Shadyside, Tarrytown

Up the hill from where I grew up in Tarrytown was an old estate whose mansion was demolished about 1980. The property was left undeveloped and it reverted to woods, though traces of the estate could still be found. Actually my entire neighborhood was surrounded by old estates, all which left some kinds of ruins. That’s how I got into this hobby, having first explored these properties in the 1990s.


Scott Periodicals. Magazines to the Trade:
Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Water Systems. Martling Ave.
Tarrytown Centennial 1870-1970

A few of these old estates are now being redeveloped, now thirty-forty years later. This week I saw for the first time that work is occurring at the Tarrytown estate known as Shadyside (perhaps a play on the name of the nearby home of celebrated author Washington Irving). The mansion was a 22-room brick structure built in 1875 by E. C. Spofford. It went through several different owners throughout the 1900s, eventually ending up with a publishing company who set up offices inside the old house. It seemed to be in great condition as recently as 1970, but the house was gone a decade later, and not even replaced by anything.

Although the mansion disappeared, estate remnants survived including two cold frames (low greenhouse-like structures) and these gate pillars. Gate pillars for the old estates often remain, though sometimes they are repositioned or repurposed. So far, these pillars have been left in place, as have the Broadway entrance pillars which now serve an apartment complex on what had been the estate’s front lawn.


These gate pillars can still be viewed from Martling Avenue.

As much as I like exploring abandoned buildings, I also enjoy exploring the sites where something once was. Although it may first appear that “nothing remains”, these abandoned properties have left behind plenty of treasures for those who look.


Looking uphill along the brick-lined estate drive.


The estate drive is not the least bit overgrown and pachysandra has kept neat borders near the house site.


THis interesting site is an old tree near what was the northwest corner of the house site. Blocks of stone inside this tree, perhaps placed in more recent times to prop up an older but favored landscape element. Also one long metal rod extends, horizontal to the ground, at top and two smaller rods protrude from the blocks in the middle of the tree.


A close up view of the blocks.

Although the old houses are long gone, I still find it sad to see the woods, and the relics they contain, be destroyed for new projects. Usually it is for houses, but the Shadyside property is being developed for office buildings and the woods have already been cleared and new roads are being put through.


This was behind the mansion. Once it was probably gardens and service buildings. I remember that there were two cold frames back here.


The orange snow fencing marks the old tree visible in the historic image of the house, at page top. I guess that tree, at least, will be saved, though a new road has been cut pretty close to its root system.

It had been quite a while since I explored Shadyside, since I don’t live in Tarrytown anymore, but for so long I counted on it to always be there. Now it too will be erased. To the sounds of birds, I walked down the estate drive, still lined by bricks, through the gate pillars, back to “civilization.”

Posted in Demolition Alert, Westchester County | 9 Comments

Demolition Day

Just a quick post to update you all on the rough weekend in Ossining. The biggest news is that the owner of the Brandreth Pill Factory, the Stolatis family/Plateau Associates, demolished the west facade of the c. 1872 factory building. And illegally and without a permit. Ossining Police stopped the demolition company from doing further damage, and the Stolatis’s have already been to Village court to explain their actions. The Journal News is continually updating this story:
www.lohud.com/story/news/local/2015/04/14/pill-factory/25774105/.

Just the day before, the Bella Vista mansion, later the Elks Club, was completely demolished. Bella Vista first appeared on our Demo Alert in 2004. I should have known that something was imminent when I noticed last month that the vinyl siding was removed.

Additionally, the Journal News reported that the New Rochelle City Council has approved a contract to demolish the New Rochelle Rowing Club.

And up in Ulster County, the City of Kingston is continuing with its program to demolish vacant homes. Next on the city’s list are two houses under the West Shore railroad trestle at the Rondout Creek.

I hope to have full entries on the Brandreth and Bella Vista stories in the next few days.

Brandreth Pill Factory, Ossining

2011


April 14, 2015


2012

Bella Vista / Elks Club

2012


March 6, 2015


2012


April 14, 2015


View from Bella Vista.
The building at lower right, 65 Main Street, recently had its vinyl siding removed, which exposed its historic and far more attractive brick exterior. The property has also been landscaped. As we’ve seen far too often, these initial improvements often spell the beginning of the end for historic properties. Someone may be readying this site for demolition and reconstruction. I really hope that is not the case. The house is believed to date to 1855.


65 Main Street. Compare with this view from 2012.

Abeel Street, Kingston

The two end-houses in this photograph are targeted for demolition. November 2014.

Abeel Street, Kingston

451 Abeel Street

Abeel Street, Kingston

463 Abeel Street

Posted in Demolition Alert, Ulster County, Uncategorized, Westchester County | 3 Comments

A Look Back at “Nobody’s Fool” – Part Two

Picking up from where we left off in Part One, in the Matteawan section of Beacon:

25. Main Street, Beacon
I lucked out here! I just walked up the street from the Tip Top Construction site when, rounding the corner, a red Ford pickup truck appeared – Sully’s vehicle updated to 2015! I knew that my camera wasn’t properly set for this scene but I didn’t have time to adjust. I snapped away and fortunately I got some usable images.

26. Main Street, Beacon
Sully’s truck rounds the bend in East Main Street, affording a good view of the Howland Cultural Center. At right scaffolding is set-up in front of blank storefronts, suggesting slowly-progressing renovations in North Bath. Of also-almost-serendipitous note in the present day photograph is the name on the taxi cab. Richard Russo has authored several books about post-industrial small towns, including “Empire Falls.”

27. Tioronda Avenue, Beacon.
Sully makes the left-turn down Tioronda Avenue to the office of the Tip Top Construction Company. This time he meets Carl in the Annex across the street from the brick office building. In the background are the coal silos of the Garret-Storm Company, built in 1931 to store anthracite coal for home heating.

28. Tioronda Avenue, Beacon.
Sully and Will walk into the Annex. In the background is the Rothery File Works/Ellrodt & Lynch Silk Mill.

29. Sully’s House, Cliff Street and Beacon Street, Beacon
At the Annex, Sully tries to get some work from Carl. Carl won’t give Sully the job he wants, but he suggests they go look at Sully’s old house on “Bowdon Street.” They go inside for a quick look, leaving Will outside. A few trees have been lost here too, as have the gate pillars (movie props?). I’d love to know the story of this house.

30. Cliff Street and Beacon Street, Beacon
The view across the street from the front stoop of Sully’s house. Sully hasn’t been in his childhood home, where he witnessed (and once was the recipient of) domestic violence, in years, and it is a ruin. Carl suggests that wrecking the house by neglect is Sully’s way of getting back at his father. Carl offered to buy the the wood flooring from Sully, but he realizes he doesn’t even want the money that is associated with bad memories – he tells Carl to just take the lumber and give the work to Peter and Rub.

