The Home of Berta and Elmer Hader, Nyack, New York

The Home of Berta and Elmer Hader, Nyack, New York

Hader house with car

Nyack, New York — Okay, so I didn’t run by here, but I DID bike by here, so that still seems in keeping with the theme of this blog.

I had the good fortune to be one of the first riders across the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge Bike/Walk path.  (The path had officially opened the day before.)

Here’s a shot of it:

Cuomo

I rode from the Tarrytown side all the way over to the other side, and as I was biking through the picturesque town of Nyack, I remembered that Berta and Elmer Hader had lived here, so I needed to go find their house.

Who, I hear you asking, are Berta and Elmer Hader, and why should I care?

Well, they were popular and prolific children’s book writers and illustrators.  A husband and wife team, they met in San Francisco in the teens, married, and moved to Nyack, New York, because they thought that to really make it they had to be near New York City. Over a period of some years, they built this glorious stone house perched high on the hill overlooking the Hudson.  Big enough to accommodate many guests and their studio, they lived, worked and entertained here up until they died (Elmer in 1973, Berta in 1976)

Hader_studioBerta and Elmer Hader in their studio in Nyack, NY (Courtesy of Concordia University)

Here are some images of their work:

Here’s the cover of a book they wrote in 1944 about building their lovely stone house.  (It even got a review in the New York Times):

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Elmer also illustrated John Steinbeck’s first four novels – the story goes that Steinbeck saw the drawings for the book “Billy Butter” and was so impressed with it that he asked him to do the cover art for “The Grapes of Wrath.”

One of the things that strikes me about them, their work, and their house, is that it seems like they would have been magical parents.  However, tragically, their only child, Hamilton, died at the age of two from meningitis.  But Berta and Elmer soldiered on and brought joy to hundreds of thousands of children.

According to the research guide at the Concordia University Library, which houses an archive of their illustrations, the Haders once wrote this about their artistic philosophy:

“We write for children, not to preach, nor moralize, but to suggest that the world about them is a beautiful and pleasant place to live in, if they but take time out, to look. And perhaps in doing so, our young readers will develop an interest to save what is good of their world for others to enjoy.”

What a delightful and joyful way to approach the world, eh?

The Haders were active in their community, early supporters of the environmental movement, and committed pacifists (Elmer had served in WWI, though it’s unlikely he ever saw any action, leaving on a troopship for France as he did on November 10, 1918, the day before the Armistice.)

But I’m not going to lie – my interest in the Haders did not stem from books of theirs I read as a child.  No, my interest in them comes by way of Laura Ingalls Wilder and “Little House in the Big Woods.”

Little_House_in_the_Big_woods_easyshare

That’s a whole other post unto itself, which I will take up at the proper time, but let’s just say that Berta flatted with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose in San Francisco in the late teens.  It’s during this time that Berta met Elmer, a fellow artiste and a former vaudeville performer, and they all moved to New York to live in that epicenter of artistic poverty, Greenwich Village, in a converted stable at 31 Great Jones Street. (Well, I’m not sure Elmer lived with them there, but he was certainly in the picture by then.)

31 Great Jones Street

(Courtesy Google Maps Street View)

Berta married Elmer in 1919, and they moved to Nyack, New York.  This is their wedding photo:

Hader_wedding_-_MAIN_PAGE

(Courtesy of Concordia University)

Berta and Elmer would spend the rest of their lives in their eyrie at 55 River Road, watching the sun rise over the Hudson, and happily writing and illustrating books together.

Ossining’s Revolutionary War Gun Emplacement? UPDATED

Ossining’s Revolutionary War Gun Emplacement? UPDATED

Gun Emplacement USE THIS

Spoiler: No it is not.

UPDATED 5/5/2020

I had to update this post because I felt too many people saw the misleading title, but did not read the article.  I couldn’t, in good conscience, let people walk around Ossining thinking that there was a Revolutionary War Era gun emplacement here when in fact there is not.

Have you ever seen this little structure in Ossining?  It’s just north of the Ossining train station, high up on the ridge.  You might notice it if you happening to be craning your neck and looking to the sky as you pull out of the Ossining train station. (It also needs to be winter, when all the overgrowth and leaves are clear.)

It’s always looked like a Revolutionary War gun emplacement to me.  And it’s been a huge mystery – well, at least in the moment it flashes past.  Then, as is so often the case, I forget about it until the next time.

It’s taken me several years of extremely intermittent and apathetic research to solve this little mystery, but I think I’ve done it.

And, sigh, no.  It is not a Revolutionary War gun emplacement.

It seems it is just the foundation of a small gazebo on Oliver Cromwell Field’s properly, built in the early 19th century.

But let’s go deeper, shall we?

My original haphazard and undisciplined Internet research turned up nothing.  But then,  investigating something else, I stumbled upon an Archeological Assessment and Field Investigation report for the Hidden Cove Development that was being planned for the old Brandreth Pill Factory site.  Luckily, I downloaded the whole thing because the link to the Village site no longer works – I’m guessing this project is on permanent hold.

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Anyway, this little document – well, it runs a cool eighty-four pages, so it is NOT little at all – makes for some surprisingly fascinating reading.  First, and please join me on this little tangent, who knew that there are six pre-contact sites of archeological interest within one mile of this one.  (Pre-contact means before Europeans arrived.  It is thought that humans have been living here for at least the last 13,000 years.)

Two of the sites are in Crawbuckie Park, but there’s no further information about exactly where (yet.)  Two more are somewhere nearby along the river.  The fifth is apparently the site of a pre-contact village at the mouth of the Croton River, but with no specific details.  Finally, the sixth site was professionally excavated in 1977 by Louis Brennan and is called Piping Rock: “a Paleo-hunter and Dalton Early Archaic Site.”  So as not to sideline this blog post too much more, allow me to promise that I will investigate this thoroughly soon in a future post.

But back to my Revolutionary War Gun Emplacement that is not . . .

On page 10 of this Report, there’s an achingly accurate history of the Brandreth parcel of land (we all know that the Brandreth Pill Factory was one of 19th century Ossining’s biggest employers, right?  And that Benjamin Brandreth was wildly successful at selling his highly impotent and useless patent medicines at a time when nothing else worked either.  Herman Melville even mentions them in “Moby-Dick!”  But I digress yet again.)

Originally, the land was stolen from the indigenous Sinc Sinck by Frederick Phillipse in 1685.  (Too much?  Okay, Phillipse made a completely fair trade, as has been so often the case in North American land transactions with native peoples.)

Over a hundred years later, an English gentleman named Oliver Cromwell Field purchased this parcel of land, and “immediately constructed a house on the promontory that overlooks the Hudson River. The house  was a large building in the Greek Revival style that had large columns on the southern exposure. During the Field’s occupancy a small summerhouse, or gazebo, was built on the tip of the southernmost cliff (the foundation is still extant on the site. (Assessment, 10)”

Aw, there you have it.  My gun emplacement, which in my mind was manned by courageous Sing Sing citizens during the Revolutionary War, who fired off potshots at the British vessels as they approached the Hudson Highlands, is really just some rich English guy’s 19th century gazebo.

