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 parts IV & V

Running Down the Old Croton Aqueduct  parts IV & V

Here’s the link to part III

Tarrytown to Hastings-on-Hudson (4 miles) and Hastings to Yonkers (4.6 miles)

img_1402.jpgStopping point from the last section (Rockefeller State Park to Tarrytown)

Tarrytown to Hastings:

Full disclosure — this post is a bit of a cheat, because we ran the Tarrytown to Hastings section way back in May 2018, but I never got around to posting about it specifically.  So I’m combining both sections here.

The first section, Tarrytown to Hastings, is chock full of history, so sit back, relax and enjoy the trip!

Starting in Tarrytown, we started about a block down the street (Rt. 119) from where we ended the last time.  Parking at the Doubletree Hotel, just off Broadway, we followed the sidewalk south across the Thruway ramp and easily saw the OCA signage to our right. (I’d say you can’t miss it, but that’s always a dicey thing to promise.) Almost right away, the first sight you see is financier Jay Gould’s Gothic Revival mansion, Lyndhurst.  It’s really quite fun to run across the expansive lawn with the mansion in the background – you feel rather like a trespasser.  (Check out the Lyndhurst site here.)

Next up is Washington Irving’s home, “Sunnyside,” – you won’t actually pass by it close enough to see it, but know that it’s nearby and look out for Rip Van Winkle!

After crossing two streets, you’ll see a carousel-like octagonal structure – the Armour-Stiner (Octagon) House:

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Built in 1860, it is apparently the only octagonal, domed, colonnaded private home that looks rather like a Roman temple ever built.  The theory went that octagonal homes offered more light, air and space.  Guess not.  But do check out this website that gives a far more detailed history of the house, and shares delightful stories that involve a Finnish explorer, a female pirate, a poet and a ghost.

Next up is Villa Lewaro, Madam CJ Walker’s estate.  Read my blog post here for more on that story.

Just a half-mile or so further on is the Nevis Estate, now owned by Columbia University and home to the Columbia-Nevis laboratories.  There’s a solid brick mansion with white columns on the right side of the trail that was built by Colonel James Hamilton III, son of Alexander Hamilton, in 1835.  (Nevis, of course, was the Caribbean island where Hamilton père was born.  For more information, please download Hamilton the musical.)

Mercy College is next, and a good spot to find water and a bathroom.

Finally, about a mile south from Mercy, at 15 Walnut Street, Dobbs Ferry, is the Aqueduct Keeper’s house.  Headquarters for the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park and an historic site in its own right, it’s an interesting stop. Check out their website here for hours and exhibits.

Another ¼ mile or so gets you to Villard Avenue where we stopped and turned around many months ago.

Fast forward to a clear, slightly humid Saturday morning in September 2018 when we parked on Villard Avenue and headed south to Yonkers before turning back to our car.

The Aqueduct heads down through residential areas, crossing streets every thousand feet or so.IMG_3519

You’re treated to some lovely views along the way, both down the streets to the river:

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and through the trees across the river to the Palisades:

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The first really exciting place (to me) is the Untermeyer Gardens Conservancy:

IMG_3522 View  from the Aqueduct just past dawn . . .

The country home of Samuel Untermyer from 1899 – 1940, the recently (and impeccably!) restored park features impressive gardens, sculptures and outbuildings.  The main park entry is on North Broadway, but you can get in through this gate adjacent to the Aqueduct.  (Definitely going back here to browse through the gardens!)  Samuel Untermyer, BTW, was a famous corporate lawyer, the first one, in fact, to earn a fee of one million dollars on a single case!  He became an aggressive trustbuster in his prime, which makes me like him all the more.

The trail is lined with elegant old houses:

But the way is mostly cool, shaded and soft grassy trails:

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Here’s another weir, a structure built directly over the aqueduct that functioned as little dams to allow the flowing water to be diverted, slowed or sped up.  This one, like the others, was probably built in the 1880s and was closed in 1965 when the aqueduct was decommissioned.  (Yes, folks, NYC no longer gets its water through an early 19th century brick tunnel.)  Unlike the Ossining Weir which you can visit, this one is sealed up tight, no chance of getting inside and looking around.  (In case you were curious.)

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Another couple of interesting sites you’ll pass, but that are easy to miss from the Aqueduct, is the back side of the Lenoir Preserve, , a nature center created by combining Lenoir and Ardenwold, two golden age estates.  A little further south is Alder Manor, the former country estate of William Boyce Thompson, a tycoon who made his fortune in mines and money.  Built by the famed architectural firm of Carrere & Hastings, the Thompson family lived there until the 1950s, when their property was inherited by the Archdiocese of New York and became the Mary Elizabeth Seton High School.  Declared a National Historic Site in 1982, much of the land has been subdivided and developed and today the mansion is owned by the Tara Circle.  It’s apparently in dire need of repair, so in order to raise funds, the mansion is rented out for events and movie shoots.  According to Wikipedia, “Mona Lisa Smile” and “A Beautiful Mind” were shot here.

One last place of interest is an old stone building that stretches for about a hundred feet along the Aqueduct somewhere around either the Lenoir Preserve or Alder Manor.

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I clambered over poison ivy to take this shot through one of the shattered, but still barred, windows.  Looks like an old stable to me — what do you think?

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In Yonkers, the Aqueduct gets a bit difficult to follow as development has cut it into piecemeal bits.  But here we are at the intersection of North Broadway and Ashburton.  We plan to start here next time and run all the way down to the city.

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Here’s the link to part VI

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 . . .

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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!!

Wolf Hollow

One road that I run along frequently is Glendale Road.  And over the years, I’ve been tantalized by stories about this road from fellow runners and local historians – stories that include Revolutionary War-era tortures, the Leatherman, British raids, money and silver hidden in caves and wells – well, let me just get into it all.

