme Court Judge Josepoh H. Morschauser and a jury at White Plains in the $50,000 accident damage suit of Mrs. Leota Pennington, of Tennessee against Joseph Adolph O. Bernsohn, of No. 315 Sickles avenue, New Rochelle proprietor of the Manor Grocery, Pelham Manor.  Mrs. Pennington who was visiting her daughter whose home is at No. 108 Iden avenue, Pelham Manor in November 1926 was injured in an accident in which Bernsohn's marchine figured, at the intersection of the Boston road and Fowler avenue.  Bernsohn's car was hit by another machine, and it crashed against a street sign.  The sign fell and injured Mrs. Pennington's ankle. 

Suit has also been started against Arthur Anderson of Neward driver of the other car, but he has stayed out of the jurisdiction of the court.

Edgar C. Beecroft of Pelham Manor is attorney of record for Bernsohn, and former city Judge Jacob S. Ruskin is trial attorney.  Mrs. Pennington is represented by Sidney Syme of Mount Vernon."

Source:  ASKS $50,000 FOR INJURY TO ANKLE, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 27, 1931, Vol. 21, No. 52, p. 1, col. 3.  

Jury Decides Against A. O. Bernsohn Accident Suit in Supreme Court.

Verdicts totalling $3200 were returned by a jury before Supreme Court Justice Frederick P. Close, Tuesday afternoon in favor of Mrs. Leota Pennington and Walter M. Pennington, in their suits against Adolph O. Bernsohn, of New Rochelle, owner of the Pelham Manor grocery.

Mr. and Mrs. Pennington, who live in Chattanooga, Tenn., but who were visiting their daughter at 108 Iden avenue, at the time of the accident, sued to recover $50,000.  

According to her complaint, Mrs. Pennington, who was awarded $2,000 of the $35,000 she sought, was walking on the Boston Post road near Fowler avenue in Pelham Manor on November 1, 1926 when Bernsohn's truck collided with a car driven by Austin O. Anderson of Jersey City, N. J.  After the collision, the grocery truck veered to the side of the road and struck a street sign.  The sign was knocked over and struck Mrs. Pennington, fracturing one of her ankles.

The sum of $1200 was awarded to Mr. Pennington, who sued for $15,000 for loss of his wife's services.

The trial this week was the second one in the case, since a mistrial had been declared three weeks ago, when Sydney A. Syme attorney for the Penningtons, moved for the withdrawal of a juror because one of the witnesses failed to appear.

Corporation Counsel Edgar C. Beecroft of Pelham Manor was attorney for Bernsohn, while former City Judge Jacob S. Ruskin of New Rochelle was trial counsel."

Source:  $3,200 AWARD FOR INJURY TO ANKLE -- Jury Decides Against A. O. Bernsohn Accident Suit in Supreme Court, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 24, 1931, Vol. 22, No. 4, p. 5, col. 2.  

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At 7:19 PM, Blogger Robert Mullins said...

Any idea when the Train Station was demolished ?


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