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.

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:

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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:

Brandywine main gate 2

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)

Brandywine 12

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:

Brandywine 8

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

Brandywine 11

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:

amsteg-and-st-gotthard-railway-switzerland-g3atcb

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:

Rosecliff

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:

Madam C.J. Walker and Irvington’s Villa Lewaro

Madam C.J. Walker and Irvington’s Villa Lewaro

BLOG – Mme. C. J. Walker and Villa Lewaro

Have you ever noticed that snow white mansion on Rt. 9 about a mile north of Mercy College in Irvington? I don’t know how you’d miss it . . .

Villa-lewaro_crop

I had noticed it for years before I finally found out what it was and, of course, there is quite an interesting story attached to it.  So sit back, enjoy a latte from First Village Coffee in Ossining (shameless plug and no they don’t pay me!) and follow me back in time to 1917 when the New York Times wrote an article about Madam C.J. Walker entitled “Wealthiest Negro Woman’s Suburban Mansion – Estate at Irvington, Overlooking the Hudson and Containing all the Attractions that a Big Fortune Commands.”

It’s strange to me that Madam C.J. Walker is rarely mentioned today.  Even the National Museum of African American History and Culture relegates her to a just small display:

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Perhaps the reason is that she made her fortune selling hair products – pomades, shampoos and hot combs – and many believe that the thrust of their appeal was that they made curly black hair smooth and straight.  Perhaps, but she was, if not an actual millionaire, still the epitome of the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps figure America loves to glorify.  And her hair products business was one of the most long-lived and successful African-American owned businesses to date.

So let’s hear her story . . .

Born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana, she was the only member of her immediate family who was never a slave.  Her family was still living on the plantation of their former owner, Mr. Burney, in a sharecropper’s shack.  Here is a photo of her birthplace:

MADAM CJ WALKER birthplace(Photo from “On her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker” by A’Lelia Bundles)

It is exactly what I imagined a sharecropper’s shack would look like.

Now, I found the above photo and most of the following information in a fascinating book written by her great, great grand-daughter A’Lelia Bundles, entitled “On her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker.”

(A’Lelia is an interesting figure in her own right, a TV producer for various NBC shows in the 1980s and ‘90s.  And I understand her book was just optioned by Octavia Spencer for a TV series about Madam.)

Sarah Breedlove’s story is Dickensian, if Dickens wrote about African-Americans.  Orphaned at the age of 7, she moved in with her older sister in Vicksburg, Mississippi and worked as a house cleaner, a laundry girl and whatever other menial jobs she could find.  She married at the age of 14 (because Mississippi) and had her only child, Lelia, at the age of 18.  Widowed at 20, she moved around the country (remarrying twice more) until she settled in St. Louis, where her two brothers were successful barbers.  She started selling hair products for what would become her chief rival, Annie Turnbo Malone’s Poro Company.  It’s around this time that she became Madam C.J. Walker, taking the name from her third husband, Charles John Walker.    Madam Walker learned the ropes quickly and branched off to sell her own patented hair growth formula.

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She moved to Colorado, then Pittsburgh, then Indianapolis, opening salons and mail order businesses along the way.  Her business model was very close to the multi-level marketing  format used by companies such as Arbonne, NuSkin, Shaklee and Amway today.  While I’m not saying she invented MLM (she had, after all, sold hair products for another company before she opened her own)  she certainly streamlined and profited from the concept.

As she climbed the ladder, she became involved in philanthropy and activism, perhaps as a business strategy, perhaps altruistically.  But she counted Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois as friends, and was frequently invited to speak at various conventions.

In 1913, she purchased a townhouse in Harlem at 108 West 136thStreet and installed her daughter Lelia there to run the NY operation.

MADAM CJ WALKER 108-110 West 136th Street(Another photo from “On her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker” by A’Lelia Bundles)

In 1916, Madam Walker  purchased a parcel of land in Irvington and hired Vertner Tandy, the first licensed, African-American architect in NYC to design her mansion.

The aforementioned 1917 New York Times article is casually racist as they describe the local reaction:  “On her first visits to inspect her property, the villagers, noting her color, were frankly puzzled.  Later, when it became know that she was the owner of the pretentious dwelling, they could only gasp in astonishment.  ‘Impossible!’ they exclaimed.  ‘No woman of her race could afford such a place.”  Oh 1917, was that when America was great?

Her home became known as “Villa Lewaro,”  supposedly so named by Enrico Caruso, a frequent guest.  He is said to have cobbled the name out of Madam’s daughter’s:  LElia WAlker RObinson.  Even if that’s apocryphal, I like it, and say it’s true.

