The Origins of Village Park Along Boston Post Road in the Village of Pelham Manor
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"This is not a time for display of selfishness and fear. For the permanent benefit of the Pelhams we must all give the utmost of sympathy and understanding to each other's problems."
"The only possible way that this inevitable condition of a 'shameful eyesore and a challenge to the value of the property of every resident-owner within our village' can be avoided would be for the Zoning Commission to so change the zoning laws as to make the property within our village abutting on the Boston Post Road village park property so that the village and possibly the Pelhams could maintain this property in such character as to enhance rather than depreciate property values throughout the Pelhams"
By 1938, the Great Depression had devastated our nation and our little Town of Pelham. Large estates in our Town were being razed because owners no longer could afford to pay (or wanted to pay) the real estate taxes required for massive properties.
In addition, at about the same time the character of various parts of our Town began to change. For example, today's Boston Post Road, once known as the Boston Turnpike (US Route 1), previously was a quaint unpaved residential roadway that passed through the Village of Pelham Manor. By 1938, however, the residential roadway was becoming history. Boston Post Road was becoming an unendingly-busy highway that moved seemingly infinite traffic from New York City toward the northeast. Traffic began to pound the once-residential roadway around the clock. The neighborhood was changing.
In addition to the unending traffic, the collapsed economy of the Great Depression ravaged large estates in Pelham -- particularly in the affluent Village of Pelham Manor. Among such estates was what was left of the amazing Pelham Manor residence that originally was built for Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company. That mansion likely was the largest mansion ever built in the Town of Pelham (including all those that once lined Long Island Sound during the 18th and 19th centuries).
I have written extensively about Condon's mansion that once stood along Boston Post Road just west of the Esplanade. For a few examples, see:
Tue., Mar. 03, 2015: More About Martin J. Condon and the Mansion He Built in the Village of Pelham Manor.
Thu., Jan. 29, 2015: R. Clifford Black of Black, Starr & Frost Bought the Martin J. Condon Mansion in 1913.
Tue., Sep. 16, 2014: More Images of the Pelham Manor Residence of Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company.
Fri., Jun. 23, 2006: More About Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company Who Owned an Estate in Pelham Manor.
Fri., Dec. 23, 2005: The Pelham Manor Residence of Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company.
So, how does all of this "history" have to do with the early origins of Village Park along Boston Post Road in the Village of Pelham Manor?
Once the massive mansion built for Martin J. Condon was razed, there was a large stretch of prime undeveloped property along the northern side Boston Post Road both west and east of the Esplanade. As the Depression raged, merchants throughout the entire Town including the Village of North Pelham began to agitate for the revision of the Village of Pelham Manor residential zoning ordinances applicable to the land. Those ordinances provided for single family dwellings. Merchants hoped that major apartment buildings could be built on the property along Boston Post Road to bring more potential shoppers to the region. Soon, the battle raged.
Residents throughout the Town battled over whether property on BOTH sides of Boston Post Road should be acquired by outright purchase or eminent domain to create attractive parks on both sides of the major roadway. Some residents feared that changing the zoning to permit large apartment buildings would create the risk of an "eyesore" on a major thoroughfare into, out of, and through Pelham. Merchants, in contrast, hoped that increasing the population density in the area would help businesses and improve customer traffic in the Town's businesses.
A citizen's group named the "Boston Post Road Association" sprang up to promote an initiative to acquire land on both sides of Boston Post Road for dedication as a park. The group circulated petitions to that effect for presentation to the Village of Pelham Manor Board of Trustees. According to one account:
"Proposal for a half-mile long park on both sides of the Boston Post Road from James street to the Esplanade is made in a petition that is soon to be presented to the Pelham Manor Board of Trustees. The Pelham Sun learned this week. It is said that the proposal is sponsored by the Boston Post Road Association and urges that the Board of Trustees purchase residential properties on both sides of the highway, widen the Boston Post Road and install a parking strip down the center of the roadway, to provide two lane traffic through the westerly section of the village and increase the beauty of the village from the westerly approach. The properties that the sponsors of the petition propose that the village purchase are assessed at about a half million dollars." (See text of full article below.)
Though the battle raged, a modified version of the proposal by the Boston Post Road Association prevailed. The Village of Pelham Manor was able to acquire a portion of the open stretch of land along Boston Post Road (mostly east of the Esplanade) to create a park to buffer nearby residences from the heavy traffic along the highway.
Regarding the opposite side of Boston Post Road, it turned out, all was not lost. Barely three years later, due to the philanthropic efforts of Clifford T. Weihman of 401 Monterrey Avenue, land on the opposite side of Boston Post Road was donated to the Village of Pelham Manor to permit the establishment of the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park located on property adjacent to the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church. To learn more about the extensive history of Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park, see Bell, Blake A., History of the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 42, October 28, 2005, p. 10, col. 3.
Plans to create parkland along Boston Post Road were well underway!
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Transcribed below is the text of a number of articles relating to today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"MERCHANTS URGE ZONE CHANGE TO ASSIST BUSINESS
North Pelham Businessmen Prepare to Support Proposed Change to Permit Apartments.
