By Henry John Steiner
Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York
As I mentioned in the first part—not everyone’s favorites—but 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”.
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.
From this place one looks down at the dam and the old stone, water-filtration building beside the Lower Lake. To the south and down the slope lies the site of Jacob Romer’s colonial homestead, and beyond that, Catfish Pond. County House Road lies at the bottom of the hill on the north end; a valley that separates the hillside from the southern slope of Buttermilk Hill over to the north. Eastward, on the opposite side of the cut, the hill slopes down to the Saw Mill Parkway. I like to bring a folding camp chair and read or relax near the cut. I remember exploring this north end of the ridge with school friends when I was eleven or twelve. We found the skeleton of a deer and thought we had uncovered evidence of some terrible crime.
I know that once a great, high trestle carried the Putnam Line across the valley below, and it connected this cut to Buttermilk Hill. I place my chair at the place where it seems to me the trains took precarious flight.
“…where it seems to me the trains took precarious flight.”
The cut is strewn with huge boulders and has the appearance of some child-giant’s playroom when he is done playing with his biggest toys. Alternately, it looks like a place that saw intense industry that was suddenly and unaccountably ceased. The place has returned itself to nature, but not without displaying a deep wound in the landscape. The railroad ended up deciding on a different route to Pocantico Hills. It passed around the northern edge of this ridge and doubled back toward Marymount hill via the distinctive horseshoe-curve that went by Tarrytown Heights Station (near the skating shed).
About 135 years before I set down my camp chair
The next place I describe will be a favorite place in Sleepy Hollow…
©2011-2016 Henry John Steiner