PHOTO CREDITS: Photos Courtesy of Robert A. Bang, John Tolley Collection.
The Highbrook Avenue Bridge was designed for The New York, Westchester & Boston Railway in 1910 to attract development in the Village of Pelham and Westchester County. Given the current density of population, it can be said that the effort was successful. Today the "Highbrook" stands as a living memorial to the inventions, investments, design, competition and physical challenges of a century ago. The construction photograph below reveals a diversified group of nearly 30 men working together on the massive Highbrook bridge construction.
Civil engineer, Lawrence E. Van Etten, who surveyed many Westchester properties, including Sutton Manor (listed as National Historic Place), prepared the Pelhamwood survey for developer Clifford Harmon. The survey dated July 14, 1910, prominently includes the Highbrook Bridge and Clifford Station for the NYW&B property. The bridge and Highbrook Avenue are named for the underground spring on top of the east wing wall of the bridge.
The NYW&B Railway was under construction at the same time as Grand Central Terminal (New York City), both were designed by the architect firm of Reed & Stem. Alfred T. Fellheimer was the lead architect for both projects. Enormous investments inspired both railway projects to be designed exceptionally and flawless in their ability to function. “The construction standard to which The Westchester was built was considered exceptional from 180th Street to White Plains and through Pelham where it takes a North Eastern approach”.
The New York Times published an article May 21, 1912 that declares, “Westchester Line a ‘Road Beautiful,’” “Inspection Trip Shows a Railway Built on a ‘Public-Be-Pleased’ Plan... Stations and Roadway Made Attractive…” The article notes that “Structures were designed to afford mobility with out a single grade crossing to endanger pedestrians and impeded traffic.” “Every station received individual art treatment to make a thing of beauty. Not a steel or wooden signal tower is out of harmony with the concrete and marble stations”. “An Italian Renaissance motif has been carried out in the design of every structure along the line, from the tower houses to construction camps, even the signboards being forced into harmony with the prevailing design and gray color scheme”. NYW&B President Miller announced the line would be opened for service on May 29, 1912 from Bronx Park to New Rochelle. The mayor of the Village of North Pelham (Peter Ceder) was in attendance for its inspection trip, following which, architect Alfred T. Fellheimer of Reed & Stem met with officials and discussed the railway’s stations, which he designed and named.
Although the NYW&B was only operational from 1912 to 1937, it was the most modern and advanced Electric Railway built for its time. The Highbrook permanent way crossing was designed to be esthetically pleasing in appearance for its residential setting. The entire railway was designed to be elegant, fast, efficient and smooth. The NYW&B Railway was very influential in bringing development to the Village of Pelham and throughout Westchester. Ironically, today, the Railway property is the only remaining greenspace within this “Compact Community.”
When the NYW&B was forced into bankruptcy in 1937, the abandoned stations and structures were given to the towns to pay back-taxes owed for the right of way; the railroad was sold off, covered over, and otherwise forgotten. Part of the line in the Bronx was integrated into the New York City Subway in 1941. The war effort encouraged the rapid salvage of the Westchester’s catenary supports, bridges, and viaducts. There is little left of The Westchester which was a significant part of transportation history. Morris Park is listed as a NHP and Heathcote Station was recently restored. The Highbrook is the only remaining bridge of the NYW&B and should be saved.
The proposed NYW&B Highbrook Bridge “Greenway” would serve as a historic connection. The Highbrook Bridge contributes to the overall historic features within the Village of Pelham, and could one day provide safe passage over Highbrook Avenue for pedestrians, avoiding the more dangerous section of Lincoln Avenue. The NYW&B Bridge and Greenway is the last remaining unused greenspace in the Village and shares Pelhamwood’s Centennial Birthday this year. We hope this Historic feature will be considered to be included in the Centennial Celebration for the NYW&B in 2012 as a Historic Place in the Village of Pelham it is featured on the NYW&BRWY website.
For a wonderful on-line archive of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway: 1912-1937 please visit:http://nywbry.com/gallery_photos.php