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Pelham Village


Pelham Village Hall is located at 195 Sparks Avenue, Pelham, NY 10803; phone: 914-738-2015.

Beginnings [1]

Pelham was founded in 1654, when Thomas Pell of Fairfield, Connecticut, bought land from the Siwanoy Indians. This land included all of the current Town of Pelham, plus what is now the Bronx east of the Bronx River and all of Eastchester and New Rochelle. Later, Pell sold Eastchester and New Rochelle; he received a patent from the Colony of New York for the remaining land, which he named "Pelham," in honor of his tutor, Pelham Burton.

Until the Revolution, Pelham was inhabited only by the Pells and their tenants, and included all of today's town plus City Island and Pelham Bay Park. The only roads in the area were the Shore Road, the Boston Post Road (Colonial Avenue) and the old Indian Trail, which connected them (Split Rock Road and later Wolfs Lane).

The Town of Pelham was incorporated in 1788; during the 19th century, its population was centered on City Island, particularly on the wealthy South Shore. During this time, City Island continued to thrive with shipbuilding and oystering industries, while the interior of Pelham was limited to a few homesteads along Colonial Avenue. Wolfs Lane was a dirt road leading to the Wolf farm at what is now Third Street and Fifth Avenue. The new Boston Post Road was constructed in 1802. When the New York, Hartford, and New Haven Railroad came through Pelham in 1849, it brought new settlement to the area, particularly in the area by the post office, in Pelhamville. One of the earliest houses still standing is the Old Stone House, built by Alexander Diack at 463 First Avenue in 1851.

The railroad brought further development along the esplanade with the opening of the New Haven branch line in 1873. Many homes from this period are still standing along the Esplanade, Prospect, and Highland Avenues. In 1891, the Village of Pelham Manor was incorporated in order to deliver services to these new residents.

In 1895, New York City annexed City Island and Pelham Bay Park, and Pelham became the size it is today. A new Town Hall was built on Fifth Avenue at the same time. A year later, the Village of North Pelham incorporated, including all of Pelham north of the railroad. The Village of Pelham, located between North Pelham and Pelham Manor was incorporated the same year, with only nine voters, making it the smallest village in the United States for some time. In 1975, the Villages of Pelham and North Pelham merged into the Village of Pelham in 1975.

Pelham grew rapidly after 1900, with a trolley linkage between the Manor and downtown. The electric New York Westchester and Boston Railway began operation in 1912 and operated stations in Pelhamwood and Fifth Avenue, connecting to the Bronx, Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle and White Plains. The railroad was discontinued in 1937.

Pelham continued to expand rapidly in the 1920s; it was during this period that the majority of the Village's structures were built, including the Wolfs Lane and Fifth Avenue shopping area as well as homes in Pelham Heights and Pelham Manor. This was the peak population growth period for the Village, and its overall architectural character remains rooted in this prosperous era.

The postwar era was a period of rapid growth throughout the area, as people moved beyond the central cities into Westchester and Fairfield Counties and later, beyond. Since then, and particularly since the 1980s, Pelham has been a desirable suburb for those who want or need to remain close to New York City, be it for work, culture, or any other reason, and yet take advantage of the historic character and natural beauty of the oldest town in Westchester County. Its relative density supports a feeling of community and neighborliness, yet its tree-lined streets and distinctive homes are uniquely peaceful, continuing to make it an attractive and sought-after place to live.

  1. Village of Pelham New York and Saratoga Associates, Village of Pelham Comprehensive Plan, 2008, www.pelhamgov.com, accessed June, 2015.
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