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About historic Sleepy Hollow and its environs…

Category: Tarrytown (Page 2 of 3)

The Last Days of Washington Irving

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 

A Genius for Writing

Washington Irving

Washington Irving

 

I tend to see Washington Irving as a master of Literature’s Classical Age as well as its Romantic Age. His style might be called a hybrid of those two epochs. It is difficult to say exactly how Irving emerged in Federal America with such a strong and polished voice on only a basic education. He seemed to have been born fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, a product of the American consciousness, but with unmistakable British overtones. These he took no pains to conceal. I think Irving can hardly be censured for turning to British models when we consider the spare American literary legacy that was his—the moralizing of Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin. Washington Irving’s youthful, satirical writings in Salmagundi and Knickerbocker’s History of New York displayed a brilliant and confident style indebted to Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, and perhaps Pope and Johnson. Those who do not think of Irving as also a Romantic need only turn to his writings on the Hudson River and spirit of Christmas. His achievement was greatly admired by the writers of his time, both home and abroad.

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“Seven Dollars in My Pocket”

JameskPaulding

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Some time between 1796 and 1797, eighteen-year-old James Kirke Paulding boarded a market sloop at Tarrytown with seven dollars in his pocket. He was headed for Manhattan to seek his fortune. Paulding was a homegrown Tarrytowner, and he knew the people and the landscape by heart. His family lived by Tarrytown Bay. The Pauldings were forced to flee from Tarrytown during the Revolutionary War years and settle into self-imposed exile in northern Westchester. James K. Paulding was born at Great Nine Partners near Peekskill, in 1778.

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A Book About the Real Sleepy Hollow

coverIn the years following the reclaiming of the name of Sleepy Hollow in 1996, I received many inquiries for information about the real, historic village of Sleepy Hollow.  As the village historian, I found it difficult to reply to them all.  Many of the questions I received had to do with how the historic village relates to the famous story.  It was then that I began to write the material included in The Historically Annotated Legend of Sleepy Hollow, though it was actually many years before the book was published.  It is now available…

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Old Winter Pastimes in Sleepy Hollow & Tarrytown

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” I can remember the giant icicles hanging, almost to the ground, from our house at 245 Crest Drive. Chunks of black cinder mixed with the snow along the edge of the street. Was it a morning in 1956? After a deep snowfall, the traffic noises were stilled—even the jingling syncopation of the chain-clad milk truck was quieted. In the general silence, the only sound was the crunch of my boot on the crystal snow.

Boot snow crust Sleepy Hollow

Boot snow crust Sleepy Hollow

But before I got too comfortable in my reverie, a snowball would buzz by my ear. There was Geoff Herguth from next-door, freckled and smiling, egging me on to combat. Our driveways lay side-by-side, so shoveling them produced a high mound of snow at the curb that could be tunneled through. The little snow fort served as a position from which we could ambush innocent and unsuspecting passersby.

Henry John Steiner

The writer cross-country skiing in Sleepy Hollow’s Rockefeller Preserve

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Artist in Residence: Robert Havell

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 If today you started out from Main Street in Tarrytown and headed north along Broadway (Route 9), you would pass the now vacant carpet shop of T. F Andrews. The shop sits at the corner of Dixon Street where the road intersects with Broadway. Traveling further north you would come to the Warner Library. Then, continuing on a few blocks, you would pass Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at College Avenue in Sleepy Hollow. If you strolled a mile further, you would come to the office of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and not far from that building is the grave of Robert Havell, an artist of the Hudson River School.

Havell lived the last years of his life in a house near the corner of Dixon Street. He took leisurely walks to the church at the corner of College Avenue (then called Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church). Two fine examples of his artistry and craftsmanship hang prominently in the Warner Library. His mortal remains lie undisturbed and virtually unnoted in the cemetery.

If, on a Sunday in the 1870s, you took the same route along Broadway, you might have seen an elderly couple strolling toward the church just mentioned. Robert and Amelia Havell were from England, and Robert had made his reputation and his fortune as an artist.

Born in Reading, England, about forty miles west of London, Robert Havell, Jr., was the son of an engraver and publisher, who in turn was the son of an engraver and publisher. Entering his father’s business at an early age, Robert learned the artistry and technology of aquatint and the business of publishing.

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Havell as an elderly man

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Irving, Dickens, and Christmas Spirit

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 I have long been familiar with the life and writings of American literary great and local celebrity, Washington Irving. Yet at times I am newly surprised at the range of influence that this genial and easygoing man had on his contemporaries. It was an influence born of his genius, cordiality, and personal appeal. In Irving’s day, his company and friendship were widely sought after, particularly in America, but also in England and continental Europe. It was Irving who first brought American letters to the world. So, it should come as no small surprise to find Irving’s influence in the spirit of our holiday celebrations.

