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.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Detailed and Fascinating Description of the Village of Pelham Manor in 1892

As suburban development gained momentum in the Pelhams during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, real estate puff pieces about the desirability of living in the "exclusive" community appeared in a wide variety of newspapers in New York City and the surrounding region.  I have documented such puff pieces on a number of occasions.  See, e.g., Tue., Apr. 28, 2015:  A 1910 Real Estate Puff Piece About "The Pelhams" -- Description of the Attractions of the Three Villages of the Pelhams Published in 1910.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a fascinating real estate "puff piece" about the Village of Pelham Manor on November 20, 1892, only a year after the village was first incorporated.  The article portrays Pelham Manor as an "exclusive" enclave inhabited by "Members of the '400' and Those Just Out of It."  (The reference to "the 400" is a reference to the four hundred most fashionable socialites of the day.)  

The article contains a great deal of interesting early information about the Manor Club and the original Manor Club clubhouse, the Priory, the home once owned by Henry B. B. Stapler on the Esplanade, and much, murch more.  It describes the status of property developments throughout the incorporated village and in an unincorporated section adjacent to the village at the time.  

In addition to its text, the article included a number of sketches of various buildings and persons referred to in the article.  Both the text and the sketches appear below, followed by a citation and link to their source.  (I have inserted the sketches roughly where they appear within the text of the article.)

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Where Members of the '400' and Those Just Out of It Reside.
The Priory, the Duchess de Dino's Country Place ,and H. B. B. Stapler's $35,000 Mansion -- From a Business Point of View It Is a Good Place for Investment -- One Mile from New Rochelle and Three from Mount Vernon.

Delightfully situated on the northern border of Pelham Bay Park, the biggest of Gotham's greenwood possessions, on a high bluff quietly sloping to Long Island Sound, is Pelham Manor -- picturesque, fashionable, exclusive.  It is on the Harlem River branch of the New Haven Railroad, three miles north of the village of Westchester, and one mile south of bustling New Rochelle.  It is just above the line of the proposed annexation of Westchester County to the metropolis.

It would be difficult to find a more ideal spot for a luxurious home.  The scenery is unsurpassed.  The Manor lies on a romantic piece of ground several miles in diameter, at a high elevation gradually rolling down to the Sound, which at this point is dotted with green islets.  Below is the park with its 1,750 acres of natural woodland beauty.

Pelham Manor is one of the few exclusive suburbs of New York.  Here those able to do so erect mansion homes on wide expanses of land and then beautify their possessions to their hearts' content.  It is the one place within easy reach of the city that has baffled the real estate speculator with his 25x100 foot lots and $2,500 cottages.

It is true that two energetic Harlem real estate women have secured a slice of land there and are cutting it up and laying it out in defiance of the exclusive atmosphere of the place.

Pelham Manor, in addition to its scenic beauty, offers about every other inducement that people of refined taste and long purse could well ask.  It has fashionable boarding-schools; it has a feudal-looking manor-house, the coutnry seat of a real duchess; the blue-blooded New York Athletic Club has here its grounds, and most of the residents are rich and of good stock.  

Pelham Manor people are more sociable than is usual among folk so exclusive.  They have a village club-house, where everybody makes merry with everybody else.  Here they have amateur theatricals once a month.  

The village manor house, as this club-house is called, is a long, narrow, one-story building, of unique design, half of stone and half of wood, with unstained shingle exterior.  It was built thirteen years ago, at a cost of $10,000.  The main floor is an ampitheatre, with a stage and gallery.  In the basement is a brilliant hall for the men folk, who must, however, submit to having their tables shoved into the corners when sociables are held and dancing-room is needed.  A bowling-alley and a kitchen are also on the premises.  The building is on the Esplanade, the most fashionable thoroughfare in the village, and stands on an acre and a half of land.  Among those active in the management of the theatricals are Mrs. J. F. Secor, Jr., H. E. Dey, C. F. Roper and Mrs. H. B. B. Stapler.

Fully nine-tenths of Pelham Manor is tolerably safe from people of modest means, the land being held by rich owners, who will sell only in tracts of not less than an acre and then only to 'desirable' parties.

