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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parts of the Town of Pelham Were Considered as a Site for the 1893 World's Fair

In 1889, Americans already were preparing for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the shores of America.  A grand "World's Fair" was planned to open in 1892 as part of the "Great Columbus Celebration" in honor of the 400th anniversary.

Eventually the event opened as the "World's Columbian Exposition," a world's fair held in Chicago.  Although dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892, the fairgrounds were not ready for the public.  Thus, the World's Columbian Exposition did not open to the public until May 1, 1893.  Thus, the Exposition often is referred to, informally, as the "1893 Chicago World's Fair."  It also is referred to as the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

In 1889, organizers of the upcoming Exposition were still searching for a site on which to build the fairgrounds.  Believe it or not, the Town of Pelham was in the running as a possible fairgrounds site.

Actually, New York City was in the running, along with Chicago, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis.  Quite a number of undeveloped and lightly-developed sites were being considered as possible sites for the fairgrounds.  One of those sites was Pelham Bay Park which, in 1889, was owned by New York City but still was part of the Town of Pelham before its annexation in 1895.  Other possible New York City sites included Van Cortlandt Park, Riverside Park with some private land and Morningside Park, Claremont Park with portions of Fleetwood, and Hunt's Point.  

From Tuesday, September 10, 1889 through the early morning hours of Friday, September 13, 1889, a group of reporters from The World (published in New York City) and a photographer rode a horse-drawn buggy for 71 miles during a multi-day gale to tour all of the possible fairgrounds sites including Pelham Bay Park.  The extremely lengthy article that described the tour detailed much information about Pelham Bay Park.  It also detailed the awful conditions of the roads in the Town of Pelham, something for which Pelham was famous because the voters of City Island refused to approve budgets that included monies for most road improvements on the mainland.  The article provides a quaint and fascinating glimpse of parts of New York City, the Bronx, and the Town of Pelham nearly 130 years ago and makes for fascinating reading.  The text of the article and images created by an artist from photographs taken during the tour of Pelham Bay Park appear below, followed by a citation and link to the source.

"Bird's Eye View of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893"
Showing What the Area in Pelham May Have Looked Like Had Pelham
Bay Park Been Chosen as the Site.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *           *            *

Where the Great World's Fair May Well Be Held.
Just What Clam Each Spot Has for the Celebration.
'The World' Inspects All Available Territory in the City.
A Three Days' Tour of Exploration in a Carriage.
Photographs and Sketches of New York's Uptown Parks.
Plenty of Room and Ample Facilities for the Big Exposition.
Beginning with Morningside and Riverside Parks, 'The World's' Inspectors of Sites Drive Over the Ground in the Teeth of the Raging Storm -- The Area and Accessibility of the Most Prominent of the Suggested Sites -- A Charming Picture on the Bronx Suddenly Dispelled -- The Routes Gone Over to Reach Each of the Proposed Tracts -- Pointers for the Members of an Important Committee -- Valuable Facts and Figures Which Show How We Stand on the Question of Sites for the Great Columbus Celebration.

Up to this time there has been no comprehensive idea given to the people of New York of the several sites suggested for the great Exposition of 1892.  Fragmentary descriptions have appeared from time to time of private and public tracts of land in the territory contiguous to New York, but the intervals between descriptions have been so long that one location was forgotten before another was presented.

THE WORLD to-day groups the most prominent of the proposed sites, and gives a minute description of the situation, topography, accessibility and the striking features of each.  This could only be accomplished in one way and that was by driving from one point to another and taking photographs of the most notable features in the landscape, which are reproduced in the cuts below.

Morningside and Riverside.

The expedition started from THE WORLD office at 7 o'clock Tuesday morning.  The clatter and rattle of Broadway was lost when the buggy was turned into the broad East drive of Central Park.  A leaden sky and a heavy mist had apparently frightened off the many fair horse-women usually encountered in early morning, for between Fifty-ninth and One Hundred and Tenth streets only one was seen -- a rosy, athletic-looking girl mounted on a superb bay, cantering towards the southern entrance.  The speedy little mare was given her head, and when the bells were ringing and the whistles screaming the hour of 7 THE WORLD men were entering Morningside Park, one of the sites proposed first by itself, and then in connection with Riverside.

The park with the odd-sounding name is situated between One Hundred and Tenth street and One Hundred and Twenty-Third street, and Ninth avenue and Morningside avenue.  The latter is an unpaved roadway skirting the western boundary of the park on a high bluff, running parallel with the Hudson River, and distant from it about a quarter of a mile.  The greatest width of the park is on the lowland under the hill.  The ground has been laid out in beautiful flower-beds, extending almost over to Ninth avenue.  Massive stone parapets are built against the wall of the bluff, and broad stone steps lead up to it.  To the south or lwer end of the park the Eighth Avenue L road makes its great, high curve, and from the train a pleasing bird's-eye view may be had of the many-hued boundary of Riverside Park, and running from flowers in the beds below.  Between the western boundary of Morningside Park and the eastern One Hundred and Sixteenth street to One Hundred and Twentieth stree, is located the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum and its spacious grounds.  

Between now and May, 1890, the asylum is to be vacated and the ground will revert to the city.  Those who favor the holding of the Exposition in that part of New York propose that the extensive tract of land extending from and including Morningside and Riverside shall be taken and used.  The ground between the two parks is private property and its purchase, in such event, will be necessary.  The area of the public tract is 120 acres and its shape an irregular parallelogram.  The private property increases the area to 215 acres.

It was beginning to rain when THE WORLD ambassadors came to a halt and unloaded their camera.  The wind was blowing briskly from the northeast and it required not a little patience to steady the apparatus and get a focus.  The view given in the accompanying cut is fairly good, requiring as it did thirty seconds exposure, because of the dull light.  It was taken from the top of the northernmost parapet and shows the part of the bluff and the low land in the distance.  


To Riverside was a ten-minute drive, and there, after being nearly blown from the roof of the hotel by the wind while taking a picture of the nearby landscape, the inspection of the most important portion of the proposed site was completed.  Riverside has a good water-front and there is ample room to build and provide wharfage for hundreds and, if necessary, thousands of vessels.  The ground is rolling, and for 200 yards back of the river is composed of a sandy loam.  Further back, towards Morningside, it is rcocky and its surface broken and uneven.  Riverside proper is too well known to require any extended description of its beauties or location.  It rises grandly from the shores of the Hudson, beginning at Seventy-second street and extending to Eighty-sixth street, where there is a break of a few short blocks.  Beginning again at Eighty-ninth street, it continues, gradually widening, until it ends in an abrupt bluff at One Hundred and Twenty-ninth street.  The present means of access to the tract composed of the two parks and the territory lying between them is by the Hudson River railroad on the river side, all the west side Elevated Railroads, the Eighth Avenue line of surface cars on the east side and the numerous drives leading from Central Park and the Boulevard from Seventy-second street.

Picturesque Inwood.

A chirrup to the mare and the newspaper inspectors of sites were off in a blinding rain storm for picturesque Inwood, on the historic Kingsbridge road.  The drive led up the Boulevard to this thoroughfare.  A stop was made at the old Black Horse Tavern -- now nothing but a ramshackle shanty -- and a photograph taken of the hostiery [sic], where a century ago horses were changed on the way to Albany.  Further on, within a half-mile of Kingsbridge, a magnificent view of the surrounding country was had from the villa of John Drake, situated on a lofty eminence overlooking the Kingsbridge road.  