Sometimes history is like that. . .

Here are a few more pictures.  I STILL think it looks like a gun emplacement.

Split Rock and Anne Hutchinson

Split Rock and Anne Hutchinson

Rock with sigs

This site has been on my bucket list ever since I first learned about it.  It is neither in Ossining, nor something I’ve run by, but it is certainly history I’ve passed by . . .

In Pelham Bay Park there sits an enormous boulder split in two.  It’s located on a tiny spit of land between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the exit to I-95N – you can see it from the Hutch briefly as you drive by if it’s winter, you’re in the passenger seat, and know exactly where to look.

The text below is apparently on an historical marker posted within Pelham Bay Park.  I did not see it, but I would have read it if I had.  Luckily, the NYC Parks Department has helpfully posted it on their website.  So let’s start there:

Split Rock is a glacial boulder, divided in half with a large crevice between the two pieces, and is an important part of the history of Pelham Bay Park and the Bronx. It was in this gap that Anne Hutchinson and her daughter, Susannah, supposedly hid during the attack of the Siwanoy Native American tribe in 1643. Although the Siwanoy killed Hutchinson, it is believed that the Siwanoy protected and raised Susannah.

Split Rock Road was also the site of the Battle of Pell’s Point where, on October 18, 1776, Colonel John Glover (1732-1787) successfully safeguarded General George Washington’s (1732-1799) retreat to White Plains with a small band of Patriots against a large British and Hessian force. Glover placed his four regiments behind the stone walls along the side of the road to surprise the British and Hessian troops. Pieces of the walls can still be seen near the Split Rock.

Split Rock is located near the 375-acre Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary, which was designated on October 11, 1967, to preserve the natural wetlands of Pelham Bay Park. The Sanctuary and marsh are situated along the western boundary of Pelham Bay Park at the Hutchinson River, and holds both salt marsh and forested lands. Salt marshes, characterized by saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), are among New York’s least known and most valuable natural resources. Salt marshes flourish behind barriers of beach and sand, in the shelter of coves, lagoons, and bays, and along the banks of estuaries. They reduce erosion, and they provide for rich wildlife habitats.

The area is home to a variety of wildlife including raccoon, egrets, hawks, ibis, and, coyote. The border between salt marsh and forest is a good place to see yellow thistle (Cirsium horridulum) and holy grass (Hierchloë odorata), both rare in the City. The Sanctuary is named for Thomas Pell, the first European to control the land.

There is a Split Rock Trail that meanders 1.5 miles from the Bartow traffic circle through the Goose Creek Marsh, and the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary, to Split Rock. The trail runs near the former Split Rock Road, which now winds through the Split Rock Golf Course. The road was a former Siwanoy Trail between City Island and Pelham. In the summer of 1987 Parks and the Mayor’s City Volunteer Corps worked together to restore the Split Rock Trail for the public. The rock sits in the northwest corner of Pelham Bay Park at the junction of the Hutchinson River Parkway and the New England Thruway.[1]

A glacial boulder, massacre, a Native American trail, a Revolutionary War battle, rare thistle and salt grass?  This site has thousands of years of history on it.

But let’s back up first, though, shall we?  You must know of the Hutch, that narrow, windy Parkway that starts at the Bruckner and goes up about 20 miles to the Connecticut state line.  If anyone still listens to traffic reports on the radio, the Hutch is almost always backed up with a disabled vehicle, a tractor trailer that has fallen from I-95 stopping traffic, etc.  I hate driving it, although I love the name of it because it is one of the only (possibly THE only) New York State highways named after a woman.

HRP_Pelham

The Parkway is named after the Hutchinson River it parallels, which in turn is named after Anne Hutchinson, the Puritan intellectual, activist and rebel. She was probably one of the most infamous women in her time, due not only to her unorthodox interpretation of the bible, but also her audacity of speaking and teaching these ideas in public.  Throw in a hefty dose of patriarchal disapproval, fear and disdain for women, and you have the recipe for banishment.

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Born Anne Marbury in 1591 in Lincolnshire, England, she was fairly well-educated for a young lady of her time.  (Also, just parenthetically, she was born the year that Shakespeare wrote “The Taming of the Shrew”, “Henry VI” pts. 1,2 &3, and “Titus Andronicus.”  This is in no way relevant, it is just some context that I find interesting.)  Anne married William Hutchinson, a merchant, and they went on to have 14 or 15 children together.  They also were extremely serious about their beliefs, and in 1634 followed the preacher John Cotton to Boston, Massachusetts on the HMS Griffin.

It was in Boston that Anne got into trouble for questioning the teachings of many Puritan ministers, accusing them, in effect, of not being pure enough, as they stressed the Covenant of Works over the Covenant of Grace.  Without getting too deep into the weeds of Puritan theology, let’s just say this is called the Antinomian Controversy, and ended up with Anne being put on trial in 1637 for 80 or so counts of heresy of which, surprise, she was convicted and banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Banishment was probably the kindest punishment for the time, considering that in England, heretics were often burned at the stake or hanged.  Also, Anne might have been pregnant at the time, so perhaps the overlords were being merciful . . .

(It’s funny, isn’t it, how a group of people who emigrated from England on the grounds that they weren’t able to practice their religion freely, refused to allow others to practice THEIR religions freely in the New World.  Ah, the base hypocrisy upon which our nation was founded!)

Anne, her husband and children left Massachusetts, along with Roger Williams and some other purists, to settle in Portsmouth, later Rhode Island.  But just a couple of years later, again under threat from the long arm of Massachusetts, she and her husband took their six youngest children down to the wilds of New Netherlands, purchasing a tract of land in what is now the Bronx.  In a tragic example of the cliché “out of the frying pan and into the fire,”  the land they purchased from the Dutch belonged to the Siwanoy tribe, who did not recognize (or possibly even know about) the European transaction.

Tensions were high before the Hutchinson clan even arrived, due to the ongoing Kieft’s War, which was waged by the New Netherlanders against the Lenape, resulting in the massacre of many Native Americans.  The other local tribes were united by these atrocities, and sent many warnings to Anne.  Her husband William had died soon after they arrived, and Anne was left to build a house and set up a farm.

She had had convivial relationships with the Native Americans in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, so she apparently was not afraid or concerned when they visited her Pelham property on several occasions.  For example, they would gather up the tools of her carpenter, James Sands, as he worked to build her house, and gesture to him to leave.  (After a few days of this, he finally did, and she just engaged a different carpenter to finish the job.)

But the Siwanoy were not to be ignored.

