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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Tiny Pelhamwood Threatened to Secede from the Village of North Pelham in 1920



"We are willing to pay taxes for benefits received, but believe it
unfair to be taxed for upkeep of streets in other parts of the village
to the exclusion of our own.  What is the remedy?  The formation
of the village of Pelhamwood."

Resolution Adopted by the Pelhamwood Association at its
Annual Meeting Held in May, 1920.

Ten years!  Nothing had been done to repair the dirt roads that wound through the tiny little neighborhood of Pelhamwood for an entire decade after the roads were first graded as the neighborhood was developed in 1910.  Pelhamwood residents and members of the Pelhamwood Association were furious.  Yet, it was not the fault of the Village of North Pelham within which the neighborhood existed.  Nor was it the fault of the Town of Pelham.  How could that be?

The roads of Pelhamwood were privately owned by the development company that developed the residential area.  The roadways were deemed private "Parkways" -- much like certain roadways in Pelham Heights (including the Boulevard) when that region was developed during the late 1880s and early 1890s.  But, with development of that portion of "Pelhamwood" located within Pelham nearing completion (and the development of that part that stood within New Rochelle not fully begun), the development company made virtually no effort to maintain the dirt roads.



Postcard View of "THE CLOCK TOWER.  'PELHAMWOOD'" Showing
A Dirt Roadway Entrance to Pelhamwood in About 1910.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

Pelhamwood residents were angry because they paid the same property taxes as other residents of the Village of North Pelham, but their tax dollars were used to maintain and improve only those roadways outside the neighborhood of Pelhamwood.  Thus, the Pelhamwood Association was reduced to trying to maintain the roads on its own -- including the application of expensive oil to keep the dust down.  

By 1918, the situation had gotten so bad that the Pelhamwood Association, using dues paid by its members, hired Louis Civitello -- who eventually became a beloved local figure known as "Pelhamwood's Louie" -- to perform general handyman work and street repairs.  The organization issued Pelhamwood Louie a bright blue uniform with "dazzling brass buttons" and even used him as a "traffic officer" at the intersection of Highbrook and Washington Avenues.  Even the energetic Pelhamwood Louie, however, couldn't keep up with necessary road repairs in Pelhamwood.

By 1920, Pelhamwood residents were clamoring for the Village of North Pelham to take ownership of the local streets, retain them as "Parkways" (while banning truck traffic on them), oil and maintain them and, eventually, macadamize them.  Pelhamwood residents seethed because, despite their years of effort to achieve that objective, they believed the Village of North Pelham had done little to make it happen.  

At the regular meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Village of North Pelham on April 6, 1920, a large delegation of Pelhamwood residents attended.  Led by William M. Uhler, President of the Pelhamwood Association, the group formally requested the Village to take over Pelhamwood streets.  According to Uhler, the principal thing Pelhamwood wanted was to have the Village undertake the upkeep of the roads and continue to maintain them as Parkways while banning truck traffic.

The President of the Village of Pelham, Jim Reilly, pointed out that there were a number of difficult issues to be addressed.  First, a number of the streets that were part of the larger "Pelhamwood" development were within New Rochelle.  Moreover, the sewer lines beneath those streets flowed into a trunk sewer beneath Highbrook Avenue.  Thus, new connections to the sewer system along the comparatively undeveloped "Pelhamwood" streets in New Rochelle might lead to issues beneath the Pelhamwood streets in the Village of North Pelham, costing time, effort, and money to address.  Additionally, President Reilly cautioned that only $9,000 was appropriated for the entire year to maintain all the roadways in the Village of North Pelham.  It would cost $3,500 just to apply oil all the streets of Pelhamwood, leaving only $5,500 for the rest of the village streets.

Nevertheless, the Village Board that night instructed its Village counsel to "devise ways and means to 'take over the streets from the Pelhamwood company, the streets to remain parkways and the police to prevent heavy trucking.'"  When it came to any promise to macadamize the streets, however, the Board seemed to favor putting "the proposition up to the taxpayers and let them decide if they want all the streets paved or merely patched up."

