For much of the last two hundred years, there has been a bridge over the Hutchinson River where it empties into Eastchester Bay. The various bridges that have been built there have played a critical role in the development, and thus the history, of the Town of Pelham.
On March 6, 1812, the New York State Legislature enacted a statute incorporating the "Eastchester Bridge Company" to build a bridge over the Hutchinson River where it empties into Eastchester Bay. The bridge was built shortly afterward and is believed to have been completed by about 1815.
In 1817, the Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Company was incorporated to construct a turnpike from the causeway at Westchester to the bridge. That bridge came to be known as "Pelham Bridge" -- the name it bears today. Even in its first iteration, Pelham Bridge included a draw to permit ships to pass. Within its first few years, the first Pelham Bridge was destroyed by a storm. On April 12, 1816, the company was authorized by the Legislature to sell its property and toll franchise for a period of forty-five years.
Some sources say the second bridge was built in 1834 by George Rapelje, with the right to charge tolls for a period of thirty years, but the supervisors of Westchester County purchased the bridge in 1860 and made it free. The bridge was replaced with an iron bridge constructed in 1869-1870. That bridge, in turn, was replaced by the present larger bridge, opened by the New York City Department of Bridges on October 15, 1908.
Though the postcard in image 2 is undated, it most certainly depicts the Pelham Bridge about 1907. There is no evidence in the image of any construction of the abutments of the current concrete arch Pelham Bridge that opened adjacent to the site of this old iron bridge on October 15, 1908. The photograph in image 3 shows the bridge in the postcard image above in the background of a photograph showing the new bridge abutments under construction in the foreground.
An earlier image of the old iron bridge published in 1884 in Harper's Weekly as part of a page of images showing various parts of Pelham Bay Park shows the Pelham Bridge about 25 years earlier than the other images and from a slightly different angle. Careful scrutiny of each of these images will show features in addition to the paired arches of the bridge that appear in all three images.
Note in image 4 the iron arches of the bridge are visible in the distance on the right edge of the image.
The undated postcard image of the old iron Pelham Bridge reminds us of a simpler and quaint time when horses, carriages, cattle, and oxen wandered the roads of Pelham and crossed the bridges of our region.