Hudson Valley Ruins Before the Internet?

When I recently photographed my grandmother’s artworks including her Tappan Zee Bridge construction paintings, my aunt also showed me some of her mom’s scrapbooks. One is entitled “Hudson River 1″ and the other one is labeled “Tarrytown 2.” Both books consist of newspaper articles chronicling the historic sites and museums of the area and notable old buildings in general. Most of the articles were about then-current day news items while others were of the “look back in time” variety. The clippings were carefully cut to size and thus do not contain the newspaper headers or datelines, but it seems that they date to the mid-late 1960s.

I fully expected the scrapbooks to contain items relating to the properties of Sleepy Hollow Restorations (now Historic Hudson Valley). My grandmother worked, as I do now, at Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, and Sunnyside. She worked for “the Restorations” (as long-time locals still call the museums!) at an exciting time when national interest in visiting historic house museums was perhaps at an all-time high, leading up to American Bicentennial. The burgeoning preservation movement and increasing public interest in historic sites resulted in extensive projects such as the 1960s decade-long effort to excavate, restore, and rebuild Philipsburg Manor to its mid-eighteenth century appearance.

I also expected to see articles about the various old buildings of Tarrytown. The Downing family were Tarrytown residents except for a very brief time that they lived in Ossining. Also, local newspapers then seemed to devote more space then to items of purely historical interest. Writers such as Wally Buxton collected their columns and presented them in book form later – Buxton’s collaboration with Jeff Canning resulted in the 1975 publication of History of the Tarrytowns, Westchester County, New York: From Ancient Times to the Present, which I have read and re-read many times over.

What interested me the most were articles about the impending demise of old hotels, commercial buildings, and estate barns, and articles about historical buildings that were in use then but were abandoned or demolished later. Also of interest were articles that celebrated industrial architecture along the Hudson River. Reviewing these scrapbooks was like looking at an ancient version of the Hudson Valley Ruins website. I wished I had seen some of those articles when Tom Rinaldi and I were working on our book, which I am sure my grandmother would have enjoyed reading with her active interest in the subject.

So, I see on my ipod that some of the photos appear upside-down or sideways. On my desktop computer (yeah, I guess I’m one of the dinosaurs that still uses a desktop), the photographs appear right-side up in my web-browser and in various photo-editing software. I took the photographs with my ipod, which cannot seem to decide which side is right-side up. Sorry for you idevice-only users, I don’t know how to fix that problem.

The Albums

Front cover of Hudson River 1

Inside cover of Hudson River 1

Front Cover of Tarrytown 2

The “Demolition Alert”

The Florence Hotel was located in Tarrytown on Broadway at Franklin Street. It first opened in 1821 and continued operations through 1955, no doubt expanded at some point in between (the hotel operated under various names at different times as well. It was demolished in 1964. The Florence also had a great neon sign. If the building could have gotten through the 1970s, perhaps it might have found new use. Although Tarrytown was something of a place to go “antiquing” in the 1980s and 1990s, and is now more recently a place for city-dwellers to boldly explore outside the boundaries of the five boroughs, the village’s proximity to Manhattan perhaps explains why there are no B&B’s here as there are in Cold Spring, further up the Hudson. There is certainly high demand for hotel rooms in the immediate area however, and the Florence Inn looks like it could have been a great candidate for filling that need again for those who prefer uniquely local accommodations.

Isaac Stern’s Cedar Lawn stood on the site now occupied by Irvington High School. The house was built about 1875 with plans designed in consultation with Alexander Jackson Davis for Augustus C. Richards who called it Ridgeview. In the early 1900s, Stern replaced the original mansard roof with crenelations. Too bad this awesome house was not preserved and made part of the new school complex. It would have been fantastic.

North Tarrytown’s Grade and High School stood on Beekman Avenue in what is now the parking lot and playground of the Winfield L. Morse School.

The Requa farmhouse on South Broadway was the site of an important archaeological excavation in the late 1970s/early 1980s, owing to its survival as a rare, intact, undisturbed tenant farm of colonial Philipsburg Manor. General Foods, whose research center stood nearby, demolished the farmhouse and a 19th century mansion for a proposed expansion of their facility. The property ultimately was not used for anything more than an exercise trail, and remnants of the old estate survive still. Montefiore, the current owner of the land, is now considering use of the site. My friend Paul Barrett has written about the history of the estate and the threat of redevelopment.

Today the Lyndhurst historic site occupies 67 acres between South Broadway and the Hudson River in Tarrytown. Under ownership of Jay Gould and later his daughters, the estate actually consisted of several hundred acres on both sides of Broadway including a farm on White Plains Road. The barns were demolished and two office buildings and a TGI Fridays were built in the late 1970s/early 1980s on the farm site. Today a stone foundation of one barn remains along with other evidence of past use.

