Fears in 1934 and 1935 that the Historic Home Known as Pelhamdale Would Be Razed
Pelhamdale is one of two Pelham residential structures still standing that include pre-Revolutionary War sections. The other is believed to be a portion of the Kemble House located at 145 Shore Road in Pelham Manor. Pelhamdale is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kemble House also should be so listed.
Pelhamdale, a Pelham treasure, has been like a "cat with nine lives." Pelhamdale's original portion was spared during the Revolutionary War. The later-modified structure suffered the indignity of the destruction of its beautiful view and the taking of much of its land as the Hutchinson River Parkway was constructed. It suffered a major fire in 1925.
During the last years of the Roaring Twenties and the earliest years of the Great Depression Pelhamdale was threatened a number of times but, as one article summarized:
"on each occasion it has been rescued at the last moment. At various times plans have been made for its purchase by the Park Commission of Westchester County, the Westchester County Historical Society, and the local patriotic units, which conducted a rescue campaign four or five years ago, when the filing of building plans in Pelham Manor which contemplated the tearing down of the old building and its replacement by a row of houses." (See entire article quoted below.)
In 1934 and 1935, during the height of the Great Depression, Pelhamdale was yet another Pelham Mansion whose owner needed tax relief, either by tearing the mansion down so the owners would have to pay only the taxes on the land (but not an "improvement" such as the home) or might gain some measure of relief by selling surrounding lands so that no more real estate taxes had to be paid on those surrounding lands. Thankfully for today's Pelham, the latter path was chosen.
There was, however, for a very long time during some of the most difficult years of the Great Depression, a question about whether one of the most historic sites in our little town would survive. Local real estate agents, according to local newspapers, fanned the flaming reports that Pelhamdale was about to be razed to make way for many, many smaller "home lots."
Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of a number of such articles, including images where available. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
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"THE PELL HOUSE Oldest house in Pelham, built about
1750 by Col. David Pell. Source: Hope To Save Pell
House As Historic Landmark, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 15,
1934, Vol. 25, No. 13, p. 1, cols. 4-5. NOTE: Click
on Image to Enlarge.
"Hope To Save Pell House As Historic Landmark
Fearing the demolition of one of Pelham's most historic buildings, the old stone Pell House on Wolf's lane, Pelham Manor, a committee, representative of several town organizations, will meet at the Manor Club on Saturday morning to make plans for a campaign to raise sufficient money to save the building from destruction.
Several times during the last few years, the building, which is the oldest in Pelham, has been threatened, but on each occasion it has been rescued at the last moment. At various times plans have been made for its purchase by the Park Commission of Westchester County, the Westchester County Historical Society, and the local patriotic units, which conducted a rescue campaign four or five years ago, when the filing of building plans in Pelham Manor which contemplated the tearing down of the old building and its replacement by a row of houses.
The property was sold a few years ago for $18,000, and at that time the estate surrounding the building swept down into the Hutchinson Valley. Part of the land was acquired by the Westchester County Park Commission when the Hutchinson Parkway development was planned. The reported price paid for the land needed for the parkway was $10,000. With the boom in real estate in Pelham Manor, the price of the old mansion rose proportionately, and large mortgages were placed on the property which is now assessed at $35,000.00. It is believed that the property can be secured at a very advantageous figure.
The Pell House stands on a knoll overlooking the Hutchinson River Valley. It was built about 1750 by Col. David Pell, a staunch patriot and friend of General Washington. Upon the death of Colonel Pell it was bought by James Hay, whose coat of arms embellishes the wall facing Colonial avenue. It listed among several owners at different times, Mr. Lord of the famous firm Lord & Taylor. When the battle of Pelham was fought 158 years ago, the old Pell House became historically notable. Leaden bullets have been recovered from its heavy masonry."
Source: Hope To Save Pell House As Historic Landmark, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 15, 1934, Vol. 25, No. 13, p. 1, cols. 4-5.
"To Meet Monday To Discuss Plans For Pell House
Tentative plans for a campaign to raise sufficient funds to purchase 'Pelhamdale,' the famous Revolutionary War home of Col. David Pell on Iden avenue, were discussed at a meeting held at the Manor Club on Saturday. The voluntary committee will meet again on Monday at 10 a.m."
Source: To Meet Monday To Discuss Plans For Pell House, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 22, 1934, Vol. 25, No. 19, p. 1, col. 2.
"BURGLAR NABBED AFTER BREAKING INTO PELL HOUSE
Robert C. Rogers, 28, no home, who was arrested in Pelham Manor early Sunday morning on a charge of second degree burglary, was held for action of the Grand Jury when he was given a hearing before Judge Frank Roberson, Monday night. Rogers was committed to the county jail pending Grand Jury action.
According to police, they were notified Monday by George Fournier, caretaker of the old Pell Mansion at No. 45 Iden avenue, that a man had broken into the house. Patrolmen John Moore and Edward Finnan were detailed. On their arrival, Fournier informed them that the man, after threatening him with a pocket knife, had fled from the house.
The policemen searched the grounds in the vicinity of the house and found Rogers hiding in the shrubbery. He was taken to headquarters and after questioning, locked up pending a hearing. According to police records, Rogers was arrested two years ago in Pelham Manor on a vagrancy charge."
