Category Archives: Small Town Big History

LissaHalen-Column

Column: Remembrance of things past

 

 

Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville’s 350th celebration is coming to a close. The anniversary year embraced their 350 years of history. In this column, I presented a tableau of historical sites where this remembrance of things past can be experienced.

In this last column, I would like to thank each of the non-profit organizations I visited and thank them for their time. I only hope I have done justice to their history and all that they continue to contribute to those communities. Here’s a synopsis. Check out the Eastchester Review website to read the original articles for a more in-depth discussion of each.

The virtual collection of all things Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville’s are at the 350th anniversary website, eastchester350.org. Great history enhanced by great graphics and great photos. It’s all there.

The Tuckahoe History Committee is a hidden gem which meets in the Tuckahoe Village Hall lobby Wednesday mornings. They catalog artifacts, photos and articles brought in by residents. But make certain to plan on staying for a while. They will proudly enlighten you about anything in their collection.

The Eastchester Marble Schoolhouse is an 1835 restored one room schoolhouse, home to the Eastchester Historical Society. It has a library of 18th and 19th century children’s’ books and volumes of New York State genealogical records, all available for research. Its annual Victorian Christmas Party, held this year on Dec. 13, displays its unique assortment of children’s toys and dolls. A must-see in the busy holiday season. St. Paul’s National Park is an oasis in the midst of industrialization. It has certain uniqueness, characterized by its greenness and history. The National Park service understood the history encapsulated there, that history going back to the earliest colonists and the Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers. Its cemetery of locals from as far back as 1708 is enhanced by the exhibitions inside and ongoing lectures and concerts. Its living history enactments bring it all to life.

Tomes have been written about the creation of the Bronx River Parkway Reservation. But the river was a natural resource beginning with Native Americans and ended up being developed into a recreational jewel by 1925. A stroll along its three-mile paved pathway provides a myriad of
opportunities.

Along the Hutchinson River the Eastchester border is one of the only remaining landscapes and one of the only remaining stables which once lined the river. Twin Lakes Park is public but definitely meander over to the Twin Lakes Farm and speak with owner Scott Tarter. He’ll be proud to tell you about his stables and riding academy. The stables even had a life as a dairy farm and sold an elixir called “kumyss” around Westchester County. Scott might convince you to saddle up for a ride through the park. He is passionate and dedicated to the town and the county, an asset to the community.

Norman Rockwell and Lancaster Underhill’s names reflect the eclectic history of the three railroad depots in these communities. The former used the Crestwood station for his Saturday Evening Post cover in 1946 and the latter was the area’s first station master starting in 1853.  Together all three depots comprise the town and village’s three historic railroad stations. Mere dollars and mere minutes can take you from one depot to another. Stopping at each station you can then tour and appreciate each station’s history and the surrounding blocks.

OSilas Gallery may be the area’s best kept secret. Rotating exhibits grace its walls above Concordia College’s library. They held a Rodin exhibit in 2013 and it’s most recent display celebrated Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville’s 350 years. It highlighted over 30 locals who were part of this splendid culture. It also highlighted the marble industry which made Tuckahoe the “Marble Capital of the World” for almost a century beginning in the mid-1800s. They sponsor children’s workshops and adult concerts and trips and are very involved members of the community.

The Bronxville library and the Dutch Reformed Church sit catty-corner at Bronxville’s Four Corners where Midland and Pondfield meet. Deemed the village’s “Civic Center,” the two buildings were designed by the same architect and create a stately corner. Inside, it’s not merely religion and reading. Both institutions deliver a wide range of programming for young and old.

The Westchester Italian Cultural Center resides in the stately building in Tuckahoe’s Depot Square. Now owned by the Generoso Pope Foundation, the building started as Tuckahoe’s Village Hall more than 100 years ago. One huge wreath decorated the building in the 1920s. The wreath was constructed with flowers from every state in the United States to honor the remains of what was considered the American Revolution’s Unknown Soldier whose remains were located in Tuckahoe. Today, the center provides programs galore to inspire you or to indulge your palette and all with a taste of Italy.

I hope I have raised your awareness of the area’s rich heritage and seen the area as a microcosm of America’s journey from colonial to suburban. I hope that you have learned something about each site and have savored their modestly presented but proudly displayed collections. You can read all the original articles by googling my name at the Eastchester Review’s website.

Each site also has a website. If you haven’t visited them yet, visit this year and keep visiting during the next 350 years. They all comprise a treasure trove of this rich enduring legacy and strengthen who Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville are as communities. Kudos to each and every one of these non-profits for their inspirational programming and earnest beliefs in their goals. Their love and dedication was inspiring. I hope I have in turn inspired many of you.

Onward to the next 350 years. Let’s make some history.

LissaHalen-Column

Column: Buy the book

LissaHalenHumorist Garrison Keillor understands reading. He stated, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” There is an upcoming book which attests to that statement. It is the long awaited “Out of the Wilderness: The Emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and Bronxville, 1664-2014” and it has been in the works for over two years.

With this forthcoming volume celebrating Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville’s 350th anniversary you will have the opportunity to read not books but chapters you can open again and again, each by a different author. Those authors are all volunteers who were invited to contribute a chapter on their local interests. And contribute they did, taking their unique styles and interests and performing a labor of love researching their topics and writing their chapters.

Wondering what’s in the book?

Here are some clues but just “buy the book” and enjoy. Book launches include one at Concordia College on Dec. 11 and a book signing at Eastchester Historical Society’s Marble Schoolhouse during its annual Victorian Christmas Party on Dec. 13.

1. Ever try to explain Eastchester and its two villages to someone? How puzzled were they Anne Hutchinson’s name came up and the fact that she began construction of her home near Co-op City and that was once part of Eastchester? Have no fear: a chapter is devoted to the town’s physical borders and the history and politics which transformed these southern boundaries.

