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!

Carrie Chapman Catt — Juniper Ledge

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So, here’s another of those mysterious driveway pillars that I pass by all the time.  This one’s on North State Road, just about opposite the ASPCA.  (This only qualifies for Ossining History on the Run because I pass by it whenever I drive to the gym to run on the treadmill.  That counts, doesn’t it?)  But “Juniper Ledge” has an intriguing, slightly dangerous ring to it, doesn’t it? Yet it’s taken me years to get around to Googling it and now that I have, I’ve fallen down an Internet hole that leads past the League of Women Voters, Prohibition, the Nineteenth Amendment, and Seneca Falls.   Juniper Ledge, you see, was the country home of one of our most dedicated suffragettes, Carrie Chapman Catt.

Hmm, wait, now who exactly was she? She’s up there with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, right? Ladies whose names get trotted out every March, during Women’s History Month, important historical figures I know I should know but . . . don’t. (As the alumna of a Seven Sisters school, it’s pretty embarrassing for me to admit that I am not at all conversant with the history of those who led the fight for women’s suffrage and rights.)

But now, thanks to this simple driveway pillar, I know all that there is to know about the early feminists and the fight for women’s rights. Okay, no, not true, but I certainly know more than I did.

(As a side note, isn’t it hard to believe that American women have only been allowed to vote for less than one hundred years?   But it’s true – the Nineteenth Amendment wasn’t passed until 1920.)

But I digress. Back to Juniper Ledge (also sometimes called “The Catt House,” which makes me giggle.)

Carrie Chapman Catt (nee Lane) was born in Wisconsin in 1859. Unusually for that time and place, she went to college (Iowa State) and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1880. She became a teacher, then a principal, then Superintendent of her Iowa school district. Pretty groundbreaking stuff for the Gilded Age, when women were just supposed to wear bustles and corsets, get married and have babies.

She did marry, though, twice. In 1880, she married husband #1, Leo Chapman, a reporter, who died of typhoid fever within a couple of years. In 1885, she married husband #2,  George Catt, a wealthy engineer and fellow Iowa State alum. He apparently was quite supportive of her involvement in the fight for women’s rights. So she threw herself into the fray.

Based in Iowa, she led the Iowa Women’s Suffrage Association from 1890 – 1892, then started – wait, I’m sorry, I’m dragging you down this hole too. You probably just want to hear about Juniper Ledge on North State Road, right?

Okay, so Juniper Ledge is listed on the National Historical Register because of Catt’s residence, but she really only lived there from 1919 – 1928. With her partner Mary Garret Hay (Mr. Catt having died in 1905.)

The story goes that the estate was named Juniper Ledge because of its abundance of juniper trees (not sure if Catt named it so.)  And, as we all know, juniper berries are the main ingredient in gin.   In a New York Times article from 1921, she asserted that she bought Juniper Ledge to keep the juniper berries from “wet” use. (She and Hay served their guests coffee and orangeade.)

(I suppose I should mention that many of the suffragettes were also big on Prohibition.  We won’t hold that against them, though.  Things were different then. Did you know that Ossining had about 50 active saloons at the turn of the 20th Century. It’s true. Dana White, the Ossining Village Historian told me so. So yeah, maybe there was a good reason for the anti-booze crusade.)

Anyway, while still living in Iowa, Catt came to the attention of Susan B. Anthony, the Grande Dame of suffragettes (so grande that she was awarded with her own US coin! Only minted for about three years though, due to its poor design and the opposition of Big Vending, but I am getting way off topic here.)

Long story short, Catt succeeded Susan B. Anthony as President of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1900, and was its President when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. Catt then started the League of Women Voters to supply women with information to help them make informed voting decisions.

According to another New York Times article, this one from 1927, Juniper Ledge was quite impressive: “The estate is one of the show places of Northern Westchester, and includes sixteen acres of extensively developed land fronting on two roads. The residence, on a knoll overlooking the countryside, is a modern house of English architecture containing fourteen rooms and three baths. A gardener’s cottage, stables, a garage and a greenhouse are also on the property.”  Catt affixed brass plaques with the names of famous suffragettes to fourteen trees – and some of those plaques are now in the archives at Harvard.

Catt sold Juniper Ledge in 1927 to a “Manhattan banker” (according to the NYT) and purchased a home at 120 Paine Avenue in New Rochelle. Sadly, her companion Mary Garret Hay died shortly after they moved. (Here’s Hay’s obituary.)

Catt lived on, staying active right up until her death in 1947. She and Hay are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The inscription on their joint tombstone reads, “Here lie two, united in friendship for thirty-eight years through constant service to a great cause.” (Here’s Catt’s obituary.  It makes me tired just to read about all the things she accomplished.)

So, the next time you drive on North State Road, keep an eye out for that old driveway pillar and know that a very influential and historical woman once lived up there.