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.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Polo Played in Pelham in 1887

In late 1883, a group of Pelham Manor residents and New York City "club men" organized a new "Country Club" in Pelham Manor dedicated to the enjoyment of all "legitimate sports."  By 1884, the Club had commenced operations in a 34-acre area between Shore Road and the Long Island Sound with a club headquarters in the Italian Villa-style mansion known as "Oakshade" built some forty years earlier by well-known Hudson River School artist David Lydig Suydam.  

I have written extensively of the history of the mansion used by the Country Club as its clubhouse during the 1980s.  See Mon., Mar. 03, 2014:  The Suydam Estate known as “Oakshade” on Shore Road in the Town of Pelham, built by James Augustus Suydam.  

"Oakshade," the Mansion Built by David Lydig Suydam on
Shore Road and Used as the Clubhouse of the Country Club at
Pelham During the 1880s.  Photograph Taken on May 17, 1924.
Source:  William R. Montgomery Glass Negative and Lantern
Slide Collection, Courtesy of the Office of the Historian of the
Town of Pelham.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

At about the time the Country Club of Pelham was founded, the concept of a "country club" was beginning to revolutionize social circles in New York City.  Until the 1880s, most clubs frequented by the elite of New York City were men's clubs located in Manhattan.  During the 1880s, so-called "country clubs" began to spring up throughout the metropolitan region.  These country clubs typically allowed only male members but, unlike the men's clubs in New York City, typically allowed female family members of the club members to use the facilities.  Many of the most notable members of New York Society flocked to such country clubs in the New York City area.

The Country Club at Pelham was one of the earliest such country clubs established near New York City.  It was not a predecessor to today's Pelham Country Club.  To make matters more confusing, the Club was known by many different names including the Pelham Country Club, the Country Club at Pelham, the Country Club, the Westchester Country Club, the Country Club at Westchester, and other names. 

Members of the Country Club at Pelham rode to the hounds, sponsored and competed in steeplechase races, played polo, baseball, tennis, billiards and more.  The Club's great steeplechase races became nationally-renowned and attracted gamblers and spectators from all over the northeast.  I have written extensively about the Pelham Country Club and, particularly, the baseball games and steeplechase races that it sponsored.  (See the lengthy list of links at the end of this posting.)

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an interesting article published in the New York Times on July 10, 1887.  The article describes a polo match played on the Country Club grounds on July 9, 1887 between the Junior team of the Country Club and the Junior team of Essex Country Club of New Jersey.  The match was hard fought with the polo ponies worn out.  It ended with the visiting team beating the Country Club team 2-1.  The match was followed by a lovely dinner in the clubhouse.  The article provides an interesting snapshot of the club and its activities shortly before the facility in Pelham was closed and the Club moved to its new home on Throggs Neck in 1889.

The polo grounds on which the match was played was located on today's fairway adjacent to Shore Road within the Pelham Bay and Split Rock Golf Course complex.  The arrow on the satellite image below shows the approximate location of the club polo grounds on which the match was played in 1887.

Google Maps Satellite Image with Arrow Showing the
Approximate Location of the Polo Grounds on Which
Country Club Matches Were Played in the 1880s.


A match game of polo for a silver cup was played yesterday afternoon on the grounds of the Westchester Country Club, near Bartow, on the Sound. by the the junior teams of the Country Club and the Essex County [sic; should be "Country"] Club, of Orange, N.J.  Mr. E. C. Potter captained the Country Club team, which included Messrs. Major Cooley, Percy Chubb, and Howard Potter.  R. F. Potter was substitute.  All these gentlemen wore bright red shirts, white duck trousers, and shiny riding boots adorned with massive spurs.  The men from Orange wore orange-colored shirts, but their their trousers and boots were like those worn by their opponents.  The Essex County team consisted of Capt. Powers Farr, W. W. Tucker, C. Pfizer, Jr., and Douglas Robinson, Jr., with Robert Sedgewick, substitute.  Mr. H. L. Herbert was referee.

