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"Four Corners" of Pelham Manor
The area generally referred to as "Four Corners," at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Pelhamdale Avenue, is an historically- and architecturally-significant composition of early 20th century retail stores, residential apartments, a prominent neo-gothic stone church and extensive open space and parkland. Adjoining the area are residential neighborhoods of "Pelham Manor Heights" and "Prospect Hill," which contain a rich collection of well-preserved, architecturally-significant homes in a variety of late-19th and early-20th century styles.
The Boston Post Road & Pelhamdale Avenue
The Boston Post Road in Pelham is an historically significant transportation route. Built in 1800 by the Westchester Turnpike Company, the road shortened and improved the route between New York and Boston, replacing the original Post Road that ran further north in Pelham (along the present day Colonial Avenue in Pelham and Kings Highway in New Rochelle). The charter was one of the first granted in the country to a private turnpike company to improve the new nation’s system of roads in an age of increasing stagecoach travel. Among the directors of the Westchester Turnpike Company were Gabriel Furman, Philip Pell and John Peter deLancey. As most turnpike companies began to fail with the arrival of the railroad, Pelham’s Boston Post Road was taken over by the county in 1867 and the turnpike company was dissolved. It later became part of US Route 1, the Atlantic Coastal Highway, which would become the primary transportation route from Maine to Florida, prior to the creation of the interstate highway system in the 1950s.
Pelhamdale Avenue was originally little more than a cow path in Pelham. But with the arrival of the railroad in Pelham in the late nineteenth century and the development of Pelham into a residential suburb to New York City, Pelhamdale Avenue became the principal north-south road through the town, connecting from the Long Island Sound at the south end to the Pelham train station at its most northern point. A trolley was built in 1898 that ran until 1937 along Pelhamdale Avenue to Four Corners where the main line turned east to New Rochelle, but a spur continued to Shore Road to serve Pelham Manor. The trolley was the basis for the “Toonerville Trolley” in Fontaine Fox’s cartoon series “Toonerville Folks.”
As an intersection of a major transportation route and a primary local road, Four Corners became the most prominent intersection in the Village of Pelham Manor and a natural location for some of the most significant buildings in the community including:
Southwest Corner Boston Post Road & Pelhamdale Avenue
Huguenot Memorial Church
The intersection had long been the location of the town’s Presbyterian Church (originally called “The Centenary and Huguenot Memorial First Presbyterian Church” or, more commonly, the “Little Red Church”) built in 1876 on the southwest corner. After the church was built, the intersection was for the next several decades locally referred to as “Red Church Corners.”
In 1917, the congregation built the current Neo-Gothic Style building re-named “Huguenot Memorial Church,” constructed of local granite and graduated slate roof. The building was sympathetically expanded in 1929 to add the narthex. Another building was built in 1931 in the same Neo-Gothic style to house classrooms, offices, large gathering hall with stage and a kitchen. In 1965 the two buildings were joined together with the addition of a library and rear foyer to comprise the 35,000 square foot complex that now occupies the site.
Huguenot Memorial Church represents an outstanding example of Neo-Gothic architecture with its overall irregular massing and composition of elements, consisting of: the main sanctuary with steeply- pitched gable roof with graduated slate and prominent pointed arch window with gothic limestone tracery in the gable end and six lancet windows on the side elevations; a smaller chapel wing with similar gothic details; and a prominent tower element that unites the overall building. The building retains all of its original integrity and includes important stained glass windows, including a chancel window above the altar by Clement Heaton and pointed arch window by Henry Lee Willet, Willet Studios (1946) in the narthex gable facing Boston Post Road. The 1931 extension was completed in a conforming style and materials with steel casement and leaded glass panel windows.
The building complex has served not only as one the community’s most significant religious institutions, but as a cultural center for the town. Huguenot Nursery School, a separate not-for-profit entity, operates a non-sectarian pre-school during the week that, since its founding in 1992, has launched the education and socialization of thousands of children prior to entry into the elementary school grades. Prior to this, other pre-schools used the space and at one time the space was used by the Pelham School District for public school classrooms to alleviate over-crowding, consistent with the church’s articles of formation that specified that the facilities be used as a day school. The church’s hall also functions as a gymnasium used for town recreational programs and community-wide social events.
