John G. Stephenson was a coachbuilder and inventor who patented the first streetcar to run on rails in the United States. In May 1831, Stephenson, started his own business, the John Stephenson Company on Broadway in Manhattan where he created a new kind of city transportation. Combining the fledgling concept of rail travel with the traditional stagecoach mode, Stephenson built the first horse-drawn carriage to run on tracks.
This outstanding father of invention, who was born in County Armagh, Ireland, left the indelible tracks in New York City and around the globe, as well as in his beloved, adopted, community of new Rochelle. Stephenson Boulevard that runs from Main Street to Palmer Avenue and the school that once stood on the hillside were named for him.
Stephenson and his wife Julia began retreating to New Rochelle for summer outings with their three children and in 1862, the couple purchased a large tract of shoreline property and constructed a year-round residence called Clifford.
Stephenson's holdings in New Rochelle included what had been the site of Crystal Lake, which encompassed what is now the Stephenson playground and playfield. It was once the main source of ice for Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 1840s and 50s, but by the time Stephenson purchased the property, the lake, then stagnant, was a rich breeding ground for mosquitoes. Stephenson was declared a hero by the local press when he installed an expansive drainage system and “removed the malarial influencers that formerly threatened that section of town.”
An active crusader for the temperance movement and a trustee of the New Rochelle public schools, Stephenson was also a devout member of the (erstwhile) St Johns Methodist Episcopal Church. He died at the age of 84 and his funeral was held at Clifford.
Related albums • See other albumsNew Rochelle Walk of Fame
Related locationsNY, Westchester Co, New Rochelle
Related peopleJohn Stephenson