During the ensuing weeks, the matter seemed to drag -- at least in the eyes of the residents of Pelhamwood.  Indeed, the residents became so frustrated that by mid-May, they were in open revolt threatening to secede from the Village of North Pelham by forming their own tiny village of 500 residents.  Thus, the Pelhamwood Association held a raucous annual meeting in Town Hall the week of May 10, 1920.  Following debate, the members of the Association passed the following resolution, quoted in full:

"The time for positive action on our part has arrived.  If the village of North Pelham does not wish to father us, let them so declare themselves and give us a chance to go it alone.  I am sure we are fully competent to do so.  It is true that in return for taxes we are given police service, garbage removal and street lighting.  We fully appreciate the fact that the abnormally high cost of labor at present precludes any great improvement in the condition of our streets.  But the control of the streets by the village will assure the enforcement of village regulations relative to the restoration of the streets after excavation for sewer, water and gas connections as well as the help of legal machinery to prohibit heavy trucking over our streets.  We are willing to pay taxes for benefits received, but believe it unfair to be taxed for upkeep of streets in other parts of the village to the exclusion of our own.  'What is the remedy?  The formation of the village of Pelhamwood.  We believe this can be accomplished by an act of the legislature.  The state of New York will certainly not permit any group of its citizens to pay taxes without any return.  One more village added to the present cluster should make no difference.  Perhaps the efforts of the Men's club committee on Greater Pelham may result in the amalgamation of all villages under one government, in which even we might be recognized in the general shake-up.  The unscrambling of this Pelham-omelet, however, may be long deferred and we suggest that a committee he appointed to consult a lawyer in reference to forming a village and that a proper amount of money be placed at the disposal of the committee to cover the expense of securing this advice.'"

The resolution seemed to have its intended effect.  At a Village Board meeting held on June 7, 1920, the Village Counsel announced that the officers of the development company that owned the private roadways in Pelhamwood had executed and delivered a form of dedication surrendering the easement to the streets of Pelhamwood in favor of the Village of North Pelham.  The dedication was read into the record and a motion to receive the streets as set forth in the dedication passed unanimously.  According to the local newspaper "Then occurred something which has seldom, if ever taken place at a village board meeting; the people present broke into hearty applause."

The union of Pelhamwood and the Village of North Pelham was saved.  There would be no secession.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of several newspaper articles that form the basis of today's Historic Pelham Blog article.  Each item is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"BUSY SESSION HELD BY THE PELHAM BOARD
-----

North Pelham, April 7. -- The full board was present including 'Our Mary' Dickenson, the new village treasurer, when President Reilly called it to order at 8:10 last night.  So great was the number of interested spectators that the village room was not big enough, so the meeting was held in the court room.  Clerk R. C. Smith read the minutes of the organization meeting and also a special meeting held March 31st, which were approved as read.  The latter meeting was for the purpose of meeting emergencies such as the payment of interest on bonds, paying the police and reappointing Lester Champion patrolman for another month pending the report from the civil service commissioner on his examination for that position.  A communication was received from John Matthew Tierney, stating that as he understood a vacancy existed in the North Pelham police department, he applied for the job.  He claimed nine months' experience.  He was placed on one month's probation beginning April 15th.  Communication was received from Fred L. Merritt of the county board of supervisors, asking for the names and addresses of the village board of assessors.  The clerk was directed to send the names and addresses of the president and trustees.  George B. Gibbons and J. B. Thill sent letters asking that they be notified at any time a bond issue was contemplated.  

A large delegation from Pelhamwood was present and asked that the streets of that section be taken over by the village.  President Reilly asked the committee just what it expected the board to do.  Mr. Uhler stated that the principal thing was the upkeep of the roads and maintaining them as parkways.  Mr. Reilly asked if the committee had taken into consideration that some of these streets are in New Rochelle and the sewer in those streets flowed into the trunk sewer, in Highbrook avenue.  The committee admitted this and stated that plans had been made to limit the number of new connections with this sewer.  Mr. Reilly replied:  'You see there is only $9,000 appropriated in this year's budget for a street fund which is insufficient.  It will cost $3,500 for oil alone and that will leave only $5,500 for all the rest of the village streets.'  Mr. Voight then stated that the old board had promised to spend $2,000 on the Pelhamwood streets this year.  It was finally agreed to turn the matter over to the village counsel with a request that he devise ways and means to 'take over the streets from the Pelhawood company, the streets to remain parkways and the police to prevent heavy trucking.  Alderman Connacher stated that the village engineer in 1913 prepared an estimate of the amount [required] to macadamize all the streets in the village including curbing and the amount did not exceed $71,838.  He stated that during the last 10 or 12 years between $90,000 and $100,000 had been spent on the streets and 'we still have mostly dirt roads.'  He said he preferred to put the proposition up to the taxpayers and let them decide if they want all the streets paved or merely patched up.

