The Purdy Homestead on Quaker Ridge Road

The house built by Frederick Purdy in 1895.

The house built by Frederick Purdy in 1895.

One of the treats of this Sunday’s 18th Annual Croton Arboretum Garden Tour will be a chance to see the Purdy homestead on Quaker Ridge Road and a group of 100-year-old family photographs, lovingly preserved and made available by local restaurateur Craig Purdy.

Today, the property is a magnificent 23-acre estate—no longer in the family—but it was originally part of the much larger land-holdings of the Purdy family, who settled in Cortlandt in 1735.

The Purdy’s have deep roots in Westchester. Jacob Purdy is perhaps the most famous—he joined the Westchester Militia in 1775 and served until the end of the Revolution. His house in White Plains was used as General George Washington’s headquarters in 1778 (and possibly in 1776, during the Battle of White Plains).

In Cortlandt, Quaker preacher William Purdy bought land on the south side of the Croton River from the Van Cortlandt’s in 1800, though according to family lore the single-story red farmhouse on Cliffdale Farm was built by a Purdy relative as early as 1735.

William Purdy’s lasting contribution was the covered wooden bridge over the Croton River he rebuilt at his own expense in 1830, to a give Friends access to the Quaker meeting house in Croton. That bridge is long gone, but the Quaker Bridge we cross today—one of the oldest bridges in Westchester—is a lasting tribute to his civic virtue.

The home on the Arboretum garden tour was built in 1895 by Frederick Purdy, who purchased the land from Craig Purdy’s Great Grandfather, Charles Miciah Purdy. The family photographs on display (see a selection below) come from the estate of Craig’s mother, Jean Thompson Purdy, who passed away in December 2013 at the age of ninety.

Tickets for the tour are still available at $20 each (or $35 for two, if reserved in advance).
Call 914-487-3830.

Click the photos to enlarge them.

New Croton Dam, circa 1907

Cornell Dam, Croton Lake, N.Y. Click the image to enlarge it.

Cornell Dam, Croton Lake, N.Y. Click the image to enlarge it.

Here’s a nice view of the nearly-completed New Croton Dam (also known as the Cornell Dam) circa 1907. We can roughly date the image from the state of construction and the card itself because it’s an “undivided back” postcard, issued during the period from 1901 to 1907. Until 1907 only the mailing address could be written on the back of the card.

This card was published by William Terhune in “Ossining on Hudson” and printed in Germany.

Here are some other Terhune postcards:

Quaker Bridge, circa 1914

Postcard of Quaker Bridge. Click the image to enlarge it.

Postcard of Quaker Bridge. Click the image to enlarge it.

Postcard of Quaker Bridge, circa 1914, published by Frank L. Simone, who issued postcards of many scenes of the Croton area. This card is postmarked Oscawana, July 28, 1914.

Here are two other Simone cards:

Little Nemo in Sing Sing

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Here’s a real treat, courtesy of the Art Wood Collection of Caricature and Cartoon at the Library of Congress.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

In 1910 Windsor McKay’s innovative comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland, featured a sequence in which Little Nemo and his companions accidentally land in Sing Sing Prison.

After a trip to Mars, Little Nemo, the dwarf Flip and the cannibal Impy fly back to New York in their dirigible spaceship, but they’re intercepted in the air by customs agents and decide to land at West Point instead. They fly up the Hudson River—awed by the Palisades—and set down in the Sing Sing Prison by mistake. As usual, in the last panel Little Nemo awakens in the morning in his own bed.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

First published by Winsor McCay in October 1905 in The New York Herald, Little Nemo in Slumberland featured a small boy who traveled in his dreams each night to Slumberland, where he had fabulous adventures. The strip was notable for its delicate drawings, innovative layouts, fantastic architecture, and brilliant use of color. McKay’s work influenced many artists, most notably Maurice Sendak—whose book In the Night Kitchen was an homage to his favorite comic strip.

The images shown here are from the original pen-and-ink drawings by McKay. If you want to see what Little Nemo looked like in color check out the Comic Strip Library.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

What’s Cookin’ at the Mikado?

Mikado Menu eBay a_e

Here’s a tasty bit of Harmon history, currently being offered on eBay. This vintage menu from the Mikado Inn features two Spring Lamb Chops for $1.50, Filet Mignon Mikado for $3.00 and a Porterhouse Steak for two for $5.00.

