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.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The William Henry Schofield Home on City Island: An Historic Pelham Treasure

Shortly before the Revolutionary War, Samuel Rodman Sr. and Benjamin Palmer successfully lobbied the New York Lieutenant Governor, the Council and the General Assembly to enact a statute authorizing them to build a free drawbridge between Rodman's Neck on the mainland and Minneford's Island (known today as City Island).  The plans were part of Benjamin Palmer's grand scheme to develop Minneford's Island into a major city seaport to rival New York City.  Palmer renamed the island "City Island." 

The onset of the Revolutionary War dashed these plans. The statute required that the free drawbridge be built within seven years of its date of passage on April 3, 1775. The war raged for the next eight years. Thus, the bridge was never built .  Palmer's grand plans for City Island were relegated to the trash bin of history.

During the war, the Town of Pelham including City Island were part of the so-called "Neutral Ground" between the British and American forces.  The entire region was ravaged by British and American forces, as well as British and American sympathizers.  Development of the area was exceedingly slow after the war.  

In 1807, Nicholas Haight took possession of much of City Island.  In 1818, Haight sold a 42-acre plot at the southern tip of the island to George Horton.  Horton became Town Supervisor of Pelham and began developing streets on City Island.  

Beginning in the 1820s, members of the Schofield Family (often referenced as the "Scofield Family) including William, Daniel, and David Schofield joined the Horton Family and acquired large plots of land on City Island.  William Schofield, Sr. and his wife, Maria Bishop Schofield, came to City Island in 1826.  They farmed their land and had five children including an eldest son named William Henry Schofield (1828-1902).

Beginning in about 1856, only a few years before his death in about early 1865, William Schofield, Sr. built a lovely and important home on City Island in the Town of Pelham.  Upon his death, the elder Schofield's real estate and other assets passed to his eldest son, William Henry Schofield.  Shortly after gaining the inheritance (including the new home,) William Henry Schofield married Sarah Fritts in 1867.  The younger William Henry Holden rejected farming and became a successful City Island oysterman. 

I have written before about William Henry Schofield, Jr. whose father built the Schofield House.  See  Mon., Jan. 26, 2009:  William Henry Scofield and the Scofield Family Who Lived on City Island in the Town of Pelham in the 19th Century.
Wiliam Henry Schofield and his family lived in the lovely Italianate style farmhouse house built by Schofield's father beginning in about 1856.   The home still stands at 65 Schofield Street, City Island, Bronx and is a beautiful example of an early Pelham home built by an affluent City Island family.  On April 12, 2016, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the home a New York City Landmark.  See Warerkar, Tanay, Curbed New York:  Historic 19th-Century City Island Home Now a NYC Landmark (Apr. 12, 2016) (visited Dec. 16, 2017).  

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has described the home as follows:

"Built in 1856, the William H. Schofield House is situated on the corner of Schofield Street and William Avenue and sits on a full corner lot that has a frontage of 114 feet along Schofield Street and a frontage of 69 feet 17 inches along William Avenue. . . . William H. Schofield House is a transitional Italianate style farmhouse, and is characterized by a square plan and tall windows combined with Greek Revival style features such as the flat roof with overhanging cornice and elaborate paired acorn drop brackets under the eaves that flank octagonal shaped windows.  The main body of the house is sheathed in wood clapboard and retains its historic character.

Historic:  The historic northeastern addition is set back from the main body of the house, and has a separate entrance but shares the elaborate veranda.  The house is unusually massed with two windows to the right of the main entrance and one to the left.  The front entrance has a double-leaf wood paneled doors with a transom window above.  The house's most prominent feature is the one-story veranda that runs the width of the ground floor level across both sections.  Turned posts rise from a baluster railing (may be later replacements) supporting the projecting porch roof and each is flanked by wooden jig-sawed brackets.  Directly above are pairs of smaller brackets ornamented with acorn drop pendants.

Prior to the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation vote, the owner made several sensitive alterations to the historic building, including:  several additions to the historic main structure, and historic addition.

Alterations:  Historic Structure:  the existing house has been moved several feet southwest, closer to the corner of Schofield Street and William Avenue, and rests on new foundations and porch footings; roof replaced; original Yankee gutters with copper downspouts reproduced; deteriorated wooden clapboards replaced throughout with matching clapboards made of composite material; all replacement windows and projecting lintels match original design; porch posts, acorn drop brackets at eaves and porch roof, and jig sawed brackets were repaired and reused."

Source:  New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, William H. Schofield House, 65 Schofield Street, City Island, Bronx, New York, Built:  c. 1860; Architect Unknown (Apr. 12, 2016) (visited Dec. 16, 2017). 

The William H. Schofield House at 65 Schofield Avenue, City Island.
Source:  Photograph by Theresa C. Noonan, 2016, for New York
City Landmarks Preservation Commission, William H. Schofield
House, 65 Schofield Street, City Island, Bronx, New York, Built:  c. 1860;
Architect Unknown (Apr. 12, 2016) (visited Dec. 16, 2017). 
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The William H. Schofield House at 65 Schofield Avenue, City Island
in About 1939.  Source:  Photograph by Theresa C. Noonan, 2016, for New
York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, William H. Schofield
House, 65 Schofield Street, City Island, Bronx, New York, Built:  c. 1860;
Architect Unknown (Apr. 12, 2016) (visited Dec. 16, 2017).  Photograph
by New York City Department of Taxes, ca. 1939, from the New York City
Department of Records and Information Services, Municipal Archives.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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William Henry Scofield was a useful and highly respected citizen for many years of City Island, borough of Bronx, where he was born December 28, 1828. His parents were William and Maria (Bishop) Scofield, who were among the first land owners of City Island, where they were engaged in farming throughout the active years of their life. They were the parents of five children: 1. William Henry, see forward. 2. Mary Ann, born January 15, 1829, married Elisha Booth, September 3, 1848, and has children: Isabella, born September 3, 1849, married David Craft, December 31, 1869, and has one child, Agnes Craft, born July 28, 1875, died February 7, 1876. Spencer S., born July 18, 1865, married Carrie Magnus, August 27, 1891 ; she was born September 11, 1869, and has children: Frank L., born July, 1893; Florence, born February 1, 1895. Maria S., born April 17. 1869, died April 16, 1889. 3. Elizabeth, married Samuel Pell, of City Island. 4. Sarah, married Ezra Waterhouse, of City Island.  5.  Daniel, died aged about nineteen vears. [Page 242 / Page 243] 

William H. Scofield received his educational training in the schools of City Island, and was reared to manhood years under the parental roof. Upon taking up the practical duties of life, he engaged in the oyster planting and shipping business, in which line of pursuit he was successfully engaged for many years. In addition to his commercial interests, he took an active part in all social and church enterprises of City Island, and frequently gave of his time and substance for charitable purposes. In all his affairs he became known as a just and upright man. He passed away February 19, 1902. 

Mr. Scofield married, January, 1867, Sarah Fritts, born August 6, 1829, in Hunterdon county, New Jersey, daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth (McKinney) Fritts. Of this marriage were born two children, both of whom died in early life. The faithful wife survives her husband and resides on the homestead at City Island." 

Source: Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. IV, pp. 242-43 (NY and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1907).

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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