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, March 02, 2018

Construction of the Peldean Court Apartments on Fifth Avenue in 1922

Real estate prices were skyrocketing in Pelham in 1922.  According to reports, lots along Fifth Avenue that sold for about $2,000 in the previous twelve months were reselling for more than $8,000.  Pelham was in the beginnings of the real estate bubble of the Roaring Twenties as well as a major building boom.

One of the most active and prolific builders of the era was Pelham resident John T. Brook.  Brook became a wealthy man as a real estate developer.  He eventually took over the Pelham National Bank.  During the Great Depression, the bank failed to reopen after the bank holiday of March, 1933, and went into the hands of a receiver four months later.  In December, 1934, Brook was convicted in Federal court of misapplying and misappropriating funds of the Pelham National Bank and received a five-year prison sentence.  For more about Pelhamite John T. Brook and the Pelham National Bank, see:

Bell, Blake A., The Failure of The Pelham National Bank, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 39, Oct. 1, 2004, p. 12, col. 1. 

Wed., Nov. 30, 2005:  The Pelham National Bank Building in the Village of Pelham

Thu., May 05, 2005:  John Thomas Brook, Real Estate Developer and Failed Bank President

Wed., Feb. 19, 2014:  Dedication of the Post Office in the Pelham National Bank Building and More About Old Post Offices

Mon., Mar. 23, 2015:  Pelham Residents Ravaged by the Great Depression: Record Sale of Tax Liens Advertised in 1932.

Mon., Apr. 13, 2015:  Obituary of John T. Brook, Jailed After Failure of the Pelham National Bank.

Fri., Jun. 05, 2015:  Another Pelham Mystery: Why Was the Planned Site of the Pelham National Bank Building Moved?

Fri., Aug. 14, 2015:  The Massive Real Estate Boom of the Roaring Twenties in the Little Town of Pelham.

Thu., Apr. 13, 2017:  Bronze Work at the Pelham National Bank Building.

John T. Brook was such a prolific builder in the Town of Pelham during the 1920s that he was nicknamed "the town builder."  In 1922, he built two of the town's then-largest apartment buildings:  Pelbrook Hall and Peldean Court, located adjacent to each other on Fifth Avenue across the street from the Town Hall and today's Daronco Town House.

The construction of Peldean Court began in about early May 1922.  The building was designed by architect George F. Pelham and was located at 15-19 Fifth Avenue.  (Pelbrook Hall, also designed by George F. Pelham, was located at 21-27 Fifth Avenue.)  The Pelham Sun reported on May 12, 1922 that "Peldean Court, the second of the new John T. Brook apartment houses, started its upward climb this week.  The plans of the new building point to an eclipse of the Pelbrook.  It will be a larger building, with larger apartments and more general accommodations."

The derivation of the name of the apartment building is rather interesting.  Brook followed a pattern of using "Pel" in the names of buildings he constructed in Pelham in honor of the historic little town.  He combined "Pel" with his wife's maiden name (Dean) to create the moniker "Peldean" and, hence, "Peldean Court."

From the outset, Brook planned that Peldean Court would contain five, six, and seven-room apartments.  Each of the six floors was divided into ten apartments.  The building was constructed with two passenger elevators and a freight elevator.

Construction on the slightly smaller "Pelbrook Hall" next door began a little earlier.  The largest apartments in that adjacent structure were five rooms.  By July 1, 1922, the smaller Pelbrook Hall apartment building was nearing completion and was sufficiently finished to permit two families to take possession of apartments on the top floor of the building with others moving in shortly thereafter as the remainder of the interior work is finished.

Both Peldean Court and Pelbrook Hall were designed in the old-English "Tudor Revival" style.  (Only a year later, in 1923, George F. Pelham designed and John T. Brook Built "Peldale," another Tudor Revival apartment building located at 125-127 Fifth Avenue.)  

Undated Postcard View of Peldean Court Apartment Building,
Ca. 1933.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

"1220  Pelham Court [sic] and Pelbrook Hall, Pelham, N. Y."
Same Postcard Image as Above on Differently-Titled Postcard
Postmarked on February 23, 1933 Showing Peldean Court on
the Left.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Although limited occupancy began at Pelbrook Hall on July 1, 1922, John T. Brook originally intended the roof of Peldean Court to be in place by July 10, 1922 with occupancy to begin by October 1, 1922.  That schedule was slightly delayed.

