Headless Horseman Blog

About historic Sleepy Hollow and its environs…

Category: Tarrytown (Page 1 of 3)

Summer in the Days of Ragtime

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

The summer of 1912.  There was a lot to do—or not do.  What there was to do required no interaction with smart phones, computers, Kindles, the Internet, televisions, or radios.  Even the first American commercial radio station was still a good eight years off.  The music of the day was concert music, band music, and ragtime… and it could be heard live or from a phonograph record.  That’s it.  If you wanted to see Harry Houdini perform one of his stunts, you had to find a way to show up… or just be content with the photo of Houdini that ran with the newspaper story.  Reading was an important component of entertainment and leisure in the early 20th century.

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

In that time the United States population was about 95,000,000 and the GDP thirty-seven billion.  In politics, former President Theodore Roosevelt decided to challenge his former secretary of war in the upcoming election, incumbent President William Howard Taft.  For that purpose Roosevelt created the Progressive or “Bull Moose” Party.   Much water had flowed under the proverbial “bridge” since 1897, when Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, made an oration at the Tarrytown Music Hall on the occasion of the Old Dutch Church’s bicentennial. 

The Lost World

The Lost World

More locally in the August election, Tarrytown Village President, Frank R. Pierson, was voted, once again, the president of the Tarrytown School Board.  Among the most popular new books of that year was Arthur Conan Doyle’s, The Lost World.  The Woolworth Building in New York was then the tallest building in the world, and on July 2nd the city’s first Automat opened at Times Square.

Farrington's Drug Store

Farrington’s Drug Store

One of the joys of summer in the year 1912 was Sleepy Hollow’s Farrington Pharmacy at 60 Beekman Avenue.  There you could catch up on the latest professional baseball scores, which were telegraphed in while you refreshed yourself with “The Finest Soda in Town.”  The shop also prided itself on its grape juice and lemonade beverage.  If you were not content with just hearing about sporting activities, you might catch a real, semi-professional baseball game at St. Teresa’s Park, just one block down the street, at the corner of Beekman Avenue and Pocantico Street.  You might even catch the local Catholic Club take on the Oakwood Team of White Plains.     

If kids wanted to compete athletically themselves, there were many options, including the annual St. Teresa’s Church Picnic offering a Children’s Sports Field Day with foot races, bicycle races, all kinds of races—sack races, three-legged races, barrel races, and a one-mile walking race.  Other attractions were offered—exhibition dancing and an Irish piper.  Not to be outdone, Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown had its own 4th of July Picnic with “games, dancing and good music.”

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

The ultimate “games” were being played out that summer in Stockholm Sweden where the United States team was making headlines and garnering the greatest portion of the “gold”.  The team’s standout athlete was Jim Thorpe, who won both the decathlon and pentathlon, and who would, six months later, be dispossessed (“temporarily”) of his awards.  His awards were posthumously reinstated in 1982. 

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

Closer to home, a graduate of the Irving School in Sleepy Hollow was continuing to astound the fans of professional baseball.  Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Collins played for the Philadelphia Athletics, and at the end of his career he ranked second in the major league in career games, walks, and stolen bases.  Collins had graduated from the private boys school in Sleepy Hollow during the spring of 1903.  During his Irving School days, his parents lived first on Wildey Street and then, afterward, at 90 North Broadway in Tarrytown (the current Dwyer Funeral Home).  A cartoon in the Tarrytown Daily News suggested that making a kid practice the fiddle while all his friends were off playing baseball was just “Taking the Joy Out of Summer.”

Vaudeville

Vaudeville

The Music Hall offered a mix of silent films and vaudeville.  The theater boasted that it was “The coolest spot in the village.”  (Note that in 1912 the word “cool” referred exclusively to temperature.)  With respect to live entertainments at the theater, the public apparently needed to be assured that performances would be in good taste, “Three refined acts including the News Boys’ Sextet—a high class act”.  This year was also the advent of the serial movie.  How many of us know that the mini-series was in invention of early silent films?  Audiences would be lured back to see the next exciting installment of Edison Studios’, What Happened to Mary?  The Fox & Biography Studio was fond of shooting scenes in our local villages in those days.  The “film biz” was still in the process of transplanting itself to the West Coast, not exclusively to enjoy the better shooting weather, but to escape the crippling threat of Edison’s exclusive patents on motion picture equipment.