Eve LaPlante, who wrote American Jezebel, the Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman who Defied the Puritans, described the fateful day as follows:

The Siwanoy warriors stampeded into the tiny settlement above Pelham Bay, prepared to burn down every house. The Siwanoy chief, Wampage, who had sent a warning, expected to find no settlers present. But at one house the men in animal skins encountered several children, young men and women, and a woman past middle age. One Siwanoy indicated that the Hutchinsons should restrain the family’s dogs. Without apparent fear, one of the family tied up the dogs. As quickly as possible, the Siwanoy seized and scalped Francis Hutchinson, William Collins, several servants, the two Annes (mother and daughter), and the younger children—William, Katherine, Mary, and Zuriel. As the story was later recounted in Boston, one of the Hutchinsons’ daughters, “seeking to escape,” was caught “as she was getting over a hedge, and they drew her back again by the hair of the head to the stump of a tree, and there cut off her head with a hatchet.

Hutchinson.massacre

Depiction of the massacre of Anne Hutchinson and her family, found in William Cullen Bryant’s “A popular history of the United States,” 1878 (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Afterwards, all was burned to the ground and this is partially why no one has ever been able to find the exact place where the Hutchinson farm stood.

It is here that the Split Rock takes centerstage.  As the massacre was happening, nine-year-old Susanna was, so legend has it, picking blueberries some distance away.  When she heard the screams, she hid in the split of the rock.  But the Siwanoy found her and took her captive (some theorize they did this rather than kill her because she had red hair, which they had never seen before.)  She apparently lived with them for several years before she was ransomed back to family in Massachusetts, where she went on to marry and have 11 children.  Author Katherine Kirkpatrick wrote a necessarily fictionalized YA novel called Trouble’s Daughter: The Story of Susanna Hutchinson, Indian Captive, that imagines this part of Susanna’s life.

If you’ve made this this far, you definitely want to know how to get to the Split Rock.  Now, I will tell you, but note that to get right up close to it, you have to run across the entrance ramp to I-95, something I absolutely and categorically do not recommend you ever do.  But here are directions on how to get close enough to see it clearly – FYI this hike takes about 20 minutes each way:

Go to the very end of Beech Tree Lane, in Pelham.   (GoogleMaps will get you right there.)
At the end of the street is a pathway that enters onto the Bridle Path in Pelham Bay Park – it’s fairly clearly marked. Pass through the low wooden gate and you will see the Pelham Bay Golf Course in front of you. Take a right, and start walking, keeping the golf course on your left.

You’ll note that the path seems more than just a path and is, in fact, part of an old roadway that, in the mid-19th century, led from the estate of a man named John Hunter (located on Hunter’s Island) to today’s Boston Post Road (aka U.S. 1).

The path/road climbs briefly up to an old iron railway bridge built in 1908, that spans the New Haven Line.  Then, after the bridge, you will soon start to parallel I-95.  This is the least enjoyable part of the walk.  This is also mildly historical, but it involves titles and farms and deeded right-of-ways of which I have no interest.  (But if you’re a real estate lawyer, here’s a link that details all this https://historicpelham.blogspot.com/2005/03/split-rock-pelham-landmark-for.html)

Trail                                                       Looking back along the trail

Keep walking until the trail starts to head down fairly steeply (you’ll see a “Steep Slope” warning sign.)  Here’s where you can bushwack to the guard rail and see, across the entrance ramp to I-95, the Split Rock.  I really wouldn’t get any closer.

Rock thru trees 2

But stop here and take a minute to think about Anne Hutchinson and her family, forced out of England, then Massachusetts, then Rhode Island for their beliefs.  Think of the Native Americans who saw their land being bought and sold out from under them, and being settled by Europeans, often with bloodshed.   And think about young Susanna cowering in the split of that rock, hearing not the rumble of traffic whizzing by, but the blood-curdling screams of her mother and siblings.

It’s just a big rock, but it holds many stories . . .

[1] https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/pelham-bay-park/highlights/11662

An Erratic in Our Midst

An Erratic in Our Midst

I am well aware that, with the exception of my post on the Hunterbrook Shelter, everything else I write about here is post-1700s.  Part of that, of course, is that I’m writing about things I notice when I run, and they tend to be something of the built, or modern,world.  Part of it is, I must admit, a generalized European prejudice – I just don’t notice things that aren’t familiar to me.  That said, sometimes there are things from the natural world that are so spectacular that they cannot be ignored.

The glacial erratic in Rockefeller State Park is one of those things.

It also stands as a reminder that our world existed for millions of years before us which, in this time of pandemic, is ironically soothing to me.  (NB – this post was written in March of 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis)

But I mean, check this thing out:

Erratic

You can get here by entering the park at the Route 117 entrance and parking in the (pay) lot at the top of the hill.  Then, take the NW (Nature’s Way) trail out of the lot or the SH trail (Old Sleepy Hollow Road Trail) down the hill.  From both trails, you will see a sign for the Glacial Erratic.  Check out this very poor screenshot of the map:

Rockies Trails to Erratic

And here is a sign that tells you more – of course, the point of this blog post is to tell you that more, but I want to give Brett Turenchalk of Pleasantville Troop 12 credit for his work.  I imagine it was his Eagle Project and I thank him very much for finding this spot and choosing to honor it:

SignThis boulder is something I’ve run by for YEARS and never noticed.  (To be fair, it is well off the usual path I run, but still . . .)

So what is this thing, this giant rock that stands so proudly and oddly in the midst of nothing like it?  It is called an Erratic, or a rock that was dragged here from perhaps as far away as the Arctic Circle, by a glacier thousands (millions?) of years ago.

Stay with me, people, as I attempt to summarize geologic history in blog-friendly form:

The Quaternary Ice Age, or more accurately, the Quaternary Period, encompasses the last 1.8 million years of Earth’s geological history.

I could dig deeper and tell you that it is one of three periods in the Cenozoic Era but I won’t.  As recently as 10,000 years ago (also known as the Pleistocene Epoch, as opposed to the Holocene Epoch, which is the one we’re currently in) our whole area – Ossining, Croton, Rockefeller State Park – was covered in sheets of slowly moving ice, and humans, mastodons and mammoths co-existed.  (In between the ice, I guess.)  These ice sheets are thought to have reached about halfway up the Empire State Building, if I remember the NYS exhibit at the Museum of Natural History correctly.  You can see the evidence of these ice sheets/glaciers in the rocks that show signs of striations, or long gouges, in them.  Take a hike anywhere in our area and you’ll see them.  These ones are in my backyard:

Striations 2

See the long scratches in the rock?  That’s evidence of a glacier slowly scraping its way over this rock millions of years ago!

Erratics are actually everywhere if you let yourself see them, though I’ve never seen one as big as this one.  There are several in Central Park and, honestly, if you walk around just about anywhere up here, you are bound to see them.  It really is amazing how easily we gloss over odd things like this — seeing them, but not seeing them, if you know what I mean.  (Actually, I think that is the best summary yet of what this blog is all about, but I digress.)