It was the idea of Frank G. Green, of 10 Wall street, that the residents of Inwood would favor the holding of the Exposition on that plot of land lying between the Kingsbridge road and the Harlem River, beginning at a point where Dyckman street will some day be cut through; or, to be more intelligible, where Inwood street now runs through from Kingsbridge road to the Harlem River.  Mr. Green, who lives on Inwood Hill, believes that his neighbors would be benefited by this selection, inasmuch as they would gain better facilities for rapid transit than they now enjoy, and that all of that portion of the island would derive a permanent ultimate benefit.

Mr. Green's first proposal was that the land be purchased from the several owners -- of which he is not one, by the way -- but he accepts a rather novel amendment by his friend, J. G. Haven, that instead of buying the land the city 'borrow' it temporarily and that the owners depend for compensation on the extra facilities which they would receive and which would increase the value of their holdings.

The location is at least picturesque.  To the east of the Kingsbridge road the ground is rolling, with here and there a plateau of small area.  From the inn to the narrow neck where the river is spanned by Farmer's Bridge the distance is about a mile and a half, and the width between the road and the river varies from three-quarters of a mile to one-quarter of a mile.  The soil is a sandy loam and there is very little rock.  The principal means of access are now by driveways.  The Hudson River Railroad has a station at Inwood on the river side of the hill.  The cable road and the Elevated road will have extended their lines much nearer by 1892.

Mr. Green believes that in addition to the innumerable driveways that tap the section, abundant transportation could be provided on the Hudson and Harlem rivers by the building of piers to accommodate boats running from all feeding points on the North and East rivers.  The cost of transporting building materials and exhibits by water, he says, would be much cheaper than by rail, and would be a considerable item in saving expense.  The principal owners of the proposed territory are Isaac M. Dyckman and James McCreary, and the plot consists of about 260 acres.  About one-tenth of it is meadow land which would require filling up.  The new canal now being blasted through from the Harlem to the Hudson would furnish a waterway if completed in time.

Van Cortlandt Park.

It was 6 o'clock when Inwood was finished and then the inspectors supped and lodged within a hundred yards of the spot where the minions of George III once held the highway against American rebels, cutting off all communications for weeks.  Bright and early Wednesday morning the expedition started on the second day's tour.  Van Cortlandt Park was the objective point, or rather Van Cortlandt and Jerome Parks, both of which are to be considered together as one proposed site.  It was still raining and the roads were like shallow ponds.  A good substantial breakfast helped to make things look brighter than they really were, and the inspectors as well as their horse were in the best of spirits.  Farmer's Bridge was crossed at 7.30 o'clock, and after a wearisome climb up a steep hill, Jerome avenue, with its stately residences and closely planted shade-trees, was turned, and in a few minutes the deserted race track was reached.  It looked dismal enough.  Up at the stables a couple of boys were leading horses listlessly around, and an old man was cutting grass with a sickle.  There wasn't much to inspect, and no opportunity to use the camera, for the rain was coming down in such torrents that the atmosphere was obscured, so after a delay of twenty minutes THE WORLD'S expedition moved on in the direction of Van Cortlandt Park.

Van Cortlandt avenue, running almost due north, was selected as the most direct route.  Despite the storm the drive was a delightful one, and afforded opportunity for speculating upon at least one curious circumstance.  About a mile from the turn, where the underbrush is thick and tangled and the trees plentiful, the inspectors came across a road paved, guttered and curbed.  Flagging had been laid for about a dozen square yards.  The road led into a thick wood, and the curbing extended about fifty yards into the brush.  Half a dozen sedate-looking crows were holding a convention on this strangely out-of-place sidewalk and fluttered off with a discordant caw! as the carriage approached.  The road did not appear to lead anywhere in particular, and the incongruity of the improvements was strikingly apparent.

It was nearly noon when Van Cortlandt Lake was descried through the trees.  The rain had ceased for the time being, but the wind was still blowing stiffly and the water's surface was being lashed into tiny waves.  Crossing the tracks of the Northern Railway, the explorers drove up Douglas avenue to the Van Cortlandt mansion, a fine old relic of Colonial days, still in an excellent state of preservation.  The mansion itself, as well as the country round about, is rich in reminiscence of the Revolutionary period.  It was here that Washington made his headquarters at the time he planned his retreat to Yorktown, and it was here that the struggle was waged so fiercely when it seemed as though the patriots must be wiped from the face of the earth.  The quaint Dutch tiles that framed the fireplaces a hundred years ago are still in place, and in the sash frames in the upper stories are many of the panes of ground glass that were imported from England years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The sturdy old building with its thick walls and sprawling doorways was built in 1748 by an ancestor of the present Augustus Van Cortlandt, sr.  Between its four walls it has harbored many sorts and conditions of men.  In the same rooms where the Father of his Country made his brief stay, a Hessian colonel was quartered lending aid and comfort to his British allies.  Red-coats have swarmed over that house from cellar to attic.  Barefooted American soldiers have found in it a heaven of rest and of safety, and later on it became the rendezvous for all of fashionable Manhattan Island.  Many a periwigged and befrilled gallant has made love under the shadow of that broad porch, and many have been the political intrigues that had their inception in that same old library, where the Commander of the American armies ponders over the fortunes of war and the blessings of peace.

THE WORLD men found the mansion occupied by a polite and intelligent member of the park guard, who had the history of the Van Cortlandt famly from the days of Olaf Van Cortlandt up to the present time at his fingers' ends.  From the north side of the house the visitors had a magnificent view of the diversified scenery that surrounds it.  To the west could be indistinctly seen through the mist the heavily wooded range of hills that form the eastern bank of the Hudson River, and two points to the east rose the grassy mound known as Vault Hill, where the records of the city of New York were buried at the foot of a big elm while the royalists and the 'rebels' were struggling for supremacy.  The lovely valley of the Harlem in the south, filled in the perspective of a charming landscape, with the broad plateau called the 'parade ground,' dotted with four hayricks, as the main study.  Then came a drive around the borders of the lake and another unloading of the camera to seize the view before it should dissolve in the torrents that began to pour down again.

Between the lake and the mainland on the west the ground was found to be meadow land with good bottom, and in the neighborhood of Tibbitts Brook, that supplies the lake, rather soft and marshy.  The extent of meadow and marsh, however, is scarcely two acres, and arboreal vegetation, which has never been retarded in any part of the Park, is rapidly absorbing this superfluous moisture.  This is what the people there say, for THE WORLD'S inspectors saw the place and its surroundings under the most unfavorable meteorological conditions.

Van Cortlandt Lake can be reached only by inland methods of transportation.  The lake, which empties into Spuyten Duyvil Creek, is not a waterway.  The Hudson is the nearest navigable body of water.  Its distance across the hills to Riverdale is about half a mile, and there is no way of getting there by anything like a direct route, except by wagon-road from Broadway, through Riverdale lane, and thence over a rough road to Riverdale landing.  It is possible, however, to reach the banks of the Hudson further down by taking the Northern Railway to Kingsbridge and thence on a branch of the New York Central to the Spuyten Duyvil station.

The Northern is the principal means of access from the city.  There are numerous beautiful drives leading from the four quarters of the compass and a number of new steam roadways have been proposed, but are still in embryo.  Van Cortlandt Park contains 1,069 acres and next to Pelham Bay Park is the most extensive of the sites suggested where the ground belongs to the city.  Its shape is an irregular square and its extreme northern limit touches the city line.  It presents as much diversity in its soil as it does in its delightful panorama of hill and dale and woodland and lake.  To the south there is a workable clayey loam.  Higher up and towards the west the rocky formation appears -- fit for blasting and good for foundation stone.  To the east the ground is flat and comparatively free from rocks, so that a great deal of grubbing or clearing would not be necessary.