31. Looking east towards Matteawan and Mount Beacon, Main Street, Beacon
Beacon has since replaced its streetlights with “historic-looking” light posts. Also in the last 20 years a plethora of street trees have sprouted on Main Street. Street trees are not only a source of shade but they are now often associated in municipal planning with safer neighborhoods and lower crime rates, a reversal of earlier thoughts about urban plantings. Beacon is one of the Hudson River towns that has most successfully revitalized its Main Street.

32. Saint Francis Hospital, Hastings Drive, Beacon
In this scene Sully picks up Miss Beryl at Saint Francis Hospital (real name and movie name) where she was admitted after suffering a stroke at home.

33. Saint Francis Hospital, Hastings Drive, Beacon

34. Saint Francis Hospital, Hastings Drive, Beacon

35. Sully’s House, Cliff Street and Beacon Street, Beacon
Sully returns to his old house where he is supervising Rub on the removal of the old flooring for Carl. Peter arrives with some beers. Rub, increasingly agitated with Peter’s presence (and attention from Sully), takes a beer and throws it against the house before storming off.

36. Broad Street, Fishkill.
Sully takes off in his pickup truck to track down Rub, literally – he drives down the sidewalk right behind Rub. The big tree at right has been cut down and replaced with a new planting.

37. Broad Street, Fishkill.
The brick building at right is the Blodgett Memorial Library.

38. Broad Street, Fishkill.
Following the sequence depicted here, Sully’s attempt to reconcile with Rub is interrupted by Office Raymer who stops his police car at the end of the sidewalk. Sully stops, then proceeds again while Officer Raymer exits his vehicle and fires his gun. Sully, amazed that Raymer actually fired his pistol, gets out of the truck and punches Office Raymer.
The real shutters on this house (at least the upper floor shutters appear to have been real) have been replaced by fake shutters. Quite symbolic of many changes in the Hudson Valley, really everywhere, that have occurred in the last twenty years. So much authenticity lost and replaced with lesser-quality, or non-functional/just-for-looks, materials. Maybe one day there will be an historic district consisting of vinyl-sided houses.

39. Police Department, Main Street, Beacon.
Sully is, of course, sentenced to a few days in jail for assaulting a police officer. Peter sees him off, and is assigned to look after Sully’s responsibilities, including buying Rub his jelly donuts. Formerly a bank, this was not the actual City of Beacon Police Department in 1994. It is now Dim Sum GoGo Restaurant.

40. North Bath Savings Bank, Main Street, Beacon
While Sully is in jail, a number of significant events occur in town. Clive Jr. received a phone call at his bank desk on Christmas Eve from one of the financiers of his big development, the one that will resurrect North Bath, who informs Clive he is backing out of the promised (but not contracted to) investment. Clive leaves town. Actually a bank in 1994, the Bank of New York, it is now a Chase bank.

41. Main Street, Beacon
As Clive leaves the bank, an adjacent building is shown with a neon Rexall drug store sign – a movie prop I have read, just like the Iron Horse sign. The book version of Nobody’s Fool specifically mentions a Rexall’s.

42. Hattie’s Funeral, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Wolcott Avenue, Beacon
Also while in Sully was in jail, Hattie passed away.

43. Hattie’s Funeral, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Wolcott Avenue, Beacon
Sully arrived at the funeral to act as pallbearer and he heard the news that the Great Escape fell through, and that Clive Jr. left town. Sully also found out that his trifecta came in – of course Sully was not around to place his bets.

44. Hattie’s Funeral, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Wolcott Avenue, Beacon

45. Hattie’s Funeral, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Wolcott Avenue, Beacon

46. North Street, Beacon.
Sully drives up North Street towards Rub’s House in one of Beacon’s most photogenic locations with the 1912 Carroll Hat factory in the background.

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47. Rub’s House, North Street, Beacon
Sully and Rub reconnect in an especially poignant scene on the front steps of Rub’s asphalt-shingled gem of a house. I have previously reviewed that sequence on the blog. Clearly, that scene could not be filmed at this house today.

48. The Iron Horse Bar, South 7th Street, Hudson
Late in the movie, during a game of poker in the back of the Iron Horse, Toby arrives and announces she is leaving Carl, telling Sully she’s got two plane tickets to Hawaii. Sully gentlemanly declines Toby’s offer and she drives away uphill past the Horse on the snow-encrusted street.

49. Miss Beryl’s House
Sully heads back into the Iron Horse and makes Peter call his estranged wife on the payphone (while the song “Near You” by George Jones and Tammy Wynette plays in the background on the jukebox) and they make plans to reconnect. Sully also learns that Miss Beryl paid the back taxes on his Bowdon Street house and that Peter placed his trifecta bet while he was in jail. He returns late to Miss Beryl’s House and tells her that he fixed the front railing, and Miss Beryl goes into the kitchen to make him a cup of tea at last. Sully doesn’t drink tea but here we learn that she asks him throughout the movie if he’d like some tea, not because she is crazy or forgetful but, because she thinks that one day he’ll change his mind and say yes – a concept that seems novel and appealing to him. Sully falls asleep in her chair, and Miss Beryl lets in Carl’s security dog, “broken” and now adopted by Sully,

50. Miss Beryl’s House
The film ends with a moment of contentment for Sully who, whether he is stubborn or a “man of conviction,” “‘never does anything right,’ in reality virtually everything he does, at least within the confines of the movie’s timeline, is right“. On the surface the story might seem to just be about small town characters with big-time dreams, but “Nobody’s Fool” leaves the viewer wondering about any person’s “freedom to choose, whether it really exists, and whether we have ourselves to blame for our predicaments or some other force.”
I’m no film connoisseur and I don’t know how this movie rates among the masses, but I know I like it a lot. Nobody’s Fool has been described as “one of those films that you stumble across on cable on a Sunday afternoon and wonder, ‘How did I ever miss this?’“, but it’s been one of my favorite movies for years. And if you’ve read this far and if you share our “sense of place” for the Hudson Valley, you’ll probably like it too!

Nobody’s Fool – Real-Life Connections
AP News Archive – “Upstate New York Life Portrayed in ‘Nobody’s Fool’
New York Times – “Hollywood on the Hudson”
Beacon Citizen – Message Board Comments
Beacon Historical Society Facebook Page – Photographs and newspaper articles from the time of filming

Nobody’s Fool – Reviews
The Coffee Coaster – “Little Movie: Big Essence of Paul Newman”
Free Republic – “Nobody’s Fool … Mark Steyn on Paul Newman”
LA Times
Morning Call – “`Nobody’s Fool’ An Homage To Small-town Life”
New York Times
Roger Ebert
Internet Movie Cars Database – Identification of cars used in the movie. Seriously awesome link.
Internet Movie Database
Daniel B. Roberts – Book V. Movie
Nobody’s Fool – Transcript

If you liked this concept then you may want to head over to Scouting NY for Then-And-Now comparisons of movies filmed in New York City. Similarly, Pop Spots NYC has tracked down many famous album cover art locations.