The Washington Building (above and below) at the northwest corner of Broadway and Main Street in Tarrytown suffered major fire damage but the building was not destroyed. Damaged portions were rebuilt, though the roof lost its fancy conical turret, and the building remains a landmark.

It seems that the Washington Building is referenced by many different names. Old-timers might call it the Russell and Lawrie Building because of the drug store that once operated there. In the colonial period the site was occupied by the Couenhoven Inn.

Urban Renewal, Tarrytown.

The City of Beaumont aka Buccaneer was brought to Hastings-on-Hudson where it was moored and used as a restaurant. Later it served ingloriously as a bulkhead for an oil company; eventually its ruins were burned. In the early years of Hudson Valley Ruins, Tom Rinaldi and I visited Hastings’s waterfront to photograph another maritime ruin now lost, the steamer Lancaster.

The following sites were not ruins or demo-alerts then, but they are ruins or demolished now.

McMansions have replaced Rosemont on Route 9 in Scarborough. I also seem to recall from my youth having seen sheep on a farm along Route 9 south of Sleepy Hollow Country Club, and that is a sight you won’t see anymore.

The Lent House, “Peekskill’s Oldest House,” has been abandoned since the 1980s.

Ossining’s Robert Havell House was one of two great old mansions lost on Havell Street.

The buildings of the New York Trap Rock quarry in Verplanck are now ruins.

Chronicling Change

Recently the MTA reconstructed station platforms and overpasses at numerous Hudson Line stations. They did so just a few decades prior too. Maybe they got it right this time.

I would love to have seen Tarrytown’s former Transfiguration Church. The new one is, I guess, becoming more historically interesting by-the-year as it ages too.

Still Here

Above and below: Yonkers, Proud of its Riverfront. The sugar factory still makes the sweet stuff.

There are some amazing old brick industrial buildings in there.

The Saugerties Lighthouse actually became a ruin and was later restored as a bed-and-breakfast. It is popular. Rooms reserve well in advance.

Said to be the first Catholic church building constructed on the Hudson River north of New York City, the Chapel of Our Lady in Cold Spring was a ruin for decades until it was restored in the 1970s. It is one of the best, most perfectly located, sights along the river.

Gracemere Hall, one of the many great mid-19th century mansions of Tarrytown’s South End, is one of the very few still around.

This great old tree still stands in the South End woods.

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8 Responses to Hudson Valley Ruins Before the Internet?

  1. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing all of these!

    Would be interesting to take a similar photo of the tree with a person in front — to see a then and now perspective.

  2. HV-Rob says:

    You’re welcome! Thanks for checking it out! Good idea on the tree photo – I’ll try to remember that =)

  3. Richard P. Cunningham says:

    The last two entries have been fantastic. I see the interest runs in the family.

  4. Gail Weston says:

    Have enjoyed looking through the old photos. Especially interest in information on the Russell & Lawrie Building. My dad was born in Tarrytown, his mother was an Edmonds. I have newspaper clippings of interviews with my grandmother, Hannah (Losee) Edmonds. In one it states, “Her husband was a builder and architect and designed and constructed many of the buildings which stamp Tarrytown as a distinctive village today. The early English Manor design of the Russell & Lawrie Building at Broadway and Main Street is a product of Mr. Edmonds’ drafting board and mortar mixer. He was also sewer inspector for Tarrytown for several years.” This was published in 1935.

  5. I grew up in Tarrytown and at the age of 56 it is still my home in my mind. I used to visit once in awhile. So many changes. Seems like every piece of land is occupied now. I remember many of the buildings that no longer exist. We lived on Spring St. in the Glenville section of Tarrytown. I spent every minute I could in the woods and land of what I remember was called Axe-Houghton Castle. I was so sad to see the grounds coverred in condos. There was a great pool with gargoyles and several stone bridges throughout the land. Prior to that we lived on Green St., Pleasant St., South Broadway and College Ave. Looking at these photos and reading these stories was an absolute thrill for me. I plan to return soon and visit Warner Library. I hope it’s still there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  6. Gary Frechette says:

    OOPS, posted to early
    Love it, born in Tarrytown in 1934 –
    My Mother & Father were married in the Transfiguration Church about 1930
    I was an alter boy in the 1940’s, remember when the school was built
    My wife & I were married there in 1955
    Loved the pictures and articles

  7. stephanie denyer says:

    Very cool !!! Thanks so much .

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