Zoning changes which will increase the population of the Village of North Pelham are favored by local merchants, who met on Monday night to formulate plans to support the movement to open a residential area of the village to apartment house construction. Under the leadership of Fred M. Wirth, local garageman , the merchants will endeavor to enlist the aid of property owners. The merchants will join the group that is urging that zone restrictions west of Fifth avenue and south of Fourth street be lifted. They will be heard on this subject at the Zoning Hearing to be held at Hutchinson School on the night of Monday, April 11th.
The merchants pointed to other communities which had opened up areas to apartment house construction and pointed out that the change had been of benefit both to the income of those communities and to the local business in those districts.
Thirty-five merchants, the majority of them representing Fifth avenue stores, are supporting the pro-
(Continued on Page 12)
Merchants Support Change In Zoning
(Continued from Page 1)
ject. A committee of which John P. W. Ceder, real estate man, is chairman is studying the report recently submitted to the Board of Trustees by Rudolph G. Miller. This committee will present the merchants' side of zoning at the public hearing. Mr. Ceder is assisted by Seth T. Lyman, owner of Fifth avenue frontage; Irving J. Wallach, meat market proprietor; Matthew Poliakoff, dry goods merchant, and M. J. Murphy, builder.
At Monday night's meeting, Ceder called attention to the fact that in a total assessed valuation of $13,589,000 for the village, on the town tax roll, business property on Fifth avenue and Fourth street is assessed at $4,250,000.
'Business property pays one-third of the taxes in this village,' said Mr. Ceder. 'It should have a voice in planning its zoning. You merchants are representatives of that property.'
The claim that the erection of apartments would increase school costs was criticized by Mr. Ceder, who told of an investigation made in two North Pelham apartment buildings: 'It's not true that the apartments are crowded with school children,' he said. 'I made an investigation in the Peldale and Pelnord, two typical North Pelham apartment houses, and learned that there were only seven children of school age in them. What if families with children do move into apartment houses? The new apartment houses will pay sufficient taxes to offset the increased cost of education.'
'In Hartsdale five new apartments were erected,' said Irving J. Wallach, 'and in 294 families in these buildings there are only 50 children of school age. These buildings are paying high taxes and add to the school district income.'
James T. Bollettieri said that the problem confronting the Village Board at the present time was one of increased assessments of adjoining property when sales are made for apartment house construction.
'Assessments were not raised in Mount Vernon when zones were opened to apartments,' said Ceder. 'I do not believe that property values would change here as long as the residential buildings remain on the property.'
It was the general consensus of opinion among the merchants that there is little hope for improvement in local trade unless the new apartment area was opened. They were optimistic in their belief that new apartments would not be long vacant. Reports indicated that there are only a few vacancies in apartments on Fifth avenue.
'Those are vacant only because the Westchester & Boston Railroad shut down,' said Mr. Ceder.
The group voted unanimously to enlist the aid of all merchants in the village in the appeal for larger apartment house zones. Another meeting has been called for Monday night.
The following were appointed a Ways and Means Committee: Jas. T. Bollettieri, Albert Wise and Jack Wotman."
Source: MERCHANTS URGE ZONE CHANGE TO ASSIST BUSINESS -- North Pelham Businessmen Prepare to Support Proposed Change to Permit Apartments, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 1, 1938, Vol. 28, No. 52, p. 1, col. 3 & p. 12, col. 6.
"ZONE COMMISSION REVIEW BRIEFS IN PELHAM MANOR
More Names Added to Petition of the Pelham Manor Association Supporting Proposed Ordinance.
The Pelham Manor Zoning Commission is continuing its deliberations on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance for the village. Numerous expressions both in support and in opposition to the proposed ordinance have been pouring in by mail to the office of William B. Randall, chairman of the Commission, who has asked The Pelham Sun to announce that although it will be impossible to answer all these communications personally, every one of them will be given careful consideration before official action is taken on the proposed ordinance.
The Pelham Manor Association last night filed its brief in support of the proposed zoning ordinance. The association also filed petitions signed by 85 property owners supplementing the original petition filed with the Zoning Commission last week.
In a communication to Mr. Randall, which has been forwarded to The Pelham Sun, Norbert J. Donovan, of No. 4516 Boston Road, files a 'minority' appeal for a change in restrictions on the Boston Post Road, in which he states:
'It must be taken into consideration that the Post Road is thor-
(Continued on Page 12)
Commission Reviews Briefs On Zoning
(Continued from Page 1)
oughly recognized as a great public highway; that because of this it is not within the category of attractive residential property. Based on this obvious fact it stands to reason that residential property owners on the Boston Post Road cannot afford to pour money into upkeep and improvements against a constantly depreciating property value; that, because of this fact, these properties will thus show the effects of this lack of improvement and lack of upkeep until the Boston Post Road -- the highway of our village and to the Pelhams -- will be a shameful eyesore and a challenge to the value of the property of every resident-owner within our village.