The roof of Peldean Court was completed about the week of August 9.  By that time, J. T. Brook Construction Company had placed flags to fly on all corners of the top of the structure to demonstrate that the walls had been completed to the top of the building.  

In late September, Brook told The Pelham Sun that he expected Peldean Court to be "ready for occupancy on November 1st."  As that date approached, however, work fell a little behind schedule.  Additionally, the region was experiencing a shortage of high quality coal for heating purposes.  Brook installed special heating units in the structure to permit the burning of lower quality coal to encourage renters to rent units in the building.  Additionally, he scoured the region for plasterers to complete interior plaster finishing work to try to get the building completed.  At one point he had 32 such plasterers working in the building, thought to be more than the number working in almost any other building under construction in the New York region at the time.  

By September 29, according to the local newspaper, every apartment in the smaller Pelbrook Hall next door had been rented.  By that same date, according to the same report, "several applications for accommodations" in Peldean Court had been received.  It was hoped that when the two apartment buildings were complete and full, they would add "over one hundred families" to the population of the Village of North Pelham.  

The scaffolding surrounding Peldean Court came down near the end of October.  According to the October 27, 1922 issue of The Pelham Sun, grading and planting of shrubbery in front of the building was planned for the first week of November.  Occupancy began shortly afterward.  The first advertisement for the new Peldean Court apartment complex (see below) seems to have been published on December 2, 1922.  The advertisement stated:

"Peldean Court PELHAM, NEW YORK  32 Minutes from Grand Central Station  HIGH-CLASS ELEVATOR APARTMENTS -- 4 and 5 Rooms and 1 Bath; also 6 Rooms, 2 Baths and Fireplace; large rooms; large closets.  A few apartments in Peldean Court are still available and ready for occupancy.  Pelbrook Hall adjoining is fully occupied.  THE J. T. BROOK COMPANY, Owners.  Telephone 4755 Pelham."

Newspaper Advertisement for Peldean Court Apartments Published
Shortly After the Building Opened in 1922.  Source:  Peldean Court
[Advertisement], The Pelham Sun, Dec. 2, 1922, p. 19, cols. 3-4.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

John T. Brook in About 1925 When He Became President of
Pelham National Bank.  Source:  French, Alvah P., ed., History of
Westchester County New York, Vol. V, pp. 170-71 (NY, NY & Chicago,
IL: Lewis Historical Publishing Co. 1925). NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *         *          *          *

"Brook Starts Peldean Court New Apartments
Will Also Construct Novel Two Story Garage At Fourth Street and First Avenue
Same General Type of Architecture Continued In New Building As In Pelbrook Hall

John T. Brook, 'the town builder,' has announced plans for two more buildings in North Pelham.  One will be another apartment house of greater dimensions than the recently constructed Pelbrook Hall and a novel two story garage.  Both of them will be of the same general type of architecture as the Pelbrook Hall.

Peldean Court, the second of the new John T. Brook apartment houses, started its upward climb this week.  The plans of the new building point to an eclipse of the Pelbrook.  It will be a larger building, with larger apartments and more general accommodations.

Peldean Court will be named in honor of Mrs. John T. Brook.  The prefix 'Pell' is in accordance with the policy of all the Brook buildings, and the suffix 'Dean' was Mrs. Brook's maiden name.

Peldean Court will have a [illegible] foot frontage on Fifth Avenue, fifty feet more than the frontage of Pelbrook Hall.  As is the case with the recently constructed building, the new one will be six stories high, and will be of the same type of Old English architecture.  There will be two wings and a center court.

The apartments of Peldean Court will be five, six and seven rooms.  The largest in Pelbrook are five rooms.  Each floor will be divided into ten apartments.  Three automatic elevators will be installed in the new building.  Two of these will be for passengers and the other will be used for freight.

It is believed that the roof of the new building will be in place by July 10th, and it will be ready for occupancy on the first of October.

The new garage will be constructed on First Avenue at Fourth Street.  It will be a two-story affair, the dimensions of which will be 100 feet by 100 feet.  The site for the garage enables the parking of cars on either floor.  The ground is high enough at one end for an entrance for cars to the upper floors from the street by means of a slightly inclined ramp, and at the other end it is possible to enter the lower floor by means of another slightly inclined ramp.

