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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More on the History of High Island in the Town of Pelham

Little has been written about the history of High Island, once part of the Town of Pelham.  Recently I wrote about King Jim Murphy of High Island and the rumor that a portion of Captain Kidd's gold is buried on the island.  See Feb. 15, 2017:  Captain Kidd's Treasure:  Buried on High Island in the Town of Pelham.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog begins to tell a little more of the history of the fascinating little island known as High Island.

Recently I wrote about High Island, saying:

"High Island, once known as Shark Island due to the many sand sharks that swam nearby, is roughly an 18-acre island a few hundred feet off the northeastern tip of City Island.  It is part of the "Pelham Islands" that once were part of the Town of Pelham but since have been annexed by New York City.  At low tide a sandbar links the island with City Island.  A small private bridge wide enough for a single vehicle to pass also links the island to City Island.  It is said by some that the island is so named because it is comparatively high versus surrounding islands.  

"Over the centuries, High Island owners have included Captain Samuel Wooley, New York City Mayor Elisha King, David C. Curtis, a "Mrs. Miller," and others.  For many years during the 19th and 20th centuries, the island was a popular tent and bungalow summer resort.  In about 1962, the bungalows were removed and, in 1964, Columbia Broadcasting System purchased the island as a new location for its transmission tower for WCBS Radio.  In 1967, a small plane crashed into the tower, knocking out radio transmissions the day before WCBS switched to an all-news format.  Consequently, that switchover was delayed by about a week.  Today, the island is believed to be one of only two places in North America where "a single tower radiates not one but two non-directional 50,000 watt signals."  See Tower Site of the Week from FYBush.com, High Island, New York (April 24 - May 1, 2003) (visited Jan. 29, 2017).  Today the private island is home to two famous AM radio signals:  WFAN (formerly WNBC) on 660 AM and WCBS on 880 AM."

This brief snapshot of portions of the history of High Island does not do the tiny place the justice it deserves.  Its history has been fascinating.  

The rocky island was, for a time in the early 19th century, used as a quarry site to quarry stone for local construction.  A variety of different sources indicate that stone quarried from the island was used to build portions of Fort Schuyler on Throggs Neck, the foundation of Hawkswood (later the Colonial Inn) on Pelham Neck, and portions of the Fort at Willet's Point (later known as Fort Totten).  As late as the early 20th century, according to one report, evidence of the stone quarrying was still visible on the rocky outcroppings on the eastern side of the island.  

As early as the end of the Civil War, High Island already was a destination summer resort for New York City residents.  There are, for example, a host of examples of advertisements published in 1865 in New York City newspapers (an example of which is quoted at the end of today's article) offering steamboat "excursions" to High Island for a grand "Clam Roast and Chowder."  

The tiny island seemed to gain more fame in the early 1870s after a club known as the "Multum in Parvo" (Latin for "Much in Little") signed a long-term lease of the island to serve as its summer headquarters.   The owner of the island at the time reportedly was Peter V. King, a Wall Street merchant.  

The Club was founded in about 1869.  By 1871, it reportedly had signed a ten-year lease of the island and the island farmhouse that served as the organization's summer clubhouse.  The Multum in Parvo Club was an organization of well-known actors and entertainers principally from New York City.  

During summers in the early and mid-1870s, the organization installed a cook and an extensive bar in the clubhouse on the island and hosted over-the-top dinners for its members.  The dinners became an odd spectacle because the actors often appeared in costume during the grand celebrations of the club.  Heavy drinking was involved, even on Sundays when the bar in the clubhouse was closed but the members brought their own "bottles."  Women were not allowed on the island.  Thus, wives often accompanied club members, but remained on City Island where, according to one report, each day while on the island, "the married men have to go to the water's edge and say 'good morning' to their wives on City Island through a telescope."

The Multum in Parvo Club had grand plans including a plan to construct a grand new clubhouse on High Island in 1872.  The club, however, promptly faded into obscurity and, by 1878, reportedly was defunct though its ten-year lease of the island had not yet ended.  

Detail from 1872 Beers Map Showing the "Multum Inparvo
Club House" on High Island Just Off the Shores of City
City Island" in Beers, J.B., County Atlas of Westchester New
York, pp. 53-54 (Washington, D.C., J. B. Beers & Co., 1872).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

References to the club and its celebrations, as well as other references at the time, repeatedly describe the lovely home on High Island used as a clubhouse and even as a boarding house at times.  It is clear that the home pre-dated the Civil War with some newspaper reports indicating it was built in the early 19th century.  