This particular Erratic is, according to Scout Turenchalk, is about 20 feet high and 65 feet around.  On the back side, I think you could climb up it fairly easily, but there were lots of young kids around when we went and we didn’t want to encourage them to do something risky.  It is so large, though, that it gives you a powerful idea of how strong these glacial ice sheets were, that they could shift rocks as giant as this one.  This also makes me think about the randomness of nature, that the ice melted enough right here to deposit this boulder in this exact spot.

Now, a cursory Internet search has not turned up anything credible on this specific Erratic.  I did find an academic article from 1994 written by a member of the Hofstra University Geology department that goes into great depth as to which glacier could have deposited this boulder.  (The authors assert that the glacial features created during the Pleistocene were likely caused by four glaciers, not just one.   Check out the article here: http://www.dukelabs.com/Publications/PubsPdf/JESCM1994b_GANJ_GlacialNYC.pdf)

As to what kind of rock this is – gneiss, schist, shale, limestone . . .?  Short answer is that I don’t know, but if any of you are geologists, please check it out and get back to me so I can update this post.

Gates to Nowhere

Gates to Nowhere

One of the things that endlessly fascinate me are the ‘gates to nowhere’ that I pass on my runs.  You know what I mean — those stone entranceways that sit just off the road, often covered in vines, sometimes with a name carved into them. The last vestiges of a grand estate sitting forlorn and forgotten. It’s at once tragic and mysterious to me that someone once spent the time and effort to install a stone gate to mark the entryway to their property, yet today it’s reduced to a stub of a thing leading nowhere.  What happened?  Why?  Where are the people that put the gate up?

Since I have nothing else to think about when I run, I find myself getting terribly existential, and mourn the ephemeral nature of our world. Then I get mad — it’s a sad commentary on our respect for history that an estate or farm that once merited a grand gate can just be erased from memory and topography by real estate developments.  (Of course, to be fair, often those developments memorialize what was there by naming themselves after it.)

Some of these gates are connected to estates I’ve blogged about before.  Some are of unknown provenance.  If you know anything about these mystery gates, please let me know and I’ll update this post.  (Who knows, perhaps they’ll even merit a post of their own!)

This first one can be found on Spring Valley Road, almost exactly across from the Heady Family Cemetery, and is one of the mystery gates.  It seems to have “Lichtstern” etched into it on the right-hand pillar.  I have not been able to find any records of such a family anywhere in the area.  Anyone?

This is the pillar for the entrance to John Cheever’s old house.  It looks as if it’s been maintained in the recent past, so I like to think that Cheever had it rebuilt and a new namestone engraved.

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Here is the entrance to Carrie Chapman Catt’s former Ossining home, Juniper Ledge.  It looks random and forgotten, sitting as it does on North State Road, catty corner to Club Fit, but it is in fact still guarding the driveway to where Catt lived in the 1920s.

These are the pillars for the Brandywine estate entrance, now the Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehab and Nursing Care:

Here’s the entrance to Frank Vanderlip’s estate “Beechwood,” complete with columns left over from the National City Bank building renovation located at 55 Wall Street:

Entranceway_to_Beechwood

The two photos below show the gate to the Kress Estate (today’s Cedar Lane Park), now and then (the ‘then’ photo is courtesy of grandson Rush Kress via Steven Worthy’s Facebook page “Save the Kress Buildings at Cedar Lane Park“):

These next three examples are likely leftovers from the McCord Farm which, in the 1750s, encompassed about 225 acres and was originally part of Frederick Phillipse’s Manor.  (This definitely requires its own post!)

Now, I’ve been told by those who know, that these pillars – found at the intersection of 134 & Kitchawan Road/Croton Dam Road – were the original entrance to the McCord Farm.  Since the main farmhouse is all the way over at the corner of  Narrangansett and Collyer, I kind of question that assessment, but since I have nothing better to add, I’ll leave it there until I learn more:

IMG_6680

This gate sits along Narrangansett near Bayden Road and has been nicely incorporated into the entrance of the current house:

Narragansett & Bayden

This one’s kind of hard to see, but it’s at the intersection between Croton Dam Road and Narrangansett.  If you look really closely, you can see it has brass letters that read “HarrieDean” on the left column:HarrieDean Croton Dam Road & Narragansett

These pillars are at the corner of Eastern and Watson — not at all lined up with the house behind.  So curious!

Corner Watson & Eastern

Are there any other old gates in the Ossining area that you’ve always wondered about?  Send photos and locations and let’s see if we can solve their mystery!

The Cornish Estate Ruins

The Cornish Estate Ruins

web_img_20140810_140241678_hdrPhoto from MinskysAbandoned.com

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ll know that I have a special interest in ruins.  From Elda Castle, to the Kress Estate, to the Brandywine Estate, to Rockwood  – there’s a plethora of them to explore in the area.  Few things are more exciting to me than discovering overgrown ruins hidden in the woods (someday I will write about stumbling upon the Ouvrage La Ferte in the Ardennes sector of the Maginot Line in France in 1984, but that’s a tale for another time.)

There’s something deeply compelling (and rather tragic) about the disintegration of grand, rich houses.  It’s a reminder of a past when the barons of industry and arts purchased great swaths of Westchester/Putnam land at the turn of the 20th century and built elaborate country manors.  It’s also a reminder of the strength of mother nature and the vicissitudes of life – nothing stands forever.

The Cornish Estate is definitely up there as a remarkable example of an elegant, early 20th century country home that has fallen on hard times.  Located just south of Breakneck Ridge in Garrison, you park at the brand spanking new Washburn trailhead and parking lot.  We hiked a whole loop, that takes you past an old quarry (which is unusual in its flatness), but you can also do an easy hike up the old driveway straight to the Cornish ruins.  Check out this link for a hiking map.

(And yes, I know this isn’t technically within the geographical purview of the Ossining History on the Run area.  But I make the rules, so I’m making an exception.  I mean, this is just too cool to ignore!)

Built in the 1910s by diamond merchant Sigmund Stern, the estate was originally dubbed “Northgate.”   According to Rob Yasinac at Hudson Valley Ruins.org, Sigmund Stern was actively involved in the adjacent Surprise Lake Camp, serving on its Board and selling parcels of land to the camp.  (To digress, Surprise Lake Camp is still in existence and is probably one of the first Jewish camps organized in America.)  Supposedly, and I cannot confirm this, the architecture of both the Northgate estate house and the main building of Surprise Lake Camp were very similar and built at around the same time. For what it’s worth,  I read through this pamphlet on the history of Surprise Lake Camp and could find no mention of a Sigmund Stern.   (But there’s lots on Eddie Cantor, an early camper and lifelong supporter.)

Sigmund, it seems, did not spend long at Northgate, selling both the house and the surrounding 650 acres in 1916 to Edward and Selina Cornish.  They lived there until 1938, when Edward tragically dropped dead at his desk at the National Lead Company.  Selina followed him to the grave two weeks later.  After that, it seems that some relatives of the Cornishes lived there until the 1950s, but I couldn’t discover much about that period.