Croquet

Croquet

We can be sure that the day laborers who landscaped the local estates and the maids and seamstresses had little use for the croquet sets and hammocks advertised by C. H. Curtiss and Company in Tarrytown, but they might have splurged on the summer drinks and ice cream served up by Breunig’s at 47 Orchard Street, owners of a “new sanitary fountain”.  Today it is not clear who could have afforded the amenities of the Phoenix Hotel at the Tarrytown waterfront, which included a cafe, restaurant, and “summer garden” overlooking the Hudson River’s Tappan Zee (the body-of-water, not the bridge).  Nearby, the Tarrytown boat club hosted a dance for its members and the public.

It was a time when catching a six-pound bass could land you on the front page of the Tarrytown Daily News (which had just begun publishing).  The proud fisherman just had to remember to pass the newspaper office at Valley Street on the way home.

The Adirondacks

The Adirondacks

Further up the Hudson River, Bear Mountain Park and Lodge were under construction and they would not open for yet another year.  But if a rustic lodge was the vacationer’s summer dream, then he or she could take the New York Central Railroad to the Adirondacks or perhaps the Thousand Islands?  The traveler was counseled to pack old clothes for “roughing it”, and journey north for some fun at fishing, golf, or tennis.  At night there would of course be dancing and stories told around the campfire, and one could sleep soundly up in the woods due to the cool summer nights! Film exposed up in the northern wilds could be sent ahead by mail or express, and Russell and Lawrie Pharmacy on the northwest corner of Main Street and Broadway would have the photos ready on the vacationer’s return.  In addition to expedited photo processing Russell & Lawrie Pharmacy had other allurements.  “If you own a straw hat (and you probably do) you will need Elkay’s Straw Hat Cleaner,” available at the drug store.

Women's Suffrage

Women’s Suffrage

The call of the northern wilds could be answered by men or women, for the leaders of the New York State women’s suffrage movement were promoting a new “physical activism” to all women, who would no longer be confining themselves to the family homestead.  The campaign had been earnestly joined for women of New York State to win the Vote.

The dictates of fashion can be severe, so it was only fair to warn folks that, in 1912, women’s clothes should have “abundant pockets” and “taffeta bodices” are to be worn with “white organdie skirts”.  “Flat and thin” was the preferred style dictated for the 1912 handbag.

If local events were not plentiful enough for one’s taste, the pedestrian ferry could be taken to the other side of the Hudson River where the Nyack firemen were throwing their annual carnival.  The grand prize was a Chevrolet five-passenger automobile.  There was also a midnight sail scheduled to Palisades Amusement Park on the New Jersey side of river.  The Scarborough K.O.K.A. (?) planned an August trip to Coney Island, and another Coney Island excursion was offered by Irvington’s Pastime Athletic Club, leaving from Lockwood & Pateman’s Dock aboard the Cyrus.  In Tarrytown the Christ Church Sentinels offered an excursion to Rye Beach and for 75 cents one could voyage on the Commander through the Hudson Highlands.  The hosts, Asbury Church Sunday School, assured participants that there would be “no crowding” aboard and “first class music”. 

In Irvington that summer, the Saint Barnabas Church Junior Auxiliary presented two plays on the parish lawn, and tickets were only 15 cents.  In Sleepy Hollow the Tarrytown Hebrew School sponsored a picnic at St. Teresa Park.  The Women’s Devotional Society of the Second Reformed Church planned a “porch tea” at the private home of a member at 24 South Washington Street to be held Thursday from 3-6, admission 15 cents.  Glenville Fire Company held a “Peach Festival” and dance—“peaches, ice cream, cake, and good music.”  Immaculate Conception Church in Irvington hosted a lawn party on the Russell Thompkins estate with music and amusements—admission, 50 cents.  St. Paul’s Church in Sleepy Hollow planned an ice cream and cake sale.  And one of the biggest events of the summer was that held by Rescue Hose at the Chevrolet lot, on the corner of Hudson Street and Beekman Avenue.  It included a wrestling exhibit, a Ferris wheel, shooting galleries, and an Italian band.  An estimated 2000 people attended.