It was in 1872 that Pelham Manor sprang into existence.  The Huguenot Heights Association, composed of the Stevens Bros. and S. H. Witherby [sic; should be Witherbee], the latter an iron miner, of Port Henry, sunk [sic] all their money in the enterprise.  They bought at the start some two hundred acres.  Four years later came the panic of of 1876 and then land could be bought at $200 per acre -- a little over $14 per lot.  Witherby bought out his two partners, and his daughter, Mrs. Mary George W. Black ,is one of the largest owners of Pelham Manor property to-day.

One year ago Pelham Manor was incorporated, with James M. Townsend, jr., the well-known Broadway lawyer, as its President.

The Esplanade is the central street in Pelham Manor.  It is 90 feet wide and through the centre for its entire length runs a pretty pathway 25 feet wide,.  One side is macadamized, but the other isn't.  This is because Mrs. Black owns nearly the whole side of the street and she had it macadamized at her own expense.  The Esplanade runs from the railroad station to the Boston Post Road, and along it are built some of the finest residences.  Twenty villas, each standing on a plot of from 16 to 40 lots, take up the whole thoroughfare, and there is no land here for sale.  There is not even a fence on the street or between the plots.  Land here is considered to be worth whatever the owner may want.  The last sale occurred two years ago when R. R. Hardock bought an acre for $6,000 and on it built a $12,000 house.  

Assistant District Attorney Stapler owns a two-acre plot.  He paid $15,000 for it four years ago, including the house which stood upon it.  This was calculated to be at the rate of about $4,000 per acre for the land.  He has since purchased an acre and a half more and has spent $20,000 in improvements.  The house was designed by Richardson and is perhaps the finest in Westchester County.  Its lower story is built of field boulders.

Not a mark of a chisel is to be seen on any of these stones which project boldly with plaster slapped in between in a way that looks careless but isn't.  The house is two and a half stories high and has a variety of porches, verandas and piazzas.  It occupies a ligh eminence and is admirably suited to its surroundings.  It has some twenty rooms.  In it reside Mr. and Mrs. Stapler and their five bright children.

At the rear of the house is Mr. Stapler's private club-house, a story and a half in height, and built of the same material as the house, it has a large billiard hall.

Immediately Below is a Recent Photograph of the
Stapler Mansion, Known as "Stone Croft" that Still Stands.
To Learn More, See:  Tue., Jan. 13, 2015:  "Stone Croft"
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Stone Croft with Stables (Later, Carriage House)
Partially Visible to the Right of the Home.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

In Pelham Manor there is no place pointed to with more with more pride than the Priory, a gray stone mansion a century old and having a history.  It is situated on top of a high bluff overlooking the Sound in a delighfully laid out park of fifteen or twenty acres.  The wood is one of the most picturesque in the vicinity and is laid out in circular drives and walks with gardens, lawns and groves.  The Priory is two and ahalf stories in height and looks like a feudal castle with its two quaint turrets.  Mrs. Bolton was one of its earlier occupants.  She kept a young ladies' seminary, and here some of the women of the Knickerbocker stock of the metropolis received their education.  After her came John C. Furman, a brother-in-law of John C. Waterbury, President of the Country Club and member of the Four Hundred.  Mrs. Stevens who married the Duke de Dino and who was formerly a pupil in the seminary, purchased the old Manor ten years ago.  F. M. Jenks, of the Fourt Hundred, leased it from the Duchess and lived there awhile.  The next occupants were the Van Cortlandts, from whom Van Cortlandt Park was named.  They moved two years ago, and now the house is being made ready for the Duchess de Dino's daughter, who latedly married Fred H. Allen.  There are several cottages on the grounds for the servants, and here also stands the old Priory Church, which has been presented to the Presbyterian parish.


On the northwest boundary of the village on the old Boston Road is a three-story, gray cut-stone house with a flat roof and a piazza, in which Frederic R. Coudert was brought up.

The largest house in Pelham Manor is that of Robert C. Black, the Fifth avenue jeweller.  It stands on a four-acre plot.  It was bought at the rate of $200 an acre, and has increased in value to over $6,000 per acre.  The house is three stories in height, and is of the colonial style, with a broad piazza running all the way around it.  The house cost some $30,000, and is the most handsomely furnished in the Manor.