Here’s what it looked like in its prime:

northgate-huntington-85                      Photo from MinskysAbandoned.com

You can still see the remains of a freshwater, gravity-fed swimming pool, a greenhouse, a pump house some distance away on the creek and a large stone barn.  Rob Yasinac asserts that “Cornish raised prize jersey cows here and newspaper articles of the 1920s chronicled the record-setting milk producing efforts of Cornishes dairy cows, including one named ‘Fon Owlet.'”  Alas, I have not been able to locate these newspaper articles. . .

In 1958, the house was mostly destroyed by fire. The heirs to the Cornish family sold the property to Central Hudson Gas and Electric, who were planning to build a power plant on the site.  (This was around the same time that Con Edison wanted to build a power plant on Storm King Mountain right across the river.)  After various local conservation groups fought the project, CHG&E gave up and sold or donated the land to the Hudson Highlands State Park.   (Fun fact, the Con Ed power-plant-on-Storm-King idea was active until the 1980s.  How lucky we are that neither plant was built.)

Check out Minsky’s Abandoned for more photos of the current state of the ruins.

And for more pictures of the estate in its prime, please visit this link (I’d reproduce the photos here for you, but the website specifically asks one not to.)

Brandywine Estate, Briarcliff Manor – UPDATED 4/2/2019

Brandywine Estate, Briarcliff Manor – UPDATED 4/2/2019

Here’s a classic History on the Run post – this is a place I have been running by for years, wondered about, and promptly forgotten about before I even got home.

But this past week, while helping my friend Kim knock out a long run for her Ironman training (!!), we ran past this gate in Briarcliff Manor:

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Can you see the “Brandywine” carved into the left pillar?  Anyway, this is located at 620 Sleepy Hollow Road in Briarcliff Manor, NY and is currently the site of the Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care:

Briarcliff Manor Center

This time I remembered to look it up when I got home.  The Internet was remarkably opaque, but luckily I own a copy of Mary Cheever’s excellent and exhaustive book, “The Changing Landscape,” which details the history of this fine estate (and that of many others in the area.)

So, let’s explore, shall we?

Originally built in 1909 by Isaac Newton Spiegelberg and called Miramont Court, the estate included a 49-room Tudor-style mansion, outbuildings, a 75-foot water tower, and 20 acres of extensively landscaped land.

Here’s what it looks like today:

Brandywine Main House

**UPDATE (4/2/2019):  An intrepid local historian found my blog and sent me the photos (below) of the interior.

According to Mary Cheever, a visitor in 1910 would see

A courtyard around the façade of the house.  From the porte-cochere, an entryway leads directly into the “great hall,” which is wood-pannelled, with a large fireplace and, set into the ceiling in terra cotta, the initials of the Spiegelbergs, I.N.S and S.F.S (Stella Friedlander.)

(Note that the house was heavily renovated in the 1930s, so much of what Cheever describes has been removed.

To the right is the Music Room, in which there was a stage with a piano on it; an organ; a big window with seats cushioned in red velvet; a small balcony in the back; and, seated on an overhang around the ceiling, child-sized . . . cherubs with their feet crossed, looking down.  Many concerts and theatricals took place . . . here.  (Cheever 107)

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Here’s the exterior of the above piano room:

Music Room?

Here are some more photos — considering the building has been vacant for quite some time, it’s amazing how intact it still is!

The following pictures must be of rooms upstairs:

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I’m not exactly sure what/where the following is a photo of, but it looks like a ceiling of some sort:

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Such craftsmanship, no?

Here’s more from Mary Cheever on the grounds in that pre-World War I time:

Many plants were imported for the gardens, most from Japan, because the local nurseries were comparatively undeveloped at the time.  The house had a grand view – from the lawn and tennis courts in the foreground, across the gardens, a vineyard, a pond and a strip of woodland, to the Hudson River and the hills of Rockland County in the distance. On fine afternoons, Stella Spiegelberg took tea in a treehouse in the garden.  She had to climb up steep steps into the treehouse, but there was a dumbwaiter to convey the tea and accompanying delicacies to her there. (Cheever 108)

Alas, there’s no sign of the treehouse with its dumbwaiter today . . . Such a shame how dilapidated this once-grand mansion has become!

The original owner, Isaac Spiegelberg, was an interesting character.  Born in the US in 1859, he received his engineering training in Europe.  He spent some years working for the St. Gotthard Railway in Switzerland – here’s a cool stock postcard photo of a engineering marvel of a bridge in the alps:

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Spiegelberg returned to the US to continue in the railroad business out West, eventually transitioning into stock brokering, and ultimately purchasing a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1886. Considering that so many of the movers and shakers of the banking world had summer estates up here, it’s no wonder the Spiegelbergs moved up here, to socialize with the Rockefellers, Vanderlips and Astors.

After Isaac Spiegelberg died in 1927, the estate was sold to Mrs. Ethel Barksdale, a sister of Pierre Du Pont.  The Barksdales “bought more land, built a studio (some of the family were artists), a greenhouse, some kennels, remodeled the interior . . . and named the estate Brandywine. (Cheever 109) ”  The Barksdales lived there only until 1931, (thanks stock market crash?) after which the property was sold to the Edward Walker Hardens.

Edward Harden was a newspaperman responsible for some of the great scoops at the turn of the century. In 1898, he was one of the first to report on Admiral Dewey’s triumph at the Battle of Manila Bay, during the Spanish-American War.  (What? Huh?  No real clue, except that Wikipedia tells me that this was “one of the most decisive naval battles in history and marked the end of the Spanish colonial period in Philippine history.”)  Harden was married to Frank Vanderlip’s sister Ruth, and by the time the Hardens moved to Westchester, Edward had, like so many others at the time it seems, left his previous career to work on Wall Street, purchasing a seat on the NYSE.

The Hardens bought and sold several significant properties in the area (like the building on Main Street, Tarrytown that now houses the Tarrytown public school administration offices) before purchasing Brandywine and a large parcel of land adjacent to it. (Side note: Harden gave some of this adjacent land, at 710 Long Hill Road West, to his niece Narcissa Vanderlip and her husband Julian Street. Here’s a photo of the house they lived in, designed by Wallace Harrison in 1939, one of the first contemporary-style houses in the area:

710 Long Hill Drive West

And in another interesting twist, the land right across the street from the Brandywine gate, was sold to FDR’s daughter Anna and her husband Curtis Dahl. Today that parcel is called Sleepy Hill.  Here’s a picture of the gate:

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But back to Brandywine – the Hardens never occupied the Speigelberg’s Tudor, instead building a stone mansion in florid Italian Renaissance style some distance away in “The Wilderness.”  They filled their house by importing full rooms from Europe (as one did in those post-WWI days), authentic Belgian blocks from Belgium, and crates of antique furniture.  According to Kay Courreges, the daughter of the estate manager, the Hardens had a full time “cabinetmaker and upholsterer” in the basement of the mansion to alter and maintain these antiques.  That detail says it all to me about the opulent life they lived.