Model T

Model T

Mr. & Mrs. C. F. Odell of Grove Street hosted a summer porch party in honor of their daughter Helen.  We don’t know if this announcement was just an FYI, or if everyone was invited.  A sober note in the wake of all this socializing—“Speed maniacs are a menace.”  Or so the editor of the Tarrytown Daily News thought.  “Automobiles are being sold at lower prices every year…  everybody thinks that he or she can drive a car.”  So the writer looked ahead to better times, when “every driver will be compelled to take an examination and go through a course in driving before being issued a license.”  And to give the crusading editor his due, there were many bad auto accidents reported near and far in that day.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

The Hudson River could be both a pleasure and a hazard.  Those who sought to enjoy its waters had to take their opportunities and chances amid the industrial uses it was  increasingly being put to.  A brand new YMCA building on Main Street in Tarrytown opened its doors in 1912.  At the “Y” children could learn to swim, but many youths did not yet know how.  Young people in that day often went unmonitored, especially in the summertime, and the river took its toll.  There were newspaper stories of both drownings and rescues.  The lighthouse keeper, Captain Kalberg, lamented that youths regularly tried to reach the lighthouse from the shore, and he would often feel oblige to launch a rescue boatjust in case.  In that day the shore was nearly a quarter mile from the lighthouse.

Rockwood Hall

Rockwood Hall

In the month of August that year a new bridge was completed in Sleepy Hollow.  It was constructed at a cost of approximately $15,000 donated by William Rockefeller.  Mr. Rockefeller it seems had to routinely cross the Pocantico River bridge on his way home along Route 9, and he must have preferred to cross a new bridge.  The village fathers ordered a bronze plaque to be placed on this new crossing, crediting Mr. Rockefeller’s “gift”, but the man “indignantly” ordered his name removed.  He of course paid for the removal of the plaque too.  Our journal of record informs us reassuringly that,” William Rockefeller will spend most of the summer at Rockwood Hall”, though “he may spend a few days at his cottage in the Adirondacks.  Many picnickers are admitted to his estate daily, however they are not permitted to eat lunch on the estate.” 

 

 

[Copyright © 2012 & 2019 Henry John Steiner]

Sleepy Hollow’s “Chick” Galella

by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Hickam Field during Pearl Harbor attack

Hickam Field during Pearl Harbor attack

Chick was present and in uniform during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.  On the day before Veteran’s Day in 1999—roughly twenty years ago—I interviewed my friend, Armando “Chick” Galella at his home in Sleepy Hollow.  The article below was the result of that interview.  Chick is one of the few still living who can say he witnessed the attack, the event which launched the United States into World War II.    

Chick Galella’s family moved to 26 Barnhart Avenue in 1922 when he was only one.  He and his older brothers, Frank and Alfred, were still very young when their father died on December 3, 1923.  The Depression hit the United States before Chick reached his adolescence.  Money was tight, but North Tarrytown seemed like a place where friends were always invited to dinner.  As a youth he was slight of build; that is how he got the nick name, “Chick.”

Armando "Chick" Galella with his mother Theodora Cestone Galella

Armando “Chick” Galella with his mother Theodora Cestone Galella

Among Chick’s best buddies were John, William, and Roger Horan, Jack Maguire, Paul Danko, Bob Sherry—all of them gone now.  Betsy Conover lived in the big house at the end of Barnhart and Alice Duquette lived on DeVries Avenue in Philipse Manor.  Groups of kids went to the pavilion at Kingsland Point Park, where they had a jukebox.  At the park they enjoyed dances and swimming.

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“Target Man”—John B. Jervis

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

High Bridge, the oldest remaining Harlem River crossing , designed by John B. Jervis

High Bridge, the oldest remaining Harlem River crossing , designed by John B. Jervis

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.”

