Column: A block of stone

LissaHalenMichelangelo was partially correct when he declared, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it.” He may have added, “Every block of stone has a building waiting to be built with it ”as that was true in Tuckahoe.

Marble was discovered in this village in the early 1830s and was a thriving industry there for more than 100 years. If you’ve ever seen the U.S. Capitol building, the main branch of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, the U. S. Customs House or St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you’ve seen Tuckahoe marble.

There’s a place where you can not only handle smaller pieces of this dolomite, but also see photos of the original marble quarries, hundreds of feet deep. This place is the Tuckahoe Historical Society in the lobby of the Tuckahoe Town Hall located at 65 Main St., once the Tuckahoe School. The lobby now has an attractive showcase in it, which entices visitors with photos depicting Tuckahoe’s heritage-rich past.

Tuckahoe is Westchester County’s smallest municipality, a village within the larger Town of Eastchester. Tuckahoe’s history begins with this marble discovery along the Bronx River, long before there was a Bronx River Parkway.

The village is a hidden gem, but the keepers of the village’s history are the true hidden gems. The Tuckahoe History Committee dedicates Wednesday mornings to cataloguing the village’s rich and fabled history. The committee oversees this ongoing work. They are generous with their time and proud of the village’s history.

The Tuckahoe History Com-mittee does not focus merely on marble history, but on hundreds of years of the village’s history, which they promote and maintain.

Tuckahoe was one of several villages in the United States to run a trolley during the early 20th century. The First Trolley Bell is in the Town Hall lobby’s showcase. Burroughs-Wellcome once occupied nearby buildings, now luxury apartments and office space. Medical samples from this company are in the showcase. Drawers in the showcase hold unusual books such as the “Polk’s Bronxville/Tuckahoe Directory 1929-1930.” This book listed all addresses in the villages accompanied by all residents’ names and occupations, an earlier version of a local web search.

Want to see and read about village notables from the past and present such as Tuskegee Airman Capt. Edward Wood-ward? Request one of the many binders containing their stories and delve deeper to see residents’ family keepsakes.

If quarry workers were out of work or local families were just down on their luck, Tuckahoe was there to help and the binders contain the history of these many service organizations, which did this and so much more.

Stand by a window with any committee member to be regaled with the back story of local buildings like the Washington Hotel. And yes, there were several hotels in Tuckahoe. The Washington Hotel was built of Tuckahoe marble by Samuel Fee in 1883 and now serves as offices and apartments. Fee worked on St. Patrick’s Cathedral for 12 years before settling in Tuckahoe where he rose to become a quarry superintendent.

Listen to them discuss historic Depot Square with its modernized version, which now includes a Starbucks. Tuckahoe’s railroad station was one of the first railroad stations north of New York City of New York Central, now Metro-North, in 1844. Urban legend states quarry owners lobbied for the station to transport the marble. Prior to the construction of the station, marble was placed on oxen carts and trudged across town to the Hutchinson River before it was sent far and wide for buildings.

Listen to the committee discuss the nearby Olde Stone Mill, now a restaurant, but once a place where buttons were manufactured for the soldiers’ uniforms during the War of 1812. The present structure’s rich history began in 1853 when the Hodgman Rubber Company began one of the early manufacturers making waterproof boots and clothing. As the Hodgman Company, the mill was again asked to contribute to soldiers’ uniforms. This time they produced rubber raincoats in World War I. The restaurant owners will gladly discuss this structure’s rich history on display in the many photographs adorning its walls.

Each of these buildings are visible from the windows of Town Hall. Each of these topics and the remainder of Tuckahoe’s history are continuously catalogued and updated by these loyal volunteers. Don’t let the simplicity of classic school binders fool you. They now total close to 150, and more are being added as residents contribute memorabilia.

Stop by any Wednesday morning to research the vast Tuckahoe history in those binders. Give yourself plenty of time, not just to delve into the showcase of history, but to relax with the keepers of this history and absorb their love, pride and knowledge of Tuckahoe.

Consider dining at the historic Olde Stone Mill restaurant down the hill. Many other lunch options are within walking distance in this pedestrian town. Brewpubs are available for the beer aficionados: recently opened Growlers Beer Bistro and the Tap House directly across from the railroad station. The Tap House sits in historic Depot Square. Angelina’s, located across from Depot Square, provides Italian fare. There are sandwich shops, Carvel and coffee shops to satisfy your après lunch palette.

Once you’ve come to know not just Tuckahoe’s marble story but all of the village’s fabled history, you’ll be glad you did and you’ll come back for more.

 

Tuckahoe
Historical Society

Tuckahoe Town Hall,
65 Main St.

Wednesday mornings
9:30 a.m. to noon
Admission is free

 

Lissa Halen is a resident of Eastchester for 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”