These were points that the visitors determined after two hours' careful inspection.  The rain was coming down, not quite as sharply as before, and advantage was taken of the lull to point the camera at the lake from a gate-post about 200 yards up the pike.  A group of laborers levelling off the road stopped their work and stood with pick and shovel watching THE WORLD'S artist as he demonstrated simultaneously the art of equilibrium and of photography.  Hardly was the camera packed up and in the bottom of the buggy before there was another cloud-burst, and down it came in ladlefuls [sic].  The little mare showed a decided dislike for such a continuous shower bath, for she whinnied impatiently.

The Beauties of Bronx.

Bumping over rocks and swishing into gullies, the buggy was hurried along the pike to Gunhill road, where the traveling was almost as bad.  Williamsburg came in sight about 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  Hungry and wet as the travellers [sic] were, all their enthusiasm was aroused again as they crossed the wooden bridge, beneath which rippled the Bronx River, limpid and gentle, gurgling over its rocky bed.  But the very rippling itself seemed to say 'Go eat! go, eat!' and the enthusiasm sank out of site as the thought of food became uppermost.  Dinner over, a circuit was made of one-third of the boundary of the park, taking in, by advice of Real-Estate Dealer Hallock, the most romantic part of the tract, incluuding the Lydig Dam, the Rocking Boulder and De Lancey's ancient pine.

'Where gentle Bronx, clear winding flows,
The shadowy banks between,
Where blossomed bell or wilding rose
Adorns the brightest green
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Stands high in solitary state 
De Lancey's ancient pine.'

Bronx Park extends on both sides of the river from West Farms to Williamsbridge, the course of the stream being through a scene of extraordinary loveliness.  The bans for a mile are almost perpendicular, rising to height in some place of eighty feet.  Overlooking the water, all the way down are tall pines and elm trees, several of them being of great height.  'De Lancey's pine' is of especial interest.  It stands alone and towers up straight as a plumb-line 125 feet.  Although robbed of much that belongs to it by the aqueduct, the Bronx River is still a beautiful stream.  It is shallow in spots but except during an unusual drought keeps its bed covered.  Directly behind a French restaurant, situated on the high ground, are half a dozen stone steps leading down to the water's edge.  Three boats lay moored there on Wednesday afternoon.  A dark-eyed, dark-complexioned woman, with a brilliant scarlet shawl covering her head, picked her way carefully down to one of the boats.  She placed one foot on the prow, exposing just the least portion of a well-turned ankle.  In that position the woman stood for at least a minute, evidently debating whether she would go afloat or stay ashore.

The rain-kissed cliffs, dark and sombre:  the trees arched and entertwined over the stream, and the gaudy shawl over the gracefully posed figure, standing like a statue, made a study rarely seen except on canvas.  THE WORLD men watched this picture until the principal figure upset the romance altogether by yanking a couple of big eels out of the boat and skinning them.  The inspection was then continued for the time being on foot.  The 'rocking boulder' is a huge mass of stone weighing perhaps forty tons.  During some prehistoric convulsion of nature it had been so cast as to become poised with the greatest nicety on a rocky pivot.  A touch with the hand will set it swaying, and immediately provoke a fear that it is about to crash into the river below, but thee big rock only moves a certain distance.  Beyond that point the balance is destroyed and it cannot be budged.

The rain began to increase in force while the boulder was being examined, but that did not prevent a trip to the dam, where the gentle stream becomes angry and dashes in volume over a wooden ledge breaking into a white foam on the rocks below.  Of course the camera was brought into play again and a good picture was taken.  The scene at this point is one of rare beauty.  Luxuriant Virginia creepers cover the faces of the rocky walls that form the miniature canyon.  Half a dozen varieties of wild flowers blossom on both banks, and around the gnarled and knotted trunks of aged trees twines the clinging ivy far up into the branches and hanging over the stream in festoons.  Indeed, the whole place hereabouts is like one vast botanical garden.  There has been little or no interference with nature, and she is seen in all her virgin attractiveness.

Further up stream the river leaves its rocky confines and twines through a country where the bans slope gently down to the water's edge and the surface of the ground is clothed with spear grass a foot high.

The rain began to come down in greater volume, and the inspectors were forced to take shelter in their buggy.  Driving along Briggs avenue they struck the old Boston post road, and twenty minutes later were abreast of the Tilden estate, near the junction of the two roads.  A hedge-and-stone fence incloses the property, and at the entrance gate is nailed a big sign.  'Beware of the Dog!'  Sites were of more importance than dogs at the moment, and the grounds were invaded.  The visitors were welcomed with an inquiring look from a half-grown mastiff, chained to a kennel, but there was no further hostile demonstration.  A bright-faced woman, with a paper cap on her head, came out of the house, and, in response to the request that the roof of the house might be visited, led the way up three flights of stairs and then up a step ladder, and out through a scuttle.  The camera was hauled up, and the visitors looked about them.

They had not seen a more glorious sight since the trip was begun.  The Tilden house is on the highest ground between the Boston post road and the East Chester road, and the range of vision from the roof extends to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island.  On a clear day these points are distinctly visible, but in the rain and mist of Wednesday only the faintest outline could be seen.  This disappointment was made up by two other good views.  The Bronx was in sight, winding like a leaden-colored thread through the vale, and to the south Pelham Bay was visible.  The camera was pointed at the railroad bridge crossing the bay.

With a true devotion to art, the photographer artist took off his coat to cover his head and exclude the light while he got a focus.  The camera rested on a broad rail that surrounds the cupola.  It took both hands to hold it, for the wind was blowing hard.  There was such an apparent wobble at the first exposure that a second attempt was made, but with no better results.  The guide was very much interested in the work and was full of regrets because of the unfavorable weather.  An attempt to get a full view of Bronx Park did not meet with success, either, the light becoming obscured and making objects a hundred yards distant invisible.  An obliging real estate agent furnished the area of Bronx Park as 650 acres, which the inspectors afterwards found to be slightly incorrect.  The official acreage is given as 653.  Access is had by the Third Avenue L road beyond the Harlem, by the Hudson and Harlem River four-track depressed road, and by many beautiful driveways.  It is expected that by the latter part of 1891 the various lines comprising the suburban rapid transit system will be in operation, giving an increase in transportation facilities of at least 75 per cent.  The pictures reproduced below were taken under difficulties before the Tilden mansion was entered.

Pelham Bay Park.

The mare's head was turned south, and after a sloppy drive of half an hour on the East Chester road, Pelham avenue was taken.  It was the intention to cross the bay near the railroad bridge, but the road was found to be submerged and there were no landmarks to indicate its location.  A wide detour was made along Pelham road to the Middletown pike, and thence to Pelham Bridge, which was crossed about 5 o'clock.  The wind had increased to a gale, and the rain was coming down in sheets.  Bartow was the first stop made.  Hotel accommodations there did not promise much, and the journey was continued over the Bartow City Island road, on which a funny little one-horse car runs through the woods to the bridge that spans Pelham Cove, connecting the mainland with City Island.  Pelham Park contains the greatest area of any of the sites proposed, either public or private.  Seventeen hundred and fifty acres was the purchase made by the city after the passage of the bitterly contested act providing for additional breathing-room for the rapidly growing metropolis.  It extends from the new proposed city line down to a narrow peninsula jutting out into Pelham Bay.  Its eastern and southern boundaries are formed by Long Island Sound and the narrow channel called Pelham Cove, which runs between it and City Island.

The upper western boundary is the Hutchinson River, named after Mrs. Anne Hutchinson,
[Continued on Tenth Page.]