The game was ended in an hour's time, and was played in two innings of 20 minutes each with an intermission for rest between them.  The red shirted champions of the Country Club won the first goal in 13 minutes mainly through the intrepid playing of Percy Chubb, who managed his black pony very cleverly.  Major Cooley and Edward C. Potter, who guarded the goals for the Country Club, also did some very clever work in the way of back hits and short stops.  

The the Orange team went to work and won the second goal in 20 minutes by the headlong velocity of Douglas Robinson, one of the half backs.

The third goal was hotly contested, both teams doing some splendid riding and sharp hitting.  For upward of five minutes it was anybody's game, and the dripping ponies looked as if they wished it would very soon be somebody's.  Then Capt. Powers Farr captured the ball, about midway between the goals, and with a sharp thwack sent it bounding toward Orange and victory, and finally between the stakes, thus securing the day for Orange by a score of 2 to 1.

After the match all hands adjourned to the comfortable clubhouse of the Country Club and had dinner.  Among those who witnessed the sport were Mr. and Mrs. James M. Waterbury, Mrs. Howard N. Potter, Mrs. John Zerega and Miss Zerega, Mr. and Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, Mrs. and the Misses Havemeyer, Miss Belloni, the Misses Thorn, Mrs. Lorillard, Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Dyer, Miss Helen Iselin, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon McDonald, Mr. Jackson, and many others."

Source:  WON BY THE VISITORS -ORANGE (N.J.) POLO PLAYERS BEAT THE COUNTRY CLUB TEAM, N.Y. Times, Jul. 10, 1887, p. 3, col. 3 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

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I have written extensively about The Country Club at Pelham and its famous steeplechase races, rides with the hounds, baseball games, polo matches, and other such events of the 1880's.  For a few of many more examples, see:  

Bell, Blake A., The Pelham Steeplechase Races of the 1880s, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 12, March 25, 2005, p. 10, col. 2.

Thu., Mar. 23, 2006:  Baseball Fields Opened on the Grounds of the Westchester Country Club in Pelham on April 4, 1884.

Tue., Apr. 14, 2009:  1889 Account of the Sport of Riding to Hounds by Members of the Country Club Located in Pelham.

Wed., Apr. 15, 2009:  More About the Country Club Sport of "Riding to Hounds" During the 1880s in Pelham.

Thu., Apr. 16, 2009:  A Serious Carriage Accident and Many Tumbles During the Country Club of Pelham's Riding to Hounds Event in November 1889.

Fri., Apr. 17, 2009:  A Brief History of the Early Years of "Riding to Hounds" by Members of the Country Club at Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 09, 2009:  1884 Engraving of Winner of the Great Pelham Steeplechase, Barometer, and His Owner and Rider, J. D. Cheever

Wed., Sep. 16, 2009:  September 1884 Advertisement for The Country Club Steeplechase.

Thu., Sep. 17, 2009:  Controversy in 1887 When The Country Club Tries to Dedicate a Large Area of Pelham as a Game Preserve.

Wed., Sep. 30, 2009:  Score of June 1, 1887 Baseball Game Between The Country Club and The Knickerbocker Club.

Mon., Oct. 19, 2009:  Polo at the Country Club in Pelham in 1887.

Fri., Oct. 30, 2009:  Preparations for Annual Country Club Race Ball Held in Pelham in 1887.

Thu., Apr. 15, 2010:  Account of Baseball Game Played in Pelham on June 9, 1884: The Country Club Beat the Knickerbockers, 42 to 22.  

Tue., Feb. 25, 2014:  An Interesting Description of the Country Club at Pelham Published in 1884.

Mon., Mar. 03, 2014:  The Suydam Estate known as “Oakshade” on Shore Road in the Town of Pelham, built by James Augustus Suydam.  

Fri., Sep. 12, 2014:  Reference to an 1884 Baseball Game Between the Country Club of Pelham and Calumet.

Fri., Feb. 27, 2015:  Brief History of the 19th Century "Country Club at Pelham" Published in 1889.

Thu., Jul. 16, 2015:  More on the History of the Country Club at Pelham in the 19th Century.

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