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:

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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!

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:

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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:

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:

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, part III

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct, part III

Link to Aqueduct part II

Aqueduct part III
Rockefeller State Park Preserve to Tarrytown, approximately 4.8 miles

IMG_1406(The Archville Bridge.  Full disclosure, I took this photo on our way back)

This is a slightly tricky bit of Aqueduct running, especially when you get into the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown environs.  But if you buy the map produced by the non-profit Friends of the Croton Aqueduct, you’ll have no problem.  Please spend the $5 and buy the map here!

I ran this section with my friend Sharon on a recent cool, overcast Sunday morning.  Trying to pick up from where we left off last time (Rockwood), we parked in a little area just off Route 9 in Archville (huh where?)

Here’s how you get there:  Driving south on Route 9, just down the hill from Guadelajara restaurant, you may have noticed a bridge over the road.  That’s the Archville bridge (and check out this link for the technical details on this replacement bridge built in 1998.)  Go under the bridge, take the first right where you see a Gothic-y looking stone house and drive about 500 yards along the road.  On your right, you’ll see an informal parking area and likely one or two cars there already.  Once out of your car, you’ll see a gate a little way down the hill.  Go through that gate and start following the trail up the hill.  (This sounds far more complicated than it is.)  You can’t miss the markers:

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Look!  We saw a baby deer!

The first interesting site is, as previously mentioned, the Archville bridge, originally built to connect William Rockefeller’s Rockwood estate with his brother John’s Kykuit estate.  (Aw, isn’t that sweet?)  Check out this excellent post from the Croton Friends of the OCA website for more on the history of this bridge.

Then, the next bit is mostly just nice, flat, trail running through Rockefeller State Park.   You pass another Weir and a couple of ventilator shafts before you exit out of the park and cross the dramatically named Gory Brook Road.

Note the “OCA” on the gate!

Next up is the Sleepy Hollow High School runaround — they’ve helpfully posted a sign with directions on how to do this:

There is an interesting building just south of the high school, but I haven’t yet been able to figure out what it is/was.  Here’s a photo of the old pond and estate house above.  Who built this?  Who lived here?  Anyone know?

Now I think this pond was created from damming up a section of Andre Brook.  Why does this merit a mention?  Well, while you can’t see this next site from the Aqueduct trail, I would be remiss if I didn’t point it out because it is so very close.  So follow me on this little historical tangent . . .

Paralleling the trail, down below the Aqueduct on Broadway, is this historical marker:

Maj. John Andre Capture here

I assume this is why the Andre Brook was so named.  Anyway, Major John Andre was trying to broker the surrender of West Point from its commander, General Benedict Arnold.  But Andre was captured on September 23, 1780 at or near this site by “three honest militiamen.”  (Does this imply that honest militiamen were few and far between?)   This is a fairly important event in American history, for if Andre had not been captured, we might all be speaking with British accents, driving on the wrong side of the road and looking at the Queen on our currency.  Seriously, if the British had gained control of West Point and the Hudson Valley, the Revolution might well have been scuttled then and there.  (Major Andre was hanged as a spy within the week and Benedict Arnold escaped to England and his name became a shorthand for traitor.  Personally I think things should have gone the other way around, but that’s another story . . .)

Okay, back to the Aqueduct.  This next bit gets complicated because you have to run down to the sidewalk and along Broadway for a few blocks and then cut back up to the Aqueduct, but the map is very helpful. (Here’s the link again and no I don’t get a cut of map sales!)

Once you’re back on the Aqueduct, the rest of the way is secluded and bucolic — some of it feels like you’re running right through people’s backyards, which you sort of are:

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We turned around when we hit Route 119, planning to start here next time.

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Here’s the link to parts IV & V

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Danish Home/Town of Cortlandt Historical Markers

Danish Home/Town of Cortlandt Historical Markers

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.)

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Here’s the one installed in front of the Danish Home site:

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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.