Mrs. Kingsland, who owns the old Costello property, appeared before the board to find out the true dimensions of her property which is situated on the west side of Fifth avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets.  The deed calls for 107 feet while the mortgage claims 114 feet.  It appears the two surveyors employed had made surveys from their private starting points which were at opposite ends of the village.  This matter was laid over.

Mr. Kendall, representing the New Rochelle water company, appeared to request permission to lay a 16-inch water main from Mayflower avenue along the west side of Fifth avenue, under the sidewalk, to Sixth street.  This would give the village greater water pressure.  The request was granted on condition that a contract be drawn up by village counsel guaranteeing that the work be completed in three weeks, the village to be relieved of all responsibilities from accidents and other causes relating thereto, and that the street and sidewalks be left in as good condition as found.  The proposed main is about 1200 feet long.

Nick De Feo appeared praying for relief from the present flooded condition of Eighth avenue and Sixth street.  The question was discussed at length and finally referred to counsel to determine if the village can legally acquire property for the purpose of opening a road.  It seems a colored woman, Nellie Russel, owns a piece of property which blocks the north end of Eighth avenue and prevents a curb and gutter being laid.  She wants $2,000 for it and the board believes the price rather high.

The 'cold storage' box was then opened and a number of bills taken out.  Thomas Stewart's for $6 automobile hire was laid on the table as it was presented in January and the present board wanted to find out what was wrong with it that the old board had not paid it.  Henry I. Rurert's bill for counsel fees $200 was also laid over for the same reason; Edward F. Campbell's bill as village engineer to the old board, for making report and map on the sewer area on New Rochelle where it affects this village.  It was gently laid on the table; C. Tamke, taxi hire for last October in the Miller case was laid over; Westchester Lighting company, $360.42 was ordered paid as was also the New York Telephone company bills for $3.75 and $3.45.  Two more telephone bills for $4.20 and $.40 were ordered paid although the company will be asked what the forty cent bill is for.  A bill from the Pelham Sun for $60 was laid over for investigation and Mr. Reilly explained he had received another one from the same firm for $124 and some cents but had forgotten to bring it along.  Williamson Law Book Co. $18 ordered paid as were the election officers, Thomas Carson, Grace Amundsen, Ezra Daggett, Daniel J. Kennedy, $8 each; Melville J. Wheeler as inspector, including expenses was $8.32 which was ordered paid.  Albert Laiser who pleaded guilty to making the bluebird emblem for the Citizen's ticket sent in his bill for $5.20 which was ordered paid.  William J. Griffith's bill for bonding the tax collector and treasurer $27, paid; Clerk Smith's bill for books and supplies $34.06 paid; all the bills for the street department help, $75, $22, $33, and $7 were paid.  John Carmarano presented a bill for $220.83 for the ashes and garbage removal contract; it was ordered paid if found correct, the contract to be looked over.  A bill for rent from the Town of Pelham was laid over; Polhemus Printing company printing election cards, $8, paid; the bill of Dr. McGuire for $42 for services as health officer was ordered paid; Westchester Lighting company, $372.50, tabled; ex-Clerk Wheeler, salary and postage, $34.92, paid.

Harry A. Anderson appeared to ask for a compromise on the Marvel property taxes; denied.  John T. Logan was reappointed registrar of vital statistics.  The village clerk was directed to notify Edward F. Campbell, the former village engineer, to turn over to the village all maps, papers, profiles, etc. in his possession belonging to the village.  President Reilly called attention of the board to the condition of the burned flat at Sixty street.  The village counsel directed to see what could be done to abate the nuisance.  The night of the regular meeting conflicting with the board of fire commissioners' meeting and the village counsel being a member of the fire board, the village meeting will be held hereafter the first Wednesday in each month.  The assessors will start work next Thursday and continue until finished.  Mary A. Dickenson, the village treasurer asked for a new treasurer's book and stationery.  Owing to the frail condition of the general fund, $2,000 was ordered transferred from the contingent fund to the general fund.  The meeting then adjourned."

Source:  BUSY SESSION HELD BY THE PELHAM BOARD, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 7, 1920, No. 9254, p. 12, cols. 3-5.  

