If you’re a member of the Taconic Road Runners Club, here’s a pretty typical Saturday morning discussion enjoyed at the 1st water stop, over a plastic cup of tepid Gatorade:
“Let’s run across the Dam, then up to Danish and back to the Pumphouse. That should get us 11 miles and if anyone needs more, they can add on at the end.”
Yeah, that’s pretty inside baseball (to mix a metaphor), so let me explain. The Taconics have a Saturday long training run every week, rain or shine. We start at the Pumphouse bridge just off Route 129, someone volunteers to put out water and Gatorade, and folks just show up and run anywhere from 6 to 26 miles. (Check out the link here for more details.) The fact that I run with the TRRC pretty regularly is the reason I started this blog.
But this is about area history, not my running habits.
The above-mentioned “Danish” means the Danish Home, a nursing home/assisted living facility nestled off Quaker Bridge Road East, just off Quaker Ridge Road. And that is all I know about it. It even sports a tiny, wee historical marker that I’ve never investigated until now.
Perhaps you’ve seen one of these little sign in your travels through the Town of Cortlandt? (This one is located right by the Quaker Bridge.)
Here’s the one installed in front of the Danish Home site:
For someone who purports to be interested in history, it’s a pretty large oversight that I have not investigated the historical markers dotted around the Ossining History on the Run area. Because, thought they are practically invisible and take a few steps to access, they do exist. They’re part of a virtual tour organized by the Town of Cortlandt and hosted by Otocast, a free app you can download. (See here for the iTunes link and here for the Android link.) The idea is that you wave your smartphone over the QR code on the marker (oh, did I mention you should also have a QR code reader app installed on your smartphone?) and it will link you to the Otocast app and give you a paragraph of information about the site.
It’s a nice concept, I suppose, but the fact of the matter is that a) You need a smartphone b) You need to have downloaded the above-mentioned apps, and c) You need to actually SEE these practically camouflaged signs. Of course, you can follow the tour online through the app, but the sites are not really ordered in a logical fashion, so it’s a bit tedious to figure out what and where the site is located. Give me those old fashioned Historical Register signs!!
Needless to say, these are my excuses for not having investigated this site before. But, better late than never.
So, let’s talk about the Danish Home, a retirement residence located at 1065 Quaker Bridge Road East in Croton-on-Hudson. According to the Otocast app, which links to Danishhome.org, the Danish Home is the “Former home of financier J.M. Kaplan. The Danish Home moved to its present location, in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, in 1954 . . . The picturesque buildings were modeled after the farmsteads of Europe.”
Hmm, okay. But who was J.M. Kaplan? Well, here’s a 1987 New York Times obituary about Jacob Merrill Kaplan that tells the story of his interesting life.
The Danish Home website also gives a pretty thorough accounting:
“The present-day Danish Home was originally part of the vast holdings of the Purdy family. Francis Purdy was born in Yorkshire, England. He came to this country in 1632 and acquired land in Fairfield, Connecticut and in Westchester County. He died in 1653. The Purdy family scattered far and wide.
Many descendants still live in Westchester County, one branch moved to Long Island, and one “Loyalist” branch of the family moved to Canada after the War of Independence. In the 1920s, the Danish Home property was owned by Frederick Purdy. In the period 1930-31, Jacob Merrill Kaplan (1891-1987) purchased a large parcel, including “The Old Purdy House” on Quaker Ridge Road.
J.M. Kaplan was a successful New York businessman. He is credited with saving the grape juice industry by creating the National Grape Cooperative Association, Inc. In 1956 he sold the Welch Grape Juice Company – where he held a controlling interest – to the Association. In 1945, Mr. Kaplan established the J. M. Kaplan Fund, which was a major donor to the New School in Manhattan (where Mr. Kaplan served as board chairman for twenty years), Carnegie Hall (which he helped save), and numerous environmental and humanitarian causes. He was also a supporter of the progressive Hessian Hill School in the Mt. Airy section of Croton, established in 1927 by Elizabeth Moos.
In 1934, the Kaplan family started building a classical farm on the property, while still residing in “The Old Purdy House.” The architect, Alfred Gray, designed the buildings in the style of the chateaus of Normandy, France. As it turned out, the building also resembles a traditional Danish farm with four attached buildings surrounding a central courtyard and an arched entrance. From 1934-1938 the buildings were solely used for agricultural purposes, housing horses, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. The present Room 6 was a separate building used as a manure shed. Farm machinery was stored in the east wing, where three impressive arches formed the entrances.
In 1938 the family converted the building into a residential home. The cow shed became the dining room and the horse barn the living room, elegantly finished with a cathedral ceiling, parquet floors and oak-panels. The manure shed was converted into a studio for Mrs. Kaplan, who was an artist. The fountain in the cobblestone courtyard was imported from France, some of the stones came from Belgium, and some interior materials were from Germany. A caretaker’s apartment had been established earlier on the second floor, above the entrance.
The gardener’s cottage used to have a large attached green house, the foundation of which is still visible. There was a large vegetable garden next to the cottage, and an orchard was established in the meadow sloping down to the barn.
The Kaplan family split up the property and sold it in 1942. The parcel, which was to become The Danish Home, changed ownership several times, until, in 1948, the Ramble Hill Resort Club, owned by Mr. Gualtorio Ullman, took over the approx. 50-acre property. Mr. Ullman ran the establishment for six years as an exclusive holiday retreat and reception hall with horse riding, a tennis court and a swimming pool on the grounds. Some of the stables and barns were converted into bedrooms to house the guests. Reportedly, the resort also played host to Jewish refugees in the late 1940s. However, the place turned out to be unprofitable, and Mr. Ullman sold it to the Danish Home for $180,000.”
And there you go. All you ever wanted or needed to know about the Danish Home.
I think my work here is done.