2. Speaking of iconic Anne Hutchinson, she’s not just the name of a river. But was she the first American feminist? Why were her views considered heretical and how did they cause her to venture first to Rhode Island and then to Eastchester?

3. “Keeping the Covenant” is the motto of the anniversary year. This 1665 document—the original is in Town Hall—laid a groundwork which is still adhered to today. From locks on doors to protecting farms at church time to ridding the area of rattlesnakes to dismissing ‘obnoxious’ visitors, the covenant set a tone for how to live and thrive together. Discover new insights into how this unique document has been a cornerstone for the town.

4. A 1790 town census included 25 slaves. Even in 1820, a scant seven years before slavery was abolished in New York State, the town census identified 20 slaves. When did slavery begin in Eastchester and how long did it last?

5. “Horrors” and “Neutral Ground” are often used in the same sentence describing this area during the American Revolution? Why? How did Eastchester react to our country’s Revolutionary and Civil wars? Were there really battles here and did Washington sleep here or visit here? Whose side were tavern owners like Morrell, Hunt, Fowler and Ward on during the Revolution?

6. Sports. From country clubs to boxing matches, they all shaped this town. Which country club had the filmmaker D. W. Griffith as a founding member? For that matter, which one counted Babe Ruth as a frequent player? Whether football, baseball, ice-skating, you name it, so many local athletes were part of professional sports. Not just professional but local amateur athletes are also represented in this volume.

7. Up until the 1900s waterfront property was considered “sub-prime.” That includes Eastchester’s two border rivers, the Bronx and Hutchinson.Yet, even the first settlers lived and prospered along these rivers. How did these two rivers encompass the spectrum of America during all those 350 years?

8. For almost a century, Tuckahoe was considered the “Marble Capital of the World,” yes, even over Italy. Ever wonder where those quarries were? Maps, maps and more maps not only help us pinpoint those locations but also give us insight into how Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville developed into the town and villages they are today. Property maps trace our transformation from rural to suburban and it was longer than most people would think.

9. From the Roaring 20’s through the Depression, Eastchester was a part of it all. Step into Eastchester during those two decades.

10. Commuters take for granted our rail system. All aboard to read how this means of transportation transformed the area.

11. Churches and schools are the hearts and souls of communities. This publication breathes new life into the history of the area’s many churches and schools.

This is but a smattering of topics presented in the book. But it is not merely the topics which will draw readers to the publication but the people involved in the town and villages all those 350 years. Their history parallels the history of America. Along the rivers it was the farmers and mill owners. In the quarries it was the masons and stonecutters. In the churches and schools it was the congregations, students and their leaders. In sports, it was the players and coaches. Scattered throughout the book are chronicles of the many that lived, worked and played in this unique area.

I will admit to, and apologize for, a bit of self-promotion here. I wrote a chapter on the 350 years of Eastchester’s border rivers. Like the other authors, though, I was guided through my research and writing by Eloise Morgan, Bronxville’s village historian and Richard Forliano, Eastchester’s town historian. Neither ever like their name mentioned, evidence of another trait, their humility. All of us are indebted to them for their knowledge but even more for their kindness to us and their unswerving dedication to the publication of the book. So, that’s just another reason to “Buy the Book.” Buy several copies to give as gifts. The recipients, you and the many who pre-ordered this coffee table book, I assure you, will have a gift to open again and again. It’s a colorful, enriching and most of all fascinating treasure.

LissaHalen-Column

What’s your pleasure?

Past Present or Future; John F. Kennedy who briefly lived in Bronxville understood the importance of each. He believed, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Head to Tuckahoe’s Depot Square to the stately building a few steps from the railroad station. That building is the Generoso Pope Foundation owned by the foundation of the same name. The building started as Tuckahoe’s Village Hall and has a more than 100 year old past and what is inside is living up to Kennedy’s words embracing the past and present and prepared for the future.

Since 1902, Tuckahoe has been a village within the Town of Eastchester. Yes, a bit confusing but suffice it to say Tuckahoe has its own government structure. Once it incorporated in 1902, Tuckahoe wanted to centralize its village offices. Village Hall was built and the newly incorporated village was proud when it was dedicated in 1913. Flags draped the four columns as it became home to various Tuckahoe government offices, also serving as Eastchester’s Town Hall for a time.

Pride once again took center stage in 1923, this time celebrated by the entire nation. Bones, probably from a Revolutionary War soldier, were discovered in town and deemed that war’s “Unknown Soldier.” Flags again draped the building but this time a wreath circled the entire entrance. The wreath was no ordinary wreath not only in size; it was constructed with flowers from every state. Newspapers around the country carried the story.

The exterior of the building isn’t much different from those days except for some windows on street level. Originally some were doors providing separate entrances for each department. Now one grand set of doors allows entrance to the Westchester Italian Cultural Center.

If your pleasure is the past you will see how the foundation preserved the buildings’ architectural beauty. Witness the Tuckahoe marble in the stately foyer, marble which also graces the United States Capitol. Beautifully refinished woodworking adorns the long spiral staircase circling the rotunda. This staircase leads to a cupola capped off by a lighted stained glass window true to Renaissance style.

Village vaults still remain downstairs manufactured by the Mosler Company whose vaults outlasted the company. From the mid-1800s the company sold to an international clientele. Their doors and safes withstood the atomic bomb in Hiroshima but couldn’t withstand financial problems as they went bankrupt in 2001. Like many of their equipment around the world Tuckahoe’s village vaults remain, no longer guarding money.

The Generoso Pope Foundation has owned the building since 2003 and immediately gave it a tremendous facelift to house its Westchester Italian Cultural Center. Both are nonprofit organizations, designed to realize the dream of the late Generoso Pope. Pope’s great-grandson David, head of the foundation, oversaw the splendid renovation of the once Village Hall, bringing both the building and the foundation into the future while adhering to his great-grandfather’s ideals. While adhering to the building’s original glory, the foundation also designed it for the future with the addition of state-of-the-art programs, rooms and technology.