"Pelhamwood Talks of Breaking Away From Village of North Pelham
-----

North Pelham, May 19.  --  The board of trustees of the village of North Pelham will hold a special meeting tonight at which many important matters will be discussed.  The Pelhamwood section has threatened to break away and incorporate as a separate village, unless certain conditions are complied with.  Pelhamwood wants North Pelham to take over the streets of that section but the presence of a swerage [sic] system which includes a part of New Rochelle has held up this action for several years.  The board has spent considerable time trying to devise ways and means to acquire the streets without incurring any liability to the town or other two villages for this outside sewerage which must pass through the pipes of the other two municipalities.  The New Rochelle section of Pelhamwood has not as yet reached the stage of development that the North Pelham part has, and the board fears that when this section is built up and houses connected it may be necessary to lay larger mains to carry off the additional flow.  The disposal plant is now taxed to capacity and increased matter to be treated will require expensive additions to the works.  

There is nothing to stop the section from forming a separate village.  The village of Pelham was incorporated in 1896 with a population of less than one hundred.  Pelhamwood has over 500 population today and is expanding rapidly, but the cutting off of this part of the village with an assessed valuation of almost half the entire village, is viewed with alarm by taxpayers.  Coming at a time when the people are complaining that there are too many officials in the town and that the work is being duplicated as a result, they seem amused at the thought of another board being created.  

Pelhamwood is exclusively residential.  There is another tract almost as large lying north of Fourth street [i.e., today's Lincoln Avenue] belonging to this corporation which is as yet undeveloped and may be included in the new village.  If the cutting up of this starts this year, Pelhamwood will have more than 1,000 people within five years.  The resolution adopted by the Pelhamwood association at its annual meeting  held at the town hall last week is as follows:

'The time for positive action on our part has arrived.  If the village of North Pelham does not wish to father us, let them so declare themselves and give us a chance to go it alone.  I am sure we are fully competent to do so.  It is true that in return for taxes we are given police service, garbage removal and street lighting.  We fully appreciate the fact that the abnormally high cost of labor at present precludes any great improvement in the condition of our streets.  But the control of the streets by the village will assure the enforcement of village regulations relative to the restoration of the streets after excavation for sewer, water and gas connections as well as the help of legal machinery to prohibit heavy trucking over our streets.  We are willing to pay taxes for benefits received, but believe it unfair to be taxed for upkeep of streets in other parts of the village to the exclusion of our own.

'What is the remedy?  The formation of the village of Pelhamwood.  We believe this can be accomplished by an act of the legislature.  The state of New York will certainly not permit any group of its citizens to pay taxes without any return.  One more village added to the present cluster should make no difference.  Perhaps the efforts of the Men's club committee on Greater Pelham may result in the amalgamation of all villages under one government, in which even we might be recognized in the general shake-up.  The unscrambling of this Pelham-omelet, however, may be long deferred and we suggest that a committee he appointed to consult a lawyer in reference to forming a village and that a proper amount of money be placed at the disposal of the committee to cover the expense of securing this advice.'"

Source:  Pelhamwood Talks of Breaking Away From Village of North Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], No. 9290, May 19, 1920, p. 10, col. 4.  

"Pelhamwood Streets Are Taken Over By the Village

North Pelham, June 8.  --  The board of trustees met at the board rooms in the town hall last night to act on the dedication of the streets of Pelhamwood.  Every member was present when President Reilly called the meeting to order at 8:35.  A large delegation from Pelhamwood, many of them women, were present and Mr. Reilly officially welcomed them.  Counsel Lambert read the form of dedication which surrendered the easement to the streets to the village and informed the board that it had been signed by the officers of the Pelhamwood company.  Mr. Reilly asked that the agreement be read; this was done by the counsel.  The chair then asked if there was any discussion on the agreement either among the board or among the Pelhamwood delegation present.  There being no objection, Trustee Connacher moved that the streets be received as set forth in the dedication agreement, Trustee Krueger seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.  Then occurred something which has seldom, if ever taken place at a village board meeting; the people present broke into hearty applause.  Mr. Reilly then assured them that their wants would be taken care of, at which there was more applause.  President Uhler of the Pelhamwood association brought the old army cry of 'when do we eat?,' to mind when he said 'Now that you have the streets, what are you going to do to them?,' to which Mr. Reilly replied that they would be taken care of and the street commissioner who was present was instructed to go over them and see just what was needed.

Addressing the Pelhamwood association, Mr. Reilly said 'At present we must wait for crushed stone, as it would be useless to oil the streets now and then put stone on afterward.  The oil would only be wasted and oil for the streets now costs 10 cents a gallon.  We have only $9,000 in the budget for streets and this is intended to fix every street in the village.  Pelhamwood pays about 37 per cent of the taxes of the village and for the last ten years you had nothing done to your streets.  You are entitled to something and we believe you are going to get it.'  The question of preventing trucking on the parkways of the section brought the response that the village would draw up an ordinance prohibiting trucking on the parkways of the village and the police would be instructed to enforce it.  Village counsel was instructed to draw up an ordinance to that effect, and the village will erect signs at each entrance.  

