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, January 02, 2018

Early Postcard View of "The Dogwoods," the Black Family Mansion on Pelhamdale Avenue

Robert C. Black, a member of the well-known Fifth Avenue jeweler Black Starr & Frost, lived with his wife, Mary Witherbee Black, in a splendid mansion that stood on a large tract (sometimes described as six acres and, sometimes, eight) where the homes between 958 and 1000 Esplanade now stand.  The couple moved to Pelham Manor in the 1870s and originally lived in the home that still stands at 1057 Esplanade, an example of the "Esplanade Villa" style of home offered in the early days of the development efforts of the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association. 

Robert and Mary Black built their splendid home in about 1886.  They called it "The Dogwoods."  In 1892, the couple hired noted architect Clarence S. Luce of New York City to enlarge the home by adding two wings.  The western wing addition was two stories high with the upper story being devoted to a "music-room" about 40 feet in length and 20 feet in width.  The room was used as a ballroom and became the center of the Pelham Manor social scene for decades.  The room included a musician's gallery and "a superb mantel reaching nearly from floor to roof with an immense brick open fireplace and tiled hearth."

I have written recently about The Dogwoods.  See Thu., Feb. 05, 2015:  "The Dogwoods," Known as the Old Black Mansion on Esplanade, Was Razed for Property Development in 1931.  The mansion was one of the most magnificent in Pelham for nearly fifty years before it was razed in 1931 during the Great Depression to make way for several houses.  

The two images below depict the exterior of the home shortly after it was expanded in 1892 and the splendid "music room" of the home.

"Residence of Mr. Robert C. Black (From photograph before completion.)"
in Real Estate Record and Builders Guide Supplement, Dec. 17, 1892,
Vol. L, No. 1292, p. 3. NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

"Music Room in residence of Mr. Robert C. Black."
in Real Estate Record and Builders Guide Supplement, Dec. 17, 1892,
Vol. L, No. 1292, p. 4. NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

Recently a postally-unused color postcard depicting the exterior of The Dogwoods was offered at auction on eBay.  The postcard is of the so-called "Divided Back" era indicating that it was produced between about 1907 and 1915.  An image of the obverse of the postcard appears immediately below.

The title of the postcard references the mansion as "THE HOME OF MRS. ROBERT C. BLACK."  Robert Clifford Black died on July 17, 1907.  His wife, Mary Grace Witherbee Black, continued to live in the home after her husband's death.  She died on July 28, 1928.

The Dogwoods passed to the couple's son, Robert Clifford Black, Jr. (known as "R. Clifford Black").  R. Clifford Black died on January 26, 1931.  Within months administrators of his estate announced that the home would be razed and the roughly six-acre tract would be broken into smaller lots for smaller residences.

The postcard image of The Dogwoods depicts the home from essentially the same angle as the image set forth above published in the December 17, 1892 issue of the Real Estate Record and Builders Guide Supplement.  A few changes to the home may be discerned and the growth of additional trees suggests the undated postcard was released closer to 1915 than to 1907.  The image is an important record of one of Pelham's most important mansions that, sadly, no longer exist.

Detail of 1914 Map Showing Location of
"The Dogwoods," Listing It as "Mary G. W. Black."
Eastchester, Vol. I, p. 129 (NY, NY:  G.W. Bromley & Co., 1914).
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

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I have written about "The Dogwoods" and members of the Black Family on a number of occasions.  For more, see:

Thu., Feb. 05, 2015:  "The Dogwoods," Known as the Old Black Mansion on Esplanade, Was Razed for Property Development in 1931.  

Wed., Apr. 13, 2005:  "The Dogwoods" - The Estate of Robert Clifford Black of Pelham Manor.

Thu., Jan. 29, 2015:  R. Clifford Black of Black, Starr & Frost Bought the Martin J. Condon Mansion in 1913.

Fri., Aug. 01, 2014:  Obituary and Photograph of R. Clifford Black, a Prominent Pelham Manor Resident in the Early 20th Century.

Wed., Jun. 27, 2007:  Dissolution of Firm of Black, Starr & Frost and Reconstitution of the Firm as Corporation After Robert Clifford Black's Death.

Thu., Sep. 28, 2006:  A Brief Biography of Mary Grace Witherbee Black of Pelham Manor

Tue., Apr. 11, 2006:  April 20, 1875 Marriage Certificate of Robert C. Black and Mary Grace Witherbee Black

Thu., Feb. 9, 2006:  Cortlandt W. Starr of Black Starr & Frost

Thu., Jun. 7, 2005:  Obituaries of Robert C. Black and His Wife, Mary Grace Witherbee Black

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