[Continued from ninth page.]

the puritan heroine, who was massacred by the Indians.  The name of Pelham is derived from the family of Pell, who, up to within a few years, were as numerous as the Tituses are on Long Island to-day.  There are still two of the original stock left -- Cyrus Pell and his father.  Cyrus is one of the characters of City Island and is known to every man, woman and child for miles around.  There has never been a storm severe enough to frighten him out of his boat, and he is noted for the hardy recklessness with which he will set out in the teeth of the most terrible gale that ever was known on the Sound.  He knows every foot of ground in Pelham and every fathom of water that washes its coast.


It was at Pelham Neck that Gen. Howe, with 4,000 red-coats, was defeated by a handful of American patriots under Glover, and all during the Revolution the territory was the theatre of some of the most stirring scenes in the war for independence.  While interesting to the student of Colonial history, Pelham furnishes abundant material for the delver into the manners and customs of the aboriginal inhabitants.  It was the home of the warlike Mohegans, whose mounds can still be seen near the old Rapelyea estate.  Stone arrow-head and stone spears have been found.  Twenty years ago a curious document, written in hieroglyphics on sheepskin, was discovered in the extreme northern portion, near the Hunter estate.  It was cached in a stone box with a stone lid.  The finder was a stranger who announced his intention of depositing the relic with the Smithsonian Institute, but he never kept his word, as inquiry established.

As a site for the Exposition of 1892, Pelham Bay Park presents features found in none of the tracts which THE WORLD men had visited up to Wednesday night.  It has nine miles of coast line, indented at intervals with coves and bays.  On the Sound side there is an average depth of six fathoms of water.  There is only a short line of reef on which the breakers dash.  At the extreme end of of the peninsula the depth is still greater, but the current is swift and strong.  On the bay side the lead gives and average depth of five fathoms in the channel, gradually becoming shallower until the head of navigation on the river is reached.  The facilities for transportation by water are super-abundant.

As to the configuration of the land Pelham has fully the same diversity as any of the other sites suggested.  With one exception the roads are poor, but there is as much hill and dale as in Van Cortlandt, and more woodland than in Riverside and Inwood.  The entire section north and northwest of Bartow is heavily timbered.  Murmuring brooklets wind along mossy banks in the east, and hilly scenery relieves the monotony of the low lands in the west.  A fairly good idea of the character of the country an be gained from the cuts printed herewith.  The best and most comprehensive view is that of Prospect Hill, where the artist was obliged to make a pen sketch.  The wind would not permit the camera to stand.  To get to Pelham by rail, the Portchester and Harlem Railroad offers the only accommodations just now.  To get there by water, any sort of craft from a yacht to a three-thousand ton steamer can reach.

Near the City Hall.

The storm, which had been increasing in fury, became a veritable hurricane by 9 o'clock Wendesday night and had not abated a whit when THE WORLD'S inspectors of sites awakened at 6 o'clock Thursday morning.  Instead of decreasing the force of the wind became greater, and it looked as though an attempt to start away from City Island would result in an overturned buggy.  After an impatient wait of five hours, however, a start was made in the teeth of the gale, and hard travelling it proved to be.  The roads were seas of mud.  Down on the Bartow road, near Fox's Corner, where the wagon way is built across a cove, the road was entirely submerged.  The little mare was urged forward and she plunged on steadily until the water reached her belly and covered the hubs of the wheels.  

Higher ground was soon reached, and with it innumerable gullies and washouts.  The route taken was along the Fordham and Pelham road to Fordham Heights, and thence down Jerome avenue on good hard ground to the two proposed sites near Mott Haven, where there are more railway facilities than at any of the locations yet named.

One of these borders on the Harlem River, which forms its western boundary.  It extends to a wedge-shaped point to where One Hundred and Sixty-ninth street would be if continued in a straight line, Jerome avenue bounding it on the north and Mott avenue on the southeast.  Jerard avenue runs through the centre from north to south, and the New York City and Harlem River Railroad cuts through its lower extremity.

Cedar Park, the only public ground in the territory, forms a very small portion of it, and is down near the southeastern corner.  The rest is all private property, owned by the Astor estate.

The tract, which consists of 250 acres, is certainly beautifully located, and is within a stone's throw of Melrose Station, past which all the trains on the New York and Harlem, and New York and New Haven Railroads pass.  The proposed Suburban Rapid Transit road will run within a hundred yards of the territory.  There is an ample supply of water, and good natural drainage because of the rolling character of the land.

The other site in the same neighborhood which the inspectors surveyed consists of Claremont Park, with an area of thirty-eight acres, and Fleetwood, with seventy acres.  There is a stretch of private party between the two which would bring the total area up to something like 200 acres, and that would form a tract extending from One Hundred and Sixty-fifth to One Hundred and Seventy-second street -- a good mile and a quarter, although the naming of the streets indicates only seven blocks.  Morrisania station, on the New York and Harlem and New York Central is the principal railroad depot in the vicinity.  A fairly good picture was obtained from the rear of Judge Smith's.  It gives an idea of the lay of the land.

Advantages of Hunt's Point.

There was no cessation of rain or wind as the inspectors turned to drive to the most accessible by water of all the proposed sites -- Hunt's Point.  The route led down Jerome avenue to One Hundred and Sixty-third street, thence to Prospect avenue, over a wretchedly muddy road, then into West Chester avenue and from there along the Boulevard to Hunt's Point road, which leads down to the point.  This tract is bounded on the north by the Bronx River, on the south and east by Long Island Sound, and on the west by the rails of the Harlem River branch of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.  That portion proposed to be devoted to the uses of the Exposition has an area of about four hundred acres, and runs back from the coast line on both sides of the peninsula to the Hunt's Point road, and from Leggett's Creek to the river.

On the water-front it embraces Oak Point, Leggett's Point and Barretto.  Seven miles of coast line, and an average depth of seven fathoms of water all around, offer ample anchorage for an extensive fleet of passenger and freight carrying vessels.  The territory possesses all the advantages of Pelham Bay Park, and is seven miles nearer the City hall.  While the nearest railroad now is the Harlem River branch of the N.Y., N.H. & H. RR., there are numerous points at which this line could be tapped without much expensive blasting or filling in.

The scenery on the coast is rugged, and inland it is fully as picturesque as in Pelham Bay Park.  There is a good growth of timber, and enough rock formation to furnish stone for building purposes.  The soil near the coast is a sandy loam, and further back in the woodland it is a rich mould.  Vegetation is luxuriant from one extremity to the other.  A good deal of clearing would have to be done, and some solid ground made where it is now marshy, near Barretto, but the area where these improvements would have to be made is inconsequential.  In view of the advantages that would be derived by having the World's Fair located on their holdings, property-owners generally express a willingness to sell their land for a nominal sum or for the payment of taxes.  No part of the ground is owned by the city.

THE WORLD'S inspectors made this last survey late at night, long after the time when photographs could be taken or pencil sketches made.  The mare's head was turned homeward, and THE WORLD office was reached at 2 o'clock Friday morning, after a buggy ride of seventy-one miles, in a severe storm, and over roads that with very few exceptions were almost impassable of the sites inspected the Van Cortlandt Park was the most beautiful, Pelham Bay Park the largest and furthest off, Riverside and Morningside the smallest, and Hunt's Point, the nearest, with a good water front and sufficient territory."

Source:  EXPOSITION SITES, The World [NY, NY], Sep. 15, 1889, p. 9, cols. 1-5 & p. 10, cols. 1-2 (Note:  Only Pelham images have been included with this transcription; other images excluded).