Both Edward and his wife Ruth lived well into their 80s and are buried next to each other in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

At some point, the massive property was sold, and in 1986, The Wilderness was purchased by a developer who built 116 houses on the old estate and called the development Rosecliff.

Here’s a NYT article from April 4, 1986 detailing this part of the story.

And here’s a photo of the Harden’s manor house today, the “Clubhouse” at Rosecliff:

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At some other point, a nursing home set up shop in the old Tudor house on the Brandywine section of the estate.  A more modern building has been built for this purpose and, as pictured above, the Spiegelberg house is now surrounded by chain link fence and unoccupied. There was a fire in 2012 in a garage on the property, but other than destroying the garage, there were no casualties.

Brandywine is apparently on the market as of August 2018.  Here’s a properly video:

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct, Part VII

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct, Part VII

Amsterdam and 163rd Street to 5th Avenue and 42nd Street (NY Public Library)
8.07 miles

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We made it!

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We started exactly where we left off, at the subway station at Amsterdam and 163rd Street.  We headed east, along 161st Street cutting through Sylvan Terrace and taking a brief detour through the grounds of the Morris-Jumel Mansion before we got back on the Aqueduct.

I must digress, though, a give a little bit of history here. IMG_3861

Sylvan Terrace (above) is a delicious bit of the 19th century that’s alive and well right on the border between Hamilton and Washington Heights.  I stumbled upon once, decades ago before the Internet was invented and was utterly mystified.  What was it?  How was it still here?  Just — huh?  It is so unexpected.  According to my good friend Wikipedia, “Sylvan Terrace, located where West 161st Street would normally be, was originally the carriage drive of the Morris estate. In 1882-83 twenty wooden houses, designed by Gilbert R. Robinson Jr., were constructed on the drive. Initially rented out to laborers and working class civil servants, the houses were restored in 1979-81. They are now some of the few remaining framed houses in Manhattan.”  So there you have it.

But if that was the carriage drive, where did it lead?  Well, to what is called today the Morris-Jumel Mansion of course!

IMG_3863Forgive me while I drop some knowledge here, for this is one of my very favorite oases of bald history left in Manhattan.  Originally built in 1765 (before America was born!) by a British officer named Roger Morris, it’s had a storied life.  Roger Morris married Mary Phillipse, a daughter of Frederick Phillipse of Phillipse Manor fame.  Loyalists, the Morrises had to go into hiding during the war and their grand mansion was used as a headquarters by George Washington/the British/the Hessians during the Revolutionary War.  Roger went back to England and Mary cooled it in Yonkers on Dad’s estate until the war was over.  Then they all hightailed it to merrie olde England because, you know, Loyalists weren’t so popular over here then.

After the war it was a popular tavern along the Albany Post Road (hey, we have one of those up here too!  Oh wait, they’re the same road!) A French fellow named Jumel bought it in 1810 and lived here with his wife (and former mistress, so it is said!) Eliza.  After Jumel died in a tragic carriage accident, Eliza married Aaron Burr right here in the parlor.  (Yes, THAT Aaron Burr, co-star of the musical HAMILTON.)  I could go on, but let’s just say that the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the house in the early 1900s and it’s been a museum more or less ever since.  Do go see it!

We ended up making a loop around the mansion in our search for Edgecombe Avenue and the Aqueduct, and it is really astonishing that this place still stands, more or less intact though smaller in acreage, after 253 years.  Kind of like America, no?  Here’s a view from the back of the mansion – the expanse of lawn and giant trees in the midst of upper Manhattan is almost disorienting:

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Okay, digression done – back to the Aqueduct.

We made our way down the hill on 160st Street to Edgecombe Avenue, where we picked up the Aqueduct on the southern edge of Highbridge Park.  We would be remiss if we did not point out 555 Edgecombe Avenue on the corner, where luminaries such as Count Basie, Paul Robeson and Joe Louis once lived.

Here’s a view of the last bit of bucolic, tree-shaded Aqueduct for a while:

                         Looking north, back up to Highbridge.   Looking south, towards Edgecombe.

Running down Edgecombe, you pass Coogan’s Bluff and the John T. Brush stairway.  Back in the day (1890 – 1963) Coogan’s Bluff overlooked the NY Giants stadium (aka the Polo Grounds) and became a popular nickname for it.  If you couldn’t afford the price of ticket to a game (which, in those days’s probably cost ten cents!) you could watch it from up here.  But the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1957, and the Polo Grounds was demolished in 1963 to make room for the Polo Grounds Towers.  All that’s left of this is the John Brush Stairway that, in its heyday, brought fans from the neighborhood down to the Stadium.

Here’s a nice little sign that give you all the details.  I like it when there are historical signs:

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And here, just in the name of thoroughness, is a shot of the steps themselves:

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This next bit found us directly on the street as we zigged and zagged to stay as close to the Aqueduct as possible.

The Aqueduct goes underneath buildings as it crosses west from Edgecombe Avenue to Amsterdam Avenue on West 154th.  It is interesting to note that many of the buildings around here, from 155th to 151st streets have odd angles, as they were built to avoid the Aqueduct right-of-way.  In the picture on the right, you can see the undeveloped slice of land under which the Aqueduct runs.  And on the left, you can see the flatiron-esque shape of the brick building bordering it.  (The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct map calls these “Aqueduct Clues” which I love, because you have to be very aware to notice them.)

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On the corner of Amsterdam and 154th is the gatehouse for Trinity Cemetery, the overflow burial ground for downtown’s Trinity Church.  Home to luminaries such as John James Audubon (sketcher of pretty flowers and birds), Clement Clarke Moore (author of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and one-time Ossining resident) and John Jacob Astor (scion of the Astor family who made their first fortune selling beaver and old pelts.)  We were tempted to stop and look around, but realized we still had about 7 miles to run and a train schedule to keep, so we keep on.

Running down Amsterdam was actually much faster and easier than we expected.  It being about 10am on a Thursday morning, traffic of all sorts was fairly light.

Here’s an interesting building on the corner of 152nd and Amsterdam.  I have no idea what it was — please write in and tell me if you do!

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Now, I DO know what this next building is, found on Amsterdam between 151st and 152nd — the Joseph Loth & Co. Silk Ribbon Factory:

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If you look really closely, you can just read “Joseph Loth & Co.” spelled out in bricks under the chimney.

Check out this New York Times article from 1986 for more about Joseph Loth and his ribbons.

