By Henry John Steiner
Historian of Sleepy Hollow
John Bloomfield Jervis was one of the great American civil engineers of the nineteenth century. Late in that century, many of his achievements had been eclipsed by even grander designs than the seemingly indelible marks he left on the American landscape—particularly in the State of New York. Yet perhaps Jervis’s greatest success was himself. He was a man whose mind, ambition, and character allowed him to rise from cart driver to the grandest of civic “architects.” He changed the path of his own career from what might have been a life of menial, physical labor in upstate New York, to that of a “masterbuilder” of the early United States. His works were instrumental to making New York State “the Empire State.”
As we walk the terrain of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown today, we encounter the great products of Jervis’s skill and imagination. There is no doubt that his productions transformed this community in many fundamental ways. The Hudson River Railroad is just one imposing example—still significant and still in operation after 170 years.