This is my inaugural post as the Ossining Town Historian (yes, I was so appointed on January 1, 2023.)
As such, I thought it appropriate to highlight an Ossining story (okay, Scarborough, but close enough for history.)
Sometimes I think one could easily play Six Degrees of Ossining – mention any person or any place in the entire world and you could connect it back to Ossining (or Scarborough or Briarcliff) in less than six degrees.
First, for you runners out there, does this statue look familiar?
If you’ve ever run a race in Central Park, you’ll be familiar with the steep hill, sometimes called “Cat Hill,” right after the Boathouse at about East 76thStreet. It’s there, almost at the top, that you see this remarkably life-like panther crouched in the shadows on top of a rock to your left.
The story I’m about to share delighted me and I hope you’ll find it just as interesting.
But let’s set the stage first — those of you who are familiar with Ossining might know of Kemeys’ Cove. Today it’s a condo complex near the Jug Tavern and the Arcadian shopping mall. But back in the day, it was homestead of one of the first European settlers in the area. (Watch this space for a post about the pre-European people who lived here.)
Just after the Revolutionary War, William Kemeys, a wealthy shipowner from Scarborough, England left the mother country due to his lack of enthusiasm for the Church of England and the social constraints he suffered from because of that. He came to America looking for tolerance, acceptance and opportunity. Taking a brief foray up the North River (as the Hudson was called in those days), he found a delightful spot in which to settle: “There he built a long low ceilinged English House of red brick facing south on the cove and called the place Scarborough after the English town from whence he came. The house was still standing about 1870 until the property passed out of the hands of Edward Kemeys, the great grandson of William Kemeys and was demolished.”
Now, it’s this Edward Kemeys that concerns us here. Born in 1844 in Milledgeville, Georgia (“during a sojourn of his parents to the South”) to Abby Brenton Greene and William Kemeys. Abby sadly died soon after Edward’s birth, and he spent much of his childhood on the Kemeys homestead in Scarborough, with his grandparents Judge Edward Kemey and Gertrude Bleeker.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, our young Edward enlisted in the 65th New York Volunteer Regiment, eventually attaining the rank of Captain of Artillery. Edward and the 65th served nobly at many battles, Antietam and Gettysburg being perhaps the most well-known today.
After the war, Edward studied civil engineering and helped survey Central Park. But his heart wasn’t in it — he soon became interested in animal sculpture and went west to study animals (so the story goes) and then to London and Paris to learn how to sculpt.
Here’s a slightly more in-depth history on Kemeys and his work written by the NYC Parks Department
“Still Hunt” was by no means his only famous sculpture – if you’ve ever been to the Art Institute of Chicago, you’ve seen his handiwork — the two bronze lions at the entrance were sculpted by Kemeys.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York also has a number of his works on display – this one, called “Mutual Surprise” is one of my favorites:
Here’s a link to his New York Times obituary just because I like obituaries.
I still do wonder why Edward let the Kemey’s homestead go. Seems like it would be an idyllic spot for an artist.
But there you have it, from Ossining to Central Park to famous sculptor.
 From a xeroxed history with no author information found at the Ossining Historical Society
 From the same xeroxed history with no author information found at the Ossining Historical Society
 See here for more: https://civilwarintheeast.com/us-regiments-batteries/new-york-infantry/65th-new-york/