16.Sep.2016 Abbey Close
Abbey Close is a street in the very northernmost reaches of New Rochelle. It is in the “Scarsdale Downs” neighborhood, which is, not surprisingly, very close to the border with Scarsdale.
Let’s break up the name Abbey Close into pieces. The name Abbey — this is pure myth. An abbey is a complex of buildings used by monks or nuns under the governance of an abbott. But there was no abbey on the New Rochelle-Scarsdale border — so the name word Abbey must mean something else, something more. Here, it was meant to evoke images of English gentry. You know, like Downton Abbey. This is confirmed by one 1930 advertisement for Scarsdale Downs, which promised “aristocratic homes” that are “distinguished in aspect.” A coat of arms also makes an appearance, so you know it’s legit.
Now the suffix, “close.” In architecture, a “close” is the area immediately surrounding a cathedral bounded by walls and a gate that was closed at night — hence, a “close.” And it has been applied to street names to mean any dead end street. While it is not terribly common in the United States, it is very common in England (i.e., it’s the second most common street name in England).
Scarsdale Downs was laid out on land that was previously part of Apple Tree Farm, an 87-acre plot bounded by Wilmot Road on the south and Beraud Road on the west. New Rochelle Pioneer 8 (May 19, 1917). For a number of years in the early 1900s the farm was owned by Edward Clarkson (E.C.) Potter, Wall Street banker and deft polo player. Potter was the son of famed architect Edward Tuckerman Potter (Mark Twain House, Hartford CT; Nott Memorial Building, Schenectady NY) and was married to the daughter of Theodore Havemeyer, sugar baron and the first president of the USGA. So these were fancy folk.
But somehow Apple Tree Farm ended up in foreclosure. It was acquired by Met Life in 1917 and resold with the intent “to divide the land into residence plots of four or five acres and upwards.” New Rochelle Pioneer 8 (May 17, 1917). The syndicate first carved off the 10 acres with the farmhouse and barns, which it sold to Allen Tobey (also a banker) in 1920. Scarsdale Inquirer No. 48 (Oct. 8, 1920).
The early plans of the neighborhood contains Abbey Close, but only as a nub of a street, ending abruptly in Tobey’s Apple Tree Farm. Tobey appears to have continued the farm as a working farm through the 1940s but sold the land in the early 1950s. It appears that Abbey Close was extended 1955, when it assumed its present shape.