During Generoso’s lifetime he encouraged Italian immigrants to work hard, embrace their new home but remain proud of their heritage. He had an educational and philanthropic philosophy which reached far and wide culminating with the Generoso Pope Foundation in 1947. David Pope continued this philosophy with the cultural center whose mission is the celebration of both classic and contemporary Italian heritage.

What does the term “Westchester Italian Cultural Center” conjure up? Probably the past and not so much the present. Grab its brochure and peruse the table of contents.

Surprised by the myriad of activities to celebrate Italian culture? Mingled with “Mommy and Me” language classes and family and adult cooking classes are lectures, films, wine tastings and contemporary author signings. Those cooking classes are held in a state-of-the-art kitchen. Those wine tastings serve wine from their state-of-the-art wine cellar which stores wine from each of the 20 regions in Italy. Those lectures are held in state-of-the-art screening rooms. Sign up for any.

What do Switzerland, Germany and France have in common with Tuckahoe’s’ own cultural center? They are all places exhibiting the detailed and distinctive works of 3-D pop artist Charles Fazzino, proof of how this center takes Kennedy’s words to heart and understands the future. The center is exhibiting over 30 of his works, one cleverer than the other. Enter the striking rotunda for your first Fazzino treat: Red Sox and Yankee 3-D baseball helmets flanked by 3-D baseballs. The hero worship for today’s sports heroes is not lost on Fazzino with more sports art inside. Fazzino is the official artist for the Super Bowl and even presented the retiring Derek Jeter with a personalized 3-D art piece. Get nostalgic at Fazzino’s “Rocking the 60’s” or “The Honeymooners.” Think finances when viewing “We’re in the Money.” Doctor, lawyer, theatergoer, shopaholic, no matter your pleasure there’s Fazzino artwork here for you to enjoy.

Whether it is Fazzino’s cityscapes or commissioned art, his colorful palette draws us in helping us happily and whimsically touch the world. No need to travel to Europe to appreciate it but it is necessary to visit the center before Nov. 14 when this exhibit closes.

 

JUST THE FACTS
What: Westchester
Italian Cultural Center
When: Daily
Admission: Various fees
depending on the event

 
LissaHalen-Column

Column: Within these walls

LissaHalen“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”–Theodore Roosevelt

The Eastchester community lives true to these words especially at Bronxville’s ‘Four Corners.’ Beginning in the 1920s, the wide intersection at Midland and Pondfield avenues became the Civic Center of the village. Local architect Henry Leslie Walkers designed three buildings, each in its own architectural style. In 1924, he collaborated with another firm to design a Collegiate Gothic style school on the northwest corner. In 1926, he designed the English-Norman Gothic style walls of the Reformed Church of Bronxville on the southeast corner. In 1942, he designed the Georgian Colonial-revival style walls of Bronxville’s library on the northeast corner. Then and now, all three structures contribute to make the juncture a bustling community center where many contribute to making Bronxville ‘a good place for all to live’ both inside and outside their walls. Time for a stroll there.

Libraries began in the United States in 1731 when Benjamin Franklin formed the Library Company of Philadelphia as America’s first lending library. Bronxville’s library began with donated books at the Little Red Schoolhouse, now Value Drugs, in the mid 1800s. 1906 saw the lending library garner space in a then new Village Hall and, 1942 saw the library move to its present location at Four Corners. Long before bookstores were ‘Starbucked,’ this library emphasized comfort when reading and perusing books. The building always aimed to be not imposing but rather welcoming, resembling some of the stately residences in the village. A library trustee was ahead of his time when he declared this new library should be ‘an influence on the community in architecture, furnishings and art.’ He stepped up to the plate with a fellow trustee as both donated their art collections. One of those paintings, Childe Hassam’sCentral Park,” was auctioned as a new century dawned in 2000. The proceeds from that auction significantly helped fund the library’s much needed expansion and evolution into the 21st century. In 2001, a renovated library was opened which, then and now, responds to the needs of the community within its walls.

Enjoy the Georgian style of those exterior walls. Then step inside and step up to the stately circulation desk. Pick up the daily New York Times crossword puzzle in the reference room. Relax in one of the beautifully and comfortably furnished reading rooms. Gaze at the Currier and Ives lithograph collection. Enjoy lectures, concerts and art exhibits in the state of the art Yeager Community Room. Delve into history in the Local History Room, reservations needed, where documents and photographs bring Bronxville’s past to life. Oh, and read a book.

Libraries have responded to the 21st century and Bronxville library shines in this regard.

It sponsors an eclectic mix of events always mindful of the needs of the community. Book clubs, lectures, children’s programs, musical performances and even the latest movies are all an integral part of the library’s offerings. ‘Museum Without Walls,’ a children’s science enrichment program initiated by the Westchester Children’s Museum, was recently added. Bronxville’s library website highlights all its programs and its new books, cleverly displayed with the books’ covers. The site provides links to articles about the eclectic and ever-changing role of reading in people’s lives.

Fearful of computers? Fear no more as the library provides free instruction including how to download e-Books.

Head diagonally across the street to enjoy the exterior walls of the Reformed Church of Bronxville, once the Dutch Reformed Church. This congregation originated in 1850 and celebrated both its centennial and sesquicentennial with well-written and well-researched books, both available in the library we just left. As the Dutch Reformed Church, its history dates back to the Protestant Reformation in Europe and its American history dates back to 1628 in nearby New Amsterdam. Bronxville’s Reformed congregation built its first church, modest in size as the community itself was small, on land donated by Rev. Robert Bolton and by Alexander Masterton’s brother. By 1923, both Bronxville and this congregation had grown in numbers and a cornerstone was laid for the new church by 1925. This architecturally gorgeous edifice still graces this juncture.