"Looking South From Pelham Bridge" and "Prospect Hill Looking West"
Source:  EXPOSITION SITESThe World [NY, NY], Sep. 15, 1889,
p. 10, cols. 1-2 (Note:  Click on Image to Enlarge).

"From Bartow's Looking South" and "Picnic Point"
Source:  EXPOSITION SITESThe World [NY, NY], Sep. 15, 1889,
p. 10, cols. 1-2 (Note:  Click on Image to Enlarge).

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More Pelham Trivia!

How well do you know the Town of Pelham?  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog poses another handful of trivia questions to test your knowledge of your hometown.  I have posted such Historic Pelham trivia teasers before.  See:

Thu., Nov. 06, 2014:  Historic Pelham Trivia Test: One of the World's Most Difficult Exams!

Wed., Jul. 22, 2015:  More Pelham Trivia.

Here are today's questions.  Good luck!

Question 1:  Travers Island in Pelham Manor is the second home of the New York Athletic Club and has been an important factor in the success of so many Olympians who have been members of the club.  How many Olympic medals and Olympic gold medals have the New York Athletic Club athletes won?  Additionally, how many sovereign nations have won fewer Olympic medals than the athletes of the New York Athletic Cllub?

Question 2:  Can you name the former Presidents of the United States whose last names happen to be the same as the name of at least one roadway within the Town of Pelham?  

Question 3:  Can you name the Pelhamite who gave musical instruction to Albert Einstein?

Question 4:  If a jet aircraft were to fly eastward along the meridian from Pelham, in what European mainland nation would it reach the first land after crossing the Atlantic Ocean?

Question 5:  The Town of Pelham was founded by New York State law in 1788.  Of the 195 sovereign states that can be described as indisputably sovereign, how many were founded AFTER the Town of Pelham and, thus, are younger than the Town of Pelham?


Answer to Question 1:  As of early 2017, N.Y.A.C. athletes haved won 248 Olympic medals, 131 of which have been Olympic gold medals.  Only twenty-two of the world's nations have athletes who have won more Olympic medals than the athletes of the New York Athletic Club
See New York Athletic Club, Olympic History (visited May 21, 2017). 
See also "All-Time Olympic Games Medal Table" in Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (visited May 21, 2017).

Answer to Question 2:  Former U.S. Presidents whose last names are the same as the name of at least one roadway in Pelham are Grant, Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Monroe and Washington.  [Tip of the hat to Joe Gallello who reminded the author of Monroe Street!]

Answer to Question 3:  In 1934 Pelham resident Toscha Seidel gave violin instruction to Albert Einstein, and received a sketch in return, reportedly diagramming length contraction of his theory of relativity in the sketch.  See Wed., Dec. 28, 2016:  Violin Virtuoso Toscha Seidel, And Famed Dog Hector, Lived in Pelham.

Answer to Question 4:  An aircraft traveling eastward along the meridian from the Town of Pelham would reach the European mainland in Portugal first.

Answer to Question 5: Of the 195 sovereign states that can be described as indisputably sovereign, 133 were founded AFTER the Town of Pelham and, thus, are younger than the Town of Pelham.  See "List of Sovereign States by Date of Formation" in Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (visited May 21, 2017).

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."

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Debates Over Consolidating Pelham's Three Villages in 1923

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

An ancient proverb suggesting that opposing
parties can work together against a common

"The consolidation of the Pelhams into a city to avoid
the loss of authority [due to annexation by New York
City or Westchester County] would be a good move if
the desire originated from the residents themselves but
to most of us the 'City of Pelham' would be repugnant.
As a refuge it might be tolerated."

Editor of The Pelham Sun in 1923 commenting on a
plan to merge the three villages of Pelham and designate
Pelham as a City to enable it to avoid annexation.

"[I]t was the general belief of the members of the committee 
[of Pelhamites] that a consolidation could be effected with a saving
to the taxpayers and a definite plan which would show these
advantages would receive the approval of s sufficient number
of the taxpayers to make it feasible."

Sep. 14, 1923 Pelham Sun Report on the work of an
influential town committee studying the feasibility of
the consolidation of the three villages of The Pelhams.

Pelham was under siege In 1923.  The behemoth known as New York City that bordered the Town of Pelham on one side was looking to expand yet again, placing Pelham within the cross-hairs of another annexation, this one a full-blown annexation of the entire town.  The County of Westchester, at the same time, seemed fearful of the same fate.  Thus, the county was contemplating the creation of a "City of Westchester" that would include the entire Town of Pelham (and other Westchester towns) with a commission form of government to block annexation of parts of the County such as the Town of Pelham by the City of New York.  The three villages of Pelham, in short, feared loss of self-government.  Suddenly, for the first time, Pelhamites were at least open to the idea of consolidation of the three villages as a defensive measure. The three villages explored merging and then converting to a city form of government to make annexation more difficult.

I have written about these developments before.  In fact, I once wrote regarding the 1923 consolidation initiative:  "Learning of this, one might be tempted to glance at the calendar. Might today be April Fools Day? Have we slipped into an alternate universe where our consciousness and memories remain the same but our collective history is different than what we previously thought? No. . . . ."  It really happened.  The initiative died, of course, when New York City rumblings of annexation died and Westchester County's own defensive annexation measures were abandoned.  See Wed., Jul. 29, 2015:  The Three Villages of Pelham Embraced the Notion of Consolidation in 1923 as a Defensive Measure

Today's Historic Pelham article explores more about the serious initiative to merge the three villages of The Pelhams in 1923.  It also transcribes a series of articles not transcribed in the July 29, 2015 article on the same topic.

Pelham residents were so fearful of losing home rule that they seriously considered consolidation of all three villages in 1923.  The Men's Club of the Pelhams constituted a "Committee of Fifteen" to hold public hearings in Pelham and to perform two tasks:  (1) monitor and report on the status of Westchester County's proposal to create a county-wide form of government that would usurp those of towns and villages throughout the county; and (2) analyze the feasibility of consolidating the three villages of the Pelhams as part of a defensive measure to block annexation by either Westchester County or New York City.  

Almost immediately the Committee of Fifteen (five notable residents from each of the three villages) discerned a common thread of thought among Pelham residents.  Most felt that consolidating the three villages and converting the Town to a City was not an optimal solution -- not because of consolidation, but because Pelham residents did not feel their little town felt like a city and, frankly, did not want it labeled as a city.

The Committee of Fifteen struggled to find some form of solution to the problem as they worked to come up with a proposal likely to pass a vote of taxpayers in the Pelhams.  In April, the committee released a report that said in part:

"It is averse to the feelings of many of us to think of the Pelhams as a city.  As an alternative, we might adopt the city charter and operate under the title of a district council, embracing all three villages and having representation according to assessed valuation.  Thus none of the component parts of the district would lose their individuality -- it would still be Pelham Manor, Pelham and North Pelham, although the governing body might be termed the Pelham district council.  By some plan of this nature we can prevent our village government being taken from us, we can retain our own powers of taxation and expend our town moneys raised by such taxation, if there is a deep sentiment for such consolidation."  (See below.)

The suggestion that representation in such a district council would be based on assessed valuation did not sit well with the Village of North Pelham.  It understood such a mechanism would give the Village of Pelham Manor much more powerful representation than the Village of North Pelham and the Village of Pelham.  The Board of Trustees of the Village of North Pelham passed a lengthy resolution condemning representation based on assessed valuation and asserting that it would be unconstitutional.  The resolution, quoted within an article transcribed in full below, conveniently summarized the entire history of the events that led to the movement to consolidate the three villages and is required reading for students of the history of efforts to merge the villages.