The house and grounds were lush and luxurious.  According to A’Lelia Bundle’s book:

“With imported Japanese Prayer Trees and flowering shrubs and perennials timed to bloom continuously from early spring to late fall, Madam Walker’s Italian gardener intended to create a setting as magnificent as that of any of the surrounding estates with their formal gardens and impeccably tended grounds. . .  From the curved balcony outside her sleeping porch, Madam Walker could see the NJ Palisades looking above the Hudson River like a fortress . . . Her airy boudoir – which caught the early sun through French doors – was designed for pure indulgence with its twelve-piece Louis XVI chamber suite of ivory-enameled mahogany arrayed upon a nearly wall-to-wall hand-woven Aubusson carpet.  On warm mornings, her housekeeper served breakfast downstairs outside her first floor dining room on the upper level of a two-tiered terrace.  At night, yachting parties were known to beam their searchlights across those terraces, illuminating the crochet-like balustrades that dramatically latticed the rear of the house.”

Fabulous, no?

Madam Walker was quoted as saying that she had built her house “to convince members of [my]race of the wealth of business possibilities within the race and point to young Negroes what a lone woman accomplished and to inspire them to do big things.”

Madam_CJ_Walker_face_circa_1914(Another photo from “On her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker” by A’Lelia Bundles)

Madam C.J. Walker in her prime

Sadly, she only enjoyed her home for a year or so before succumbing to kidney disease in 1919, at the age of 52. Villa Lewaro stayed in the family until 1931 when I assume that the Depression made it untenable for Lelia Walker to maintain. It was apparently then the  Anne E. Poth Home for Convalescent and Aged Members of the Companions of the Forest in America (thanks Wikipedia!) and in 1976 it was designated an Historic Landmark.   It has been in private hands since the 1980s.  What I wouldn’t give to see the inside!!

Running down the Old Croton Aqueduct, Part II

Link to Aqueduct part I

Part II of “Running down the Old Croton Aqueduct”:  From the Croton Dam to Rockwood – 10 miles

I’ve been a little haphazard with my posts lately, but here’s the next installment of my Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct series.  (Here’s the first one if you have somehow missed it.)

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you the link to the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct website.  They’re a non-profit organization who do great work protecting and preserving the OCA.  They have sponsored historical signs all along the Aqueduct, host guided walks, and post interesting information on their website.  Check them out!

Now, generally, I run just a three-mile stretch of the Aqueduct – from the Croton Dam down to GE’s Jack E. Welch campus and then back up to the Dam.  But, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve slowly been working my way down the entire length of the Aqueduct.  So far, I’ve gotten about 15 miles down.

I started this project last spring, when a group of my running friends and I ran a 10-mile section from the Croton Dam down to Rockwood, in Rockefeller State Park.

Here’s what we saw:

Starting at Croton Dam (and the Dam deserves a dedicated blog post unto itself – soon!), the first three miles are fairly remote and serene – it’s mostly just you, some trees and the unpaved trail.   (And it’s all a gentle downhill too — sloping thirteen inches for every mile the whole way to the city.)

About a mile south of the Dam, you’ll pass the Egon Ottinger cottage on your right just off the trail (previously blogged about here.)    Also around here, you’ll pass the first of what I believe are 26 remaining ventilator shafts that help mark the miles down to New York City.  These chimney-like structures were built to help keep the aqueduct at atmospheric pressure so the water would keep flowing fresh and swift.

Over the next couple of miles, you’ll cross two roads that are fairly secluded with only the rare car sighting.  (One of those roads, Quaker Bridge Road East, will take you up to Lorraine Hansberry’s Croton home if you’re interested.  See more here.

Once you hit the GE campus, you’ll do a bit of narrow, windy trail running and go underneath Route 9A. (The Aqueduct actually crosses 9A, but obviously you don’t want to do that.)

About four miles in, you get into the Village of Ossining.  Here, you’ll get to run past the Ossining Waste Weir, one of six built to allow drainage if the water level in the aqueduct tunnel rose too high.  There are wonderfully medieval-looking, subterranean hand-cranked metal gates here once used to divert the water – you can go down and see the one in Ossining on special occasions.  Here are some terrific pictures from a local blog, both of the underground portion of the weir and of the trail down to Sleepy Hollow. (I don’t run with my phone, so I have to depend on the kindness of strangers.)

Then, you’ll run over the iconic double arches, which have, at various times, made up Ossining’s logo:

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Here’s another version:

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Here’s an excellent local blog with much more detail on and history of the double arches.