It is within the church’s walls where both history and devotion display their brilliant colors. First read the names of the twelve founders on the Founders Tablet. Recognize some families… Masterton of marble quarry fame, Swain of the mill where River House now sits, Prescott of the family who owned the land which became the Lawrence Park artist colony? Take in the expertly hand-carved oak furnishings in the chancel. Locate the pew from the city’s original Dutch Reformed Church building. Appreciate the stained glass windows designed by Charles J. Connick, a prominent artist in the vein of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Examine the intricately carved vestibule. Read sermons and newsletters on the church’s website, part of its evolution into this century.

But this history is eclipsed by the dynamic congregation. Like the library the church sponsors events for the entire community. It prides itself, humbly I might add, on its concept of inclusivity.

All three designs remain standing today and are befitting of Bronxville’s significant history. Within these walls are treasure troves of religion and knowledge and most of all places where neighbors abide by Roosevelt’s concept and make the area a ‘good place for all to live in.’ Appreciate the history and community both within and without
these walls.

 

JUST THE FACTS

What: ‘Four Corners’ 

When: Visit each website for times

Parking and Admission: Free 

 
LissaHalen-Column

Column: Off to college

LissaHalenConcordia College that is, for a little Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville history. The noted novelist and historian Shelby Foote had a thought about going off to college, “A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.”

The buildings of Concordia College line White Plains Road near the boundaries of Tuckahoe and Bronxville. Eastchester has pre-colonial roots but Concordia’s most northerly building the Ward House, has the most history. The building was owned by a prominent Eastchester official, Stephen Ward, in the late 1700s. Then came the American Revolution and chaos ensued. The Ward family like others in the area was divided, Stephen siding with the rebels and his brother with the British. Much of the area along White Plains Road was referred to as neutral ground since neither side controlled it. Clashes between the two sides were commonplace. History books refer to the Ward House as a site where rebels fled to organize their forces and plan their strategies. Due to the building operating as this rendezvous point for the rebels, the British burnt it down in 1778. So, no that is not the original building sitting there but, after the war Stephen’s son Jonathan rebuilt it to his father’s original specifications. Over the centuries, it has operated as both commercial and residential ventures including a tavern known as Marble Hall and it today functions as a Concordia dormitory, not a building to go inside. Gazing at the exterior is about all, but its history is cause for reflection.

Just south of the Ward House on the opposite side of the street sit the main buildings of Concordia. Now, that library will take precedence. Pass under the arches and veer left to the modern building known as the Krenz Academic Center, housing the library among other venues. Head upstairs to the OSilas Gallery to take in Eastchester’s 350 prize exhibition, “Legacies, Landmarks and Achievements” curated by Michael Fix and the gallery’s staff. Fix has worked with the gallery twice before but this exhibition is a masterpiece worthy of the town’s 350th anniversary. It encompasses all 350 years of local history through a wide variety of mixed media and is a must see. Visit prior to Nov. 9, when this show closes.

The walls are lined with biographies mingled with museum cases of original artifacts. Industry is represented by Ward Leonard’s invention of the rheostat, light dimmer, among many others. This factory sat along the Bronx River where mills once operated. Read the homespun story of philanthropist Carmela Vaccaro, a local whose grandchildren remain in the area. She donated the land where once stood Cooper School, now Vaccaro Park. Her donation had one stipulation: that it be used solely for recreational purposes.

Dioramas are sprinkled thr-
oughout the exhibit, illustrating centuries of history. Most created by John Wright, executive director at the nearby New Rochelle Thomas Paine Cottage Museum, these dioramas cover significant events. Included is a diorama of the attack on Anne Hutchinson representing her settlement here during the 1600s. Another diorama depicts a Revolutionary War raid on our ‘Neutral Ground’ during the revolution representing the 1700s. A diorama of a marble quarry represents the 1800s. Take in the depth these stonecutters went to both literally and figuratively in the scale of the autos and workers deep down in the quarry. A model of St. Patrick’s Cathedral built with Tuckahoe marble represents the 1900s.

Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville have the heroes we now refer to as ‘first responders’ and they are celebrated near the window. Artifacts include photos of 1895 Tuckahoe Hose Company, alongside an antique fire horn. Another photo captures proud police officers circa 1912. Narratives include Ron Bucca, a firefighter killed on 9/11, as well as our own Milt Gibbons who helped found the original Police Athletic League.

Scientists and entrepreneurs and their stories are also on display.

A.T. Stewart used his quarry’s marble to build the ‘Marble Palace’ the world’s first department store. Eclipsed by this story is the one of Gertrude Belle Elion. ‘Trudy’ is featured not only here but also in Tom Brokaw’s book chronicling lives befitting his book’s title “Greatest Generation.” Brokaw devoted an entire chapter to her accomplishments and the Nobel Prize for Medicine she was awarded in 1988. Prior to World War II companies were reluctant to hire female chemists but it did not deter her or Tuckahoe’s Burroughs-Wellcome, now luxury apartments and The Olde Stone Mill restaurant. They were proud and happy they hired her.

She helped develop drugs to treat leukemia, AIDS, and malaria culminating with that Nobel Prize.

But it is the town’s marble history which takes center stage in the last segment of the exhibit. Ever wonder where those historic marble quarries were here in town? This exhibit lays it out with an enlarged Google map highlighting where four quarries would be today. The exhibit celebrates many structures built with Tuckahoe marble and still standing around the United States. Head to the photos of two from New York City: the Greek Revival façade of the Branch Bank of the United States and a Corinthian column from Colonnade Row in the city. Both structures grace the American Wing of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The column once languished, all but forgotten in New Jersey until the Met placed it in this position of honor.  Paintings, lithographs and drawings enhance this segment and the entire exhibit.

These highlights merely touch upon the town’s intimate history exhibited here. And this college is more than just a group of buildings gathered around a library. Visit soon before the exhibit closes Nov. 9.