One of the best descriptions of the home appeared in an article based on the reminiscences of George F. Flavin who began visiting the island as a boy in 1913 to visit his Aunt and Uncle, Nora and Jack Beatty, who were caretakers of the island for a time and lived in the home.  According to that article:

"The only permanent structure on the island was the two-story, wood-frame, farm-style house.  It was situated on the high point of the island, approximately 300 feet from the rocky east shore.  The main floor comprised a living room with a small bedroom off the side, a small front room, and a kitchen with an attached shed.  Upstairs were four bedrooms.

"In typical early American farm style, there was a 'cool cellar' underneath, which was entered from outside through folding doors.  A porch extended around the front (south) and west sides of the house.  There was also another porch on the rear (north).  In the kitchen was a wood-burning stove that was used only in the fall and winter.  All the summer cooking was done on Perfection kerosene stoves in the shed and on the back porch.

"It was a cozy house despite the lack of indoor plumbing, gas, electricity, and telephone services.  During the cold three-day 'nor'easters' that we often experienced, the tenants came up to the house to play cards and socialize.  My aunt told me that she believed that the house was more than 100 years old at the time (1920). . . ."

Source:  Flavin, George F., Summers On High Island, 1913-1925, The Island Current [City Island, NY], June 1988.  

After the disappearance of the Multum in Parvo Club, High Island became a favorite summer resort for a number of families from Mount Vernon, New York including the family of David C. Curtis, the Van Cotts, the Haights, and others.  According to one report, "Usually, about the first of June, the little island is dotted with tents, inhabitated by those above-named, and many a pleasant day, during the summer months, is spent by their friends, who are always made welcome at High Island."  

In 1882, one of the residents of Mount Vernon who summered on High Island, David C. Curtis, bought the island.  He immediately began improvements to the island.  By July of that year, a hotel named the "Hotel de Knapp" was operating on High Island, likely in the farmhouse.  As one might expect given that the island's owner was from Mount Vernon, High Island became a popular summer destination for residents of Mount Vernon.  

Although the Hotel de Knapp was small and could only accommodate a few guests at a time, Curtis allowed additional guests to erect tents on the island in which they lived, while taking their meals at the hotel where there was "good food and plenty of it."  This arrangement seems to have continued for quite a few years according to brief newspaper references during the years thereafter.  See, e.g., LOCAL NEWS, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 4, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 772, p. 3, col. 1 ("The little colony, who annually camp on High Island, are occupying their tents as usual.").

Soon David C. Curtis planned to build a dock that would provide better deep water access to High Island.  First, however, he needed a grant of underwater land adjacent to the island from the State of New York on which to build the dock out into the water.  

On May 22, 1884, New York passed into law the grant of underwater land that Curtis needed (see below).  To ensure that Curtis would use the underwater land for the intended purpose, however, the grant was conditioned as follows:  "grant is made on the condition that the grantee, his heirs or assigns, do within three years from the passage of this act, erect along the water front of said premises, one or more docks."

It appears that David C. Curtis was true to his word and built the dock.  A local newspaper reported about a year later on July 31, 1885 that "Mr. D. C. Curtis of High Island, is building a dock on the south side of the island.  It is understood that Mr. C. will expend $1,000 in dockage."

High Island passed out of Pelham when New York City annexed the area and local islands (including City Island and High Island) in 1895.  A few years after annexation.  David C. Curtis sold the little island.

Curtis owned High Island for about twenty years until early 1902.  During his ownership the island still was used as a tent-camping summer resort for bathing, fishing, and boating.  By all accounts there was on the island a surprisingly robust and healthy freshwater spring that was easily accessible via a deep well dug for that purpose.   

In 1902, David Curtis sold High Island for $80,000.  The story of that sale is quite an odd one and actually dates back to the 1870s.