Benjamin F. Corlies, of Corlies, Macy & Co., of Nassau street, lives in a quaint house of colonial type on the Esplanade.  It is a 'shingle and field-stone' house, a species Pelha Manor is partial to.  Near Mr. Corlies's house are two boarding schools, erected by him at a cost of $40,000.  Mrs. Hazen conducts the schools, and has forty-five young ladies in her charge.

Joseph Arthur, author of 'Blue Jeans' and 'The Still Alarm,' lives in a $10,000 cottage that stands on an acre and a half of land fronting on Wolf's lane.  He can often be seen driving behind the two well-trained horses used in 'The Still Alarm.'

Alongside Mr. Arthur's house is the home of E. T. Gillilande, of the Edison Company.  The house and the acre of land on which it stands cost $21,000.  Mr. Gilillande has since built an office and work-rooms on the premises.  He is an electrical expert and spends his time experimenting on inventions.

The land in the market in and about the village is for sale mostly in big tracts only.  On the northwest part of the Manor, beyond the Boston turnpike.  Isaac Rodman owns between fifteen and twenty acres, on which stands the Coudert mansion.  House and land are in the market at $75,000.  Next, on the south,, is a tract of about thirty acres, owned by Lord & Taylor, which is for sale at $30,000.  Then comes a tract owned by Secor, of about seventy acres, which is not very high land, and is in the market at from $3,000 to $5,000 per acre.  Along the western boundary is the Ropes property, consisting of ten acres, owned by Isaac Rodman.  This land has no improvements and is offered at $1,500 per acre in a lump.

Prospect Hill is next in order and it breaks the icy reserve of exclusiveness.  Here stand a dozen neat cottages, which cost from $1,500 to $3,500 each.  Land on the hill can be bought in half-acre plots.  The Parkside Land Company, just outside the boundaries of the Manor, is in the hands of M. J. Denton, Pelham Manor's real estate man.  Here lots can be had of almost any size, 25x100, 50x100, 100x100, half acre and acre plots.  Twenty-five-foot lots can be had at $250, and larger tracts are offered for sale at the rate of from $2,500 to $5,500 per acre.

To the south is the Black property, some fifty acres.  It is in the market for sale in acre tracts.  A dozen handsome cottages, costing from $4,000 to $10,000 each, have been erected here, most of them standing on one-acre plots.  The Priory property adjoins this, and then comes a tract of twenty-five acres owned by Mr. Roosevelt.  This is being cut up and is for sale in not less than acre plots at $4,000 and upward.  Mr. Roosevelt has another ten-acre tract between the Black property and the Sound, which will be cut up in the spring, and to give it a good send-off and show what he thinkis of it the owner will erect a $15,000 house and spend $10,000 on the grounds.

The section owned by the Pelhamdale Land Company, represented by Mrs. Theresa Crocauer and Mrs. Adela Payn, is an eyesore to the owners of mansions, because it is in the heart of the Manor and so can't be overlooked.  It consists of a dozen acres and has been sliced up into several hundred lots, 25x100, 25x115, 50x50, &c.

It was three years ago that this land was cut up.  Most of the lots were sold at $300 each.  At this figure these enterprising women have been doing a rushing business.  Since September lots here are quoted at $400 each.

NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Westchester County up to the northern limit of Pelham Bay Park will doubtless soon be annexed to New York City, which will give the people of Pelham Manor the advantage of city improvements without expensive city assessments.

The Westchester Water Company began laying a main line of water pipes here a year ago and is now laying out branches.  With the $40,000 recently voted great improvements will be made in the streets.  There are hourly trains over the Harlem River branch road, and trains every half hour are promised next season.  It is but thirty minutes to Harlem by train, and the lure is 22 cents a day by communtation.  The New Haven road will, it is said, make this branch its main line."

Source:  EXCLUSIVE PELHAM MANOR, The World [NY, NY], Nov. 20, 1892, Vol. XXXIII, No. 11,415, p. 25, cols. 1-3 (access via this link requires paid subscription).

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