JUST THE FACTS
What: OSilas Gallery
When 12 p.m. on weekdays, 2 p.m. on weekends
Parking and Admission:
Free Group visits welcomed
337-9300-x2262 

 

 

 

 

LissaHalen-Column

Column: All Aboard

LissaHalen“The introduction of so powerful an agent as steam to a carriage on wheels will make a great change in the situation of man.”

–Thomas Jefferson, 1802

Nowhere may that be more evident than in the Town of Eastchester and its two incorporated villages of Tuckahoe and Bronxville. It all began with the creation in 1831 of the New York Central Railroad in New York City as these trains forever changed the complexion of the area. The railroad stations in each of the municipalities are also reflections of these changes, and each depot has its own storied history. Two of the stations are less than a mile apart and an easy walk along either the Bronx River or the local streets.

 

First stop: Crestwood Station,
Columbus Avenue, Tuckahoe, N.Y.

The best route is to begin at the Crestwood Station although chronologically it was not the first station to be built. Newspapers extolled the virtues of suburbia at the turn of the 20th century and this station was built to accommodate the area’s growing population. Originally known as Yonkers Park, it and the train arrived in the 1890s but the railroad changed its name to Crestwood Station in 1903. To this day, the area has title confusion with nearby towns: Crestwood is a section of Yonkers not Tuckahoe, there is a Yonkers Avenue in Tuckahoe, among other misnomers. These misnomers were not an issue to the iconic publication, the Saturday Evening Post. Throughout its history the Post and Norman Rockwell’s accompanying covers defined suburbia and its emerging middle class. Rockwell created a cover conveying the early morning suburban dash to the city. Rockwell was a New Rochelle resident and included many locals in the cover. Known as Commuter (and various versions of Waiting at Crestwood Train) it graced the cover in 1946. It is easy to google this painting to see the station as it appeared in the 1940s and compare both it, and the surrounding area’s appearance today.

 

Second stop: Tuckahoe Station,
1 Depot Square, Tuckahoe N.Y. 

Head south along Columbus Avenue to Tuckahoe Station, less than a mile walk. Today, Tuckahoe is one of the only villages to have two depots. This station has the earliest history, due to Tuckahoe’s prominence as the “marble capital of the world” during much of the mid-1800s. Quarries drove the local economy and their marble was originally shipped along Marbledale Road. Oxen carts were the means of travel and a town dock on the Hutchinson River were their destinations. From that dock the marble was shipped around the nation and the world, eventually becoming part of many notable structures.

Legend mentions the quarry owners rallied in Tuckahoe forcing the newly-created New York Central Railroad to provide a stop for the shipment of marble. Another legend mentions the owners footing the bill for the station. Whatever the reality, the quarry owners were successful and Tuckahoe was one of the few stops between New York City and White Plains when it was built in 1844. Nearby Lime Kiln Road then became the direct link from the quarries to the station.

The railroad not only transported this marble but allowed for workers to have a reliable means of working in the city but living outside it. Trains became an important part of suburbia helping to create a new middle class here in Westchester. So much so, when the line was electrified in 1910 the entire village stopped, including schools, as residents came out to celebrate. Around the same time, the tracks were lowered and a bridge built over them. With the depot on street level it was a dangerous crossing.

 

Next stop: Bronxville Station
113 Kraft Ave., Bronxville, N.Y. 

As the crow flies and the train flies it is less than a mile from Tuckahoe to Bronxville’s station, but no human direct route applies here. A train ride is mere minutes and a mere three dollars. Walking or cycling is a little over a mile and Sagamore Road is the best option from the Tuckahoe Station.

The Underhill family was one of Bronxville’s original families and its train station was once called Underhill Crossing. It was manned by a descendant of the original family, Lancaster O. Underhill, who was its first station master for 44 years until 1894. The station’s name was changed to Bronxville when the village was formally established in 1898.

Now Bronxville Station’s Spanish-style architecture may appear out of place compared to other stations. This mission architecture once complemented the nearby Gramatan Hotel, built by William Van Duzer Lawrence, of Lawrence Hospital and Lawrence Park fame. The hotel, now The Gramatan, sits on the north side of the tracks but has long since been converted into shops and offices. When it was built around 1900, it encouraged visitors to the area but a hidden agenda was upscale home sales. Lawrence hired prominent architects to design homes in nearby and newly developed Lawrence Park. The upscale homes were set among the then cowpaths of Bronxville and attracted an affluent and artistic population to Bronxville beginning in 1898. Bronxville’s affluence continues to this day.

 

Last stop: Dining and Imbibing

Suburban migration from the city was not to be stopped and it was the railroad which started it all. Each stop has all the amenities of modern suburbia. There is a plethora of restaurants, brewpubs, and coffee shops nearby each one, all within walking distance and some within the stations themselves. The stations reflect the past and the present. They are reminders of Jefferson’s prescient understanding over 200 years ago that those railroads would change our lives forever. So climb aboard and ponder that history.

LissaHalen-Column

Column: Stables still exist along Eastchester’s river

LissaHalenBenjamin Disraeli believed “a canter is a cure for every evil.” Trot over to the Hutch-inson River in Eastchester and you can canter away those evils.

Even if your tastes don’t run to equestrian, you can visit the home of the Dr. Brush Kumyss Farm. Kumyss was a cure-all taken around the turn of the 20th century and was manufactured in what are now the stables for Twin Lakes Farm.

Our trek through Eastchester’s history this week will begin just south of Twin Lakes Farm and Park in Mount Vernon, where the demons of industrialization are evident. Once scenic with not merely woods, but salt meadows and farms, these pastoral settings are the subjects in several of local artist Edward Gay’s paintings.

Mount Vernon was part of colonial Eastchester in 1664, but later incorporated as a village within the town in 1853 to finally become its own city in 1892. Industry has trumped woods here along the river, where asphalt and cement plants, fuel distributors and car crushers now line the river. Until 1954, Mount Vernon had one of the largest seaports in the northeast. Today, barges travel up and down the river’s short coastline.