BONUS:
This is like the part where you stick around through the end credits. There are a few scenes that I have not identified. If you can identify them, let me know. To make it worth your while, I’ll send an old black-and-white print of some random Hudson Valley Ruin from my decade-plus old pile of outtakes (since these are the outtakes of this post) to the first person(s) to correctly ID any of these locations. To claim a print, I’ll need a corresponding modern-day photo and the street & town names – an address alone won’t suffice – that confirms and compares with the images below. Consider it a participatory contest. OK, good luck exploring and let’s see some photos!

1.

A scene from the opening montage.

2.

Another scene from the opening montage.

3.

This one will be tough to compare since many condos look alike nowadays, but this location stepped in as Carl Roebuck’s housing development.

4.

This one will be especially hard to locate, but I think we can match it up with the mountains in the background and the road curve in the foreground.

5.

This was Sully’s ex-wife’s house.

6.

And just for kicks, this was someone’s TV in the movie. Remember, this film was set around 1993-1994. Did anyone have a TV like this in 1994? I guess it may not have been that rare, heck, my TV now, which I almost never use anyway, is from 1990.

Be sure to check out Part One!

Posted in Columbia County, Dutchess County, Historic Photographs and Documents, HVR20, Orange County | 15 Comments

A Look Back at “Nobody’s Fool” – Part One

One of my favorite movies, maybe my favorite movie, is “Nobody’s Fool.” There might be a few reasons why I like it so much, but the fact that it draws on familiar and interesting architecture and locations, right here in the Hudson Valley, as backdrop is an obvious reason. Most of the buildings in the movie have seen better days. Although some “doctoring” of building facades may have occurred in the movie (Beacon was said to be “made to look worse than it really was for the movie“, according to one message board post), Nobody’s Fool “gets it right” as a visual depiction of the Hudson Valley in the early-mid 1990s – an important time for Hudson Valley Ruins as Tom Rinaldi and I were inspired to begin our little hobby right around then. The Hudson Valley of Nobody’s Fool was the Hudson Valley that made us want to go out and take photographs of all these places, as were we both quite aware that many of them would not be long for this world, if not in outright demolition then in cosmetic (and often not sympathetic) reconstruction.

Tom and I have, for a long time, tossed about the idea of tracking down the locations used in the movie. Quite a few, such as the mills in Matteawan (the East Main Street section of Beacon) have long been familiar to us, as have Hattie’s Diner and the Iron Horse bar. Quite a few stumped us, including the boyhood home of the character portrayed by Paul Newman – one of the most important locations in the movie, and depicted as an abandoned house. Once we found Sully’s House this past winter, this project gained momentum, and I set out to find all of the other locations and to re-photograph those I had captured before. Some internet sleuthing and some bing-map flyovers helped me find the remainders. I realize I probably could have reached out to the Beacon Historical Society for help identifying some sites – indeed, while I was photographing by the old Matteawan Mills in February, a Beacon resident mentioned that the Historical Society led Nobody’s Fool walking tours – but half the fun of this hobby is doing the detective work and finding locations on one’s own.

That’s not to suggest that this was a solo project. Tom Rinaldi helped track down film sites and provided insights and observations, and my friend Marlowe Stern chauffeured me around Beacon one 20-degree day this past February, while I was otherwise tied-up (literally) with a broken collarbone. I wanted to shoot these scenes in the snow as the movie is set in winter, and waiting another weekend or two would mean having to wait a full year. Marlowe also helped as Director of Photography, making sure my shots lined up as close as possible, though discrepancies may exist depending on the focal length of the camera lens used, or whether the film shoot used a lift for elevated photography.

The day we ventured out in Beacon was a bright sunny day which matches some, but not most, scenes in the movie – filmed primarily on blustery gray days – but it sufficed in capturing the massive amounts of snow from the winter of 2015. When I was able to venture out again on my own in March to seek out a few last locations, most of the snow had disappeared.

Directed by Robert Benton, Nobody’s Fool was filmed in the Mid-Hudson Valley during the winter of 1993-1994 when the region was hit by “17 snowstorms and temperatures as low as 20 degrees below zero“. Principal filming locations included Beacon, Fishkill, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Hudson.

Nobody’s Fool is actually a book that preceded that movie. Published in 1993, it must have made quite an impression for being turned into film in quick order, with an all-star cast to boot. Author Richard Russo has made his mark writing about the characters and trials of post-industrial small-towns, inspired by his childhood in upstate New York. “Elsewhere” draws upon his mother’s feelings towards their hometown Gloversville, 50 miles northwest of Albany, when it was a rapidly-declining factory town. Fictional Gloversvilles appear in Russo’s other books, informing “Empire Falls,” “Mohawk” and “Nobody’s Fool.”

Set in late 1984 (updated to the 1990s for the movie), the town of “North Bath” in Nobody’s Fool is, geographically, probably best served by Ballston Spa, overshadowed by its more-glamorous and thriving neighbor “Schuyler Springs” (Saratoga Springs). But it was the Hudson Valley that was chosen for filming locations, and the story doesn’t miss a beat for it. Both areas of New York State were quite similar in their experience of industrial decline and in their social fabric that one area could easily have stood in for the other.

Nobody’s Fool was also filmed right at the time Tom Rinaldi and I began to venture out and photograph the kinds of old and abandoned places that fill the background of Nobody’s Fool. In fact, in Pleasant Valley (a few towns east of Poughkeepsie), Tom photographed the ruins of the Pleasant Valley Finishing Company, a stone Cotton Mill building identical to one of Beacon’s most significant ruins. My first visits to Beacon occurred in 2002 when the Roundhouse was still an empty shell (a decade away from reopening as a restaurant and hotel), when Dennings Point still had a half-dozen or so abandoned ruins and not yet the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, and Dia: Beacon was still a year away from opening in a formerly-vacant riverfront factory. Beacon was one of “the places” to go for exploring ruins in those days. Even with its abandoned factories and vacant storefronts, I wouldn’t say that I ever felt unsafe in Beacon, but it was definitely not the enticing destination/escape, replete with vintage clothing stores and novelty shops, that it is now.

During the much or all of the 2000s, many of Beacon’s major vacant properties were owned by William Ehrlich and his company Beacon Terminal Associates, who may or may not have promised redevelopment and revitalization to the city. Most of those properties – significant remnants of Beacon’s industrial era – remained abandoned as we conducted our documentation of Hudson Valley Ruins prior to the publication of our book of the same name. Redevelopment of some of these vacant buildings did not begin until Ehrlich sold to others who would proceed with revitalization projects.

Currently, renovation and reuse of formerly abandoned mills has been limited to the factory buildings north of East Main Street. Other mills have not been so fortunate. The nearby Matteawan Company Cotton Mill (c. 1811-1814) is perpetually threatened with demolition, the Tioronda Hat Works near the mouth of the Fishkill Creek is slowly crumbling away, the New York Rubber mill on Tioronda Avenue burned and was demolished in 2005, and now the Rothery File Works/Ellrodt & Lynch silk mill building is vacant after its most recent occupant, an auto salvage company, moved out. So it is still possible to get a few glimpses of “North Bath as it was” in Beacon today, but if you want to seek them out, hurry up! More renovation projects are on the horizon, in Beacon and elsewhere, as the Hudson Valley itself continues its post-industrial transformation.

