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Theodore Roosevelt

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]

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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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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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Twenty Years Later—Recapturing Sleepy Hollow

by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Just a few personal thoughts…

I reflect with gratitude on an important date in Sleepy Hollow history, something particularly meaningful to me. Twenty years ago this month, along with many other dedicated folks, I helped to recover Sleepy Hollow’s identity. It was lost and we found it. That I am able to say this means a lot to me.

Henry Steiner-and-Chris Skelly.jpg

Henry Steiner and Christopher Skelly, Co-Leaders of the 1996 Sleepy Hollow Renaming

December 10th, 1996, was the rewarding culmination of a significant struggle. Through it, we were able to reinstate the legacy of Sleepy Hollow as an important historic and legendary American place. My colleagues and I saw the thing that we had worked so long and hard for finally come to pass. Many committed women and men joined in the campaign, and among them was my friend and Renaming Campaign co-leader, Christopher Skelly.

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The Holiday Fish …or… Mutants in the Hudson

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Introducing the tomcod

Before we suburbanites came to Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and the other river towns, there were the millionaires—our neighborhoods are carved from their estates.  Before them, there were farmers—they displaced (to put it nicely) the Native American farmer/hunters who inhabited these lands for thousands of years. But even before the native people there was the humble tomcod, swimming in the Hudson.

 tomcod1.jpg

Sleepy Hollow’s December Fish

December has long been the month for tomcod (Microgadus tomcod), also known as the Atlantic tomcod, tommy cod, frostfish, poulamon (French), or winter cod. I wonder how many hungry, bygone residents of our community have sustained themselves on tomcod when there was little else at hand? Few of us give these small creatures a passing thought, or even know that they exist at all. Be that as it may, they are out there now, along the edge of the Hudson—a modest little fish. It is described as an “in-shore fish,” rarely swimming into deep water, sticking to shallows, estuaries, and tributaries. And it loves the cold, being able to tolerate extremely cold temperature and significant fluctuations in water salinity.

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Native American Fish Fire-17th century

The similarity and dissimilarity of the tomcod to the codfish

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Native Son—Rockwell Kent

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

The solitary figure in an austere landscape is the emblem of Rockwell Kent’s rugged individualism. Kent’s work is homage to the mystic power and beauty found in both man and nature. The “elemental” reigned supreme in the artist’s view of life, nature, and his art. One familiar example of this theme is the bookplate he designed for the Warner Library about 1947. A man stands, book in hand, near the crest of a hill; the wide Tappan Zee and the hills of Nyack lie in the background. This image and Kent’s distinctive artistic style were etched into my memory from the time I first borrowed a book from the Warner Library as a young child. As I recall, there was a time when Kent’s bookplate was pasted into the endpaper of nearly every book in the library.

 The scenes of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown are no match for the stark drama of Tierra del Fuego, Alaska, Newfoundland, and Greenland, which fills much of Kent’s work, but these Hudson Valley hills served as the artist’s spiritual incubator. The man was a set of contradictions, a sociable introvert, a cantankerous sentimentalist, a mix of Victorian formality and radical non-conformity, an avowed socialist whose patrons included corporations and the wealthy. This strange mix would lead to a kind of artistic and political rejection during his lifetime; some might call it a suicide, others a crucifixion.

young Rockwell Kent

Young Rockwell Kent

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Just In… A Note from the Past… Rockwood Hall

Rockwood Hall about 1911

Rockwood Hall about 1911

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

My friend Ed Murphy just sent me a message from Las Vegas.  It’s always great to hear from him, because, whenever Ed gets contemplative about his hometown, he generally fills in another piece of the Sleepy Hollow picture.

Rockwood Hall is one of Sleepy Hollow’s wonderful scenic assets, and a favorite with many of us:

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The Celebrated Wife — At Home in Sleepy Hollow

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

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Years ago, I got tired of writing about prominent nineteenth century males. The women were out there somewhere, but they often operated behind the scenes. How do you write about nineteenth century women if they are required to live in the shadows of men? Jessie Benton Fremont provided an unheard of solution; she wrote about herself and her life.

This woman led a momentous, varied, and courageous life in which her finances swung between wealth and poverty. In the end, she was forced to support herself and her family by writing. Jessie spent some of her happiest years and most stressful days in Sleepy Hollow.

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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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