According to Lockwood Barr, author of a popular history of Pelham published in 1946, August Belmont, John Hunter III and a group of other avid horsemen hatched a plan to buy up all the land on City Island to create a grand summer resort centered around an elegant racetrack.  According to Barr:

"So goes the story:  August Belmont, John Hunter 3rd, and others actively interested in horse-racing in the 1870's, projected a plan to buy all the property on City Island.  The high ground along the center of the Island was to have been converted into a race track, with its grandstands, Club House, and stables.  Around the water's edge was to have been a carriage boulevard, and back of that a boardwalk, on which would face hotels, clubs and private seaside summer cottages.  The plan fell through because details of the project leaked out before the property could be acquired, and owners of land, sensing fabulous profits, refused to sell their holdings."

Source:  Barr, Lockwood Anderson, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as the Lordshipp & Manour of Pelham Also The Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 86 (The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

In about 1902, August Belmont's son, August Belmont, Jr., and others resurrected the plan to develop City Island in a slightly different fashion.  According to newspaper reports early that year, a syndicate that included August Belmont, Jr., William C. Whitney, Samuel W. McMillen "and other New York millionaires" acquired a host of options to purchase large parcels on City Island as part of a plan to create a grand summer resort for the most affluent New Yorkers.  The resort, it was reported, was to be more like Tuxedo, New York and not anything like Coney Island, New York.  Reportedly as part of that scheme, the syndicate also purchased High Island where, newspapers said, the group would construct a grand clubhouse on the little island.

The scheme to create such a resort, if indeed there actually ever was such a scheme, did not come to pass.  Over the following years, local newspapers suggested that no such scheme ever had been planned and that, instead, the efforts to acquire City Island properties and High Island were merely efforts to speculate on real estate that might increase in value if a street trolley line were built to replace the old horse car that ran between Bartow Station and City Island.  

High Island, Upper Right, With Sandbar and Bridge Linking
It to the Northeast Tip of City Island, on the Left.  Source:
Google Maps Earth View.

*          *           *          *          *

"EXCURSION.  --  THERE WILL BE A CLAM ROAST AND Chowder on Sunday, June 11, on High Island.  Take the steamer SYLVAN GROVE, from Peck slip, at 10 o'clock, Broome street at 10:10, Eighth street at 10:15 and Thirty-second street at 10:20, and stop at City Island where boats will be in readiness to take you to the Island.  Inquire for Captain Murphy."

Source:  EXCURSION, New York Herald, Jun. 10, 1865, p. 3, col. 6

"An Escape from the Footlights.

The knights of the sock and buskin recently formed an association with a view of finding a cool spot on which during the summer they could escape the heated city and at the same time hear all the 'on dits' of the theatrical world.  The association has elected Harry Cunningham, President; George De Forrest, Vice-President; Peter Broderick, Treasurer; and Alonzo King, Secretary.  Their committee has taken a long lease of high island, about sixteen miles up the sound, and midway between City Island and New Rochelle.  The island has an area of seven and a half acres, and on it is an old, commodious, and attractive building, which the actors will use as a club house.  Here the boys will assemble this summer and for a time dispense with the attentions of the prompter, call boy, and stage manager.  Among the members are many of the leading heavies and much of the versatile talen of the city, including W. H. Whalley, John H. Allen, Frank Sanger, Isaac L. Street, Charles T. Parsloe, H. G. Clarke, Harry Pratt, Henry Dobson of banjo fame, Charles E. Norris, George Johnson, James H. Mulligan, John Coonie, John O'Neill, Richard Street, Joseph P. Melville ,T. O'Brien, William Schafer, S. S. Fish, William Cunningham, and many others.  The membership is limited to the theatrical profession."

Source:  An Escape from the Footlights, The Sun [NY, NY], Jun. 16, 1871, p. 1, col. 3.  

Their Island Home in the Sound.
The 'Multum in Parvo' Club -- How They Spend a Sensible Summer -- Sunday's Banquet on High Island -- Description of the Club House and Grounds -- Who Was There.

There seems to be no apparent reason why an actor should not enjoy himself.  It is true that he plays most of his time, but still he is unreasonable enough to call it work.  It is a fictitious realm of painted canvas and 'garish gas' in which he moves, and while there he is not himself at all.  One day a king, another a slave, the buffet of the capricious spirit which reigns.


he flies gladly, when opportunity offers, to where real pleasure may be wooed.  There is no doubt at all but that, even in the babyhood of the drama, the actors were the same jovial crew as they are at the present day.  Could we take the historian's dark lantern and flash it across the cemetery of the centuries we would see the man of the mask but little different from our own hero of the sock and buskin.  Even those gentlemen who appeased the clamorous claims of Athenian landladies by their efforts in the 


had a taste for pleasure and satisfied when opportunity offered.  Picnics to any of the isles of Greece, with which 'burning Sappho' had something vague to do, may have been the order of the day.  There, reclining upon the ground, engaged in eating figs or playing primeval draw poker, the Athenian actors may have deliciously rounded a holiday.  They talked, as they do now, of their parts, of the latest tragic thing from Europides or the newest screaming farce from the pen of Aristophanes.  It was Greece and it was long ago, but they were men and actors, and the clan has changed but little.