But, how do we celebrate Christmas as a society? Are we disposed to resist the “unholy” call to commercial frenzy and espouse the spirit of peace, abundance, generosity, and mirth? How did the Christmas spirit begin to manifest itself in us this year? Did it begin with an emotionally uncomfortable Black Friday, or a sprig of evergreen in the lapel? Is there any sign of the spirit at all? I think most of us would prefer a holiday that is not the culmination of a Black Friday starting gun, we would prefer a Christmas day where we are not too depleted to savor and reflect upon the celebration’s finer associations and to join in some light-hearted reveling.

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Washington Irving

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Christmas Shopping in Days of Yore

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 

Irvington, Pocantico Hills, Sleepy Hollow, and Tarrytown. Where did folks buy holiday presents for children in the days of my early youth and before? In an attempt to begin to answer that question, I asked a contemporary who had grown up in a large family in the neighborhood of Philipse Manor in Sleepy Hollow. His reply, “What did I get for Christmas when I was a kid? Nothing.” That response made me feel pretty miserable; I can only imagine how he felt at the time. Today, regardless of how we feel about it, I think most of us accept prodigal holiday giving as the norm, but there was a time when any children’s gifts were not to be taken for granted, or, if they were given, it was on a much smaller scale.

flexible-flyer My old Sleepy Hollow High School friend, Jim Caposella, who grew up in Sleepy Hollow’s Webber Park, recalled a happy holiday with modest gifts. “Remember that song that goes, ‘…and presents on the tree’? Well, that goes back to the day when gifts were small enough to actually hang there.”

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Thanksgiving Past

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Thanksgiving 1959. Could it be fifty-five years ago? My Austrian grandmother, grandfather, and aunt would drive up together to Tarrytown from their apartments on the Upper West Side for Thanksgiving dinner at the Steiner house on Crest Drive. The bread was picked up early that day from Alter’s Bakery on Cortlandt Street, with Mary gently cautioning from behind the counter that the loaves were still too warm to slice. And the car ride back to the house, with the German corn-rye bread speaking its aroma to my nostrils in its strange foreign tongue. The bread was a local creation that all the assembled adults lauded without reserve, filling me with a kind of youthful civic pride. The children would make “pipes” from the crust of a bread slice, a crust that had the texture of prime beef.

Alter's Bakery & Cortlandt StThe dinner that my French mother prepared was standard Thanksgiving fare. Maybe the string beans almondine would not appear on every table in the community. We had rice instead of potatoes, but, until I married an Irish-American, I had no idea of the magnitude of sin that was being committed. Indeed, even the Pilgrims were immigrants and had to be schooled in the correct way to set a Thanksgiving dinner by their Native American hosts.

1959-pink-ge-cropped

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Favorite Places Part Two—”The Old Cut”—Tarrytown

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

As I mentioned in the first partnot everyone’s favoritesbut mine. Could I possibly have only one favorite place per village? Not possible. These are just three that came to mind, and three that to me are special for personal reasons, some of my choices might seem odd. I realized, after I had selected them, that while all three places featured here are beside lovely water features, none is on the Hudson. They are the favorite places of one who has spent many hours treading this community’s landscape. As a local historian, I call it “field work”; others may call it meditation or contemplation, and still others – loafing.

The Old Cut – Tarrytown

I confess, this is the name I call it by; I don’t think anyone else has a name for it. Park at the park-and-ride lot near the Tarrytown Lakes dam, and then cross the road toward the lakes. Walk ten paces on the driveway and turn left on a narrow, dirt path leading up the hill. Continue across the old Putnam Line railroad bed, and turn right on the path when you see the white blaze marks on the trees. Walk eighty-five paces (my paces) and turn left up the hill and go a few paces toward a small knoll above you. Walk up past it, and you will see the “cut”.

 

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It looks like it could have been a rock quarry, but I think not. It also looks as though some god had hurled some oversized lightening bolt at the sloping ridge and shattered the rock ledge, cleaving a channel deep in its granite foundation. There is drama in this place. It bewildered me when I first saw it, but after a while I groped for an explanation. I don’t think a belligerent god created it, but rather an old-time, nineteenth-century engineer with a mission – to build a trestle across the valley.

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Ramblings in the Crest

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

My parents were raised in Europe. Dad met mom in Lorraine, France around the time of the Battle of the Bulge. Leo was born and raised in Austria, and he served as a special agent in the US Army Counter-Intelligence Corp of Patton’s Third Army. Lucie was born and raised in France and spent the war working as a school teacher near her hometown.

After the war, the Steiners lived for a time in Manhattan. Seeing a New York Times article about the quality of the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow school system, they resolved to buy a house in the Crest. In 1951, Mom and Dad made a $200 down payment on the purchase of 245 Crest Drive. That’s where I spent most of my childhood years. The low down-payment and their low-interest mortgage were courtesy of the United States G.I. Bill. Our house was a brand-new, three-bedroom, one-bath ranch with no basement and no fireplace—they would have cost extra. It was about half way up the cul-de-sac, on the right side, and it was a standard-issue home of the Upper Crest. The house has since been expanded like so many of the Crest homes, but somewhere within the walls of the updated structure still lies the modest little ranch we called home.


4kids

The Steiner children in front of 245 Crest Drive

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