With failure of the so-called Wallin plan to create a City of Westchester and annex Pelham, the consolidation movement in Pelham collapsed until its resurrection in the 1970s when the Village of North Pelham and the Village of Pelham successfully merged.

1950 Map of the Town of Pelham Showing the Town
Bounded by the City of New York, the City of Mount
Vernon and the City of New Rochelle. NOTE: Click
on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          * 

Below is the text of a number of consolidation articles that were not transcribed as part of the July 29, 2015 article on the same topic.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"Letters to the Editor
Twenty Days And Fifteen Days

To the Editor Pelham Sun: --

Dear Sir -- As a seeker after information regarding methods in our village elections I naturally write to the local paper.  Can you tell me how and when the village elections are held?  I believe it is sometime in the spring but would like authoritative information on the matter.  Also what is necessary in order to file independent nominations?

I notice that Scarsdale is planning to have special legislation to make it a town in order to avoid the loss of its governmental authority which will ensue if this County Commission goes into effect.  Would not that be good for Pelham too to do so?

Why is it that Pelham Heights does not relegate the duties of tax collector to the tax receiver as the other villages in Pelham have done?  Is there any reason, and if there is anyone interested in blocking such consolidation what is the reason, who is the person and why are they doing it?

I could ask a great many more questions regarding local conditions here but if you can answer these for me in your next issue you will get the thanks of, 

Yours truly, 


(Editor's Note -- Village elections are held each year on the second Tuesday in March.  Village officials are elected for one-year terms with the exception of the trustees who serve for two years.  Regular party nominations must be filed with the village clerk not more than thirty nor less than twenty days before election.  Independent nominations can be filed up to within 15 days of election day.  Candidates for office are selected by village committees of the respective parties, which then hold a primary election about three weeks before the regular election.  There has been but one party in Pelham Manor and Pelham Heights for several years.  North Pelham usually has candidates for village offices from both parties.

The consolidation of the Pelhams into a city to avoid the loss of authority would be a good move if the desire originated from the residents themselves but to most of us the 'City of Pelham' would be repugnant.  As a refuge it might be tolerated.

In answer to your third series of questions, the power to delegate the duties of village tax-collector to the town tax receiver rests solely in the judgment of the Board of Trustees.  Centralization along these lines should result in a lesser amount of unpaid taxes on the books, and a cheaper method of collection apparently.  We know of no person 'blocking' such a consolidation.  We suggest you apply direct to the village board of Pelham Heights for a reason for not consolidating these offices.)"

Source:  Letters to the Editor -- Twenty Days And Fifteen Days, The Pelham Sun, Jan. 19, 1923, Vol. 13, No. 47, p. 2, col. 2.  

"The New Letters of Frank Lee Pickenolla

To Hon. Ex-Mayor Wallin,
Yonkers, N. Y.

My Dear Bill -- 

The general opinion seems to be that the suggested County Commission is dead, but I don't believe it.  I believe that any time you get into your head something that ought to be done you're going to stick until it is done or killed by the vote of the people.  And your old side kick, Harry Barrett, is another one of the bulldog type, too.

Bill, the Commission plan is fundamentally good, but there's a lot of opposition coming from the rural sections and it's determined opposition, too.  What is the reason for it?  Chiefly the fear of loss of close-to-home government.  That's right, isn't it?  Well, now, the aim of the Commission is to improve county government.  You can't perhaps point to where the present system has fallen down, but you can see where it has failed to progress, and it is in the move for progress that you want to lead.  Very laudable, Bill; very laudable.

Now, about the opposition.  Methinks you could remove a lot of it by a statement that local government is going to continue.  Scarsdale is organizing itself to adopt a city charter.  That's a movement of defense which has set a lot of Pelham minds considering its advisability.  Not that we want a city of Pelham.  Heavens, no!  But Bill, if the charter provided for a consolidation of some of these rural sections into districts, with a self-governing district council which would take over the functions of town and village boards combined I believe much of the opposition would fade away.  Take the Pelhams, for instance.  Suppose the three were consolidated, not so that their names are changed but so that they are governed by a district council with representatives enough to adequately represent the people, his board to control the local streets, the fire department, local sewers, and to maintain its own road-making and mending equipment.

The County Commission to establish a main sewer system, with disposal plants in various parts of the county.  All sewers could then be run by gravity system, and where it is necessary for one community to send its sewerage through another community by reason of topographical conditions it would be through the main county sewer system, the volume metered and charged up to the various localities from whence it was derived, who will pay for it in a county tax.  All local connections to be under local district council supervision, and be a district-wide charge.

Water supply should be a county matter on a main line system, the county to maintain sources of supply and filtration and delivery to the borders of districts and cities, the supply there to be metered.  All the distributing system within the municipality to be under ownership and control of that local district council I spoke about.

[Illegible] headquarters [illegible] in every district, a pension for efficient service, with a big chance of promotion for a good cop -- a little army as it were, charged with the defeat of evil.

I believe, too, Bill, in a county fire department, where we can get men skilled in the mechanics of the expensive equipment which we taxpayers pay for, as the backbone of our volunteer system, but I wouldn't destroy our volunteer system for anything.  Only give it a backbone of skilled fire mechanics, if I can use that term, controlled locally by the fire committee of the district council with a representative on a county board.

Wouldn't it be a fine thing, Bill, if each district could maintain its own roadmaking and mending department under supervision of the district engineer.  It would do away with contracts and there would be enough work to keep it going the year around -- in winter using scrapers and equipment for snow removal.  Garbage removal on a town basis with an incinerator to burn the refuse should be profitable, especially if they had a market for empty bottles.

Bill, I don't believe your County Commission can get by unless some feeling of surety is given to localities that their local government will not be interfered with.  Show them that and I think fifty per cent of the opposition will disappear.  But hurry up, Bill, or New York will gobble you for sure and your City of Yonkers will get its orders from Tammany Hall.  Well, Yonkers is a carpet town and every carpet has a beating coming to it.  So here's to the City of Scarsdale where the houses are far apart, but the people are close together.

Yours truly,

Source:  The New Letters of Frank Lee Pickenolla, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 16, 1923, Vol. 14, No. 3, p. 2, cols. 4-5.  

"The Consolidation of the Pelhams


Members of the Men's Club are on Tuesday to have a free discussion of the advisability of consolidating the three villages comprising the Town of Pelham and adopting a form of charter which will enable it to resist the threatened encroachment on home rule rights which a County Government Commission will have.  

As the matter now stands, the City of Westchester is a ghost its life has been officially killed, but its specter is seen guiding the hands of those who are developing the County Commission plan which proposes to take over the powers of government in the county, and its ephemeral body may suddenly assume a solidity which will result in legislation looking toward a charter for the creation of a city out of considerable portion of Westchester County.

And we are given to understand on no less an authority than William L. Ward, chairman of the Republican County Committee of Westchester, and political boss, that such an application for a city charter can be made effective without a referendum to the people.  

The county commission anticipates a charter 'elastic enough' to use the words of William Wallin, to take over the duties of village government if the commission deems it necessary.  So if the commission consummates its plans the 'close-to-home' government of the Pelhams may be suddenly taken from us and centered in White Plains.

There is a danger, plain, and it is up to every member of the Men's Cub of the Town of Pelham to give to the matter earnest thought.  We want to retain for the Pelhams its own local government, spending the money collected by taxes levied by our own government in our own locality.  This would not be possible if our governing powers here are removed.

The Pelhams are an entity developing along splendid lines by men imbued with civic pride, who give their services gratis.  It is the highest type of democratic government and must be preserved if at all possible.