But whaever the custom of the murky past, we can speak with certainty of the present.  There exists in this city to-day


bound together by the silken tie of pleasure.  After the season is over, when the footlights are out, when the theatre is deserted, nd the stage is a maze of phantoms; in fact, when Summer blazes upon the scene, they unfurl their banner and begin their campaign against dull care.  For the nonce Duty exits and Enjoyment enters.  They are known as the 


which has been in existence about four years, having been established by Mr. Harry Cunningham.  Their club house is on High Island, in Long Island Sound, about seven miles from Fort Schuyler, and it is also 'much in little.'  On Sunday the season of 1873 was inaugurated in a manner which was at once imposing, and, at the same time, perfectly regardless of expense.

When the steamer Seawanhaka left Market street wharf, on Sunday morning at nine o'clock, she carried with her, among others, a group of twenty or thirty peculiar looking gentlemen.  They were costumed in a picturesque manner, 


blooming out prominently.  Some had fishing rods, while others had bottles, which contained probably the bait.  There was also a collection of baskets and hampers and a variety of other miscellaneous traps.  A spirit of jollity, of bubbling merriment, seemed to pervade the party.  Their conversation was of a grandiloquent nature, consisting chiefly with much unction.  In a word, they were the 'Multums,' en route for their 'native heath,' their island home.

The Club disembarked at the City Island landing, preparatory to taking their boats for


situated about a half mile distant.  An opportunity was then offered to see who was present.  There were Messrs. Harry Cunningham (President), Isaac L. Street (Vice President), Gideon Ryder (Secretary), S. S. Fitch (Treasurer), William Cunningham, George Jordan, ----- Price, Dick Street, Charles T. Parsloe, Harry Fisher, Governor George Johnson (of Alaska), Mat Snyde, Charles Norris, John O'Neill, Shiel Barry, Michael Connolly (orchestra leader at Niblo's), John Bennett, Mr. Beck (Frank Leslie's), ----- Carpenter, Benjamin F. Porter, Charles Furbish, George Maxwell, George Fouche, George Farren, John Fullman and William H. Manley.

Hardly had the landing been effected when the report of a cannon was heard, and looking up, the boys saw the yacht Nautilus bowling down upon the dock, flying the flag of the Nautilus Club.  The yacht had been reserved for the Shah, but as he had sent regrets in choice Persian it was used to convey several other high-toned guests from the city.  When the smoke cleared away Mr. Shiehl Barry was seen pulling rapidly toward the yacht in a dugout; but the appearance of the long columbiad amidships, and the manly form with blazing torch, frightened the great Feeney off.  Then three other boats, pulled by kings, knights, lovers and first murderers, put off for the piratical craft; but the seas ran so high that they were also forced to put back and seek the shelter of the shore, where the water was still.  

The launch of the remaining boats was the next thing, and the five beautiful barges, flying the Club colors, were soon afloat.  Mr. Shiel Barry, finding some difficulty in launching his own dinkie, he was seated in it, and the whole establishment was given to the waves amid the cheers of 


and the thunder of a nin-inch cannon on a sloop hard by.  It is due to Mr. Barry to say that he bore himself throughout the trying ordeal in a most satisfactory manner.