The general type of architecture of the Pelbrook and Peldean will be followed in the construction of the new garage.  Mr. Brook claims that after completion there will be very little outward appearance of a garage about the building.  

The garage will especially cater to the tenants of the Pelbrook and Peldean.  Thus for a slight additional rent, apartments can be had with accommodations for automobiles in the new garage."

Source:  Brook Starts Peldean Court New Apartments -- Will Also Construct Novel Two Story Garage At Fourth Street and First Avenue -- Same General Type of Architecture Continued In New Building As In Pelbrook Hall, The Pelham Sun, May 12, 1922, Vol. 13, No. 11, p. 1, col. 2.

"Pelbrook Hall Will Be Occupied July 1st

Pelbrook Hall, the first of the two big apartment houses which John T. Brook is erecting on Fifth Avenue, will be ready for occupancy, in part at least, on July 1st.  Two families will take possession of apartments on the top floor, and others will move in as soon as the remainder of the interior work is finished.

Work on Peldean Hall is being pushed along rapidly and it is expected that the entire building will be completed before snow flies."

Source:  Pelbrook Hall Will Be Occupied July 1st, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 30, 1922, Vol. 13, Col. 18, p. 6, col. 3.

"Complete Roof This Week.

The roof will be completed on the new six-story Peldean Court apartment on Fifth avenue this week.  Flags are flying from all corners of the top showing that the walls have been completed to the top."

Source:  Complete Roof This Week, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 9, 1922, p. 10, col. 4.  

"Peldean Apartment Ready For Tenants By November First
Completion of Huge Building Will Be Followed By Erection of Three-Story Building With Capacity For 300 Cars

'The Peldean will be ready for occupancy on November 1st,' said John T. Brook yesterday, 'and we shall at once start work on the garage on First Street, and hurry the work along so that the tenants of the apartments will have a place for their cars.'

The Pelbrook, the first of the two big apartment houses erected on Fifth Avenue through the enterprise of John T. Brook, has every apartment rented, and several applications for accommodations in the new building have been received.  The two apartments when full will mean an addition of over one hundred families to North Pelham, the beauty of the Pelbrook suites, their structure and completeness of detail and convenience making them extremely desirable.  

The erection of the garage was first planned as a two-story structure, but the designs of Architect Louis Sigloch have now been changed to make the building three stories in height.  The natural slope of the street at Fourth Avenue and First Street renders the site eminently suitable, as a ramp drive can be obtained to say of the three floors.

The ground floor will have accommodations for commercial cars and will have a ramp drive in from First Street at the westerly end of the building.  The second floor, for live storage, will have a drive in from the street level and a ramp extending the length of the building will give access to the third floor, where dead storage will be available.  The capacity of the garage will be between 250 and 300 cars.  Steel for the building is expected to arrive next week."

Source:  Peldean Apartment Ready For Tenants By November First -- Completion of Huge Building Will Be Followed By Erection of Three-Story Building With Capacity For 300 Cars, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 29, 1922, Vol. 13, No. 31, p. 1, col. 6.

"New Peldean Building Open First Of Month
Despite Fact That Big Apartment Will Not Be Complete Tenants Will Take Possession
Entire Work Will Be Finished December 1st -- Special Heating Equipment Installed

The exterior scaffolding of the new big apartment house on Fifth avenue -- The Peldean -- has been removed and the grading and planting of shrubbery in front of the building will be done next week.  Despite its unfinished condition, ten families will take possession of apartments in it the first of November.

John T. Brook, the builder of Pelham's biggest building, has been rushing the work along during the last few weeks.  Scouts were sent through New England to corral plasterers, and thirty-two of this class of workers are now engaged in the Peldean -- more than most of the big contracting jobs in New York.  Extra inducements brought the men to Pelham.

Soft coal will be used for heating the new building.  Mr. Brook would take no chances on a coal shortage, and has installed a special make of boilers and smoke consuming equipment which will allow of the use of bituminous coal without the generally resulting soot and smoke nuisance."

Source:   New Peldean Building Open First Of Month -- Despite Fact That Big Apartment Will Not Be Complete Tenants Will Take Possession -- Entire Work Will Be Finished December 1st -- Special Heating Equipment Installed, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 27, 1922, Vol. 13, No. 35, p. 1, col. 7.

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