Twin Lakes lines the Hutch-inson River’s Eastchester border and is aptly named today. Once one large lake extending to the campus of New Rochelle High School, it was owned by the Mahlstead family. They owned several businesses in the area and operated a frozen trade, slicing through the frozen lake in winter and selling its ice before the days of refrigeration.

Now in present day Eastchester, the Hutchinson River is a mere sliver of a river. It snakes underground and barely peeks out, but three water basins pop out. Water supply became an important piece of suburban development, damming the river in three places beginning in 1888. The New Rochelle Water Company created these three reservoirs as a water source for local communities. The areas around these basins did not suffer the same fate as the Mount Vernon shoreline and have been preserved as parks and equestrian trails. The lake was often fished until it was sliced into reservoirs, but locals didn’t always abide by its new no-fishing regulations. A newspaper article from 1916 not only mentions a fisherman being fined, but also being sent to jail for failure to pay the fine.

In the late 1800s, the aforementioned prominent physician Brush owned a dairy farm on these lakes. The farm manufactured the kumyss cure-all, sparkling milk. Its advertisements explained kumyss’ restorative qualities. One ad referred to it as “the safest food for invalids and convalescents” available at drugstores. Another stated it was “a boon and blessing to the businessman whose mental faculties are under constant strain… Its effects are felt immediately and last.” It was even touted as what “discriminating hostesses [served] to tide one over until dinner and what rapidly growing children needed to strengthen and build them up with their meals.”

Suburban development was spurred on by Westchester County as parkways were created following the routes of rivers like the Hutchinson throughout the 1920s and 30’s. But the county was mindful of the need to protect the water supply. They purchased land surrounding the Hutch for what we now consider green space and recreation and to protect the area against rapid population growth stemming from these new parkways.

Early 1930 photos show the Bronxville Riding Club sauntering alongside the new parkway. Before the automobile became the preferred mode of transportation, stables lined the Hutchinson River as waysides for travelers. Eastchester is proud to have one of the only remaining stables and is well worth a visit and even a ride.

Preserving the woods throughout Westchester was prescient as parks were created all along its new parkways. Eastchester first purchased the sections along California Road now referred to as Twin Lakes Park and Nature Study Woods. Later, Westchester County purchased it and gave leases to the stables. For several years, two different companies ran the stables, but it was not until Scott and Liz Tarter obtained the lease that the Riding Academy became a viable business. They now run both stables, the north campus and the south campus. The campuses are divided by a town composting facility, but that doesn’t stop the staff from loving what they do. They provide everything from a casual ride to a fully fledged riding academy. Enthusiastic and informative, they are a delight to meet. They are generous with their time and justifiably proud of what they have accomplished for the town, the county and riders.

Liz, a former champion rider, specializes in everyone from children and the timid to professional jumpers. Scott is a professional horseman and acts as manager, but is truly involved in all aspects. Their goal is to make riders out of us all and just meeting with them makes one want to saddle up immediately.

If you choose to use Twin Lakes Park, park to the left of the stables in the county parking lot as you enter the north campus. It is a peaceful wooded area, but remember, horses have the right of way. The path goes in several directions and you can loop around the one reservoir or follow the unpaved rocky path north past Eastchester. It is part of the East Coast Greenway extending from Maine to Florida. Wear durable footwear, especially after heavy rains remembering it was part of one large lake and sections flood easily.

LissaHalen-Column

Column: To Hutchinson’s house we go

Over the river and through the woods to Hutchinson’s house we go. Anne Hutchinson’s house, that is. That’s where our trek through Eastchester’s 350 years of history will take us this week, from the southern, not-so-scenic tip of the river that bears her name to the northern, scenic tip of this same river.

In reality we can’t see even traces of Anne Hutchinson’s settlement since it is long since paved over. This column will attempt to unearth her history and that of the Town of Eastchester near the Hutchinson River. It is an area sometimes noted as Colonial Eastchester in what is now the Bronx and is very different from the boundaries of modern-day Eastchester.

Now to the Hutchinson River’s namesake.LissaHalen

Sometimes called America’s first feminist, Anne Hutchinson was a complex woman. Once revered as a midwife and a religious leader, she was later branded a heretic. It was this later supposed heresy which brought her to settle by the river which now bears her name. Banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony, Hutchinson moved to what she hoped was a more religiously tolerant colony in Rhode Island. When that appeared not to be the case, she decided to settle near New Netherlands in the area now known as Co-op City and Pelham Bay. The exact location of her never-completed home is not known, nor is the reason she and some of her children were massacred not long after their arrival. It was 1643, a time when the Dutch and Native Americans were at odds over land ownership. It has been debated whether the family was seen as another threat by the Native Americans or whether the massacre was random.

Co-op City is not the most scenic place, but its storied history is Eastchester’s history. Once the Dutch animosities abated, settlements began. One settlement was created through the purchase of land by 10 Connecticut families in 1664. This new settlement was called East Chester and its borders extended along the Hutchinson River from present day Co-op City in the south to Scarsdale in the north.

So yes, the Bronx’s Co-op City and Pelham Bay areas and the City of Mount Vernon were once part of Eastchester and are often referred to as Colonial Eastchester.

And they were scenic.

These new landowners in Eastchester needed mills to process grain for the community and to cut lumber for home construction. Tidal mills began operating along the Hutchinson River before 1700 and continued through the 1700s and 1800s. One was Wright’s Mill, utilized by Connecticut soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Another was the rope and cord factory of Anderson. The colonists also built docks and landings. During the 1800s, wharf costs ranged from 50 cents to 75 cents.

An old watercolor and a photograph attest to the fact that Co-op City was the site of Reed’s Mill until 1900. No remnants of this and any other 17th and 18th century mills remain. We can reimagine the mills in their bucolic splendor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The local landscape artist, Edward Gay, painted the area often, including a painting titled “Broad Acres” which is owned by the world renowned museum.