First of all, Glendale began as a meandering farm road, mostly lined by working farms.   It was straightened into its current state in 1930 (probably a CCC project — thanks FDR!)  but if you look carefully as you run along, you can still see the old roads on either side – they’re mostly overgrown, but there are some stone walls that give you a sense of how comparatively hilly and windy Glendale Road would have been back in the day.   Here’s a survey of a portion of Glendale with the old road clearly marked:

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Now, there are quite a few old homes and estates along Glendale – the old schoolhouse, and the old church from the mid-1800s still stand and both are private homes.  (More on those another time.)  But stop and try to imagine what this area would have looked like 150 years ago:  farms, no trees, a working mine and a very popular racetrack.  So different from today’s bucolic, wooded wonderland.

So let’s fall through a portal into that time by way of 75 Glendale Road, aka Wolf Hollow.  Owner Carole Herbin generously invited me to visit and gave me an extensive history of the place.  It’s one of the oldest houses on Glendale, built in the mid-1700s.  While it’s been well-maintained and renovated to include all the needed amenities (gorgeous kitchen, master suite, etc.) it still retains its unique charming history with stone fire places, cast iron gates and original leaded glass windows.  Who knows, there might even be a ghost or two!

Let’s go back to 1776, the start of our glorious, triumphant revolution, when the Colonials threw off the shackles of England.  When they told crazy, porphyria-suffering George III that they were dissolving all connections and would form a more perfect union and govern themselves.

Now, during the Revolution, this particular corner of Westchester was oddly ignored.  But, while there were no battles fought here, the farmers in the area were constantly trying to “protect their crops from those thieves who sprang up often under the guide of patriotism to maraud wherever they believed property could be stolen with safety to themselves.”  (Ossining Citizen Register, 8/6/1935)

The British held Manhattan and environs slightly north of the island – the Colonials held Peekskill and north.  But the area in between, the Ossining History on the Run area if you will, was a sort of no-man’s land.  It seems that both sides, British and Colonials, were equally likely to be rummaging through the farms here.

In 1779, Col. Aaron Burr was put in charge of the Colonials of Westchester county – yes, THAT Aaron Burr, now best known as the antagonist of “Hamilton.”  As long as Burr was in charge, there was little looting in our neighborhood.  Even so, people in this area took to hiding their farm produce and personal items.  And by this, I mean stuff like cows and wheat and cash and clocks.  According to a 1935 article in the Ossining Citizen Register, one intrepid farmer resorted to hiding valuables in “the tavern in Scarsdale where a saber cut discernible today is said to have been made by a British officer who was attempting to force his entrance in the parlor of the building.  The Scarsdale Library door shows this cut today.”  (Anyone know if this is still true??)

So now we get to the legend of Benjamin Tillotson, a former owner of 75 Glendale Road.  He was a very prosperous farmer whose land stretched from the Croton River to Millwood.  (Stop and try to imagine that.  How much would that be worth today, is all I can think.)

He was a patriot who supported the Revolution and, as such, was often harassed by the Tories.  Because of this, he got very sneaky, and would hide his hogs in nearby caves and his wife would hide her bread in a secret box under the kitchen floor.   But he was outsmarted on one famous occasion.  The story goes that he had sold some animal – maybe an ox, maybe a horse, who really knows? – and had hidden the money in a cooperage block (oh, did I mention he also was a barrel maker? So this cooperage block thing was a barrel making accoutrement.) Whatever it is – because even with the Google I can’t quite envision this story —  he figured the money wouldn’t be found.  So when the Tories came for his money, he denied having it on the premises.  But they knew he was lying and got so angry that they, supposedly, hung him up by his thumbs from an apple tree next to his house that flowered until this very century.  “So near did this persecution come to causing his death that his wife, who knew the secret of the hiding-place, unable to endure the sight of her husband’s agony, revealed the place.  The cooperage block was split open and the money immediately stolen.”  (Ossining Citizen Register)

Imagine that.  Redcoats torturing our neighbors!

I got a little obsessed with the idea of caves in the area where 18th century locals hid their hogs and silver, and took a little bushwhack of a hike.  (Just follow the blue trail/Catamount Hill Loop from the Cliffdale Farm entrance on Teatown Road.)  Supposedly the Leatherman was known to stop in these caves.  While I saw large rocks bordering ravines, I couldn’t really find anything that seemed big enough for a person (or a cow) to hide in.  Of course, there’s a lot of private property around here, so I couldn’t investigate too thoroughly.  But I did convince myself that I found some arrowheads:

Arrowheads

Okay, maybe not.

On a side note, in the basement of the house at Wolf Hollow are the remains of a old jail, supposedly used to hold prisoners until the circuit court went into session.  This system involved having judges “ride the circuit” — actually travel between individual towns to hear cases, so that the average citizen didn’t have to travel long distances to receive justice.  Wikipedia tells me that this was begun by Henry II in England in the 12th century.   In the American version, the judges travelled on horseback or via stagecoach accompanied by lawyers to hear cases.  Abraham Lincoln spent some time doing this in Illinois.  Here are some photos:

This is more or less a free-standing stone structure built right into the middle of the basement.  Sure looks like a prison cell to me!

Another interesting character who lived at this site is Julie Campbell Tatham, author of Trixie Belden series (think of a mid-1940s version of Nancy Drew.)  Trixie (short for Beatrice) was a teenage girl who lived on Crabapple Farm just outside “Sleepyside-on-Hudson.”  Adventures ensue when she and her best friend Honey Wheeler (a lonely rich girl) band together to solve mysteries.

Trixie Belden

(I don’t know about you, but that house looks kind of familiar . . .)

History is fascinating, isn’t it?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.