Sleepy Hollow Viaduct of the Old Croton Aqueduct

Sleepy Hollow Viaduct of the Old Croton Aqueduct

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.

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Wandering to Hackley Field

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Many of the revelers at this 245 Crest Drive costume party became the "usual suspects" during my Hackley Field jaunts. I'm standing to right of Mom near the top of the shot, about 1956.

Many of the revelers at this 245 Crest Drive costume party became the “usual suspects” during my Hackley Field jaunts. I’m standing to right of Mom near the top of the shot, about 1956.

I remember the Hackley School grounds from the time of my early boyhood.  I was a kid growing up on Crest Drive, and Hackley seemed like a big playground for myself and my friends.  We were a “gang” of kids living on the Crest Drive cul-de-sac.  This was part of the so-called Upper Crest, a name that may seem to confer a distinction that did not exist.

SquirrelThere were days when we “hunted” for rabbits and squirrels with our bows and slingshots, subjecting our prey indeed to the “slings and arrows” of “wanton boys.”  But never with a fatal result or serious injury to our quarry.  We did endanger ourselves, however, by shooting at treed squirrels from all sides at once.

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An Addendum… Native Sons & The Battle of the Ironclads

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

I wrote a piece earlier about the Monitor and the Merrimack (the Virginia) and their epic battle.  We also noted how that event was significantly shaped by two figures with ties to the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown area.  Lieutenant John Lorimer Worden (born at Scarborough/Sparta) actually commanded the Union ship Monitor, and Commodore Hiram Paulding (most famous child of local hero, John Paulding) personally commanded the emergency Union naval expedition that preemptively scuttled the Merrimack at Gosport, Virginia, before it was raised and refitted as an ironclad by the Confederate Navy.  A short time later, Paulding would be influential in promoting the Union’s construction of the Monitor.  He was furthermore the commandant of the New York Navy Yard when the newly completed Monitor was ordered to its fateful service at Hampton Roads, Virginia.   But another figure residing in our community also played a significant behind-the-scenes role in the story.

The Homestead, Tarrytown – Version 2

The Homestead, Tarrytown

Henry Rossiter Worthington, did not hail from Westchester County, but he did become a resident of Tarrytown, possibly as early as 1859.  In fact, Worthington and his family were close neighbors to “Sunnyside.”  Worthington’s residence, “the Homestead,” was located a few hundred yards northeast of Washington Irving’s well known country seat.  Worthington’s association with the battle between the ironcads lay in the fact that both the Monitor and the Merrimack were fitted out with essential equipment designed by Worthington himself.  Wrote John Ericsson, the celebrated designer of the Monitor, to Worthington, “I regard your pumping engine as the greatest achievement in Hydraulic Engineering of our time.”

HR Worthington at 48

HR Worthington at 48

Engineer and inventor, Henry R. Worthington, was born at New York City in 1817 and educated in the city’s public schools.  He became a mechanical engineering prodigy who, at an early age, became acutely interested in the problems of the notorious New York City water supply existing at that time.  It is likely that the young man experienced first-hand the rash of epidemics stemming from the city’s unwholesome water supply, as well as the destruction caused by lack of a sufficient water supply to fight the “1835 Great Fire of New York.”  

On September 24, 1839, Worthington married Sarah Elizabeth Newton, the daughter of Commodore John Thomas Newton of Alexandria, Virginia.  Commodore Newton commanded the USS Missouri on the first Atlantic crossing of a United States steam warship.

Replica pump - detail

Replica pump – detail

By the age of twenty-three, Worthington was patenting innovative water pumps which would lead to his development of the direct acting steam pump in 1845.  In 1845, he co-founded with William H. Baker, Worthington and Baker.  The new company set up a small shop near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and made its first sale to the United States Navy in 1850.  As their business with the United States Navy expanded, the operation moved in 1854 to larger quarters at Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where Worthington developed the duplex steam pump in 1859.  Upon the death of Baker in 1860 the partnership dissolved, and Worthington’s business was reestablished as Henry R. Worthington. That year the company developed the first duplex waterworks engine.