During his long, prolific life, Gay included the Hutchinson River and its mills in several of his paintings. Two of his other paintings can be viewed nearby at St. Paul’s Church.

Deemed as marshland during the early 1900s, the land along the river was left alone until developers bought it on the cheap before 1960. The developers were former Disney bigwigs and transformed the marshland into the famed Freedomland, the first theme park in New York City. This park was short-lived, declaring bankruptcy in 1964, a brief five years from its opening in 1960. Once in bankruptcy, the land was again available for a pittance and no longer scenic. Developers envisioned other possibilities and Co-op City, the largest cooperative housing complex in the world, was the result.

There are two scenic parks in the now Bronx and former Colonial Eastchester, but their residents were not the friendliest. They included rattlesnakes and wolves who created grievous losses for the farmers. Today, it stands as Seton Falls Park, named after a family member of Elizabeth Seton, the United States’ first Roman Catholic canonized saint. An area of this now park was aptly named Rattlesnake Brook, where pigs were sent to feast on these rattlesnakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Historians also mention land west of Rattlesnake Brook as being used for planting as early as 1685.

The other scenic park is nearby at Pelham Bay and Split Rock golf courses, New York City’s largest park. It contains scenic miles of bridle paths and hiking trails and was also part of Eastchester’s colonial history. Split Rock is literally named for its large, split rock, a legendary hiding spot for the one daughter of Anne Hutchinson who survived the massacre. The daughter supposedly hid in the natural crevice in the middle of this large rock. That rock once sported a plaque attesting to this but it is long since missing. The rock is not very accessible as the commercial and busy Interstate 95 crosses that area of the park. The park also encompasses some of the Town of Pelham’s history at the Bartow-Pell Mansion. It remains scenic.

Take time to unpave and trace Colonial Eastchester’s history along this river. Don’t hurry. As A. A. Milne wrote for Pooh in “Pooh’s Little Instruction Book.” “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”

Try to get there someday. In the next article we’ll follow modern day Eastchester’s history along the Hutchinson River. Most of that is scenic.

LissaHalen-Column

Column: Walk this way…through history, part II

LissaHalenA Chinese philosopher opined, “The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.”

If this Chinese philosopher is correct, the residents of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville have the meandering banks of the Bronx River on which to spend that day or any part of it. And it’s right outside their doorsteps.

The Bronx River Reservation has a long and fabled history and a pathway to follow both the river’s banks and its history. Venture north, beginning at Scarsdale Road. The trail first passes a 1940s Girl Scout cabin and next an area sometimes called Crestwood Lake and other times called Tuckahoe Lake.

In earlier times, winter carnivals here and on Bronxville Lake attracted hundreds of local residents. The area was also a site for the ice industry before modern conveniences of refrigeration. Blocks of ice were cut out of the lake and stored in large warehouses nearby in Tuckahoe.

Today, the lake is a pastoral setting with a rustic bridge and waterfall at its southern end, a perfect place to spend part of that philosopher’s day. Birders and photographers take advantage of this idyllic charm and are occasionally rewarded with the appearance of a large local turtle. This turtle spends all his days on the river.

Wind and storm toppled branches and trees populate the river’s banks here and provide nesting sites for the numerous species of birds. Gaggles of geese accompany dive-bombing ducks, but cormorants, egrets and herons are also some of the usual suspects seen here. Egrets “walk on water” by the shallow river banks. Ducks linger at the top of the waterfall, then glide under the bridge only to be seen wading on the other side.

In springtime, ducklings and goslings waddle across the path led by their mothers, who dare humans to let them pass. They own these river banks.

From here, the river threads through the woods until punctuated by Crestwood Station. The station was first known as Yonkers Park in the mid 1800s, when Tuckahoe was mostly marble quarries. Nearby Fisher Avenue was the site of one of these quarries, when Tuckahoe was known as the “Marble Capital of the World.”

As the marble industry declined and the Bronx River Parkway was completed, Eastchester’s population grew and the town suburbanized. Crestwood station was upgraded after 1901 and immortalized in 1946 in a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. This particular cover is titled “Commuter.” It portrays one of the creeds of suburbanization, the “commuter dash” at a railroad station.

Rockwell’s covers exemplified the emergence of the American suburbs and Eastchester was a prime example, spurred on by the completion of the Bronx River Parkway in 1925.

Just steps from the Crestwood Station on Columbus Avenue is a favorite local restaurant, An American Bistro. Its lunch salads are scrumptious and reasonably priced and many are also available for dinner. The restaurant’s Sunday brunch and daily dinners are imaginative and always worth the trip and the money. For meat and potato lovers, American Bistro serves the best veal meatloaf.

Heading north leads to another suburban creed at Leewood Golf Club, golfing amid the country club life. The club’s location on a crest offers its private members scenic river views. Patronized by Babe Ruth, this club borders a stone underpass, designed for the railroad to pass above. Urban legend suggested the underpass was built for Ruth to make quick getaways to Yankee Stadium in time for his games. The legend proved false since the railroad and its overpasses were built before Ruth played for the Yankees. The club was also the location of one of the town’s marble quarries.

The river continuously crisscrosses under the pathway until two gas stations appear slightly north of the Leewood Avenue crossing. When designing the parkway in the early 1900s, attention was given to every detail and the gas stations were no exception. Respected architects of the day were called upon to maintain the rustic atmosphere of the parkway in its buildings. The architects did not disappoint. A station was built in 1935 on each side of the parkway by the prominent architect Penrose Stout, who was known for many Bronxville homes. Later, the northbound structure temporarily housed a Westchester County Tourism Center, now merely an abandoned building and parking lot. It’s a good place to park when driving north. The river’s banks are mere steps behind it.