A short pull across the rippling water brought the flotilla to the pebbly shore of High Island, which, out of compliment to the great poet whose genius inspires these men, should be called Avon Isle, or by some other pretty name of dramatic significance.  The Nautilus was already at anchor and when the Club had assembled upon the float her occupants landed.  In a quaint old Knickerbocker style the Governor bade the guests 'welcome to Elsinore,' and said, in a voice husky with emotion, 'We shall teach you to drink deep ere you return.'  Just as the old man had got as far as 'not that I love Gotham less, but I love High Island more,' Mr. Ike Street wanted to know from Mr. John O'Neill whether a half acre patch in his pantaloons carried that famous 'rent the envious Casca made.'  The scorn that gambolled over Mr. O'Neill's classic features was superb.  This sideshow knocked all the eloquence out of the Governor and he sat down.  The island itself is worthy of digressive description.  It sweeps away from the shore into a lofty ridge on the top of which is the club house.  Upon the mall in front is a tent, flying the ensign of France.  All around the edge of the island nature gives evidence of her rude handiwork.  Huge boulders are piled on on the other in reckless confusion; there are canyons and gulches, and miniature lakes of rain water.  One pauses in awe as he treads these dangerous passes, and inadvertently thinks of the Modocs and 


half expecting to see some of the Shack Nasties emerge from their retreats.  But they did not emerge.  At first, as the flotilla drew near, it was thought that no one occupied this wild and romantic isle.  But in an instant there flashed upon the eyes of the approaching company, from the corner of the house, a strange apparition.  It was of human shape and carried before it a blazing shield.  'Ha! ha!' said Matthew Snyeder, as he caught a crab, ''Tis Zamiel, the red fiend of the haunted glen.'  But it wasn't; it was


busily engaged in burnishing a coffee pot.  

A stroll through the island gave one an idea of the topography and resources.  No gold mines have been discovered yet, although the members are hopeful.  Of the interior no one thoroughly knows, it never having been fully explored.  It is naturally entirely surrounded by water, and a spiked cannon, upon a commanding bluff, bids intruders beware.  So does a bulldog, with a saffron complexion, which is chained to the orchard -- an apple tree.  The island is bounded on one side by City Island, on the other by Hart's Island, above by the sky and below by China.  There is a long, narrow bar stretching out into the sea, but, it being Sunday, 


The house is sensible and commodious.  There are bedrooms, a dining room and kitchen.  In the cellar is the larder, which looks as if the island were provisioned for an Arctic cruise in search of the Polaris.

After the debarkation clams were the first thing in order.  Seated beneath the apple tree, the breeze playing a weird melody through the branches, one gazed with rapture upon the vast blue stretch of glittering water, the white-winged yachts, the lovely sky, the rolling hills on every side, crowned with verdure, through which peeped the turrets of stately chateaux, and then turned sadly to swallow a clam.  The clams were good, and seemed to appreciated, as much as an ignorant and debased clam can appreciate anything, the fact that they were fulfilling their destiny.  They were opened in all sorts of ways with all sorts of instruments -- knives, swords, bayonets and foils being used indiscriminately.

Then came dinner.  The first intimation of the 


was a drum solo executed by Charley Parslee.  At the 'call' every man was on his feet, and in an instant at the table.  The first party dined were the high toned and aristrocratic members and visitors.  The proletarians did the waiting, and did it admirably.  With the exception of some one stopping now and then to juggle a few plates or to express a willingness to forsake his kingdom for a horse, there was no break in the entertainment.  The nomenclature of the gentlemen who brough on the things was at least peculiar.  'Will you have beef, sir?'  'Yes, sir.'  'What, how! slave without, trot out the beef!'  Terms now, no doubt, obsolete, were plentifully used.


'Will you take a little 'gazonigan!' if so give me your 'gazape.'  And so the feast went on right merrily, despite the remark of Mr. Ike Street, that the 'belles of the kitchen' were raising a fearful row.  During the progress of the dinner it was natural to muse upon the changes you saw wrought before you.  Yon gentleman with a red shirt and his hair a la Modoc, whom you saw last in 'coat of inky black,' saying so sadly, 'Ay, but there is and much offence too,' has just requested his neighbor to 


which mystic remark was found to mean 'look at the President.'  Romeo is there, in checked shirt and big boots, offering to bet Mercutio a bottle of wine that he can eat the most clams.

After the dinner and across 'the walnuts and the wine' there was the usual sparkle of postprandial wit.  Songs were sung; among them the following, dedicated to Harry Cunningham, words by Mr. Harry McCarthy, music by Mr. Michael Connolly:  -- 

Ye expounders of Shakespeare's heroes,
When the season draws near to a close,
How ve'll welcome the day that ye'll hasten away
Wherer the boys in full harmony meet.
For no gaudy display mars the joy of the day
At High Island, the Actors' Retreat.

