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.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pelhamwood Benefited from the "Growing Rush to the Country" in 1909

"How greatly the 'back to the country' movement has
grown was instanced recently when at Pelhamwood,
a newly opened Westchester residence park, nearly
a quarter of a million dollars worth of lots were sold in
a single day to people who had decided to quit paying
rent in New York."

-- May 4, 1909 Newspaper Article.

In May and June 1909, the development of the new neighborhood of Pelhamwood was well underway.  Clifford B. Harmon & Co., Inc. had begun grading and developing the neighborhood in the early spring of that year.  In late May and early June, the company built the now-famous steps up the hill across from the Pelham Station Plaza on the north side of the New Haven Line tracks leading up to a sales office. It also built a separate "tea house" nearby used to host visitors and prospective buyers of lots and homes in the new development. It built the Pelhamwood clock tower as well as covered "gates" leading in and out of the development, all intended to add to the rustic charm of the idyllic setting.

Clifford B. Harmon's timing could not have been better.  New York City was in the midst of a "growing rush to the country" according to one New York City newspaper.  Suburbs throughout the metropolitan region were growing briskly.  At precisely this time, Clifford B. Harmon & Co., Inc. was selling newly-developed lots in the new neighborhood adjacent to the Pelham Train Station and improving Pelhamwood properties as fast as possible.  Even the New Haven Railroad was optimistic.  It could see the vast number of lots that were selling quickly in Pelhamwood and decided to add fifteen additional trains to the number that stopped at Pelham Station each day, bringing the number of such trains to 65 each day.  

Early that season, according to one report, a monumental quarter million dollars worth of lots were sold in one day.  By the first week of June in 1909, two homes were under construction, Highbrook and Harmon Avenues had been macadamized, and cement sidewalks and stone gutters had been completed along both those newly-paved streets.  

During the last week of July and the first week of August, 1909, several important features that define today's Pelhamwood were completed.  First, the concrete steps leading from the Pelham Station Plaza up the hill to Pelhamwood were completed.  Second, the gateway entrances to Highbrook Avenue and Harmon Avenue were finished.  Moreover, by the first week of August, according to one report, "[t]housands of feet of cement sidewalks, stone gutters and macadam streets" had been laid.  Pelhamwood was beginning to look like we know it today. 

Post Card View of the Harmon Avenue Gates and
"The Clock Tower - Pelhamwood" on Post Card 
Postmarked October 14, 1910.  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

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The period from about April, 1909 through August, 1909 was one of the most important times in the early formation of the lovely neighborhood known as Pelhamwood.  Below is the text of a number of newspaper articles that provide the bases for today's article.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

Growing Rush to the Country. . . .

New York, April 27. -- (Special Correspondence of The Republican.) -- Instead of a festival to be celebrated by dancing around a beribboned May pole, the first of May has come to be the most [dreaded] date on the calendar, to a large proportion of New Yorkers, because it is the annual moving day when from a quarter to a third of the city's population changes its abode.  Returns from real estate and rental statistics show that not less than 1,250,000 persons seek new places of residence in this annual culmination of the restlessness which so pervades the city that nearly one-third of its population moves once a year or oftener.  Out of all New York's millions there are hardly a thousand families that have occupied the same house for twenty-five years.  About the only thing permanent in New York's residence habits indeed is the steadily growing tide flowing to the suburbs.  How greatly the 'back to the country' movement has grown was instanced recently when at Pelhamwood, a newly opened Westchester residence park, nearly a quarter of a million dollars worth of lots were sold in a single day to people who had decided to quit paying rent in New York.  But, fast as thousands may leave the city, there are other thousands to take their places, and the expressmen and moving-van companies continue to reap their semi-annual reward, estimated at $7,000,000 for the single month of May.  During that busy period it costs about three times as much to move as in mid-summer.  The other great semi-annual hegira occurs at the beginning of October, when the moving van barons become once more malefactors of great wealth, and the prices for their services on these two red letter are just about on a level with the cost of roses for Christmas or violets for Easter.  One curious result of the city's perennial restlessness is the rapid disappearance of the old-fashioned house cleaning period.  No tenant expects to move into quarters which are not in good condition, and as a result the janitors and caretakers, instead of the housewives, now raise the annual dust.  This, of course, adds to the expense of moving days, which in various ways now takes bout $25,000,000 each year out of the pockets of the movers. . . ."