The river crawls under the next intersection at Harney Road. Crossing here is rather dangerous with parkway traffic all around so be extremely cautious. Besides following the pathway there are two other options: Eastchester’s flagship Garth Road Park and Garth Woods. The woods are not on the pathway, but behind Garth Road’s classic pre-war Tudor apartments. Not yet suburbanized into the 1920s, Garth Road was then large land estates and was referred to as Upper Tuckahoe on maps. The cooperative apartments built from the 1930s on form Eastchester’s northern border and ends the Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Bronxville tour of the river and its banks.

That Chinese philosopher lived at a simpler time. Maybe it isn’t possible to spend an entire day on the banks of the Bronx River, but try some part.

 

JUST THE FACTS

What: Bronx River Reservation

from Bronxville to Eastchester

When: Daylight 7 days a week,

365 days a year

Parking: Free near most parkway

exits and meters near the

railroad stations

Admission:

Always free and accessible
________________________________________

Lissa Halen is a resident of Eastchester of more than 35
years and a member of the Eastchester Historical Society
board. She also contributed to the upcoming book “Out of
the Wilderness: The emergence of Eastchester,
Tuckahoe and 
Bronxville, 1664-2014”

LissaHalen-Column

Column: Walk this way…through history, part I

LissaHalenMelville understood. He penned the phrase, “Meditation and water are wedded forever,” in his epic novel “Moby Dick.”

Along the usually gentle Bronx River, we can add history and pleasure to being forever wedded to water. From the Native Americans who cultivated its fertile banks and fished its plentiful waters to today’s bicycle Sundays, the river’s history is rich and lengthy. Follow its trail, along with the 350 years of the history of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville. Experience its sleepy, rustic charm along with the countless joggers, walkers and cyclists who already take pleasure in its beauty. I am one of those and here I hope to entice you to become one also.

Our ramble through the river’s history begins with the Mohegans, who trapped and eventually sold its beaver pelts to the European traders. Our ramble along its banks begins near the 7.5 mile mark at Palmer Avenue in Bronxville. Here, a three-mile paved pathway parallels the river and straddles Tuckahoe, Bronxville and Eastchester on the east and Yonkers on the west.

Head north.

Pass alongside Lawrence Hospital, built by entrepreneurial and philanthropic William Van Duzer Lawrence in early 1900. He donated land and money when his son barely survived an appendicitis attack. Legend mentions the only hospital was in New York City and the only transportation was the baggage car of a passing train. The frantic ride into the city saved his son but Lawrence saw a need. He fulfilled this need by building a medical center which still sits on the river.

History sits at the West Pondfield Avenue crossing, where the River House complex replaced the previous Swain Mill. Across the street was the Kraft Tannery, which manufactured leather gloves and probably polluted the river with its tanning chemicals long before the word “pollution” entered the lexicon. No vestiges of the tannery remain, but the mill’s remnants can be seen near the foundation of the now cooperative apartments.

First owned by the Underhill family, the mill turned grist into flour as one of five or so cottages along the river in the early 1800s. A local then wrote of the “three-pound trout” and other fish when the stream was so clear one “could count the red spots” on their backs.

As time marched on, the mill also produced screws and axles, and later cutlery, before it was demolished in the late 1940s.

Back on the pathway, picturesque Bronxville Lake comes into view. Its tumbling waterfall and rustic bridge gives one pause to reflect Melville’s ideal of wedding “meditation and water.” It was once one of the many public bathing areas along the river in summer and a popular skating locale in winter. Documents indicate about 69,000 bathers swam in the river in 1918. The natural “pools” became too crowded and the bathhouses were eventually demolished.

Next, a once grand Spanish-style structure comes into view. It was a popular overnight venue for Franklin Delano Roosevelt on his travels to Hyde Park. The building’s name has had many variations as its uses including being a Prohibition-era speakeasy. As Broderick’s and Murray’s, it was a home for big bands and local luncheons and galas. As Parkway Casino, it was a catering hall. Now a medical center and apartments, even the interior has lost its panache. Famous murals once graced its walls, but they have disappointedly been painted over and its grand ballroom was partitioned to make offices.

As the path crosses Scarsdale Road, consider a minor side trip either east or west. Historic Asbury Church, one of the oldest churches in the United States, is to the west. A small chapel was first built nearby in 1797 and moved to this location later. Its namesake and first minister, Francis Asbury, has a statue in Washington, D.C. honoring his dedication to freedom during the American Revolution. Its cemetery is a walk through history with the earliest grave dating to 1800.

A side trip heading east brings you to Tuckahoe, where restaurants and coffee shops abound within an easy half mile walk. If it’s before lunchtime, head to Bentley’s Café with its yellow brick turret; a local coffee shop since the 1920s. If it’s lunchtime or later, another establishment brings you farther back in time while you whet your palette.

Industry was an important aspect of colonial life and up to 12 mills bordered the river. Two picturesque ones remain today, one in the Bronx Botanical Gardens and Tuckahoe’s Olde Stone Mill. The former has been resurrected as a popular wedding venue and the latter a popular restaurant.

Snuff was the stuff of the Lorillard Mill in the Bronx. First cotton and later raincoats were manufactured at the Tuckahoe site and you can peruse its historic photo collection as you eat. The restaurant obviously no longer produces raincoats, but the company survives today in Massachusetts.

We’ve traveled merely half of our itinerary so steeped in history. We’ll pause to digest some of this history and bucolic charm. Check back later in the month when we’ll resume our trek.

Melville would understand my penchant for meditation and pleasure on the river’s banks.

 

JUST THE FACTS

Bronx River Reservation
from Bronxville to Eastchester

Daylight 7 days a week, 365
days a year, but it technically
never closesFree parking near
parkway exits 1, 3, 4, 6, 8
northbound and meters near
the railroad stations.

_____________________________

Lissa Halen is a resident of Eastchester of more
than 35 years and a member of the Eastchester
Historical Society Board. She also contributed to
the upcoming book “Out of the Wilderness:
The emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe
and Bronxville, 1664-2014”