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 05, 2015

Pelham Manor Was Nearly the Site of a Massive Motordrome Stadium Proposed During the Great Depression

During the Great Depression, motorcycle race organizers used Memorial Field in Mount Vernon (at the border with Pelham) for wildly popular motorcycle races.  The whine of racing motorcycle engines and the loud speakers used to announce the races could be heard nearly a mile away.  Pelham Manor streets were packed with cars parked by fans who attended the races at Memorial Field.  On race days, traffic in the area was unbearable.

As the popularity of the motorcycle races grew, Memorial Field was no longer big enough to handle the crowds.  Race organizer International Racing, Inc. had an idea.  It approached the owners of the massive Secor property in Pelham Manor adjacent to the Hutchinson River Parkway.  It proposed to lease the Secor property to permit construction of a $30,000 motordrome on the site to host motorcycle races.  The community's response was immediate. . . . 

Pelham Manor citizens organized and fought the proposal with vigor.  They successfully lobbied the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor to amend the local zoning ordinances to "prohibit outdoor amusements" in the area.  

1930s Motorcycle Race.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an article describing the outrage of Pelham Manor residents and their efforts to convince the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor to amend local zoning ordinances to preclude use of the Secor estate as a motorcycle racing motordrome.  

'Cycle Promoters' Lawyer Tells of Plot -- Ban Set in Pelham

(Special To The Daily Argus)

PELHAM MANOR,  Sept. 24. -- Veiled charges that opposition to motorcycle racing in Mount Vernon was 'entirely political' and based on personal greed of a group of unnamed citizens were uttered before the Pelham Manor Village Board last night as Coulter D. Young, attorney for International Racing, Inc., protested in vain an ordinance aimed at resumption of the sport in this area.  

Assuming that nuisance aspects of motorcycle racing was impelling members of the Village Board to favor a zoning amendment prohibiting outdoor amusements, Mr. Young argued that politics, not noise, caused eventual ban of racing in Mount Vernon.  

'I have a written agreement in my possession from certain property owners in Mount Vernon,' he declared, 'which states that if we would agree to purchase certain property for our operations, they would have the prohibiting ordinance repealed, and objections to racing withdrawn.

Amendment Passed

'The Mount Vernon situation was not created by the nuisance of racing, but was entirely political.'

Mr. Young's protests, nor those of three other persons who objected to passage of the restricting ordinance, had any weight with the board.  The amendment was passed unanimously.

Unless some means of setting aside the new law can be found, the knell of motorcycle racing here has been sounded in the face of International Racing's plans to build a $30,000 sports stadium on property leased from the Secor Estates near the Mount Vernon line.

Mrs. Henry E. Dye, one other woman, Mr. Young and E. S. Booth, attorney from the Secor Estate, were the only objectors to the amendment.

Property Damaged

The amendment was called 'confiscatory' by Mr. Booth.

'The Secor property has been non-productive of income for many years,' Mr. Booth declared, 'although it pays the second or third largest taxes in the community -- $10,000 a year.  This is the first chance for the heirs of the Secor estate to get an income.  If the stadium is a nuisance it can be prohibited later.'

Protestants against the motordrome included L. G. Smigh, M. J. Ely, John T. Fenlon, former Mayor Lester H. Gray, J. A. Magill, Mrs. John J. McGraw, and 


(Continued on Page Two)

(Continued from Page One)

John F. Condon, Jr. and many others.

They asserted the motorcycle races would 'ruin' the residential section of Pelham Manor, that the noise would be 'unbearable,' that an undesirable element would be brought into Pelham Manor necessitating more police protection.  Traffic conditions were stressed by many residents, who claimed that Pelham Manor Streets were used for parking when the races were at Memorial Field, Mount Vernon.  

Unfair to Estate

Many of those who protested declared that the loud speakers and motorcycles could be heard clearly in Pelham Manor, at least 3,000 to 4,000 feet away.  When a standing protest against the motordrome was called by one of the objectors, only Mr. Young, Mr. Booth, Mrs. Dye and another woman remained seated and the amendment was passed.  

'I don't object to the prohibition of the motordrome,' Mr. Booth declared after the meeing, 'but it is unfair to pass an amendment that prohibits the property being leased to a theater or for a stadium for football, baseball or other sports.' 

Questioned after the meeting as to identity of the Mount Vernon property owners who had offered the 'bribe' to his concern, Mr. Young said he had nothing further to say."

Source:  RACE 'BRIBE' PLAN BARED,  The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 24, 1935, p. 1, col. 2 & p. 2, col. 2.  

1930s Motorcyclist.

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