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, November 23, 2016

1910 Railroad Announcement that the "Finest and Most Artistic Bridge" Would Be Built Over Highbrook Avenue

For more than a century, Pelham has loved its Highbrook Avenue railroad bridge, known today as the "Bridge to Nowhere."  Pelhamites long have believed it to be a work of art.  We now have evidence that it was so conceived.  Indeed, as the bridge was being built in August, 1910, The New York Times announced that the bridge was intended as "the finest and most artistic bridge that will be found anywhere along" the New York, Westchester, and Boston Railway.

The New York, Westchester, and Boston Railway also was known as "The Westchester," the "Boston-Westchester," and (derisively) as the "Million-Dollar-A-Mile Railroad."  It was constructed between about 1909 and 1912.  Portions of the electric commuter railroad line were considered a technological triumph at the time. The line opened for passenger service on May 29, 1912. Eventually it ran from the southernmost part of the Bronx near the Harlem River to Mount Vernon where it branched north to White Plains and east, through Pelham, eventually as far as Port Chester.

Throughout construction and operation of The Westchester, it was operated under the auspices of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.  When the Great Depression hit, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad entered bankruptcy in 1935. Consequently, so did The Westchester.  All efforts to save The Westchester were of no avail.  The steel rails and bridges, and the electrical distribution system of the railroad were dismantled and scrapped in 1942, for the most part, to provide steel and copper for the war effort.  In addition, it took the Town of Pelham years to settle the unpaid real estate tax bills of The Westchester, finally resolving that issue in 1943.  By 1946, liquidation of The Westchester was complete.

Today, however, the Highbrook Avenue Bridge still stands, one of the few easily-visible remnants of the railroad that remain in Pelham.  Recently the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, effective August 2, 2016.  

According to The New York Times article that is the subject of today's posting, the all-concrete bridge was under construction on August 21, 1910, with only a part of the west abutment of the bridge completed.  At the time, there were plans to "beautify" the bridge abutments on both sides of the bridge with paneled pylons.  As the post card image of the bridge immediately below demonstrates, those plans were executed, together with an interesting "keystone" sculpted in concrete at the top of the arch.  

Post Card View of the Highbrook Avenue Bridge Ca. 1912.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Pelhamites -- and particularly residents of Pelhamwood -- are rightfully proud of the "Bridge to Nowhere."  Indeed, efforts are underway to convert the remainder of the former railroad right-of-way and the Highbrook Avenue Bridge into parkland with trails and gardens on the 1.93 acre village-owned property to evoke a space like Manhattan's High Line Park, a greenway crafted on abandoned train tracks above New York City streets.  See Reiner, Dan, Trail, Gardens Eyed for Pelham Bridge, The Journal News [LoHud.com], Oct. 20, 2016 (visited Nov. 20, 2016).  

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Below is the text of the brief article from The New York Times that forms the basis for today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

Being Built for New York & Westchester Company in Pelhamwood.

Excellent progress is being made in the construction of the Pelham section of the New York, Westchester, and Boston Railway.  What is called the finest and most artistic bridge that will be found anywhere along the entire system of the new electric road is that which is now being built in Pelhamwood.

When it is completed it will span Highbrook Avenue.  It is of concrete.  A part of the west abutment is completed.  There will be a distance of ten feet from the foundation to the spring line of the arch, and a distance of about 22 feet from the centre of the arch overhead.  The abutments on either side will be beautified with paneled [pylons]."

Source:  NEW RAILROAD BRIDGE -- Being Built for New York & Westchester Company in Pelhamwood, N.Y. Times, Aug. 21, 1910, p. 63, col. 2 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

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

Mon., Sep. 26, 2016:  Battles over Razing the Fifth Avenue Station, the Highbrook Avenue Bridge, and Embankments After Failure of New York, Westchester & Boston Railway.

Thu., Sep. 22, 2016:  Pelham's Highbrook Avenue Bridge Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wed., Apr. 01, 2015:  Pelham Settled the Unpaid Tax Bills of the Defunct New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Company in 1943.

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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