'Much in little' Club, 'tis a good name, 
For how much may be gained by each game
That will strengthen the heart, and renewed nerve impart
For another year's struggle for fame.
With fishing, with boating, with swimming, 
Such joking, such laughing, such singing,
For so free from all care are the boys that are there,
That the rocks are with merriment ringing.

There's Hamlet, you've oft seen before, 
But he's now digging clams on the shore, 
And a lover of note is bailing a boat
For Macbeth asleep by the door.
We have Momus, Apollo and Thalia,
But as they are not in regalia,
Sure you never would know, they belonged to the show,
Unlless some kind friend were to tell you.

Then the probletarians had show at the table, Mr. Mat Snyder presiding 'with his customary grace.'  After telling his friends that his home was the burning desert and he was cradled in the sirocco, he requested them to pss up their 'gazapes' and he helped.  This merry crew wound up with


and an appropriated walk around.

A quiet cigar, a loll upon the green grass, a bath in the salt water and it was time for the visitors to be off.  The 'Multums' pulled them over to the island, and cheered as the boat steamed away, Mr. John O'Neill adding to the excitement of the 'send off' by taking a header, while in full uniform, into the Sound.  Then the members returned to their island retreat, where they intend to stay until the 1st of September, when the orchestra once more 'breathes fitfully,' once more the footlights flash and the play goes on.  They will have an exquisite time of it this Summer, while less fortunate beings broil in the city, get the cholera and enjoy all the other advantages of a metropolitan existence.  They have fishing tackle, guns and boats and no intruders.


in attire will not be the least enjoyable feature.  No ladies under any consideration are allowed on the island, and so the subject of dress will not bother them.  Even the married men have to go to the water's edge and say 'good morning' to their wives on City Island through a telescope.  Next Summer a new and elegant club house will be built and the 'Multum in Parvo' will enter its fifth season with an unparalleled burst of magnificence."

Source:  AMONG THE ACTORS -- Their Island Home in the Sound -- The 'Multum in Parvo' Club -- How They Spend a Sensible Summer -- Sunday's Banquet on High Island -- Description of the Club House and Grounds -- Who Was There, New York Herald, Jun. 8, 1873, No. 13470, p. 4, cols. 4-5.  


The nearest island to City Island is that denominated High by reason of the attitude of a mass of rugged rocks on its eastern front. Upon those rocks stands a house, once the Summer head-quarters of the now defunct 'Multum in Parvo Club,' an association of journalists and actors, which flourished here some years ago. They leased the island for a term of 10 years -- not yet expired -- from Mr. Peter V. King, a rich Wall-street merchant. Boyhood's associations have endeared the lonely island to him, and he has been heard to say that 'There is not money enough in New-York to buy it.' There is an excellent spring of cold and pure water upon it, and the western half of it might, with some little trouble, be made productive. A man of means could establish here a most enjoyable Summer residence. . . ."


"LOCAL NEWS. . . .

The good people of Mount Vernon have at last secured a watering place of their own.  They are to be congratulated not only on having secured such a place, but upon having secured such a delightful one.  It is not a thousand miles off, or a hundred, or even fifty, or ten.  It is one of the prettiest and coziest islands in Long Island Sound -- it is High Island.  The scenery anywhere on the Long Island shore is beautiful, but no one can form an idea of how very beautiful it is as viewed from High Island, unless he has been there.  After all, a beautiful island and beautiful scenery go for little at a summer resort unless the inner man be well cared for.  Salt sea breezes whet the appetite, nd no one cares to have his appetite whetted unless he has something wherewith to take off the edge thereof.  Herein the island fails not, for the Hotel de Knapp answers all the requirements, if good food and plenty of it are the requirements.  The hotel itself is not an imposing structure, and has accommodations for only a small number; but several families have overcome this difficulty by erecting tents on the island, living therein when they are not at their meals or on the water.  In fact, the number of tents has grown so, that a party landed the other day to know what camp-meeting it was.  When they found out that most of the tent-dwellers were Baptists, the querists went away, well satisfied that the place had been rightly chosen. . . ."

Source:  Local News, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 14, 1882, Vol. XIII, No. 669, p. 3, cols. 1-3.  


For a number of years, High Island, at the north-east of City Island, has been the summer resort of quite a number of Mount Vernonites, among whom were the Curtis's, Van Cott's, Haight's and others.  Usually, about the first of June, the little island is dotted with tents, inhabitated by those above-named, and many a pleasant day, during the summer months, is spent by their friends, who are always made welcome at High Island.  About two years ago, this little island was purchased by Mr. David C. Curtis, of Mount Vernon, and recently the following act, granting to him the lands under water around it, was passed:

CHAP. 293.