What plans can be taken will be stated at Tuesday's meeting."

Source:  The Consolidation of the Pelhams, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 6, 1923, Vol. 14, No. 6, p. 2, col. 1.


The monthly meeting of the Men's club of the Pelhams will take place at the Memorial high school this evening and the subject which will be under consideration is one that concerns every resident of the town viz consolidation of the three villages.  When the consolidation of the three villages was first suggested there was protests from the villages and each based objection on the theory that fractional struggles would destroy self-government.  Since then, however, an educational campaign has been carried on with the result that more people are of the opinion that the one municipality can be operated at far less expense than at present, it is said.  The Men's club has already placed itself upon record as opposing the Westchester county government plan unless small municipalities are guaranteed self government.  They also see danger of a further expansion of Greater New York which will include much of Westchester county.  At tonight's meeting the question will be discussed from every angle and the result given to the public, it is declared."

Source:  Pelham -- MERGING 3 VILLAGES TO BE CONSIDERED AT MEETING TONIGHT, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 10, 1923, p. 12, col. 2.  

"To Sound People's Views As to Consolidating Three Pelham Villages

North Pelham, April 17 -- The Men's Club of the Pelhams has passed a resolution appointing a committee of fifteen to hold public hearings on the question of the consolidation of the villages of North Pelham, Pelham, and Pelham Manor, as a protective measure against the Westchester County government commission, which, it fears, will deprive the villages of much of their local governing powers if passed.  The committee consists of David Lyon, John T. Brook, Thomas Kennett, Roy P. Brainard, F. C. Henderschott and Dr. Russell K. Bryer of North Pelham; Judge William L. Ransom, Robert A. Holmes, Howard Davis, Benjamin L. Fairchild, and Merton C. Robbins of Pelham, and Harry T. Grant, Lawrence F. Sherman, Richard H. Lee and R. Clifford Black of Pelham Manor.

The committee in the report submitted said in part:

'It is averse to the feelings of many of us to think of the Pelhams as a city.  As an alternative, we might adopt the city charter and operate under the title of a district council, embracing all three villages and having representation according to assessed valuation.  Thus none of the component parts of the district would lose their individuality -- it would still be Pelham Manor, Pelham and North Pelham, although the governing body might be termed the Pelham district council.  By some plan of this nature we can prevent our village government being taken from us, we can retain our own powers of taxation and expend our town moneys raised by such taxation, if there is a deep sentiment for such consolidation.  In closing this report, your committee begs further to state that the vigor with which the Wallin commission plan is being pushed makes it a matter to be deeply considered, and we recommend that a committee of representative citizens of the Pelhams be formed now to ascertain the sentiment of the people toward a consolidation or what other protective steps be taken.'"

Source:  To Sound People's Views As to Consolidating Three Pelham Villages, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 17, 1923, p. 12, cols. 3-4.  

"North Pelham Officials Oppose Merger Plan

North Pelham, April 24 -- Resolved, that the board of trustees of North Pelham is opposed to any consolidation wherein representation is based on assessed valuation.  It is the opinion of this board that representation of this character is contrary to the spirit of the constitution of the United States.  This motion made by Trustee Johnson of Chester Park, was unanimously carried by the village board.  The action came in answer to the report of the committee appointed by the Men's Club of the Pelhams appointed to investigate the Westchester county government of the Pelhams; and if the home rule of the Pelhams is jeopardized, to suggest a remedy.  Portions of the findings of the committee were published in these columns last week, but to get a proper focus of the situation it is herewith given in its entirety:

'Your committee to which was referred the work of investigating and making a report on the plan for creating a city of Westchester out of the present county of Westchester hereby begs to report as follows:  Early in 1922, Surrogate Judge George A. Slater, in addressing a gathering of school teachers in Port Chester declared his opinion in effect that before two years had passed Westchester county would adopt a form of government which would virtually make a city out of Westchester county.  This followed the approval by the voters at the fall election in 1921 of a proposition to change the form of government in Westchester and Nassau counties.  Judge Slater's speech was given a great deal more publicity than its casual utterance would seem to warrant and coincident with it came a renewed activity on the part of the county commission, a body which originally intended to formulate some plan for the improvement of Westchester county government, but had not accomplished anything definite since its organization in 1914.  Its membership at that time numbered seven.

'The city of Westchester plan as it was called, at once became a vital topic of discussion.  Its dangers to the Pelhams were realized as the plan then was stated to consider the abolition of the board of supervisors and its replacement as governing authority by a commission of five or a cabinet form of government, such as is in successful operation today in many second class cities.

'In an effort to defeat the plan the board of supervisors to abolish the county commission, and intense political activity was directed against this action so that it was lost, and soon afterward an act of the legislature on February 6, 1922, empowered the board of supervisors to enlarge the membership of the commission to thirty-two and gave to the commission powers to expend such amounts of money as was deemed necessary to pursue investigation toward improving the county form of government.

'From out of their deliberations of almost a year has arisen one plan, definite, and with strong political backing, which will place the government of Westchester county in the hands of a county president, with almost despotic powers over the destinies of Westchester county.  At first this plan called for the creation of a commission of five, three of the members to be elected and two appointed by the county commissioner, thus giving the chief commissioner control of the board by his appointive power of two members.  Lately, in the face of opposition, this plan has been altered, and the tentative charter which is already in printed form, embraces a board of seven members.

'At the head of the board is the county president, an elective office.  With him are also elected a county vice-president and a county commissioner of finance.  The other four members of the board , a county commissioner of public welfare, a county engineer, a county attorney and a county sealer of weights and measures, are appointed by the county president, thus again centralizing the control in the hands of the president by virtue of his appointive power.  This has not yet been officially approved.  The charter is only tentative.

'The text of the charter is virtually the same as that under which cities of the second class operate, such as Yonkers, for instance.  Its first intent was to make of the board of supervisors purely a legislative body, and subject all its acts to the veto of the county commissioner, but the late plan now makes it possible for the supervisors to pass an ordinance over the president's veto by a three-fourths majority of all the members of the board of supervisors.

'In this plan, known as the Wallin plan, by reason of its sponsor being ex-Mayor William Wallin of Yonkers, a board of estimate consisting of the president and commissioner of finance, county attorney and county engineer, has control over all financial matters of the county.

'An alternative plan has been submitted by Commissioner Morse which retains the board of supervisors as the executive control of the county.  In this plan the county president is elected by a county wide vote, the number of supervisors is reduced from 41 to 17, this reduction being accomplished by grouping all townships of less than 10,000 population, and naming them districts for the election of a single supervisor.  Under this plan Pelham would be grouped with Eastchester in one district.  The representation of the cities to be based on assessed valuation.  There would be no board of estimate and apportionment.

'In connection with the Wallin plan, it must be remembered that Mr. Wallin has gone on record publicly as stating that the plan is elastic enough to take over the administration of village government if such a course is deemed necessary.  Wherein does the proposed county commission plan of government hold anything at all of benefit to the Pelhams?  We are told in a large way that the centralization of authority also means a centralization of responsibility, but what assurance have we that we can find the right man to assume all this responsibility which will go with the office of county president, especially as the office is a political one and politics is today more a matter of popularity than of merit.  The centralization of so much authority in one man may be good in business but politics is not business and generally speaking, political authority is used as a means of handing out patronage to a favored crowd who are looking for soft jobs at the taxpayers' expense.