Next site is City College (141st – 130th Streets) — can you believe how intricate and elegant this public institution of higher learning is?  Founded in 1847 by Townshend Harris to serve all students, regardless of race, religion and wealth, he yearned to create an institution that would “know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct and intellect.” (This was in direct opposition to the implicit mandate of nearby Columbia University that was, at the time, mostly restricted to the sons of wealthy Protestants.)  The Neo-Gothic portion of the campus was built in the early 1900s and remains impressive today.

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Now did you know that on 126th Street and Amsterdam you can buy your own live poultry?

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This place has been around for as long as I can remember and I’ve always been curious about it, but have never had the courage to go inside.  I mean, can you just take the live birds with you and butcher them in the privacy of your own home?  Or do you watch them butcher them in front of you?  Either way, thinking about this too much makes me want to go full vegan.  (But I’m okay with buying dead chickens and turkeys as long as they are cleanly wrapped in plastic from the supermarket.  I know, hypocrite.)

Here’s our first siting of anything Aqueduct-relevant for a few miles — the circa 1894 119th Street Gatehouse:

Here’s a recent article from the New York Times detailing the city’s plan to turn this landmarked building into a cafe/restaurant.  I love the idea of repurposing old things as long as their history is respected.

Moving on down Amsterdam, we pass the stately campus of Columbia University, no longer restricted to the sons of wealthy Protestants:

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Down three blocks, at 113th Street is the terminus of the brick tunnel of the Aqueduct.  Built in 1874, this Gatehouse marks the spot where the brick tunnel was replaced by piping in the 1860s – 1870s.

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Next up is the divine St. John the Divine, one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few in my time!)

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We stepped inside for a moment, but there’s an admission fee and none of us had cash, so we just took a quick look at the few stained glass windows we could see and kept going.

Two blocks down, at 107th and Amsterdam, is New York City’s only Youth Hostel, catering to backpackers and bargain-hunting tourists alike.  We noted that the Victorian-looking red brick building had begun life in 1883 as a Residence for Respectable Aged Indigent Females.  We couldn’t help wondering what constituted “Respectable” in those days, and how one would prove respectability.  And can you imagine being turned away because you were not deemed respectable?  New York was a heartless place.

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The next Aqueduct clues we found were embedded into the sidewalk just as you enter Central Park at 85th Street:

It’s funny to think that I grew up right near here and probably walked over these manhole covers many times without realizing it.  Perhaps that partially explains my fascination with the Aqueduct?

Now we’re closing in on the first of three reservoirs that held what Lydia Maria Child, an author of some renown, gushed about in 1842: “Oh, who that has not been shut up in the great prison-cell of a city, and made to drink of its brackish springs, can estimate the blessings of the Croton Aqueduct? Clean, sweet, abundant, water!”

Only one reservoir still exists today, the one now called the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (in honor of her efforts to save this and other historical sites around Manhattan):

But, if you know where to look, you can see the remains of the other two reservoirs.  The first was located on what is now the Great Lawn, just south of the Jackie Onassis reservoir.

Here’s what it originally looked like, as noted on Oscar Hinrich’s 1875 map of Central Park:

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You can see it was smaller and much more geometric compared to the pond-like reservoir to the north.  Originally called the York Hill Reservoir, it was completed in 1842 and featured 38 foot high walls that were 20 feet thick at the base.

We found the remains of the stone walls at the northern end, abutting the NYC Park Police station:

And then to the south, just barely peeking out of the ground right in front of the Delacorte Theatre:

Crossing Central Park, we ran straight down 5th Avenue all the way to 42nd Street.  Unsurprisingly, there are no indications of anything Aqueduct along this dense, built up section of Manhattan.

But, when you get to the New York Public Library, if you ask the nice lady at the Information desk, she might take you to the staircase down to the basement that features  the remains of the original reservoir that stood here and received the first blessings of the Croton Aqueduct on October 14, 1842.

First, here are a couple of shots of the reservoir in its glory:

And here’s what’s left:

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Pretty cool that they repurposed it for the foundation of the library, no?

So there you have it.  A 41-mile engineering marvel that changed the lives of millions, hidden beneath our feet.  I hope you have a chance to walk over some part of this piece of American history some day.  And, as always, if I’ve left something out, or gotten something wrong, please leave me a comment!

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct part VI

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct part VI

Here’s the link to parts IV & V

Yonkers – Amsterdam and 163rd Street, Manhattan
12.25 miles

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We had hoped to make it all the way to down to 42nd Street & 5th Avenue where the Old Croton Aqueduct once disgorged itself into the reservoir there, but we ran out of steam.  (And cell phone battery power!)  You’ll note the squiggly bit in the middle, just south of Van Cortlandt Park?  That’s where we got rather lost and probably added a couple of miles to our route.

This part of the Aqueduct, while fairly well-marked in places, is difficult to follow.  Part of this is due to the fact that the Mosholu and the Major Deegan cut across it, but part of it just due to the fact that you’re running through streets and it’s tricky to look at your map.

We started in Yonkers on a clear, windy morning (it happened to be the morning of the Yonkers marathon, too, so people kept cheering us on even though we were way off course!)

Here’s where we ended our last post:

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And here’s where we began today:

img_3778.jpgYup, it’s the same place!  The few miles are a secluded trail that I definitely would not run alone. It’s well-marked, but . . .

And the trail is littered with trash both big and small . . .

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There’s a little bit of running along a road, but you can duck into Tibbetts Brook Park and keep following this lovely, bucolic trail, peopled by runners from Fordham University and Holy Ghost Prep (is that for real?)

When you cross the border from Westchester into New York City, you’ll see a fancy carved stone indicating said border, and the first of several informational signs.

It really is hard to believe that you’re in a city!

There’s another old Weir, unused for decades now (the Old Croton Aqueduct was taken out of service by 1965 when the New Croton Aqueduct was completed.)  But it had a good run, regulating the water going to the city for over a hundred years.

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Running through Van Cortlandt Park was lovely, even though we were close enough to the Mosholu to see an accident and traffic jam at one point.  There’s a section of the Aqueduct that you can’t run over, so we kept following the trail south, which just seemed logical, when we really should have taken another route.

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(Note to self, next time follow the arrow north to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail South.)

We parallel the golf course, waving to some intrepid golfers out on a 45* morning, and found ourselves on Van Cortlandt Park South Avenue.  This is where we took a little unscheduled tour of the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx.  We finally found our way to the Jerome Park Reservoir and made it back onto the Aqueduct.  Here are a couple of gatehouses for the reservoir.

And here is another historical marker:

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After that, the trail and the Aqueduct stay together, marvelously straight and true through the Bronx.  There’s an interesting bit near Fordham University where the Aqueduct cuts between buildings, and features custom-made manhole covers!