Continuing down the Aqueduct, you’ll run through the center of the Village of Ossining, on sidewalks, through Nelson Park, along and across Route 9 until you hit what I consider the next interesting site, located down in Sparta/Scarborough — the birthplace of John L. Worden, the famed Commander of the USS Monitor.   Perhaps you’ve noticed this sign while driving along Route 9?

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Of course you remember the famous tale of the Monitor and the Merrimac, the first engagement of ironclad steamships during the Civil War that changed naval battle strategy forever.  No?  Well, check out Wikipedia here for more on that story.

Right across the street from the John Worden historical marker is the old Frank Vanderlip estate, formerly called Beechwood and now a fancy condominium complex mostly enclosed by a red brick wall.

To avoid running on Route 9, we crossed over here and went down Scarborough Station Road a bit, before winding left through a quiet suburban neighborhood.  (Fun fact:  I’ve heard that James Patterson, currently one our most prolific and highest earning authors alive today has a house in the area . . .)

Hooking onto River Road, we ran almost all the way back up to Route 9, but turned right at the last possible moment.  (To our left was the Clearview School, formerly the Scarborough School, and originally built by the Vanderlips.)    Here, we turned right onto a thin trail winding through grass and woods leading us into Rockefeller State Park through a back way.  This was familiar territory to all of us, as Rockefeller (aka “Rockies”) is a popular place to run.

This is wonderfully secluded and bucolic, with a combination of narrow and carriage-width trails winding all the way to the foundation of Rockwood Hall where we ended our 10-mile run.

Here’s the link to part III.

 

 

 

 

 

Rockwood Hall

Blog – Rockwood Hall

Have you ever wandered through that southern section of Rockefeller State Park that’s kind of behind Phelps Hospital, kind of adjacent to Kendal on the Hudson?  Here’s a map showing its trails that I found on the Interwebs – it seems to have come from “Walkable Westchester” by Jane and Walt Daniels:Rockwood hall trail map
It’s also just off the Croton Aqueduct, as you can see from the above map.

Now, I’ve always heard this part of the Park referred to as Rockwood.  And I’ve always wondered about what looked like an enormous building foundation with a stunning view of the Hudson.  There are also wide trails, remains of Central Park-like stone walls and roadways, and elegant old trees that obviously once surrounded a beautifully designed and manicured estate.

Just a wee bit of online digging gave me some of the story.  I hope you find it as interesting as I do!

Rockwood Hall, so I’ve learned, was the palatial estate belonging to William Avery Rockefeller, Jr.   He was a brother to John Rockefeller, Sr., the founder of Standard Oil and scion of the Rockefeller family we know today.  William was a co-founder of Standard Oil with John Sr., and, by many accounts, a canny businessman.

Born in 1841, he was two years younger than his brother John.  Once they had established themselves as leading businessmen, William began purchasing property in Westchester, soon inspiring John Sr. to do the same.  (He and his son John Jr., soon acquired over 3,000 acres.)

Rockwood Hall was begun in 1886.  An enormous estate (to my mind!) it consisted of over 200 acres, with winding carriage trails and a Gilded Age mansion with 204 rooms.  Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame) designed and laid out the park-like landscape. And this was just one of Rockefeller’s many homes.  Today’s Silicon Valley billionaires have nothing on the Rockefellers!

When William Rockefeller died in 1922 (of pneumonia caught whilst driving with his brother John, so the story goes), Rockwood Hall was turned into a country club.

Here’s a photo of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ parents – Mr. and Mrs.  John V. Bouvier attending a horse show at Rockwood Hall Country Club in 1934:

Mr and Mrs John V. Bouvier III at Rockwood Hall Horse Show

When the country club went bankrupt in 1937 (the Depression was hard even on the horsey set) the Rockefeller family bought it back, and demolished the mansion in 1941.  (I suppose the war might have made it difficult to staff and keep up?)    The Rockefellers donated the land to New York State in 1999 and it became part of Rockefeller State Park.

Here’s a photo of what it looked like back in the day:

Rockwood Hall OLD

“Mr. William Rockefeller is said to have spent Three Million Dollars.”  Indeed!  Let’s see, three million dollars in 1886 dollars is about — yikes!  The online inflation calculator says that’s worth over $75 million dollars today!  Could that possibly be true?

Here’s a link to an informational brochure compiled by the New York Parks Department — it contains a far more exhaustive history than I’ve posted here, plus some pictures of the interior of this glorious mansion.

Here’s what it looks like today (photo courtesy of Rev3 M’s Yelp review of this hike):

Rockwood Hall foundaiton

It’s astonishing to me that it was demolished.  There must be more to this story than I’ve uncovered here, so I’d love to hear from anyone who knows more.

And do take a wander around here some day – there are breathtaking views and shadows of its former glory to be seen throughout.