If you have not seen Nobody’s Fool and plan to do so, you might want to come back to this blog post afterwards for a spoiler-free experience. The weather still feels wintery around the Hudson Valley so it’s not too late to get in the mood to watch this film, but one viewing need not suffice. I return to it each winter, usually waiting for a snow-day off from work to watch it again.

Characters shown here are:
Sully – Paul Newman
Miss Beryl – Jessica Tandy
Peter – Dylan Walsh
Rub – Pruitt Taylor Vince
Carl – Bruce Willis
Toby – Melanie Griffith
Officer Raymer – Philip Seymour Hoffman
Hattie – Alice Drummond

The official summary: “Sully is a rascally ne’er-do-well approaching retirement age. While he is pressing a worker’s compensation suit for a bad knee, he secretly works for his nemesis, Carl, and flirts with Carl’s young wife Toby. Sully’s long- forgotten son and family have moved back to town, so Sully faces unfamiliar family responsibilities. Meanwhile, Sully’s landlady’s banker son plots to push through a new development and evict Sully from his mother’s life. ”

Part Two of this post will conclude with links to reviews and newspaper articles about the time of the film’s production in the Hudson Valley.

1-8: OPENING MONTAGE SCENES
1. Matteawan Falls on the Fishkill Creek at East Main Street, Beacon.
The building at left, indeed abandoned and a ruin during the early years of Hudson Valley Ruins, was renovated c. 2010-2012. Previously home to numerous companies, including Horatio Swift’s Machine Shop, the building is now known as the Roundhouse and includes a restaurant and a hotel. The small ruin at right, perhaps one of the earliest mills built at the falls, was demolished during the renovation process. Tom Rinaldi and I popped in there, precariously, and Tom captured some ancient workers’ graffiti chronicling annual inaugural snowfalls.

2. Sully’s Childhood Home, Cliff Street and Beacon Street, Beacon.
Hidden in plain sight, this building took the longest time to present itself to us. We “discovered” it by chance in December 2014, a few minutes after talking about it. I wonder if it really was abandoned and boarded up, as it appeared in the movie, or whether it was “dressed for the part” by the film crew. We knocked on the door to speak with the owner, but no one answered that day. I wished I had taken a photograph of this house on a gloomy day for a more appropriate comparison. Sunny day or not, the house looks beautiful now.

3. East Main Street, Beacon
This location counts as a classic Hudson Valley scene having been featured, not only in Nobody’s Fool but also in National Geographic’s March 1996 article on the Hudson Valley.

4. Main Street, Beacon
The banner across the street in the movie advertises the proposed Great Escape Theme Park that the town of North Bath is betting its future on.
All of the Main Street locations filmed for Nobody’s Fool are located at the east end of Main Street, in the old Matteawan section of the city. Beacon incorporated as a city in 1913 joining the riverfront village of Fishkill Landing and the inland village of Matteawan into one municipality. The church at center is the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Matteawan, built in 1869. The building at left is the former Matteawan station of the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad, whose tracks are still extant. Owned now by The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the tracks are rarely used and only for non-commercial purposes, but they are vital for possible future use being the only east-west track system that connects the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven lines.

5. Rub’s House, North Street, Beacon. Rub’s House was the first “secondary” location that I discovered on my own, and finding it sparked my interest in seeking out other locations. When I first saw the house, it had not changed one iota since the movie. Even the plastic number sticker on the mailbox was the same. Well, as things get better around Beacon, things get “better.” The house has been renovated, or really, essentially demolished and rebuilt – maybe some or all of the original framing is in there still, but otherwise there is a brand new house. I’ve already documented the beginning of that transformation on the blog, and now you can see the finished result below.

6. The Iron Horse Bar, South 7th Street, Hudson
I admit, I did not know that the Iron Horse was a relic of the movie. Sure, a bar existed here before, but it was called the State Grill. The Iron Horse name was concocted for the movie, but it fit – train tracks pass within just a few feet of the bar’s front door – and stuck. So authentic, it had me fooled. It was definitely Hudson Valley working class authentic on the inside, and was a favorite stopping place after a good day of exploring upriver. In fact, Tom and I were really looking forward to some dollar ponies after a day spent on the frozen Hudson River in March 2014 when, in one of our greatest disappointments, we found that the Iron Horse bar had recently closed. It remains shut and tied up in estate proceedings. And – as things change – a cigar store bearing the name Iron Horse has opened up two doors down.
In the book, the bar is known as the White Horse Tavern. Almost ironically, there is in Fishkill a “White House Restaurant” with an authentic neon sign to boot, that could have been doctored to be the “White Horse,” right around the corner from two filming locations.

7. Hattie’s Diner, Warren Street, Hudson
Hattie’s Diner looks much the same on the outside – it’s neon fascia sign is still there and still lights up, thankfully, but a new sign projecting off the building announces the current name of this establishment: “Grazin'” which bills itself as a “farm to table” restaurant. I couldn’t find a menu on their website to see if they serve Rub’s Jelly Donuts.

8. Miss Beryl’s House, Garfield Place, Poughkeepsie
Sully rents a room from his landlord Miss Beryl in this house. Its monochrome appearance has been updated – not quite a rainbow-esque painted lady, but a bit brighter.

9. Miss Beryl’s House, Garfield Place, Poughkeepsie
Rub and Sully check out the porch rail that Miss Beryl is constantly asking Sully to fix – Sully always says he’ll do it, but he never does. The house might have been an apt metaphor for the Hudson Valley in 1994 – still in decent shape, still a grand old place, but in need of a paint job and a front railing, or it might be at risk of declining into irreversible repair.

10. Tip Top Construction, Tioronda Avenue, Beacon
Here Sully drives down Tioronda Avenue in his trusty red Ford pickup truck. Sully frequently pesters Tip Top owner Carl Roebuck for disability payments, which Carl claims he doesn’t owe. Yet, Sully keeps showing up at Carl’s office begging for work.
The intricate-designed brick building at left-center is the Howland Cultural Center.

11. Tip Top Construction, Tioronda Avenue, Beacon
The building is now the office of Miller’s Minutemen Construction Company.

12. Tip Top Construction, Tioronda Avenue, Beacon
Carl won’t give Sully any big jobs, but odds-and-ends are available. Early in the film Sully is sent over to Carl’s housing development where he is seen tossing cinder blocks into the back of his truck, all the while imagining he is actually tossing Carl out of a second-story window. Not only has this brick building been repainted, but it has lost its bracketed cornice.