AN ACT to grant to David C. Curtis certain land under water of Long Island sound for docks, and for the beneficial enjoyment of High Island.

Passed May 24, 1884, by a two-thirds vote.

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

Section 1.  The following described land, under water of Long Island Sound, is hereby given, granted and conveyed to David C. Curtis, namely:  Beginning at a point in the water on the twelve feet curve on the map of the United States coast and geodetic survey, thirty feet south of the corner of a rock or projection on the south-easterly corner of High Island; thence north-easterly, along the shore of said High Island, three hundred and fifteen fieet, to a point in the water on said curve three hundred feet from low-water mrk on said shore thence due north, five hundred and forty feet, to a point on the twelve feet curve indicated on the said map of the United States coast and geodetic survey; thence west, nine hundred and ninety feet, to a point on the eight and a half feet curve, indicated on said map; thence due south, twelve hundred feet, to a point on the six feet curve, as indicated on said map; and thence north-easterly, nine hundred feet, to the place of beginning, to be used for docs, and the beneficial enjoyment of High Island by David C. Curtis, the owner thereof.

Sec. 2.  This grant is made on the condition that the grantee, his heirs or assigns, do within three years from the passage of this act, erect along the water front of said premises, one or more docks.

Sec. 3.  This act shall take effect immediately."

Source:  HIGH ISLANDThe Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 20, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 770, p. 1, col. 3.  


Mr. D. C. Curtis of High Island, is building a dock on the south side of the island.  It is understood that Mr. C. will expend $1,000 in dockage, and it is not improbable that the narrow space between City Island and High Island will be bridged within another year. . . ."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 31, 1885, Vol. XVI, No. 828, p. 3, col. 3.  

"BOARDERS WANTED -- High Island, near City Island; good air, bathing, fishing and boating; terms moderate; one hour from city.  Address J. Albert (High Island).  City Island P.O., Westchester County, N.Y.; reference, Hon. S. M. Van Cott, 174 East 125th st., New York City."

Source:  BOARDERS WANTED, The World [NY, NY], Jul. 22, 1887, p. 7, col. 3.  

Same Buyers That Bought Up Large Tracts on City Island -- New Realty Company Buying Land Along Port Chester Road -- John B. McDonald Interested.

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y., Feb. 2.  --  Interest was added to the sale of more than $1,000,000 worth of property on City Island to a syndicate said to be headed by William C. Whitney, August Belmont, Samuel W. McMillen, ex-Par, Commissioner and other New York millionaires, when it was learned to-day that High Island, between City Island and Hart's Island, has been sold to the same purchasers that have been securing options on land on various parts of City Island.

High Island was owned by D. C. Curtis, of Mount Vernon, who received $80,000 for it.  Ten per cent. of the purchase price, $8,000, was paid down to bind the bargain, with a check on the Title Guarantee & Trust Company.  The check was indorsed by 'Mrs. McKenzie' and 'Mrs. Bliss,' but it is believed that the women's names are being used only as a blind.

High Island contains eighteen acres and has valuable deposits of fine building stone, a large dock and manor house.  Rock from the island was used in building Fort Schuyler and the fort at Willets Point, and it is said the syndicate will use the stone in building a clubhouse on High Island and in the erection of other buildings on City Island.  

Two large lots on the northern end of City Island and facing High Island were bought at the same time, and it is rumored that both islands will be connected with a bridge at this point.

High Island was at one time the headquarters of a club composed of Tammany Hall members and it is now reported that Tammanyites intend to build a big country clubhouse on City Island and a yacht clubhouse on High Island.  Another report is that the stone from the latter island will be used in building an enormous main power house for the New York and Port Chester Railroad Company.  

The Realty Company of New York, which was incorporated on Saturday with a capital of $1,000,000, and in which some prominent citizens of Westchester county are directors, it is understood, has secured options and contracts on large tracts of property along the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and the proposed four-track electric road from the Harlem River to Port Chester [i.e., the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway].

F. F. Nugent is President of the new realty corporation, and Mayor Edwin W. Fiske of Mount Vernon, Vice-President.  Among the directors are F. C. Richardson, Assistant Treasurer of the Audit Company of New York, of which August Belmont is President.

