Do You Remember

The Coster Mansion on Edison Avenue served very briefly as a schoolhouse for the children of St. Benedict’s Parish. It was razed in 1930 to make way for the new school.

The Coster Estate was put together in 1771 for Daniel J. Coster and his wife, Julia DeLancey Coster.  It was originally comprised of about five acres and it’s doubtful that they occupied the land right away as there is no record of the mansion being there until long after the American Revolution.  The land was, in fact, a rather dangerous place to live.  The Hessians, fighting with the English, had an encampment there from October 12 to October 18, 1776 during the Battle of Westchester Creek.  The area was known as the Neutral Ground and was often raided by both sides seeking cattle or crops to feed their armies. 

There were obviously no streets at the time but the approximate boundaries by today’s roadways would be Edison Avenue east to Hollywood Avenue and Otis Avenue south to Barkley Avenue.  The estate was, of course, later expanded and a two-story dwelling constructed along with various out buildings.  There was also a fine apple orchard.  Members of the Coster family lived in the mansion for about a century. 

The estate was broken up by O. Delancey (sic) Coster and his sister, Miss Martha A. Coster, in 1920.  They were the trustees of the estate of Henry A. Coster, the last occupant of the mansion.  The estate auction included 250 lots with some frontages on both Tremont Avenue and Eastern (now Bruckner) Boulevard.  The estate now extended east to Hollywood Avenue and as far south as Sommer Place.  The original five-acre estate of Daniel Coster held 93 lots and William A. Cokeley was the high bidder for the grouping at $43,500.  The entire sale netted $180,538 which averaged out to $611 per lot.  The auction was held at Joseph P. Day’s Manhattan office on Vesey Street on September 23, 1920. 

The Parish of St. Benedict’s purchased the mansion and grounds in the summer of 1929 and used it as a schoolhouse from September to December of that year.  They broke ground for a new school on Edison Avenue on January 26, 1930.  Demolition of the Coster Mansion began the following day, January 27, and continued until it was totally razed by February 3, 1930.  Construction then began on St. Benedict’s School which still stands on that historic site.  There may still be a few old-timers around who remember the old Coster Mansion and the orchard which spread across the area we now know as Logan and Hollywood avenues.

Coster Street on Hunts Point, by the way, was named for Henry A. Coster’s aunt, Julia Coster Barretto.  A nearby street honors her husband, Francis J. Barretto, a wealthy Westchester politician and merchant.  Many of the leading families of the area intermarried and you should also remember that the area of the Bronx east of the Bronx River was part of Westchester County until 1895.  It should be mentioned that Julia’s brothers, Daniel and John, owned part of the Coster Estate.  Think of the Coster family and their orchards the next time you pass St. Benedict’s School on Edison Avenue. 

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