13. High Street, Beacon
Returning home to visit his mom (Sully’s ex-wife) for Thanksgiving, Peter stops to pick up his dad Sully, who is hitchhiking after having popped a tire on his truck. Not having seen his son for a few years, Sully is introduced to his grandchildren, including Wacker, who promptly lives up to his name and whacks Sully on his bad knee. Sully gets out and walks the rest of the way to Carl Roebuck’s house.
The mailbox is gone today, as the neighborhood mail drop box is now almost entirely non-existent anywhere.

14. Tompkins Avenue, Beacon
With his own marriage breaking-down, Peter starts the process of reconnecting with Sully, inviting Sully to Thanksgiving Dinner as Sully walks away. The Tompkins Avenue and High Street houses look more-or-less similar today. (The 2015 photograph replaces an image from around the corner taken earlier in the year that I misidentified.

15. High Street, Beacon
That’s the spire of the Reformed Church of Beacon at left. What happened to all those grand old trees?!

16. Carl Roebuck’s House, High Street, Beacon
Sully shows up at Carl’s House only to find Carl’s wife Toby tossing Carl’s clothes out the door – Carl’s been caught cheating and Toby is having the locks changed. The house is now Botsford Briar Bed and Breakfast.

17. “Mohawk Valley Country Club,” (Powelton Club), Newburgh


Here Miss Beryl and her son Clive Jr. entertain potential investors in the Great Escape Theme Park and its associated redevelopment projects that will save North Bath. Being that the author of Nobody’s Fool, Richard Russo, is from upstate Gloversville he admittedly drew from the Mohawk Valley, not the Hudson Valley, for inspiration in setting the story. Hence, we have here the Mohawk Valley Country Club (there is a real club of that name in Little Falls, NY).
I missed that piece of information about the movie also being filmed in Newburgh. I bing-mapped all the country clubs between Beacon and Poughkeepsie and did not see anything that matched the Mohawk club. I then reached out to my dad, former golf coach at Westchester Community College. He didn’t recognize it right away, but forwarded the photo on to his upstate colleagues, who let me know right away that it was the Powelton Club.

18. Main Street, Beacon
North Bath’s finest, Officer Raymer, pulls over Sully a short distance west of the Howland Cultural Center.

19. Main Street, Beacon
This scene is the first run-in that Sully has with Raymer.

20. Cozy Corner Diner, Elm Street, Fishkill
After being pulled over by Office Raymer, Sully finds his grandson Will in the bed of his pickup truck. They stop at this truck-stop/diner to place a call to Will’s dad Peter. The building at center today houses a pizza shop and a bar known as Fast Eddie’s. Sully actually pulls his truck into a parking spot at right where the diner was located. The building at right (off-camera) is now the Liberty Baptist Church. The pastor showed me inside and said how it was completely renovated but that there had been a diner counter and seating inside previously, and that scenes for the movie were filmed inside.

21. Garfield Place, Poughkeepsie
Sully plays the hero when he shows up Clive Jr. and rushes out to the snow-covered street to rescue Hattie, senile after suffering a stroke some years prior, as she imagines she is running away to her sister’s place in Albany. Sully smooth-talks her back around.

22. Main Street, Beacon
In this sequence, Sully sets Will on his lap and allows him to steer the “nice truck.” They are shown cruising past Beacon’s old textile mills and a row of boarded-up buildings, and one of perhaps only three dummy-lights in the entire United States.

23. Main Street, Beacon
This scene is actually behind where Sully was just shown driving, but appears next in the movie. Ackerman Street was the real name – the street sign was left intact for the movie, but now the street sign stands on the opposite corner.

24. Main Street, Beacon
The factory at left is the site of the original Matteawan Company textile mill. The larger of the two buildings was constructed in 1912 by the Carroll Hat Company. It remained in use much longer than Beacon’s other factories – possibly through the time of filming Nobody’s Fool – Three Star Anodizing was the last active owner, and the Dorel Hat Company rented space here through the mid-1980s.

Be sure to check out Part Two!

(EDIT: This post was updated on April 2 with new photographs for #14 and #20.)

Posted in Columbia County, Dutchess County, Historic Photographs and Documents, HVR20, Orange County | 38 Comments

The Croft at Teatown

This past week I was alerted a distressing story of a potential teardown of a beautiful, intact mansion at Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining.


January 25, 2015.

The Croft, as it is known, was built c. 1914 by Arthur Vernay, an antiques dealer. Gerard Swope, Sr., Chairman of General Electric, later owned the estate. Six after Swope’s death, in 1957, his heirs donated 194 acres of the estate to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for an outreach program. The Croft mansion remained privately owned while the estate’s stables and carriage house buildings became the nature center and office for Teatown Lake Reservation which incorporated in 1971 to manage the property independent of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Croft mansion remained in use as a private house until 2008 and, with funding from New York State and Westchester County, Teatown Lake acquired the house and 67-acres in 2010.

Now, after four years of owning the Croft, Teatown has announced that “Estimates to convert the out of date residence to office space for Teatown use, or to meet requirements for rental, proved both impractical and cost prohibitive.” No details were released with this statement regarding the nature of “requirements” to “convert” what had, until very recently, been a perfectly viable occupied home. It seems implausible that this house needs such extensive work as to render costs prohibitive to rent it as a private home or office space – a common scenario employed by other preservation organizations whose properties include non-contributing buildings. Instead of announcing outright that the Croft will be demolished, Teatown has announced an “opportunity” to “repurpose” this Tudor style dwelling, which is said to include architectural elements of historic English homes. Teatown’s justification for tearing apart and demolishing the Croft is supported by experts – in the field of building salvage, not historic preservation. A deadline of March 1 has been set to determine the fate of the Croft.

Thanks to J-F de Lapérouse, chairman of the Yorktown Landmark Preservation Commission, for informing me of this story, and for his efforts to promote an alternate resolution for the Croft.


Nature Center and office.

Posted in Demolition Alert, Westchester County | 3 Comments

West Point Foundry Preserve

In October 2013, Scenic Hudson re-opened the West Point Foundry site after it had been closed for park improvements. Last week I finally made my first visit to the “new” West Point Foundry.

The preservation and interpretation of this historically-significant site over the last two decades coincides with a growing academic appreciation for industrial heritage sites. Other important examples include Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, AL (an “early” project dating to its acquisition by the City of Birmingham in 1977), Gas Works Park in Seattle, WA, Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, VA (site of the American Civil War Center) and, more recently, Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, PA. Consisting primarily of archaeological remnants and one original extant foundry building, the West Point Foundry has more in common with sites such as the Joliet Iron Works in Joliet, IL.

However, industrial sites are still more likely to be destroyed then preserved. Here in the Hudson Valley we have recently seen the loss of the Republic Steel and Rensselaer Iron Works, both in Troy, and the kiln sheds of the Powell & Minnock Brick Company in Coeymans. The great textile mills at Stottville have been demolished for their scrap value. In the lower Hudson Valley the Anaconda Wire and Cable Company in Hastings-on-Hudson and the Habirshaw Wire Company (Yonkers) factories have been demolished – in the case of Anaconda one building remains but it too may soon disappear. Our list goes on and on.