The church property also includes a Columbarium where the remains of many prominent local residents are interred. One crypt contains a horse shoe and plaque in remembrance of the racehorse, “Secretariat,” which was owned by the Chenery Family, who lived in Pelham Manor (see below) and which was insured by the Timberlake Family (on whose crypt the plaque is located).
Most of the Village of Pelham Manor is located more than a mile from the downtown commercial area of the neighboring Village of Pelham. Four Corners, at the center of Pelham Manor, became a natural location for shops in this pedestrian-oriented community. The location on a major regional transportation route further supported the growth of this retail shopping area.
The Tudor Revival shopping center at 4662-4676 Boston Post Road represents a very early, free-standing commercial “shopping center” (one of the earliest, and likely the first, in the country). This self-contained strip of stores with private off-street parking was started in 1931 by a local resident and designed by the NYC firm of Bowden & Russell. The building was later expanded in the 1940s by a most surprising owner. Joseph P. Kennedy had returned in 1940 from his position as Ambassador to the Court of St. James and in 1946 his son, John F. Kennedy, was elected to Congress. The following year, Joseph P. Kennedy took out two building permits in August and December (listing his address as “Hyannis, Massachusetts”) to expand the Four Corners Shopping Center in Pelham Manor. He retained James E. Casale as architect. These expansions added the wing that runs along Pelhamdale Avenue (now 902-904-910 Pelhamdale Avenue) and another wing at the east end of the complex (substantially remodeled in the 1990s to accommodate a new CVS at 4760 Boston Post Road). The building appears to have been sold in parts, with one section sold by Kennedy in 1948, but with another deed showing a sale by Rose F. Kennedy as trustee in 1949. (After the sale, another building permit application was made in 1949 by the subsequent owner to expand the complex, but was not completed.)
With the exception of the CVS alterations and replacement of the upper story windows in the principal building, the shopping center retains much of its original integrity, including slate roof, half-timbered and stucco exterior, high, elaborate chimneys and glass block, rounded-arch transoms and doors on some of the store fronts. Its shopping concept as a distinct strip with its own off-street parking represents one of the earliest prototypes for what would become a ubiquitous building form in post-war America.
The shopping center directly across the street from this complex at 4767-4787 Boston Post Road is a mid-century modern example of the same type of development. Built in 1951, this strip mall is described by Frank Sanchis in his definitive work, Westchester County Architecture, as designed by architect S.S. Kessler with “very dramatic, slanting fins repeated the length of the building.”
The "Police Booth"
A small stucco structure with a green barrel tile roof stands sentinel at the northwest corner where it has since at least c. 1920. This quaint old police booth was constructed to give shelter to the police officer who directed traffic at the Four Corners intersection in the years before there were many cars -- much less a traffic light.
Southeast Corner Boston Post Road & Esplanade
“Martha Emmons Weihman Park” is an enclosed passive park with walking paths, native trees and recent hybrid perennial plantings and a fountain added as part of the park’s restoration in 2005. The property was once the site of a late nineteenth century mansion owned by George M. Reynolds. Sometime prior to 1920, it was converted into nine apartments.
After the building was destroyed by a fire in 1940, the Village of Pelham Manor acquired the property to prevent its redevelopment into an apartment building. The village mayor at the time explained to the local newspaper that: “The board of trustees saw fit to purchase this property to make sure that it will never be used for the construction of an apartment house … It is on the easterly edge of the apartment house zone, and adjacent to the Huguenot Memorial Church, and remains one of the last threats against the zoning ordinance in the village.” Clifford T. Weihman donated the funds for landscaping the property and the village dedicated the new park in memory of his first wife, Martha Emmons Weihman (1894-1940). Clifford T. Weihman was a Pelham Manor resident who owned a vegetable oil import business and was on the board of managers and was the vice-president and then president of the New York Produce Exchange. He also served as President of the Mount Vernon Hospital.
A restoration of the park was undertaken in 2005 with funds raised by the Junior League of Pelham. The work included a new fence on the outer perimeter of the park and new paths, benches and seating, landscaping and an irrigation system.