Village of Bronxville Mayor’s Column
By MARY MARVIN, Esq.

Mary Marvin Bronxville, Business, Community, Culture, Governance, History, People Leave a Comment

Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin, Esq.

BRONXVILLE, NY — March 2, 2021 — Many of you responded positively to the snippets of history and wonderful quirks in the Village’s past so I dug a little deeper to present a Part II.

The Village’s first attempt by petition to incorporate was invalidated by the Eastchester Town Supervisor who declared the vote illegal because women had signed it!  Now 53% of our Village population is female, and I dare say Bronxville women can move mountains when called upon.

In fact, the Village was a hot bed of the suffrage movement and it has been chronicled that in 1911, Village women clapped so vociferously for their right to vote that they, “split from thumb to wrist their arm length suede gloves.”

The actual first Village government was formed at “Dogwoods” the home of Frances Bacon, newly installed Village President, at 61 Sagamore Road.  Still familiar names: Bacon, Kraft and Chambers were our first governing body.

As early as 1905, residents asked Village government to address the decayed bridge on Parkway Road, soon to be followed by a petition to increase the inadequate street lighting.

Minutes of these old Village Board meetings also included the observation of the complete submersion of the old Girl Scout Cabin on Paxton Avenue due to catastrophic floods in 1910 and 1938.

The “Lowlands” neighborhood area near our present day school was also plagued by early flooding.  In 1920 when the current site on Pondfield was chosen for the public school, a Village elder remarked that, “the only problem was that much of it was covered by water.”

Our first school, built in 1870, looked no different from rural structures in the Midwest – built on a small plot of donated land on the Value Drugs site on Pondfield Road – it was a little red wooden building with a cloak room and potbellied stove.

Parental involvement in the PTA has always been a signature trait of the Village.  Early meetings concentrated on an effective method to monitor the content of motion pictures fearing a negative impact on our community, but more importantly, a deleterious effect on our diction.

Around the turn of the century, the Village was home to an insane asylum so named The Vernon House Retreat for the Insane located near the intersection of White Plains and Pondfield Roads.  Limited to ten patients, one could be treated for, “mental and nervous diseases and cases of Habit.”

When you drive down Palumbo Place behind Village Hall you notice an unusual name for a village street.   It is actually in recognition of the Village’s long time Public Works director Joe Palumbo.  Similarly, Leonard Morange park on the west side near the railroad station, home to our beautiful holiday tree, is named after the first village resident to die in the service of our country in World War I.

The original soil at the Alfredo fields, the open space near Siwanoy Country Club, was sold and trucked to Queens to provide fill for the World’s Fair in 1939.

Over 20% of the land (97 acres) in the Village is tax exempt.

The Bronx River was actually rerouted and the Village border materially changed to accommodate the construction of the Bronx River Parkway completed in 1925, thus becoming the first multi-lane limited access Parkway in North America.

We had the exact same population – approximately 6500 residents – in the 1930’s as we have today. Stores were closed on Wednesday afternoons and a Home Valet truck patrolled the Village.  Sporting the slogan, “Would you spare your appearance for 50₵?” If you so desired, the gentlemen would stop at your door and iron your rumpled suit.

The Gramatan Hotel dominated the Bronxville skyline from 1905 until its tear down in 1972 and was home to many famous visitors.

It is recorded that President John F. Kennedy was a very reluctant ballroom dance student at the hotel as it was the first home of the venerable Miss Covington’s School of Dance.

A particular poignant story relating to the Gramatan Hotel surrounds the protracted death of a young fifteen-year-old visitor from Pittsburgh.  Stricken with incurable influenza, Margaret Brown’s spiritual needs were tended to by the kind neighboring rector of Christ Church, Albert Wilson.  To show their thanks, the Brown’s commissioned the very first stained glass window in Christ Church in gratitude to Rector Wilson and as a lasting Bronxville memory of their daughter.

In terms of open space, Scout Field is a 2.29 acre park, of which only 0.29 acres are in the Village of Bronxville with the remaining acreage almost evenly split between the cities of Yonkers and Mount Vernon.   As a consequence, the Village Police Department cannot patrol on land in other cities/jurisdictions.

The Nature Preserve is the Village’s largest park/open space comprising 5.7 acres, 4.7 of which are actually in the Town of Eastchester.

In a fun closing, in 1888, our nearby neighbor and Yonkers resident John Reid became the first person to play golf on American soil naming his three-hole course in a local apple orchard, Saint Andrews.  It was here right around the corner where the dubious tactic of hitting a second ball off the tee after you didn’t like your first shot was given the name Mulligan.

I often revert to the prophetic words of famed architectural critic Paul Goldberger who spoke on the “Power of Place” at the Bronxville Historical Conservancy’s First Annual Brendan Gill Lecture.  He observed that Bronxville as a community has been, “endlessly copied, but never matched.”

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Mary C. Marvin is the mayor of the Village of Bronxville, New York. Share your thoughts by directing email to mayor@vobny.com 

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SOURCE: Mary Ann Maglioto | Assistant to the Mayor & Village Administrator | Bronxville Village Hall

 

Mary MarvinVillage of Bronxville Mayor’s Column
By MARY MARVIN, Esq.

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