Scenic Hudson’s work to preserve the Foundry ruins is admirable and will hopefully instill a greater public appreciation for industrial heritage. The interpretive signs and imaginative recreations will help visitors better understand the site, historically and spatially – where buildings once stood, what work occurred at each location, and so on. The c. 1865 Office, stabilized in the mid-2000s, awaits complete restoration and reuse. I am not sure if there is a timetable for that project or if any specified use has been determined but, when open to the public, that building will undoubtedly greatly enhance the value of this park and the experience of all who visit.


C. 1865 Office – still awaiting full restoration and adaptive-reuse.

The once-impressive foundry works are hard to envision in what today is quiet, woodsy clove, but the remains of the West Point Foundry buildings tell us that these sites do not need to be destroyed, and are important for us to preserve.

More photographs can be viewed at this link.

Posted in Putnam County | 4 Comments

HVR 2014


January


February


March


April


May


June


July


August


September


October


November


December

Happy Holidays.

Posted in HVR Annual Calendar | 4 Comments

Halloween Blog Part 5 – Rockland’s Sleepy Hollow Murals

Welcome to the (Post)-Halloween Blog Part 5, the final installment I have planned for this year’s series.

Halloween is rapidly becoming something of a new national holiday, and an expensive holiday too – not to mention another PR opportunity for celebrities. No longer just for kids, Americans are estimated to spend over seven billion dollars for Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy, and more for travel. And if any place can claim to be the home of Halloween, it is New York’s Hudson River Valley which is the legitimate home of the Headless Horseman. OK, it has been claimed since, at least, the 1930s that Washington Irving borrowed from German folk tales when he penned both “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip van Winkle,” but in America if you want to find the real Headless Horseman, you will have to visit Sleepy Hollow.

For it is here in Sleepy Hollow Country that the author Washington Irving made his home and set his stories. His house, Sunnyside, is a museum and national landmark, and the village that was long informally known as Sleepy Hollow has adopted officially (since 1996) Irving’s moniker for the area. And every October, visitors by the tens of thousands descend upon the Hollow to visit historic sites and seasonal attractions, and hopefully to catch a glimpse of the elusive ghostly rider.

Adaptions of Irving’s stories, especially the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, are numerous over the last two centuries, from Joseph Jefferson’s stage re-creation of Rip van Winkle to Johnny Depp’s film version (latest in a long line) of Ichabod Crane. The United States Postal Service even issued a stamp in 1974 that depicts the famous chase of Crane by the Headless Horseman. Other visual interpretations of Irving’s works have been numerous, and perhaps the most sought-after original editions are Arthur Rackham’s illustrations of Rip van Winkle and the denizens of Sleepy Hollow.

Other artistic interpretations exist too, including Daniel Chester French’s Memorial to Washington Irving which includes a statue of post-slumber Rip van Winkle, and Milgo/Bufkin’s 18-foot tall metal sculpture of the Horseman and Crane along Broadway, near the Old Dutch Church and the site of the Chase.

Also somewhat well-known, but out of the public eye, are Victor Pedrotti Trent’s c. 1941-42 Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals at Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangetown. One of several historically-themed murals at the hospital, the “Sleepy Hollow mural” is a an artistic mash-up of Washington Irving’s two most-famous literary works, consisting of scenes from both “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip van Winkle.”

The mural includes a young Rip looking pensive at his dog; Rip heading out from his farm with his rifle, his wife pointing him onto some errand; Rip encountering the short, bearded men dressed in the Dutch style of clothing from a century before – reputed to be the ghosts of Henry Hudson’s crew, from whose flagon rip took numerous sips before falling into deep sleep. Next we see Rip waking up and being given odd looks by townsfolk; and then a scene of Ichabod Crane encountering Hulda the witch and her alien-like minions – she is not mentioned in Irving’s story, but Hulda is part of Sleepy Hollow lore. I am not sure about the alien minions however. Next we see a gathering, possibly outside the Van Tassel home where the story of the Headless Horseman is told. The last scene, as I read the mural, is the image of a headless ghostly horse rider chasing Ichabod Cane across the wooden bridge.

The mural is situated in a building that is currently vacant, which has caused concern to the Orangetown community. To move and restore the paintings was estimated to cost $100,000. Further documentation of the Victor Pedrotti Trent murals is found in this 2008 RocklandTV video.

The following four photographs show the four sides of the “Sleepy Hollow mural.”


South Wall


West Wall


North Wall


East Wall

The following photographs show individual scenes from the murals, along with corresponding texts by Washington Irving.
Full texts may be found at these links:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Rip van Winkle



“The great error in Rip’s composition was a strong dislike of all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a fowling piece on his shoulder for hours together, trudging through woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging husbands would not do for them. In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible….
Rip’s sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of his master’s going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit befitting an honorable dog, he was[13] as courageous an animal as ever scoured the woods; but what courage can withstand the ever-enduring and all-besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue? The moment Wolf entered the house his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground or curled between his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting many a sidelong glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least flourish of a broomstick or ladle he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.”
-Rip van Winkle


(I think the two images, shown here as they appear in placement, should have been reversed to match the linear chronology of the story.)
“Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on. A tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village, which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of His Majesty George III….
Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor Wolf,” he would say, “thy mistress leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee.” Wolf would wag his tail, look wistfully in his master’s face; and if dogs can feel pity, I verily believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart.”
-Rip van Winkle


“As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance, hallooing, “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!” He looked round, but could see nothing but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must have deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air: “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!”—at the same time Wolf bristled up his back, and giving a low growl, skulked to his master’s side, looking fearfully down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension stealing over him; he looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of something he carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human being in this lonely and unfrequented place; but supposing it to be some one of the neighborhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to yield it.”
-Rip van Winkle


“On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion,—a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist, and several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides. He bore on his shoulder a stout keg that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity, and relieving one another, they clambered up a narrow gully, apparently the dry bed of a mountain torrent.”
-Rip van Winkle


(Here the painting seems to contradict the story, in that the artist shows the Dutchmen offering Rip some beverage which he declines.)
“As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from their play, and stared at him with such fixed, statue-like gaze, and such strange, uncouth countenances, that his heart turned within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.
By degrees Rip’s awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage, which he found had much of the flavor of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another; and he repeated his visits to the flagon so often that at length his senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head gradually declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.”
-Rip van Winkle


“On waking he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes—it was a bright, sunny morning. The[20] birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and the eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze. “Surely,” thought Rip, “I have not slept here all night.” He recalled the occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with a keg of liquor—the mountain ravine—the wild retreat among the rocks—the woe-begone party at ninepins—the flagon—“Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon!” thought Rip; “what excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle?.”
He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean, well-oiled fowling piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel incrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He now suspected that the grave revelers of the mountain had put a trick upon him and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of his gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, but he might have strayed away after a squirrel or partridge. He whistled after him, and shouted his name, but all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was to be seen…
As he approached the village he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast their eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!”
-Rip van Winkle