Street Commissioner Smith was asked if it was possible to fix the street approaching the Pelhamwood station, which is now a 'rocky road to Dublin.'  Smith replied that the street in question was in the city of New Rochelle.  It then was explained that New Rochelle is about to take over the streets of Pelhamwood within the city limits and has already placed monuments there.  Another unusual scene was enacted when Mr. Uhler asked the village board to declare a recess for a few moments so the Pelhamwood association could hold a meeting.  This was granted and Mr. Uhler called the meeting to order and asked that a resolution of thanks be extended to President Reilly and the board of trustees of the village of North Pelham.  This was carried midst much applause.

President Reilly in the name of the board officially thanked them and again assured them that they would get all that is coming to them.  The Pelhamwood people then left and the board proceeded to business.  The next business was the proposed police booths.  President Reilly stated that he had received a bid, or rather an estimate from E. L. Lyon, he did not open it and asked the board whether they wished to award the bid at the meeting or ask for bids.  If the latter course was proposed, he would return the estimate to Mr. Lyon unopened; if, on the other hand, the board wished to erect the booths immediately, Mr. Lyon's estimate was there.  Trustee Harris stated that in his opinion the booths would cost close to $200 each, in which case it would be proper to award the contract by competition.  It was decided by the board to look at the estimate and the sealed envelope was handed to the clerk.  There was a series of long drawn breaths when the amounts were read.  For a booth 6 feet five inches by 6 feet six inches, 8 feet high, double floor, clapboard outside and ceiled inside, $296 each.  For booths same size, single floor, unceiled inside, $248 each.  The matter was laid over.  In the meantime the clerk was instructed to write to the Cheeseborough and Whitman for any catalogue they may have of police booths, etc.

Harry A. Anderson appeared before the board to defend his bill which had been laid over at last week's meeting.  It resulted in Mr. Reilly telling Mr. Anderson that he considered it an insult to himself and the board for Mr. Anderson to continue collecting taxes when he knew the administration which had appointed him, had gone out of business.  Mr. Anderson said he had never been notified to stop collecting, although he admitted that it might have been better had he consulted the board.  He disclaimed any intention at discourtesy toward the board.  The matter will come up at the next meeting.

Health Officer McGuire had not been notified to be present at this meeting so no action can be taken regarding the burned Sixth street flats.  A special meeting has been called for next Monday night at which this and other matters will be attended to.  The meeting then adjourned."

Source:  Pelhamwood Streets Are Taken Over By the Village, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], No. 9306, Jun. 8, 1920, p. 8, col. 5.  

"Pelhamwood's 'Louie' Completes 18th Year In Employ of Community Group
-----

Louis Civitello, 'Pelhamwood's Louis,' to young and old alike in North Pelham, observed an 'anniversary' on Wednesday.  As the street department of Pelhamwood, 'Louie' was just 18 years old, to use his own words.  It was on April 15, 1918, that William M. Uhler, then president of the Pelhamwood Association, hired 'Louie' as general man-of-all-work for the residential section covered by the association.  Since that time 'Louie' has become as indispensable to Pelhamwood as the 'Toonerville Trolley' is to Pelham Manor.

Ask the property owner who wants to dispose of some leaves.  Ask the mother sending her children off to school.  Ask the kids themselves among whose best friends the genial street man is numbered.  Ask the commuter who dashed out of the house in a rush for his train, forgetting to tell the lady of his household that the water was still running in the bathtub.  Ask the delivery boys who have packages to leave when no one's home.  Ask the officers of the Pelhamwood Association when they have notices to be distributed to every house in Pelhamwood.  Ask Santa Claus when his pack is too heavy on Christmas Eve.  Just ask them all, whom they can rely on and they'll all chorus, 'Louie.'

'Louie' was originally employed by the association, but for the last ten years the Village of North Pelham has paid one-half of his compensation.

His duties are principally street work, but at hours when children are going to and from school 'Louie' garbed in his coveted light blue uniform with the dazzling brass buttons acts as traffic officer at the intersection of Highbrook and Washington avenues.

'Louie' is a Pelhamwood feature, and has been for 18 years."

Source:  Pelhamwood's "Louie" Completes 18th Year In Employ of Community Group, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 27, No. 9, Apr. 17, 1936, p. 5, cols. 3-4.  



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