'The only possible way that this inevitable condition can be avoided would be for the Zoning Commission to (1) recommend the passage of such laws as would remove all trucks and commercial vehicles from the Post Road within our village and thus return the residential character of the neighborhood to these property owners, or (2) face the situation as it is and recognize the fact that it would be to the ultimate benefit of all property owners in the Pelhams if this Boston Post Road property was zoned for proper type of suburban garden apartments, or (3) so change the zoning laws as to make the property within our village abutting on the Boston Post Road village park property so that the village and possibly the Pelhams could maintain this property in such character as to enhance rather than depreciate property values throughout the Pelhams.
'This is not a time for display of selfishness and fear. For the permanent benefit of the Pelhams we must all give the utmost of sympathy and understanding to each other's problems. We cannot legislate one group into an untenable position and then smugly go back into our homes and feel we have 'put something across.' We must work together for the very reason that the Post Road is an integral part of the Pelhams and it behooves every property owner to see that the Zoning Ordinance is worked out in such a way that this front yard or gateway to the villages be enhanced rather than depreciated thru the proposed Zoning Ordinance. I doubt that we could legally remove the trucks and heavy traffic from the Post Road for the reason that it is a recognized public highway. We could, however, regulate the classes of apartments to be erected on such Post Road properties; or we could also condemn the properties and beautify the property as a park -- but we simply must not place the Boston Post Road property owners in such a position that the property will inevitably and necessarily depreciate into a deplorable eyesore, and this will inevitably happen if you zone so as to give those property owners no opportunity to maintain the value of their premises.'"
Source: ZONE COMMISSION REVIEW BRIEFS IN PELHAM MANOR -- More Names Added to Petition of the Pelham Manor Association Supporting Proposed Ordinance, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 1, 1938, Vol. 28, No. 52, p. 1, col. 4 & p. 12, col. 5.
"PROPOSE PURCHASE OF HALF MILE OF PROPERTY ON BOSTON POST ROAD FOR VILLAGE PARK
Petition To Be Presented To Trustees Next Month
Boston Post Road Association Understood to be Preparing Proposal That Village Purchase Property Assessed Above a Half-Million Dollars; Mayor Gause Describes Plan as 'Fantastic.'
Proposal for a half-mile long park on both sides of the Boston Post Road from James street to the Esplanade is made in a petition that is soon to be presented to the Pelham Manor Board of Trustees. The Pelham Sun learned this week. It is said that the proposal is sponsored by the Boston Post Road Association and urges that the Board of Trustees purchase residential properties on both sides of the highway, widen the Boston Post Road and install a parking strip down the center of the roadway, to provide two lane traffic through the westerly section of the village and increase the beauty of the village from the westerly approach. The properties that the sponsors of the petition propose that the village purchase are assessed at about a half million dollars.
According to Sylvester E. Powers, Pelham Manor real estate broker and director of the Boston Post Road Association, the petition was inspired by an unnamed individual who indicated to officers of the association that the Board of Trustees would be responsive to such a proposal from the property owners group. Consequently, signatures are being solicited, and according to report about 60% of the taxpayers in the area affected have signed. It is understood that the petition will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its next meeting, Monday, October 10.
'Fantastic' Says Mayor Gause
Mayor Edmund C. Gause when questioned relative to the proposal by The Pelham Sun, described it as 'fantastic.' The village could not undertake such an expense, the Mayor said. He had heard of the proposal, he said, but did not believe that there was any definite move to gain support of property owners.
The Boston Post Road Association after an unsuccessful attempt to have zone restrictions on the Boston Road, west of the Esplanade, reduced to permit the erection of apartment houses, threatened to take the matter to court to force the zone change from residential to apartment house district for this area. It is the contention of owners of property in this district that because of heavy traffic the Boston Post Road has lost its residential character."
Source: PROPOSE PURCHASE OF HALF MILE OF PROPERTY ON BOSTON POST ROAD FOR VILLAGE PARK, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 30, 1938, Vol. 28, No. 26, p. 1, cols. 5-8.
"NEWS of PELHAM ACTIVITIES
Board Accepts Plan For Park Donated By Clifford Weihman
Work Started On Clearing Site at Boston Post Road and Esplanade; Estimates Made
PELHAM MANOR -- The proposed plan for the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park on Boston Post Road and Esplanade, have been accepted by the Village Planning Board and the work on clearing out the site has begun, Village Trustee C. Furnald Smith announced today.
Cost of converting the property into a village park is being paid by Clifford T. Weihman, of 401 Monterrey Avenue, in memory of his late wife.
According to Trustee Smith, the main entrance to the park will be from Boston Post Road, utilizing the original entrance, flanked on either side by a number of stately elm trees. From the entrance there will be sunken plaza, with a fountain in the center and shrubs banking the sides. Paths will wind throughout the site which is about an acre in dimension. There will be a side entrance to the park from the Esplanade.
Willard W. Gay of New Rochelle is the architect for the project, which is being done entirely under Village supervision. Village Engineer, Julius Dworschak, who is making estimates of the costs, is expected to let out the contract for the work shortly. The greater part [sic; text ends at this point with no continuation]."
Source: NEWS of PELHAM ACTIVITIES -- Board Accepts Plan For Park Donated By Clifford Weihman, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 29, 1941, p. 5, cols. 5-7.
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