Detail 1856 map of Brooklyn showing Van Brunt St,, Red Hook

Detail 1856 map of Brooklyn showing Van Brunt St,, Red Hook

Replica Worthington drect steam pump

Replica Worthington direct steam pump

Which brings us to 1861.  Someone once told me that, in extreme situations at sea, when a ship is sinking, the very last item one throws over the side is the pump.  This little adage appears to stress the importance of a good pump aboard a ship.  It was in the early months of 1861 that the United States Navy scuttled the steam frigate Merrimack at Gosport, Virginia.  Confederate forces then raised the vessel and redesigned it for use as an ironclad, before renaming her the Virginia.  The completed ironclad was equipped with two “large” Worthington pumps.  These pumps were important components within the new warship, both to keep the vessel from flooding and to feed the Merrimack’s huge boilers with water.  Whether the pumps were salvaged from the scuttled Merrimack, or newly installed from another source later, is yet unclear to me.

In the same year (1861) the ironclad Monitor was in production at Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Its designer, the brilliant, exacting, and testy John Ericsson, saw to it that two Worthington pumps, purchased on October 19, 1861, were included in the warship.  These pumps were approximately 4.5 feet-long and weighed about 400 pounds.  They were to be used as bilge pumps and to replenish the ship’s boilers with seawater.  Both were steam-operated, and could keep the bilge (the interior of the hull) dry without resorting to the old laborious method of manual pumping.

At the time of the famous naval battle between the two prototypical ironclads, The Merrimack attempted to ram the Monitor after having lost its heavy ram in action the previous day.  The Monitor was little scathed by this attack, but the Confederate ship, as it drew away, began to leak at the bow and take on water.   The executive officer of the Merrimack, now in command of the ship, was concerned that his ship might founder—that is run aground or sink.  He was inclined to withdraw from the contest and steam back to port.  But the bellicose engineer of the Merrimack exclaimed in frustration at such prudence, “With the two large Worthington pumps, besides the bilge injections, we could keep her afloat for hours, even with a ten inch shell in her hull.”   Over this objection, the ship made for home.

The Sinking of the USS Monitor

The Sinking of the USS Monitor

Neither ironclad saw battle again, but the Monitor was to sink in a violent storm off Cape Hatteras about midnight on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1862. The crew managed to keep her afloat for a time using the Worthington pumps, but the conditions were too extreme for even those contemporary marvels to save the ship.  The men were forced to abandon ship, and the Monitor sank with the loss of sixteen lives.

Orig Worthington pump, encrusted

Original Worthington pump, encrusted.  Salvaged from the USS Monitor

Near the end of the twentieth century, the wreck of the Monitor was located off Cape Hatteras.  In the twenty-first century, parts of the ship and equipment have been retrieved from the wreck.  Some skeletal remains of crew members have been recovered too.  Among the items brought to the surface was one of the Monitor’s two Worthington Pumps.  Though extremely corroded, the direct steam pump has been reverse-engineered into a life-sized working replica—a modern miracle.

HR Worthington in later years

HR Worthington in later years

Henry Rossiter Worthington’s business continued to prosper. Pumps designed by Worthington and his associates would play an increasingly important role in water supply systems—and eventually in the oil industry.  Worthington’s company also developed precision instruments and hydraulic presses.  By 1876, eighty municipalities throughout the United States and Canada had installed his waterworks engines.  The capacities of those systems ran from 500,000 to 15,000,000 gallons per hour.  In 1893, thirteen years after his death, 1160 of his waterworks engines had been installed throughout the world.

Detail 1891 map showing Homestead aka "Northcote"

Detail 1891 map showing Homestead aka “Northcote”

Worthington became one of the three main founders of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  He passed up an offer to become the society’s first president in favor of becoming the society’s first vice president.  He would die only eight months later, on his birthday, December 17, 1880.