Mr. Belmont and John B. McDonald, it is believed here, are the chief backers of the new Port Chester railway and their agents have been buying large tracts of property at City Island, where it is proposed a branch line of the new electric road will be run.  The new realty company, it is believed, intends to immediately begin developing the tracts lying close to the two railroads on this side of Westchester county.  John B. McDonald, the Rapid Transit contractor, has engineered several big realty deals at City Island.

It is generally believed that August Belmont and John B. McDonald, who are to operate the New York Rapid Transit Subway Company and the new Port Chester road as a feeder to that system, are backers of all the big real estate deals and new corporations which are seeking choice tracts on this side of Westchester county between Harlem and the Connecticut State line."

Source:  BELMONT BUYS HIGH ISLAND? -- A SYNDICATE HAS GOT CONTROL OF ITS 18 ACRES -- Same Buyers That Bought Up Large Tracts on City Island -- New Realty Company Buying Land Along Port Chester Road -- John B. McDonald Interested, The Sun [NY, NY], Feb. 3, 1902, p. 4, col. 1.  

Object of Syndicate's Big Purchases of Land at Last Apparent.
Will be Connected by a Bridge with the Main Tract -- Whitney and Belmont Interested

Enough of the plans of the strong syndicate which has worked swifttly and secretly in purchasing a great part of City Island were revealed yesterday to make it certain that practically all the previous surmises were incorrect.  City Island is not to be a Coney Island or a summer resort for the multitude.  Money is to be expended lavishly in the transformation of the island into one of the finest of all New York's fashionable suburban colonies.  It will be a Tuxedo rather than a Coney Island.

Some time ago great blocks of land on City Island were purchased by a syndicate in which William C. Whitney, August Belmont and other multi-millionaires are understood to be interested, and yesterday it was announced that they had bought High Island, which is just north of their main property.  They paid D. C. Curtis of Mt. Vernon $80,000 for it.  It is proposed to connect the islands by a bridge.


The Realty Company of New York was incorporated on Saturday, with a capital of $1,000,000, and it is asserted in Westchester County that this corporation will take over all the purchases lately made on City Island and make extensive improvements.  F. F. Nugent, the founder of the Lawyers' Surety Company and a director of the Guaranty and Central Trust companies of this city, is president of the new corporation, and Mayor Edwin W. Fiske of Mt. Vernon is the vice president.  Besides Messrs. Whitney and Belmont in the directorate is John B. McDonald.  They are believed to be the chief backers of the new Portchester electric railway, which will have a branch line connecting with the new resort, thereby insuring excellent transportation accommodations.

Not only will the building of several expensive cottages begin at once, but it is understood that a handsome club house will be built on High Islane for the use of the sojourners at this new resort.  The work of beautifying the islands will be started without delay and it is expected that it will be pushed to a speedy completion.  An immense pier is to be constructed for the landing of yachts which it is expected will convey the residents to and from their business in the city in the summer months.


A few years ago High Island was the headquarters of a club composed of Tammanyites, and when the option on the land was obtained it was believed that they were the real purchasers, but developments have proved othey were not.  It comprises eighteen acres and has valuable deposits of fine building stone.  This material was used in the buidling of Fort Schuyler and the fortifications at Willets Point, and may be used in the erection of the new buildings on City Island.

Within the last two weeks property worth more than $700,000, if cut up in building tracts, has changed hands.  The purchasers are said to include some of the most prominent society people in this city, who intend to make this spot their recreation place during the heated spell.

The promoters of City Island depend much upon its facilities for exclusiveness to insure its success.  All the nearby shore of the mainland is within the limits of Pelham Bay Park, and as a city pleasure ground never will be devoted to residence purposes.  The antiquated horse car line which now connects City Island with the rest of the city runs through the park to Bartow station, on the New Haven Railroad.  The horses will be replaced by electric traction within a year or so."

Source:  CITY ISLAND WILL BE A SEASIDE TUXEDO -- Object of Syndicate's Big Purchases of Land at Last Apparent -- HIGH ISLAND ALSO IS THEIRS -- Will be Connected by a Bridge with the Main Tract -- Whitney and Belmont Interested, The New York Press, Feb. 3, 1902, Vol. XV, No. 5178, p. 1, col. 2.

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