Just between us, I recommend the house specialty, Chicken or Beef Sukiyaki , “seasoned with Soyu Sauce served in a chafing dish with rice.”

Many thanks to the eBay seller who gave us permission to share this treasure. You can bid on it here.

Want to know more about what was cooking in the Mikado kitchen? See this previous post. Oscar Levant, the quick-witted pianist, composer, actor, author and quiz-show panelist was there, sharing “sleeping quarters with twenty or thirty Japanese waiters in the cellar.”

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

New Croton Dam Spillway

Spillway of the New Croton Dam, from the George P. Hall & Son Photograph Collection at the New-York Historical Society. Click the image to enlarge it.

Spillway of the New Croton Dam, from the George P. Hall & Son Photograph Collection
at the New-York Historical Society. Click the image to enlarge it.

This photograph of the nearly completed New Croton Dam gives us a look at the spillway without the usual cascade of water. Below are details from the image, showing the immense scale of the structure—made entirely of hand-hewn stone which was cut, moved and placed without the aid of modern construction equipment.

The image comes from the George P. Hall & Son Photograph Collection at the New-York Historical Society. According to NYHS, “the commercial photography firm . . . operated in Manhattan from 1886 through 1914. Working out of several studios, the firm documented the changing face of New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Hall & Son’s photographs were available for general sale, were published in their own calendars and souvenir viewbooks, and appeared as illustrations in such publications as King’s Views of New York, Staley’s Views of New York, and Harper’s Weekly.”

This is just one of the many treasures you can find at the New York Heritage Digital Collections website.

The ladder in the lower right corner of this detail gives an idea of the immense scale of the spillway. Click the image to enlarge it.

The ladder in the lower right corner of this detail gives an idea of the immense scale of the spillway.
Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

A Van Cortlandt Manor Treasure—on eBay!

The first page of Cartwright’s notebook.

The first page of Cartwright’s notebook.

For the second time in a month we are pleased to have helped the Westchester County Historical Society acquire an important piece of Croton-related history.

Last month WCHS purchased an 1804 bible owned by Abraham I. Underhill, one of the three Underhill brothers who started the flour mill on the Croton River.

Today the organization purchased something that may prove to be more significant—a 22-page notebook kept by surveyor George W. Cartwright when he conducted a detailed survey of Van Cortlandt Manor in 1837–1838.1

Historic Hudson Valley (the organization which manages Van Cortlandt Manor, Philipsburg Manor, Kykuit and other historic sites) has in its collection a Cartwright survey which we believe was made from these notes. By comparing the notebook and map we may be able to glean new information about the area, which Cartwright called “Van Cortlandt Manor Farm” in the first entry.

Detail of the lower Croton River from Cartwright’s survey map, likely based on his 1837-1838 notebook. Van Cortlandt Manor is in the C-shaped area in the top left. The yellow road running diagonally above it is today South Riverside Avenue.

Detail of the lower Croton River from Cartwright’s survey map, likely based on his 1837–1838 notebook. Van Cortlandt Manor is in the C-shaped area in the top left. The yellow road running diagonally above it is what we know today as South Riverside Avenue.

George W. Cartwright was a civil engineer whose maps and surveys are a treasure-trove of information about the Croton and Ossining area in the early to mid 1800s. Records show that he made a map of the “Villages of Sing Sing and Sparta” as early as 1820. In the 1820s he also surveyed and gauged the entire Croton River and his data—particularly his calculation that twenty million gallons of water a day flowed in the river near Pines Bridge—was later used in planning the Croton Aqueduct.2 The Westchester County Clerk Historical Maps collection has several by Cartwright maps online, including this map showing downtown Sing Sing in 1835.

Pages recording the survey of the creeks in the marsh on Croton Point—now the capped Westchester County dump. Click the image to enlarge it.

Pages recording the survey of the creeks in the marsh on Croton Point—now the capped Westchester County dump. Click the image to enlarge it.

We hope to have additional details about this exciting discovery soon. In the meantime, if you missed our previous posts about the Underhill bible, click the links below.


  1. The notes begin on October 2, 1837 and the last entry is dated October 1, 1838.
  2. See Water for Gotham: A History by Gerard T. Koeppe, page 151.