St Joseph of Arimathia Church

St Joseph of Arimathia Church

St Joseph of Arimathia sign

St Joseph of Arimathia sign

Following the death of her husband, Laura Worthington continued to live at “the Homestead.”  As noted earlier, the property lay to the northeast of Sunnyside, extending from the Old Croton Aqueduct on the west to Broadway on the east.  The residence was built in 1835 by Benson Ferris (senior), the man who, that year, sold “Wolfert’s Roost” to Washington Irving.  (Wolfert’s Roost was the name with which Irving dubbed his new purchase when it was still but an ancient, colonial farmhouse.)  The Homestead was the new home that Benson Ferris built for himself upon selling Wolfert’s Roost.  Ferris sold his new residence in 1856,

Worthington vault, detail

Worthington vault, detail

before he relocated into the (then) hamlet of Tarrytown.  That may have been the year in which the Worthingtons brought the Homestead.  A census of June, 1880, the year of Worthington’s death, the house was reported occupied by Worthington, his wife, a son, a daugther-in-law, a sister, and four servants.  The property is today embraced by the Belvedere Estate, and the mansion was replaced by the Belvedere mansion in the early twentieth century.  Note, the Homestead appears on an 1891 Beers map as “Northcote.”

Worthington vault

Worthington vault

Mrs. Worthington ordered a memorial chapel erected in honor of her husband and which would house his remains.  It was built in 1883 near the Saw Mill River, on four acres of land belonging to the Worthington family.  That parcel borders the east side of Saw Mill River Road (Route 9A) south of Elmsford, New York.  Given to the Episcopal Church in 1896, three years after the death of Sarah E. Worthington, the chapel is today known as Saint Joseph of Arimathia Episcopal Church.  The remains of Henry Rossiter Worthington (and presumably his wife’s) are entombed in the Worthington vault beneath the church.

 

 

[Copyright © 2018 Henry John Steiner]

Herodotus “The Beginning”

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

A Personal Beginning

I have strange reading habits—more on that in another post…  As an undergraduate student, I studied literature—English literature—and I started out in a Catholic university named Saint Bonaventure.  I confess that, at the time, I had little interest in continuing my formal education. This was after graduating from Sleepy Hollow High School…

HJS—freshman

HJS—freshman

One of the things that most attracted me to literature, particularly the classics, was the historical component, be it the writings of Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, or pre-Shakespearian drama.  People who are aware of my role as Sleepy Hollow Historian often assume that I was a college history major.  History has always been a passion of mine, and I have searched for it in out-of-the-way places.  I don’t know specifically how I contracted the history “bug.”  It might have been my father’s early morning tales of World War II—he occasionally threw a war story off on his way to work.  He usually told me the funny ones—about his buddies in the army counter-intelligence corps—not the tragic ones.  Or maybe it was my mother who connected me with history, who had taught school in France, who sat telling me stories of ancient Greek myths and the “Song of Roland,” the stalwart knight of Charlemagne. 

Somehow or other history and stories of the past seeped into my veins.  Many years later I found a kindred soul in Washington Irving himself—his not so crazy mix of history and story.  Who can blame me for my history “habit,” seated as I have been with a front row seat on the lower Hudson River, with an unobstructed view on the scene of America’s War of Revolution?  Here I can easily see where so many of the players in that epic struggle left their footprints.  So little time, so many stories of the past!

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A Local Native American Creation Story

Commentary by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

“…God was with the woman who dwells with him, and no one knows when that was, or where they had come from. Water was all there was, or at any rate water covered and overran everything… What then took place, they say, was that the

Creation Spirit Woman

Creation “Beautiful Spirit Woman”

aforementioned beautiful woman or idol descended from heaven into the water. She was gross and big like a woman who is pregnant with more than one child. Touching down gently, she did not sink deep, for at once a patch of land began to emerge under her at the spot where she had come down, and there she came to rest and remained. The land waxed greater so that dry patches became visible around the place where she sat, as happens to someone standing on a sandbar in three or

Creation waves

Creation waves

four feet of water while it ebbs away and eventually recedes so far that it leaves him entirely on dry land. That is how it was with the descended goddess, they say and believe, the land ever widening around her until its edge disappeared from view. Gradually grass and other vegetation sprang up and in time, also fruit-bearing and other trees, and from this, in brief, the whole globe came into being much as it appears to this day. Now, whether the world you speak of and originally came from was then created as well, we are unable to say.