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A bit off the Aqueduct, right at the intersection between Kingsbridge Road and Grand Concourse is the site of Edgar Allan Poe’s cottage, where he lived from the 1840s until his death:

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Poe’s wife Virginia died in this very cottage in 1847 (but not on this very site, as the cottage was moved to its current location in the early 1900s.)  Supposedly Poe wrote one his last poems, “Annabel Lee” here in in 1849, a poem likely about his wife Virginia.   (Note to self, go back and recite “Annabel Lee” here next time.)  Poe also enjoyed the (newly finished!) Aqueduct, taking long walks along it to clear his mind for writing.

I feel I would be remiss if I did not warn you that the Aqueduct Avenue section is dodgy at best.  I am not easily shocked, but running past a fellow in the midst of shooting up right there in the park was a gritty piece of reality.

Aqueduct Avenue turns into Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and thence into University Avenue.  Following that, running along sidewalks and taking some turns here and there, you’ll make it to the High Bridge, only recently renovated and re-opened to the public.  As the historical marker tells you, built in 1848 it’s the oldest bridge in New York.  You can read more details here on Wikipedia.

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I was stoked to make it here, as I’ve wanted to walk over the High Bridge since it re-opened.

There are some interesting historical medallions inset into the bridge, and I used the last of my cell phone battery juice to photograph them:

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After crossing the High Bridge, we decided that we’d run enough.  So, we hopped on the subway at Amsterdam and 163rd.  Recently renovated, this is one of the nicest NYC subway stations I’ve ever been in!

Stay tuned for the next and last leg of our Aqueduct journey where we will run from Amsterdam and 163rd down to the New York Public Library on 42nd Street & 5th Avenue.

Here’s the link to part VII, the final leg of our journey.

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct parts IV & V

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct  parts IV & V

Here’s the link to part III

Tarrytown to Hastings-on-Hudson (4 miles) and Hastings to Yonkers (4.6 miles)

img_1402.jpgStopping point from the last section (Rockefeller State Park to Tarrytown)

Tarrytown to Hastings:

Full disclosure — this post is a bit of a cheat, because we ran the Tarrytown to Hastings section way back in May 2018, but I never got around to posting about it specifically.  So I’m combining both sections here.

The first section, Tarrytown to Hastings, is chock full of history, so sit back, relax and enjoy the trip!

Starting in Tarrytown, we started about a block down the street (Rt. 119) from where we ended the last time.  Parking at the Doubletree Hotel, just off Broadway, we followed the sidewalk south across the Thruway ramp and easily saw the OCA signage to our right. (I’d say you can’t miss it, but that’s always a dicey thing to promise.) Almost right away, the first sight you see is financier Jay Gould’s Gothic Revival mansion, Lyndhurst.  It’s really quite fun to run across the expansive lawn with the mansion in the background – you feel rather like a trespasser.  (Check out the Lyndhurst site here.)

Next up is Washington Irving’s home, “Sunnyside,” – you won’t actually pass by it close enough to see it, but know that it’s nearby and look out for Rip Van Winkle!

After crossing two streets, you’ll see a carousel-like octagonal structure – the Armour-Stiner (Octagon) House:

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Built in 1860, it is apparently the only octagonal, domed, colonnaded private home that looks rather like a Roman temple ever built.  The theory went that octagonal homes offered more light, air and space.  Guess not.  But do check out this website that gives a far more detailed history of the house, and shares delightful stories that involve a Finnish explorer, a female pirate, a poet and a ghost.

Next up is Villa Lewaro, Madam CJ Walker’s estate.  Read my blog post here for more on that story.

Just a half-mile or so further on is the Nevis Estate, now owned by Columbia University and home to the Columbia-Nevis laboratories.  There’s a solid brick mansion with white columns on the right side of the trail that was built by Colonel James Hamilton III, son of Alexander Hamilton, in 1835.  (Nevis, of course, was the Caribbean island where Hamilton père was born.  For more information, please download Hamilton the musical.)

Mercy College is next, and a good spot to find water and a bathroom.

Finally, about a mile south from Mercy, at 15 Walnut Street, Dobbs Ferry, is the Aqueduct Keeper’s house.  Headquarters for the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park and an historic site in its own right, it’s an interesting stop. Check out their website here for hours and exhibits.

Another ¼ mile or so gets you to Villard Avenue where we stopped and turned around many months ago.

Fast forward to a clear, slightly humid Saturday morning in September 2018 when we parked on Villard Avenue and headed south to Yonkers before turning back to our car.

The Aqueduct heads down through residential areas, crossing streets every thousand feet or so.IMG_3519

You’re treated to some lovely views along the way, both down the streets to the river:

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and through the trees across the river to the Palisades:

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The first really exciting place (to me) is the Untermeyer Gardens Conservancy:

IMG_3522 View  from the Aqueduct just past dawn . . .

The country home of Samuel Untermyer from 1899 – 1940, the recently (and impeccably!) restored park features impressive gardens, sculptures and outbuildings.  The main park entry is on North Broadway, but you can get in through this gate adjacent to the Aqueduct.  (Definitely going back here to browse through the gardens!)  Samuel Untermyer, BTW, was a famous corporate lawyer, the first one, in fact, to earn a fee of one million dollars on a single case!  He became an aggressive trustbuster in his prime, which makes me like him all the more.

The trail is lined with elegant old houses:

But the way is mostly cool, shaded and soft grassy trails:

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Here’s another weir, a structure built directly over the aqueduct that functioned as little dams to allow the flowing water to be diverted, slowed or sped up.  This one, like the others, was probably built in the 1880s and was closed in 1965 when the aqueduct was decommissioned.  (Yes, folks, NYC no longer gets its water through an early 19th century brick tunnel.)  Unlike the Ossining Weir which you can visit, this one is sealed up tight, no chance of getting inside and looking around.  (In case you were curious.)

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Another couple of interesting sites you’ll pass, but that are easy to miss from the Aqueduct, is the back side of the Lenoir Preserve, , a nature center created by combining Lenoir and Ardenwold, two golden age estates.  A little further south is Alder Manor, the former country estate of William Boyce Thompson, a tycoon who made his fortune in mines and money.  Built by the famed architectural firm of Carrere & Hastings, the Thompson family lived there until the 1950s, when their property was inherited by the Archdiocese of New York and became the Mary Elizabeth Seton High School.  Declared a National Historic Site in 1982, much of the land has been subdivided and developed and today the mansion is owned by the Tara Circle.  It’s apparently in dire need of repair, so in order to raise funds, the mansion is rented out for events and movie shoots.  According to Wikipedia, “Mona Lisa Smile” and “A Beautiful Mind” were shot here.

One last place of interest is an old stone building that stretches for about a hundred feet along the Aqueduct somewhere around either the Lenoir Preserve or Alder Manor.

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I clambered over poison ivy to take this shot through one of the shattered, but still barred, windows.  Looks like an old stable to me — what do you think?

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In Yonkers, the Aqueduct gets a bit difficult to follow as development has cut it into piecemeal bits.  But here we are at the intersection of North Broadway and Ashburton.  We plan to start here next time and run all the way down to the city.

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Here’s the link to part VI