Source: BURGLAR NABBED AFTER BREAKING INTO PELL HOUSE, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 24, 1934, Vol. 25, No. 23, p. 1, col. 7.
"INTRUDER TO FACE BURGLARY CHARGE
(Special To The Argus)
PELHAM MANOR, Aug. 21. -- Robert C. Rogers, twenty-eight, who according to police entered the old Pell mansion on Iden Avenue Sunday morning by removing a screen, was held for action of the Grand Jury last night by Judge Frank C. Roberson. He is charged with burglary.
George Fournier, caretaker of the mansion and resident in the basement portion told police he heard a prowler in the building Sunday morning and was threatened when he ordered him out.
Rogers told the court he though it was all right for him to enter the building, the upper floors of which are unoccupied."
Source: INTRUDER TO FACE BURGLARY CHARGE, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 21, 1934, p. 13, col. 5.
"SAVE THE LANDMARK.
Very definite plans are being made to raze the old Pell House in Pelham Manor. Unless something is done to preserve this historical site, there is grave danger that it will be lost to posterity.
The property adjoins the Hutchinson River parkway, opposite the new recreation field. Its walls are pitted with holes made by Revolutionary bullets. Its masonry is thick enough to be the walls of a fortified castle. There is an old world atmosphere about it that brings memories of courtly men in knee breeches and powdered wigs, of grande dames in voluminous skirts and dignified mien. It was from Pell House that view could be obtained of the Battle of Pelham in its final stages.
Whether it be preserved through the efforts of the county historical society, be acquired by the park commission or be given to the township, it will be the result of local effort [illegible] Only that it be preserved."
Source: SAVE THE LANDMARK, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 30, 1934, Vol. 25, No. 37, p. 2, col. 1.
"Historic Landmark Threatened
(Special To The Daily Argus)
PELHAM, Jan. 8. -- The winds of rumor and the winds of fate are whistling around the solid square lines of the old Pell Mansion.
The historic home of the Pell family, which served as headquarters for the British General Howe while Colonial troops and Red Coats were maneuvering in this part of the County, is not as neglected in the minds of interested parties as its physical hulk appears to be, there on a gently rolling prominence near the Hutchinson River Parkway.
Intermittently there comes to the ears of the townsfolk the ominous note of 'real estate development' and as frequently are heard newer and newer alternatives to the plan to preserve it as a Pelham shrine.
No Action Yet
Pelham folks would hate to see the old stone homestead go the way of other landmarks, to make way for modern homes,but as yet no one individual or group has become steamed up to the point of action.
Many of the interested persons are convinced that through the combined efforts of a few groups plus the aid of the entire town, the Pell Mansion can be turned into an historic shrine, and still serve useful and self-maintaining purposes.
Why -- they ask -- can't it be used for a library (Pelham now has only a small public library in two rooms of the Hutchinson School) and in addition serve as a meeting place for local veterans and patriotic organizations?
Its high ceiled rooms, parqueted floors, high windows -- its solid construction, and its imposing exterior and interior would lend themselves perfectly to the idea of library, museum an[d] gathering place for organizations.
There are great possibilities, it is pointed out, in putting artists at work recording Pelham's history on the walls of the big rooms.
As the ones who are hopeful of reclaiming the building consider the many uses to which it could be put, they experience once more the sense of conviction that the idea is practical and workable -- but as yet, apparently, this conviction has not resolved itself into definite action.
And in the meantime -- when the realtors, on whose listings the ink of Pell house data has faded a dullish brown -- are asked for particulars, for instance, to state the amount of land, they get the same ominous note in their replies. They tell the questioner -- so many 'building lots.'"
Source: Historic Landmark Threatened, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 8, 1935, p. 5, cols. 4-5.
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I have written about the lovely historic home known as "Pelhamdale" (and "Pelham Dale") on numerous occasions. For a few of many examples, see:
Fri, May 13, 2016 1851: Advertisement Offering Farm and Mansion Known as Pelhamdale for Lease.
Fri., Sep. 04, 2015: Sale of the Pre-Revolutionary War Home Known as Pelhamdale in 1948.
Tue., Jun. 24, 2014: Story of Pelhamdale, the Old Stone House by the Bridge, Once Owned by David J. Pell.
Thu., Jan. 03, 2008: Charges in 1808 Against Lieutenant-Colonel David J. Pell of Pelham that He "Indulges in Inebriety and Habitual Drunkeness."
Thu., Oct. 26, 2006: Genealogical Data Regarding David Jones Pell of the Manor of Pelham, Revolutionary War Officer.
Mon., Oct 15, 2007: Town Proclamation Recognizes Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of Pelhamdale at 45 Iden Avenue.
Wed., Nov. 02, 2005: Engraving by P.M. Pirnie Showing Pelhamdale in 1861.
Thu., Oct. 13, 2005: Two More Pelham Ghost Stories.
Mon., Sep. 19, 2005: The Long-Hidden Pastoral Mural Uncovered in Pelhamdale, a Pre-Revolutionary War Home.
Mon., Apr. 11, 2005: More From the William R. Montgomery Glass Negative Collection (includes photograph of fire at Pelhamdale on February 28, 1925).
Tue., Mar. 22, 2005: The 1790 U.S. Census Information for the Township of Pelham.
Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."