(Now the painting switches over to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, showing some of the subjects of Schoolmaster Ichabod Crane.)
” I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of those cruel potentates of the school who joy in the smart of their subjects; on the contrary, he administered justice with discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little tough wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called “doing his duty by their parents;” and he never inflicted a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting urchin, that “he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day he had to live.”
When school hours were over, he was even the companion and playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard. Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small, and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance, he was, according to country custom in those parts, boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed. With these he lived successively a week at a time, thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.
That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic patrons, who are apt to consider the costs of schooling a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones, he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences, took the horses to water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire. He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He found favor in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.”
-The Legend of sleepy Hollow


(Now this image seems to really deviate from Irving’s words. The closest element of the story that I can see is shown below. A possible interpretation exists in the form a witch named Mother Hulda, who is also part of Sleepy Hollow mythology as re-told by Jonathan Kruk in his book “The Legends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley.” I suppose the alien-like creatures are Trent’s interpretation of “goblins.” Crane seems quite nonchalant in his encounter with the witch and her goblins.)
“From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.”
-The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


(I presume this image to represent Katrina van Tassel, who is about to be instructed in singing by Ichabod Crane, and her father Baltus van Tassel.)
“Among the musical disciples who assembled, one evening in each week, to receive his instructions in psalmody, was Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer. She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was a mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set off her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round. ”
-The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


(Again the painting deviates from the story, where instead of a fancy autumn ball at the palatial Van Tassel house attended by farm families we have an informal outdoor gathering of men. The young man holding the pumpkin is a great element of foreshadowing however.)
“It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the adjacent country. Old farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk, withered little dames, in close-crimped caps, long-waisted short gowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and pincushions, and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation. The sons, in short square-skirted coats, with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they could procure an eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed throughout the country as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair…
The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.
The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust-trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent, whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of the Headless Horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the Horseman returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.
This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvellous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire.”


(And of course the famous chase scene. I am going out on a limb to suggest that the appropriately-placed EXIT sign was not on the wall when the mural was painted in the early 1940s.)
“As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.

Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind,—the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!—but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head, in the eagerness of his flight.

They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong downhill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.

As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind,—for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash,—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.”
-The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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And that concludes the Halloween Blog Series, 2014 edition. Thank you all for following along. For further reading in the realm of spooky Hudson Valley subjects I suggest Judith Richardsons’s Possessions: The History and Uses of Hauntings in the Hudson Valley. (Harvard University Press, 2003.) As I have already written on this blog, “Possessions” is not the usual haunted house book (“This house is abandoned. People see flickering lights in the windows at night. It must be haunted!”) but it attaches meaning to the stories of haunting within the context of social and cultural matters of the times, and provides historical origins of these tales. The book covers the full range of European occupation of the Hudson Valley, and weaves in world-famous and locally-known tales. Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman and other ghostly apparitions address the “dilemma of identity – a sense of alienation, dividedness and uncertainty” that affected Irving personally and the young nation at large, while Irving helped create a uniquely American identity and folklore that all could agree on. 19th century variations of a ghost tale in Leeds (Greene County) express gender and racial undercurrents. Maxwell Anderson’s play High Tor intersects with the nascent environmental conservation movement of the 1930s against a scale of industrialization unprecedented in the Hudson Valley. T. Coraghessan Boyle’s 1987 novel World’s End attempts to discover what it is that continues to haunt Peterskill (Peekskill). Possessions is one of the most insightful and relevant Hudson Valley books to have been published in quite a long time.
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* https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hudson-Valley-Ruins/282092108618191
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Thanks for checking them out.

Posted in Rockland County, Westchester County | 3 Comments

Halloween Blog Part 4 – An Italian Murder?

Well, that’s some serious detective work right there. The Coroner and the Chief of Police were of the opinion that this man was murdered, before his head, arm, and foot were chopped off and his remains tied with telegraph wire to part of a tree. And to top off the genius thought-process behind the investigation, the crime was blamed on Italians, simply because the body was found near a place that employed many who worked in the stone-crushing industry.

That’s a far cry from the truly ace detective work in last week’s story, where child-killer Albert Fish was nabbed because the initials of a worker’s organization appeared on stationery that he used. It is also reflective of the discrimination faced by new immigrant groups. Like other ethnic groups today who are not accepted because of their skin color, because they “look different,” or because “they don’t speak the language” (bigots beware – the United States of America does not have an Official Language), immigrant groups at the turn of the last century – many of which are now considered part of “mainstream society,” whatever that may be – were not greeted so warmly either. And Italians were among the most obvious of cultural groups to newly migrate to Poughkeepsie and to the Hudson Valley in general in the early 1900s. According to the first source that appears on web searches, “Between 1900 and 1915, 3 million Italians immigrated to America, which was the largest nationality of “new immigrants.”

Indeed, by 1900, most of the workforce at the Clinton Point quarry was composed of Italian laborers. Known also as “Stoneco,” Clinton Point, about eight miles south of Poughkeepsie has been mined continuously since the Barnegat Lime Company began operations in 1880. Other firms with names such as the New York Brokenstone Company, Upper Hudson Stone Company, and then New York Trap Rock followed. That last firm acquired the site in 1919. The buildings in use today, under the banner of Tilcon, date to New York Trap Rock’s 1929-30 complete reconstruction of the plant.


Building No. 4 – The sizing-screen house and eight storage silos. The structure is 780 feet long and stands adjacent to the Metro-North Hudson Line train tracks.

Tom Rinaldi and I were fortunate to tour the quarry and its buildings in June 2006. Our facilitator was Ned Foss whose great-grandfather Wilson P. Foss founded New York Trap Rock in 1897. Ned’s father Wilson P. Foss III was the last president of New York Trap Rock – he sold the company to Lone Star Industries in 1965. Lone Star sold this site to Tilcon in 1997. The management of Tilcon graciously hosted us that day, and set us up with an intern named Eric who took us through most all of the place. The photographs shown here are just a small sample of what we saw. It was really something – one of the most unique and interesting experiences that Tom and I have had. And then to top off the day, we went to Ned’s office at the Long Dock in Beacon where we watched rare, historic film footage of the quarries. That was a treat.


Building No. 2 – Secondary crushing and recrushing.

The Historical Society of the Nyacks included among their Fall 2013 Armchair Tours a presentation entitled “Trap Rock Quarries In Rockland – Digging Into Our Earliest History,” presented by Bert Dahm. Mr. Dahm explained that “trap rock” is geological term (as opposed to an industry term for how the product is processed/used). The rock is formed by igneous uplift, and when the rock is cut/falls away, it leaves behind traces on the wall that look like steps (stairs). The term “trap” is thought to derive from a European word for “steps.” In German the word is “treppe;” in Dutch it is “stappen.” Trap rock was frequently used in road construction. Today, Tilcon products are “used in a wide variety of construction applications as well as in the asphalt, concrete and block industries… Crushed stone for construction is sold by size, depending upon the application for which it is to be used. Tilcon quarries hold trap rock, granite gneiss and limestone.”