'We would perhaps favor consolidation of government in Westchester county if various cities, towns and villages which lie within its boundaries had grown to such an extent that the population was congested, the various districts overlapped each other and conditions prevailed such as are generally found today in real cities.  In that case the many units of government in Westchester would conflict with the other.  That however, is not the case.  The smaller units of government deal with clearly defined territories each an entity in itself and each enjoying the advantages of a 'close-to-home' government, the fundamental idea of democracy.

'We cannot see where the centralization of executive and financial of the county at White Plains can hold out any advantages to the Pelhams, and we wish to go on record as strongly opposed to it.  The opposition to the county commission plan has caused Scarsdale to prepare as a protective measure, legislature which if carried out will give to it a city charter and thus retain for it its home rule.  This may be considered a panicky move having regard to the population and position of Scarsdale, but it is evidence that the inhabitants of Scarsdale are alive to their interests and do not intend to be caught napping.

'We might ask:  Wherein is the county commission plan inimical to the interests of the Pelhams?  In the tentative charter as printed and now under consideration by the county commission the powers of the board are started in part with a blank left for the insertion of specific grants of power.  This brings the mind back to the statement of the sponsor of the plan, William Wallin, that the powers of the commission would be elastic enough to take over the control of the villages. We believe that such a statement would not have been made unless there was a clear thought that at some future time such a course would be taken.  And if the commission is to be imbued with that power then residents and taxpayers in the villages will have no voice in the matter regardless of how much they might desire to protest against such a course of action.

'So we are faced with a plan which may take away our village government and we shall be governed from White Plains.  We wish to state emphatically that we consider this course inimical to the interests of the Pelhams.  We have a community here which has governed itself, raised and expended its own money in developing a beautiful, homelike community in which we delight to live, and we should be prepared to make a vigorous fight to retain our individuality.  With a commission of seven governing the county and a board of estimate of but five, what would be the probable expenditure of money in the Pelhams as compared to the amount raised here.  The demands of the cities with their larger voting power, always a consideration in a politically created body, would be the first to be met and the rest can be easily imagined.  At the present time may of the little complaints which are always cropping up, are remedied quickly by our village boards; under the county plan we may be compelled to go to White Plains where we should probably find that the man who had so much responsibility centered on him would be too busy to listen to us.

'Another menace to our villages can be seen in the action taken recently by the city of New York which instructed a committee of experts to investigate and report on the desirablility of annexing all territory within 25 miles of the city hall, Westchester county is being looked upon with covetous eyes, and one of our villages may be the first to be sacrificed, as the annexing of villages does not present insurmountable obstacles, especially villages such as ours with low bonded indebtedness.  In a short time subways will branch out to Mount Vernon's business section, Yonkers and New Rochelle.  It is a logical happening.

'Is there any protective measure which might retain for us our home rule?  Scarsdale, as previously mentioned, has prepared legislation toward the creation of a city and by this method protecting itself.  Pelham is more favorably situated to accomplish the same thing.  We have three villages which have so grown together that the border lines have become indistinct -- we already have community institutions embracing the whole township of which the Men's club is one of the foremost, and one which could wield a vast influence in the matter.  We are today thinking in terms of Pelham as a whole rather than of any of the three villages.  Yet there continues a triplication and duplication of offices which we believe could be more economically administered under one head.  As a consolidated government more effective administration would result.

'It is averse to the feelings of many of us to think of the Pelhams as a city.  As an alternative, we might adopt the city charter and operate under the the title of a district council embracing all three villages and having representation according to assessed valuation.  Thus none of the component parts of the district would lose their individuality, it would still be Pelham Manor.  Pelham and North Pelham, although the governing body might be termed the Pelham District Council.

'By some plan of this nature we can prevent our village government being taken from us, we can retain our own powers of taxation and expend in our own town moneys raised by such taxation, if there is a deep sentiment for such consolidation.  In closing this report, your committee begs further to state that the vigor with which the Wallin commission plan is being pushed makes it a matter to be deeply considered, and we recommend that a committee of representative citizens of the Pelhams be formed now to ascertain the sentiment of the people toward a consolidation or what other protective steps be taken.'

It was the suggestion made above 'having representation according to assessed valuation' which caused trustee DeFreest to introduce his resolution.  There is a general opinion, however, that the resolution passed by the village board was unnecessary as the plan was only tentatively  suggested by the committee of the Men's club and the committee of fifteen which has been appointed with former village president Harry W. Nuckols of Pelham Manor at the head, will hold a series of meetings in the three villages and sound public opinion."

Source:  North Pelham Officials Oppose Merger Plan, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 24, 1923, p. 14, cols. 3-5.  

New Proposal Seeks to Establish a County Board of Supervisors Superior to Present Town Board -- Will Be Discussed At Meeting At Commodore Hotel On Wednesday.

Members of the County Commission which is formulating a new plan for government of Westchester county will meet at the Commodore Hotel on Wednesday night at 6.30 o'clock.

Commissioner Morse will present an alternative plan for changing the present method of government.  The new scheme embraces a consolidation of some of the towns of the county and electing from such consolidated towns a county supervisor who would be a member of a board of county supervisors.

This plan contemplates the retention of the present town supervisors, and makes the county supervisor the representative of the consolidated districts.

Consolidation of the various towns would be made on a two-fold basis of population and assessed valuation.  By this means county government would be carried on by an elected county board of supervisors of 17.

At Friday's meeting of the Commission at White Plains, many sections of the Wallin plan were approved.  Judge Slater impressing on the members present that the new charter should be as simple as possible in preference to a lengthy document detailing all powers and duties of the various sub-boards which are proposed under the plan."

Source:  COUNTY COMMISSION TO DISCUSS ALTERNATIVE PLAN OF MORSE'S -- New Proposal Seeks to Establish a County Board of Supervisors Superior to Present Town Board -- Will Be Discussed At Meeting At Commodore Hotel On Wednesday, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 27, 1923, p. 1, cols. 1-2.  

Committee of Fifteen Receive Comprehensive Statement on Activities of Commission
Believe Also That Taxpayers Would Approve Right Plans for Consolidation of Pelhams

The Committee of fifteen of the Town of Pelham which is keeping itself informed on the doings of the County Commission which is soon to present a new charter for government in Westchester County met at Memorial High School last night, Harry W. Nuckols of Pelham Manor presiding.

The sub-committee on the history of Westchester's government presented a voluminous report through its chairman, Lawrence F. Sherman.  It outlined the inception of government in Westchester and reported very fully the activities of the present county commission.  Mr. Sherman stated that he believed the government of Westchester could be improved but until the definite plan for the new form of government was presented to the Board of Supervisors by the Commission and was made public there was little that could be done.

Asked as to whether it was possible to place the charter before the people at this fall's election, Mr. Sherman said it was his opinion that it could not be brought before the voters until 1925.  He cited the attempt of Nassau County to get a new charter approved by the Legislature and its failure after many months of effort, and said he did not believe that even should a special session of the Legislature be convened to consider the matter of change of government the bill could not go through the various phases of government in time to be placed before the people this year.

The report was accepted and turned over to The Pelham Sun office for inspection of anyone interested.  The Committee will report to the Men's Cub at its first fall session in October.

The second phase of the activities of the Committee of fifteen deals with the consolidation of the Pelhams.  This was discussed informally and it was the general belief of the members of the committee that a consolidation could be effected with a saving to the taxpayers and a definite plan which would show these advantages would receive the approval of s sufficient number of the taxpayers to make it feasible."

Source:  REPORT CHANGE IN WESTCHESTER CO. GOVERNMENT -- Committee of Fifteen Receive Comprehensive Statement on Activities of Commission -Believe Also That Taxpayers Would Approve Right Plans for Consolidation of Pelhams, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 14, 1923, p. 1, col. 5.  

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