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The Mother of Her Country

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Catfish Pond Near the Tarrytown Lakes

Catfish Pond Near the Tarrytown Lakes

It was the forbidden place.  As children growing up in Tarrytown we were told to stay away from it.  So naturally we tried to get there as soon and as often as possible.  The place is called Catfish Pond.  We knew the big kids—the teenagers—went there, and of course that made us all the readier to flaunt the prohibition of our parents.  Besides, our parents probably had a very dim idea of where Catfish Pond was anyway.  Some of the kids on my block knew you could get there by following paths through the woods from the east end of Union Avenue in the Crest—the big kids had shown us the way.  But we could also walk down to Tarrytown Heights and pick up the dirt path of the old railroad bed—along the back edge of  the Tarrytown Lakes.  It was not then a paved bike path as it is today, and there was a chance that you might encounter a particular vagrant person along the way.  He was harmless the big kids said, but, personally, I was prepared to run.

Catfish Pond—a good place to get in trouble

Catfish Pond—a good place to get in trouble

Today, most local folks do not know where Catfish Pond is, or even that there is a Catfish Pond.  They might recognize the place but have no idea that it actually has a name.  The only reason I bring it up here is to give the reader some idea of where Frena Romer lived in the time of the Revolutionary War.  She lived a short distance from where the pond lies today—with her husband Jacob and their many children. 

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An Interesting Map

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

The writer, Henry John Steiner, at the NYPL many years later

The writer, Henry John Steiner, at the NYPL many years later

Many years ago, during the 1980s, I would occasionally take my lunch hour at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. What attracted me to the “Main Branch” was its impressive map division, located in the bowels of the enormous library, which one could access on the 42nd Street side.  As conscious as I was of its riches, I was acutely aware that I really did not know how to properly access its resources.  I would “fish” through the catalogue searching for intriguing maps relating to the history of Sleepy Hollow or Tarrytown, but, all in all, my process was pretty much hit-or-miss.

My allotted lunchtime would often be gone before I could hit on something especially interesting.  Walking up to the service counter, I would submit my request and wait with my fingers crossed, counting the minutes until my order materialized—or until I got word that it could not be found.  The sands of time drifted away, and, if I was lucky, I would be called to pick up my selection.  A quirk of the process was that a successful search for a promising map was not necessarily repeatable.  A cartographic gem plucked from the labyrinth of the map department might simply be misplaced in the collection when I returned for it.  Depending on who behind the counter put it away and who was called upon to produce it once more—I might not see it again.  “Sorry, it seems to be temporarily missing.”  I acquired a touch of gambler’s exhilaration when I could actually access the same item twice.

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Leonard Abraham

…and Notes on the Sleepy Hollow – Tarrytown Jewish Community

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

From Beginnings in Old New York

Leonard Abraham as a youth

Leonard Abraham as a youth

It was an enriching experience to meet with Leonard Abraham in 2011.  Our interview took place less than two months before his passing at the age of 100.  Leonard died on Sunday, December 18, 2011, a little more than five and a half years ago.  I found him to be warm and intelligent, possessing a great deal of zest for the life he led and a also a fondness for his memories of the past.  The man I met with was a lovely, modest man with a fantastic memory and physical resources that belied his years.  I saw him manage to walk down his steep driveway with careful but sure-footed steps.  Like myself, Leonard was a man who never strayed far from his hometown.  He was born on Main Street and died 100 years later on Neperan Road, two streets that are so close they are practically the same street.  Like my own folks, Leonard’s parents had “migrated” northward to Tarrytown from New York City.  Here the Abrahams put down new roots, and their family became a welcome addition to the life of this community.

Leonard’s parents left the surging Jewish population of Manhattan to become part of the more or less nascent Jewish community rising up along the eastern side of the Hudson River’s Tappan Zee.  This community emerged to a large degree from behind the storefronts of Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, and Ossining.  Jewish merchants had begun to arrive, seeking opportunities to earn a living and to peacefully raise families.  They were not unlike the first Jewish families who arrived in New Amsterdam (the former name of New York City) in the mid-seventeenth century.  Those new arrivals were hoping to start a new life. 

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