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.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Pelham Settled the Unpaid Tax Bills of the Defunct New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Company in 1943

More than a century ago the New York, Westchester and Boston Railway passed through, and provided service to, the Town of Pelham.  The line – known today as Westchester’s “forgotten railway” – was controlled by the New Haven Railroad.  The Westchester opened for service in 1912. 

The Westchester started at 132nd Street and Willis Avenue in the Bronx.  Its trackage extended nearly a mile to the east where it joined the Harlem River division of the New Haven line near the approach to Hell Gate Bridge.  The Westchester followed two tracks leased from the New Haven along this route until it reached East 174th Street and then passed onto its own four-track right-of-way until it reached West Farms Station at East 180th Street.  The line continued through a tunnel beneath the Bronx and Pelham Parkway and proceeded northward into the City of Mount Vernon. 

The line proceeded through an “open cut” in Mount Vernon and across a viaduct built over the New Haven’s Grand Central division (a continuation of the New Haven’s main line that turns to the west at New Rochelle).  At the northern end of Mount Vernon, the four-track Westchester line split into two double-track divisions.  

Of the two divisions, the one regarded as the “main line” of the Westchester turned east from Mount Vernon parallel to the New Haven Line and crossed the Hutchinson River on a large viaduct that began just north of Pelham Reservoir.  The tracks passed through what was then the Village of North Pelham.  There was a station at Fifth Avenue and 3rd Street. There was another station in Pelhamwood located right at the boundary with New Rochelle.  The division continued to North Avenue in New Rochelle. 

Undated Photograph of Fifth Avenue Station of the New York,
Westchester and Boston Railway, Ca. 1912, from Engineering News.
Source: Remembering North Pelham Facebook Page.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

The Westchester was state-of-the-art and reportedly cost more than $50,000,000 to build and maintain.  It became known derisively as Westchester’s “Million-Dollar-A-Mile Railroad” before it was placed in receivership and ceased operations on December 31, 1937. 

Remnants of the Westchester may still be found in Pelham, including the most visible relic: a concrete overpass above Highbrook Avenue that once held trackage and allowed trains to pass above.  Today, the trackage has been removed and the arch bridge to nowhere stands as a silent sentinel above Highbrook Avenue, a reminder of the grand railroad once known as the New York, Westchester and Boston Railway.

Abandoned Bridge of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway
Above Highbrook Avenue in the Village of Pelham in 2004.
Source: Photograph by the Author, 2004.
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

One part of the history of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Company about which I have never written involves the extensive efforts by the Town of Pelham and the Village of North Pelham to obtain payment of the company's property taxes that were in arrears after the Railway suspended operations.

After extensive negotiations with the railway company receiver and meetings and negotiations with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the parties reached a deal in 1943 for the railway to transfer to the municipalities all right, title and interest in the railway's right of way and all railway buildings within the boundaries of the Town of Pelham.  The properties were valued at the time at $150,000.  Additionally, the railway receiver settled the unpaid taxes totaling $90,248.59 by agreeing to a payment of $52,400.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting transcribes the text of an article published in The Pelham Sun that detailed the settlement among the Town, the Village of North Pelham, and the Receiver of the Railway.  

"Town and Village Boards May Settle for $52,400 Claims on W. & B. Ry.

Final settlement of the bill for unpaid taxes in the amount of $90,0248.59 owed by the defunct New York, Westchester & Boston Railway to the Village of North Pelham and the Town of Pelham was agreed upon at a joint meeting of the Town Board and the Village Board of North Pelham at the Town Hall last night.  Under the terms of an offer made by L. Ward Prince, acting for the Receiver of the Railway, a sum of $52,400 will be paid to the municipalities in settlement of all indebtedness.  Of this amount $19,900 will be paid by the railway company receiver and $32,500 by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

In addition the railway company will transfer to the municipalities, all right, title and interest in the right of way and all buildings thereon in the Town of Pelham.  

The terms of the settlement were unanimously approved and now await Court approval before being put into effect.

The property of the N. Y., W. & B. Ry. in North Pelham was valued at $150,000.  Mayor Dominic Amato of North Pelham once estimated that the cost of demolishing the Fifth avenue arch, the station at Fifth avenue and the one at Pelhamwood and returning the property to grade would be at least $40,000.

Taxes in arrears by the railway company up to 1943 were:  North Pelham, $34,343.83 and the Town of Pelham, $55,900.36.  Of the amount which will be received if the Courts approve of the settlement, $41,000 will be set aside and earmarked for an after-the-war project for the demolition of the bridges, embankments and the general improvement of the property.

Supervisor Thomas B. Fenlon reviewed the history of the settlement which finally ended in the offer which was approved by the joint municipal bodies.

The contract of the Metal Reserves Corporation of $32,500 for metal, ballast, etc., on the property was accepted by both boards, but the local authorities must be financially responsible for the demolition.

All members of both boards were present.  A discussion followed about which body would have the right to decide issues regarding the disposition of the [illegible] of the post-war project, on the properties and on the proceeds if any.

It was the opinion of the majority of those present that the Village of North Pelham, which has control over the streets which the railroad crosses should decide on these post war plans.  

After setting aside the $41,000 for demolition, the balance, $11,400 will be divided among the Village of North Pelham and the Town of Pelham.  

Thus the final chapter in the Million-Dollar-a-Mile Railway will be written within a few more weeks."

Source:  Town and Village Boards May Settle for $52,400 Claims on W. & B. Ry., The Pelham Sun, Dec. 2, 1943, Vol. 33, No. 35, p. 1, cols. 6-8.    

*          *          *          *          *

I have written about the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway on numerous occasions.  For examples, see:

Fri., Feb. 20, 2015:  Village of North Pelham Fought Plans for Construction of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway in 1909.

Tue., Jan. 12, 2010:  Architectural Rendering of the Fifth Avenue Station of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad in North Pelham Published in 1913.

Fri., Dec. 18, 2009:  The Inaugural Run of the New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad Through Pelham for Local Officials in 1912.

Thu., Jul. 7, 2005:  The New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad Company Begins Construction of its Railroad.

Fri., Feb. 25, 2005:  Robert A. Bang Publishes New Book on The New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Company.

Bell, Blake A., The New York, Westchester And Boston Railway in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 50, Dec. 17, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.

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