View of the sizing screen house and storage silos with Building No. 6 at center, from which shipments are loaded into freight-cars and trucks, and Building No. 2 for secondary crushing.


Vibrating screens for classifying sizes.


Belt conveyor from the primary crusher.

Our awesome day was not without a tinge of regret however. Walking through the factory we met a few of the workers and, in one building, we met an older but not too-old-appearing gentleman whose name escapes me over eight years later but the memory of the experience does not. He had a broom or other piece of equipment in hand and was probably taking it easy – we were told it was his last day on the job after about forty years at Clinton Point. He too was of Italian heritage and quite likely arrived here in the 1960s and found his first employment at the quarry, and stayed there all the way through. We were told he did not speak much English still. Tom and I, being far more at ease taking photographs of inanimate structures rather than people, both unspokenly realized the situation and wanted to snap a picture but we were too respectful to do so without asking and not quite comfortable to delay our tour to ask. We still regret not getting this man’s picture on his last day at the quarry – one of two eternal photography regrets that we have.


Inside the sizing-screen house. The belt conveyors supply the vibrating screens.


Crusher in operation.


No blasting today – the quarry was quiet.

Sources:
“Design of Clinton Point Plant, New York Trap Rock Corp.” Dow, Melvin C.
Rock Products, February 1930. Pages 61-64.

“New York Trap Rock Corporation Increases Capacity With New Plant at Clinton Point.” Pit and Quarry, February 26, 1930. Pages 21-30.

“Growth of Stone Industry Typified by Modern Hudson River Plant.” Rock Products. December 20, 1930. Pages 25-44.

Thanks to Tom Rinaldi for locating and copying these articles.

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I have one more Halloween-theme post in mind. Actually several, but a few of them will wait until next year. Part Five, the last edition for 2014, will be published though I can say that it is highly unlikely to be out by October 31. Look for it as a November encore! It will be cool and it won’t feature and horrific murder stories!

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Halloween Blog Part 3 – Wisteria Cottage


The Daily Argus, Mount Vernon, NY. January 9, 1935.
(Image source: www.fultonhistory.com)

“Finding bodies is old tale to Greenburgh cops.” Maybe so, but I imagine that the story of Grace Budd and Irvington’s Wisteria Cottage must have been one of the most horrifying murder cases that ever occurred here in Sleepy Hollow country.

For those not in the know, Greenburgh officially is a Town in Westchester County, but historically the appellation has been used interchangeably with smaller villages within the town, and even with the name of the colonial Manor of Philipsburgh. In fact, at the very beginning of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Diedrich Knickerbocker, er, Washington Irving, stated: “In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.”

To out-of-staters today, New York has a strange hierarchy of municipalities and layers of government. Within the county and outside of incorporated villages are “towns,” which contain mostly residential swaths of land, and recent suburban strip development, but not any actual traditional downtowns, which are found in the villages. Well, the villages are of course located within the geographic boundaries of the towns, but any services not administered/governed by the village are overseen by the town.

The towns also include undeveloped woodlands – the amount of which is shrinking rapidly. Greenburgh is a relatively woodsy place still, though its name is thought to derive from the Middle Dutch word grein (grain), not from an abundance of overly leafy trees. The area was heavily farmed in the 18th century when wheat was a major crop for the Philipse family, owners of the colonial manor. Today, hundreds of acres here and there have been preserved as parkland, and one of my favorite parks is Taxter Ridge. In all my years of hiking I’ve yet to find any human remains, seemingly a common occurrence for policemen in the early 20th century.

In the 1920s and 1930s, police reported finding in the woods the remains of Paolo Santa Fama, murdered in a blizzard by accomplices as he attempted to bail out of their plot to rob a chicken farm; Dorothy Peacox, strangled and burned by her husband; Elsa Marshall, attacked and shot not far from the home where she worked as a cook; an unidentified torso, ripped apart by dogs, found near the Yonkers city line; Annelo Nardiello, “victim of a gangster ‘ride'; Bertha Legget, found in the woods of the Shepard estate (Lyndhurst), likely in what is present-day Taxter Ridge Park, murdered by her husband, and many others.


Wisteria Cottage.

In December 1934, the remains of Grace Budd were found outside an abandoned house on Mountain Road, which connects Irvington with the Saw Mill River Parkway, in an area that we locals call East Irvington. She had been missing for six years. Grace Budd’s killer decided to write a letter to her mother, and that piece of stationery on which the letter was written provided the clue that led detectives to find the killer.

His name was Albert Fish and he abducted Grace in 1928. Fish went to the Budd household in Manhattan in response to an ad placed by Albert Budd, the father, which stated “Young man, 18, wishes position in the country.” Thinking that the Budd boy would be his next victim, Fish went down the Budd’s with an offer to hire the boy to work at his “upstate farm”. Fish returned to the Budd household the following week to take Edward to his farm. But first he asked the parents if he could take Grace to a children’s birthday party at his sister’s uptown apartment that afternoon, and to return that evening to meet Edward. Impressed by Fish (who gave the name Frank Howard) and trusting of him, the parents agreed. They never saw Grace again.

There was no sister and no birthday party. Fish brought Grace instead to the abandoned house, called Wisteria Cottage, a short distance from where he previously lived in a smaller dwelling. Grace was murdered that day. I’ll spare the horrible details here, but those who wish to read further can follow this link.


House on Mountain Road where Albert Fish lived.
The Herald Statesman, Yonkers, NY. December 15, 1934.
(Image source: Westchester County Historical Society.)

For six years, the disappearance of Grace was unsolved until Fish sent a letter to her mother, written on the stationery of a chauffeur’s association. The stationery was left behind in a rooming house by a man whose apartment was later rented by Fish. That stationery clue was all that was necessary for police to track down and capture Fish just a month later. Albert Fish, who confessed to other murders, was executed at Sing Sing Prison in 1936. His crimes may have served as the basis for infamous fictional serial killers such as Hannibal Lecter.

Wisteria Cottage has such a nice ring to it, evocative of another famous “cottage” in Irvington known for its famous May-time wisteria blooms. The house is one of those rare homes that has kept most of its historic appearance, albeit one that appears to clad in vinyl siding now. And it is for sale. Though it is fronted by an entrance/exit road to the Saw Mill Parkway, there are lots of woods and privacy around the house. Sounds like a great deal, but the buyer would have to live with the knowledge that serial killer Albert Fish committed one of his most heinous, most infamous, crimes within the walls of Wisteria Cottage.


Aerial view of the Wisteria Cottage property.

Thanks to Patrick Raftery of the Westchester County Historical Society for research assistance. Other historic images were taken from various, duplicate online sources. Who owns the original images, I do not know.

Posted in Westchester County | 10 Comments