Source:  1,250,000 CELEBRATE GREATEST MOVING DAY -- NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF NEW YORK MOVES ON MAY 1ST -- Growing Rush to the Country, Arizona Republic [Phoenix, AZ], May 4, 1909, p. 14, col. 3 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

Summer Schedule to Provide Improved Service for Pelhamwood.

The new Summer schedule, which goes into effect in a few weeks on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Road, provides that fifteen more trains a day will stop at Pelhamwood.  This will make a total of sixty-five trains a day which will stop at this station and will greatly benefit the residents in the section.  The additional service will, it is expected, cause building operations in Pelhamwood to proceed with even greater rapidity than at present.

Two houses now are in course of construction, and plans for many more are being considered by various recent buyers.  Harmon and Highbrook Avenue have been macadamized this week and the cement sidewalks completed.  These are the most important avenues in the property, and the rest of the work will be completed within a short time.  Clifford B. Harmon says that the Decoration Day sale at Pelhamwood greatly exceeded his expectations, property to the value of nearly $100,000 having been disposed of."

Source:  MORE NEW HAVEN TRAINS -- Summer Schedule to Provide Improved Service for Pelhamwood, N.Y. Times, Jun. 6, 1909, p. 11, col. 3 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  


Progress has been made in the way of improvements at Pelhamwood, Westchester County, in the past two weeks by the Clifford H. [sic] Harmon Company.  Thousands of feet of cement sidewalks, stone gutters and macadam streets have been laid.  The concrete steps leading from Pelham Station to the property have been completed."

Source:  PROGRESS AT PELHAMWOOD, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1909, p. 13, col. 6 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

Improvement Work and Home Building in Various New Sections. . . . 

Great progress has been made on improvements at Pelhamwood during the last two weeks.  The concrete approach leading from the Pelham station to the property has been completed and the gateways over Highbrook and Harmon Avenues are finished. . . ."

Source:  WESTCHESTER DEVELOPMENT -- Improvement Work and Home Building in Various New Sections, N.Y. Times, Aug. 8, 1909, p. 12, col. 5 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

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Periodically I have written about Pelhamwood and Clifford B. Harmon, a principal developer of Pelhamwood.  For those interested in a comprehensive history of the early development of Pelhamwood, see Bell, Blake A., The Early Development of Pelhamwood, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 37, Sept. 17, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.  For earlier postings about Pelhamwood and Clifford B. Harmon, see:

Tue., Nov. 15, 2016:  Railroad Deeded the Land to Create Pelhamwood Avenue in 1927.

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.

Thu., Sep. 01, 2016:  Excavation Contractors Smith Brothers and the Beginnings of Pelhamwood in the Early Spring of 1909.

Tue., Mar. 01, 2016:  Unusual 1909 Advertising Pamphlet for Pelhamwood.

Tue., Feb. 02, 2016:  Early Pelhamwood Advertisements with Important Sketches of the New Development.

Tue., Nov. 10, 2015:  The New Development of Pelhamwood as it Was in 1913.

Wed., May 20, 2015:  Early History of the Pelhamwood Clock.

Mon., Mar. 16, 2015:   Newspaper References and Advertisements Regarding Development of Pelhamwood.

Mon., Mar. 16, 2015:  Newspaper References and Advertisements Regarding Development of Pelhamwood.

Fri., Sep. 26, 2014:  1909 Advertisements Show How the New Development of Pelhamwood Was Marketed to New Yorkers.

Sat., Jan. 25, 2014:  Putting the Finishing Touches on the Lovely New Church in Pelhamwood in 1923.  

Fri., Feb. 19, 2010:  1909 Newspaper Advertisement for the New Development of Pelhamwood.

Mon., Feb. 1, 2010:  Obituary of Richard B. Ferris of Pelhamwood

Thu., Oct. 11, 2007:  Biographical Data and Photographs of Clifford B. Harmon Who Developed Pelhamwood

Tue., Jul. 10, 2007:  An Early Event in the History of Pelhamwood

Thu., Jun. 21, 2007:  Information About "Aeronautic" Exploits of Clifford B. Harmon Who Developed Pelhamwood in Pelham

Thu. Aug. 10, 2006:  The New Development of Pelhamwood Gets Approval for its Proposed Sewage System in 1912

Tue., Nov. 15, 2005:  Plaque Dedicated at the Historic Pelhamwood Clock Tower

Mon., Sep. 12, 2005: Pelhamwood Association Celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 1942

Thu., May 12, 2005: Clifford B. Harmon, Developer of Pelhamwood.

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