Fire Gutted the Old Pelhamville Train Station in 1895 Before Today's Pelham Train Station Was Completed
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It was the lead story as an "EXTRA" on the front page of the December 14, 1895 issue of The Daily Argus of Mount Vernon. The ancient Pelhamville train station had been "GUTTED BY FIRE" earlier that day. Because the new Pelham Train Station (still in use today) was under construction nearby, for a time Pelham was without any train station.
A prominent plaque at today's Pelham Train Station proudly proclaims "BUILT 1893." A second plaque states "PELHAM STATION ORIGINALLY CONSTRUCTED IN 1893 BY THE NEW YORK, NEW HAVEN AND HARTFORD RAIL ROAD. . . ." Both plaques are wrong. Construction of the station began on Friday, June 28, 1895 and still was underway on December 14, 1895 when the old station, still in use, was destroyed. See Wed., Apr. 16, 2014: Pelham's Train Station on the New Haven Line Was NOT Built in 1893 as Claimed.
The fire in the old station was discovered at 1:30 a.m. on December 14, 1895. Given the time of the fire, most suspected that a spark from the passing midnight train had ignited the flames. Three alarms were sounded.
The station was still in use. Thus, before the volunteer members of the new First Fire District responded and began battling the flames, the station baggage master, Fred Brickner, ran to the station and began removing tickets, books and other valuables from the burning structure.
Because winds were high that night, the flames spread quickly and were difficult to fight. As the battle raged, members of the Liberty Hose and Relief Hook & Ladder Company began to lose the fight. Soon, all they could do was keep the flames from spreading to other buildings in the vicinity. The fire gutted the building.
The citizens of Pelhamville hated the old train station. They considered it an eyesore. Indeed, they had spent nearly eight years working to force the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company to replace the old building with a new brick train station. With construction of the new train station underway at the time, the railroad decided not to rebuild the old station gutted by the fire.
This was not the first fire at the old train station. It was at least the third. Most recently, earlier in the same year on Saturday, January 5, 1895, another spark from a passing train started a fire on the roof of the old station. According to news accounts, the flames were quickly extinguished before they engulfed the building. The following Monday, carpenters began repairing the damage and the station was returned to use.
News accounts at the time made clear that many citizens of Pelham secretly yearned for the building to burn to the ground. Some even suggested that recent fires at the station were not caused by sparks from passing trains but from "incendiaries" since so many hated the old station. According to one report after the fire on January 5, 1895: "Many were the sighs to be heard because the building did not burn down, as in that case Pelhamville would soon have a much desired improvement -- a new depot." Another report after the same fire said: "It was an old frame rookery, long an eye sore to Pelhamville people. The building had been fired by incendiaries several times, but may have caught fire this time from a passing engine."
The precise date that the new Pelham Train Station opened remains a Pelham history mystery. As I recently wrote: "Despite Herculean research efforts, I have yet to identify the date that construction of the station was completed or that it first opened to the public. Although I strongly suspect construction finished in early 1896 and the station opened shortly afterward, I cannot yet support that hypothesis with any meaningful evidence. I will continue my efforts, however." Wed., Apr. 16, 2014: Pelham's Train Station on the New Haven Line Was NOT Built in 1893 as Claimed. Now it seems almost certain that the new station opened to the public some time in early 1896. Only more research will solve this enduring Pelham history mystery.
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Below is the text of a number of articles about the fire that destroyed the old Pelhamville train station as well as the January 5, 1895 fire at the station. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
PELHAMVILLE'S STATION GUTTED BY FIRE.
BROKE OUT AT 1.30 THIS MORNING.
Started From Spark -- Thoroughly Gutted.
At 1.30 this morning the old station, at Pelhamville, was discovered to be on fire. Three alarms were sent in and the local Fire Department responded promptly.
In the interval between the sending in of the alarms, and the arrival of the firemen, Baggage master Fred. Brickner, arrived and removed books, tickets and other valuables to a place of safety.
The flames spread rapidly and the high wind made it difficult to fight the flames.
The firemen of Liberty Hose and Relief Hook & Ladder company worked like Trojans and succeeded in keeping the flames from spreading in the vicinity, but the station itself was gutted.
It is believed sparks from the engine of the 12.00 train, from New York, was the cause of the conflagration. This is the third time the structure has been on fire. It is believed the building will not be repaired but that a new station will take its place."
Source: EXTRA -- PELHAMVILLE'S STATION GUTTED BY FIRE -- BROKE OUT AT 1.30 THIS MORNING -- Started From Spark -- Thoroughly Gutted, Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 14, 1895, Vol. XV, No. 1131, p. 1, col. 6.
"Pelhamville Station Burned.
PELHAMVILLE, N.Y., Dec. 14. -- The station for eastbound trains of the New York, New Haven & Hartford in this village, was burned this morning. All the tickets, books and reports were burned. Loss $7,500, insured."
Source: Pelhamville Station Burned, The Rome Daily Sentinel, Dec. 14, 1895, Vol. XIV, p. 3, col. 6.
"ALL THE NEWS OF A DAY.
IMPORTANT HAPPENINGS OF YESTERDAY RECORDED. . . .
Pelhamville, N. Y., Dec. 14. -- The station for the east bound trains of the New York, New Haven & Hartford road in this village, was burned this morning. All the tickets and reports were burned. Loss $7,500; insured. . . ."
Source: ALL THE NEWS OF A DAY -- IMPORTANT HAPPENINGS OF YESTERDAY RECORDED, Elmira Telegram [Elmira, NY], City Edition, Dec. 15, 1895, Vol. XVII, No. 33, p. 1, col. 1.
"Briefs by Wire. . . .
-- The station for the east-bound trains of the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad, in Pelhamville, was burned this morning. All the tickets, books and reports were burned. Loss $7,500. . . ."
Source: Briefs by Wire, The Times-Union [Albany, NY], Last Edition, Dec. 14, 1895, p. 1, col. 7.
"STATION BURNT. -- The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad station at Pelhamville burned Monday. It was an old frame rookery, long an eye sore to Pelhamville people. The building had been fired by incendiaries several times, but may have caught fire this time from a passing engine."
Source: STATION BURNT, New Rochelle Pioneer, Jan. 12, 1895, p. 5, col. 2.
"OUR NEARBY NEIGHBORS.
Pelhamville. . . .
The fire alarm sounded last Saturday morning at 10.30 o'clock. Upon investigation the blaze was found to be in the N.Y., N.H. & H.R.R. depot, which had been caused a spark from a passing engine falling on the roof. The flames were extinguished however before they reached the first floor and the damage is not very great. Many were the sighs to be heard because the building did not burn down, as in that case Pelhamville would soon have a much desired improvement -- a new depot. Carpenters began repairing the damage last Monday. . . ."
Source: OUR NEARBY NEIGHBORS -- Pelhamville, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 10, 1895, p. 4, col. 2.