Spoiler: No it is not.
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.
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.