Saturday, May 08, 2010

Croton Water

I wrote about my great-uncle Hugo yesterday and mentioned his employment at an iron works that had supplied pipe for the Croton Aqueduct. As it moved water from the northern part of Westchester County into central Manhattan, the aqueduct passed by quite a few places with family associations.

Here's a map from an article on the aqueduct that appeared in 1877.* I've marked it with numbered red circles and given some of these associations in keyed entries below.

1. Here, as you can see is Croton Lake, dammed to create the aqueduct's source. From the dam, the aqueduct moves west to the Hudson River and then begins its journey south to the City. Its route parallels the Hudson rail line, here identified as the Hudson River Rail Road (it was the Hudson Division of the New York Central in my time and is now something else again).

The village of Croton was home to a set of cousins, sons and daughters of my Uncle Bob and Aunt Ursula. Our family used to visit theirs from time to time; or, we would just drive up to see the lake and the dam, both of them scenic and impressive. When I was 14 or so I spent some time at the marine supply houses that dotted the Hudson shore here; I'd used my paper route money to buy a kit and built a 10 ft. racing pram.

2. Just to the east were another set of cousins, not related the first. Children of my Aunt Gerry and Uncle Ed, they lived in Mt. Kisco.

3. Here are Ossining, Scarborough, and Briarcliff Manor. We lived in the last named and frequented the first for shopping (and the dentist office). Ossining is home to Sing Sing penitentiary, high-walled and ominous, known to contain an electric chair for executions. I came to know pretty much all of Briarcliff. It and Scarborough are known for Washington Irving associations, particularly the Sleepy Hollow of Headless Horseman fame. Scarborough has a country club which was formerly a residence for a member of the hyper-wealthy Vanderbilt family. I had a high school friend who lived in Scarborough and briefly also was classmates with John Cheever's daughter during the time he rented a house there.

4. My mom worked in the public library in Tarrytown for quite a few years. Tarrytown also has Washington Irving's home and is landing place for the east end of the great Tappan Zee Bridge.

5. There were yet more cousins in Pelham not far to the east of this circle. This is also where the aqueduct crosses the Harlem River taking Croton Lake's water from the Bronx into Manhattan.

6. This marks the general location of Manhattan below 14th St. Here were located the iron works of which Hugo became superintendent, the Reformed Dutch School that educated his wife, Minnie, and her siblings (one of whom was classmate with Cornelius Vanderbilt himself — he who built the hyper-fortune), the retail store where my great-grandfather was first employed when he immigrated in 1855, the office he occupied as commission agent for those who wished to buy goods from Germany, and the banks and insurance companies which he founded.

Here is a larger map from 1907.** Click the image to view it full size. I've given it blue numbered ellipses keyed to comments below.

1. This map's northern end is somewhat south of Croton. Here at no. 1 is the location of a double bridge which is shown in a post card I reproduced yesterday.

2. Here, as you can see, is Sing Sing Prison. Some time ago I did a post about one of its associations in my memory.

3. Here, in Kemmy's Cove, I kept the racing pram that I constructed from kit using money from my paper route. The cove looks out on a portion of the Hudson that shows in a favorite painting, seen here and in detail here.

4. This marks the western end of my long paper route, which wound, twisted, climbed, and descended over much that lies east. From near here we would watch fire works on Independence Day. They'd be set off where ellipse no. 6 is located and make their display over the water.

5. Here lived a high school friend whose mom was an actress in a big-time New York soap opera. It's also the location of the Vanderlip estate. The Vanderlips were not near so well off as the Vanderbilts, but they had a nice place and one of my earliest memories is of a country fair held there.

6. This marks the location of a huge Vanderbilt mansion that became Sleepy Hollow Country Club. I had two friends whose families were members but didn't go there often with them. I spent a little time in the mansion when during a period when my parents did try to socialize me a little by putting me in rented tuxedos and having me be one of many anonymous unattached male escorts at some coming out cotillions there.

7. Sleepy Hollow, of Headless Horseman fame, lies right next to the aqueduct. The map text that lies below here is hard to read; it says "where andre was captured." This refers to the capture in 1780 of John André, the British officer who was in league with the American traitor, Benedict Arnold. LC has a picture of the event.

8. This marks the location of Warner Library in Tarrytown where my mother worked for quite a few years. The route which the map shows of the Steam Ferry across the Hudson at this point is approximately the present location of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

9. As you can see, this is the place to see Washington Irving's home in lower Tarrytown.

10. We've progressed south maybe 15 miles to get here from Tarrytown. I marked this spot because it's the point where the aqueduct moves off the map for a couple of miles.

11. Here it reënters the frame.

12. High Bridge is seen. The aqueduct crosses the Harlem River between the Bronx and Manhattan. The first reservoir on the New York end of the aqueduct is also here.

13. Location of the main reservoir. When the aqueduct was constructed few were able to afford the piping of water into their homes. Most benefited from its general abundance in all seasons, an increase in the number of public sources, and, best of all, in the cleanliness of the water.

14. Far from the aqueduct's southern terminus is the location of the Delamater Iron Works which provided its enormous iron pipes, valves, and the like.

15. Since we're down here in lower Manhattan, I'll point out some other locations with family connections. This is the spot where Hugo's wife, Minnie, and her siblings were educated: the Reformed Dutch School on Bleecker St. The school was famous not only for the quality of its education, but also for giving equal education to both sexes and for charging no fees (you were, however, required to belong to, and regularly attend, the church). Old Dutch families would send their kids there. Minnie's father, Henry Lefman, had married a woman from an old American family with Dutch connections so his children fall into this category. As I mentioned above, one of Minnie's sisters, Emma, had Cornelius Vanderbilt as classmate. The Vanderbilts were old Dutch too.

16. Washington St. is here. It's where my great-grandfather got his first job — as store clerk — in the late 1850s. Henry Lefman was his boss, mentor, and surrogate father, and he would himself marry another of Minnie's sisters, Annie.

17. Stuyvesant High School, which my father attended, is located here.

18. Here is Reade St. where my great-grandfather had his office as commissioning agent in the second half of the 19th c. He set up in that business with Alfred Roelker, who like Henry Lefman, would later become a in-law. The two made a great success of importing all kinds of things, from leather to steel rails, on behalf of American customers.

19. This is where you find Maiden Lane. Hugo had his office here after the iron works was sold off (following the death of its owner). It's also where you could find the Maiden Lane Savings Bank. My great-grandfather started this bank, Hugo was a director, and my grandfather was its manager.


Some of my previous blog posts on the Hudson and its associations.

on the river

shipping news -- more

living high


Previous family-history posts:



*Croton Water in The Century illustrated monthly magazine, Volume 14, ed. by Josiah Gilbert Holland and Richard Watson Gilder (Scribner & Co.; The Century Co, 1877)

**The Hudson; Three Centuries of History, Romance and Invention by Wallace Bruce (Bryant Union Co. NY, 1907)

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