History on the River

Underhill Brick
If you’re walking on Elliott Way, south of the Yacht Club, you’ll see some red bricks scattered among the rip rap along the shore. These all appear to be what were called Croton Point bricks, made at the William A. Underhill Brickyard on the northern end of the point. Some Underhill bricks were stamped with his initials (WAU) but others, like the partial example shown above, were stamped IXL, a clever bit of self-promotion meaning “I excel” at brickmaking.

During the height of the brickmaking industry in the 1850s there were more than 25 brickyards on the shores of Haverstraw Bay and in Croton there were five in the area between what is now Half Moon Bay and the end of Croton Landing Park.1

Underhill Steamshovel

For some nice examples of WAU bricks see this post, History Underfoot.

  1. United States Coast Survey. Hudson River No. VI, Topographical Survey by F.H. Gerdes. August, 1854. ↩︎

Croton-on-Hudson Gets Hyphenated, April 1, 1948

Croton Hyphens Envelope Before

Sixty-nine years ago today, on April 1, 1948, the postal service officially added hyphens to the cancellation stamp for what had been the “Croton on Hudson” post office. The transition was recorded on this pair of envelopes, called “commemorative cacheted covers”, inscribed by Croton postmaster Augustus W. Dymes, Jr.—the uncle of Croton’s current Village Historian, Dorothy Pezanowski.

Croton Hyphens Note

In stamp collecting a cachet is a printed or stamped design or inscription (other than a cancellation or pre-printed postage) on an envelope, postcard, or postal card to commemorate a postal or philatelic event. A pair of envelopes like these are apparently referred to as “last/first covers.”

Croton Hyphens Envelope After

Another significant date in Croton’s postal history took place on July 4, 1891. That’s the date when the Postal Service officially changed the name of our post office from Croton Landing to Croton-on-Hudson.1

  1. See The Highland Democrat, July 4, 1891. ↩︎

This is Mikado Inn

This postcard shows a sign that once existed along Truesdale Drive, marking the entrance to the Mikado Inn. The card was published circa 1920 by the Photo & Art Postal Card Co. in New York, but it was doubtlessly commissioned by the inn’s proprietor, “Admiral” George T. Moto. The sign is long gone, but part of the low stone wall and entrance (under the green roof in the postcard) are still there today.

Want to learn more about the Mikado? See these previous posts:

  • Oscar Levant Plays the Mikado
    Oscar Levant, the quick-witted pianist, composer, actor, author and quiz-show panelist performed there as a teenager, sharing “sleeping quarters with twenty or thirty Japanese waiters in the cellar.”
  • What’s Cookin’ at the Mikado?
    A tasty bit of Harmon history—a Mikado Inn menu featuring two Spring Lamb Chops for $1.50, Filet Mignon Mikado for $3.00 and a Porterhouse Steak for two for $5.00.
  • Mikado Inn “Real Photo” Postcard, circa 1920
    See the beautiful Japanese gardens behind the Mikado Inn.
  • The Motorist’s Playground
    An ad for the Mikado and two other Croton-area “road houses” from the June 12, 1921 issue of the New-York Tribune. The “Japanese gardens” highlighted in the ad are shown in the post above.

You might also be interested in the Nikko Inn across the street on Nordica Drive.

Danish Home Christmas Seals

For more than 60 years the Danish Home in Croton has been issuing what most people would think of as Christmas seals—stamp-like labels placed on mail during the Christmas season to raise funds and awareness for charitable programs.1 The American Lung Association has become so well-known for its Christmas seals that they’ve trademarked the term, but that doesn’t prevent other organizations from creating these beautiful, poster-like images. Click the stamps to enlarge them.

You can see a larger selection of seals from the Danish Home on the organization’s website.

  1. Stamp collectors refer to Christmas seals as “Cinderellas” the term for anything resembling a postage stamp but not issued for postal purposes by a government postal administration. ↩︎

Accident on the Van Cortlandt Bridge, 1911

Accident on the Van Cortlandt Bridge, 1911. Photograph courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society.

Accident on the Van Cortlandt Bridge, 1911. Photograph courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society.

In the summer of 1911 the rear wheels of a heavy truck broke through the wooden planks of the Van Cortlandt Bridge—the bridge that once carried the Albany Post Road across the Croton River. The accident took place on the Croton side of the bridge and you can see Van Cortlandt Manor through the trees on the right of this wonderful photograph, which comes to us courtesy of our friends at the Ossining Historical Society.

According to OHS president Norm MacDonald, the occupants of the truck can be seen on the left—David Miller (who appears to be looking at the person who took the photo) and with her back to us on his right, Aimee Marie Dyckman, the local woman he would marry six years later.

Miss Dyckman lived just north of Croton in Oscawana and she was related to the Dyckmans who once owned the magnificent Boscobel estate. (For those who don’t know this bittersweet part of local history, Boscobel was originally located where the FDR Veterans Administration Hospital is today—before it was slated for demolition, partially torn down, rescued, and moved and rebuilt at great expense where it is today.)1

The Van Cortlandt Bridge had a long history, dating back to 1860 when the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County was authorized “to construct a bridge at or near the mouth of Croton river.” Like all bridges on the Croton River during the 19th and early 20th centuries the Van Cortlandt Bridge suffered regular damage from storms, ice and spring freshets and it was repeatedly repaired and rebuilt.2

The invention of the automobile and truck presented new challenges for bridges which were not originally designed to carry such heavy loads. The truck shown in the photo appears to be a 2- to 3-ton model built by the American Locomotive Company of Providence, Rhode Island. The company manufactured one of the highest quality trucks during the period of 1909 to 1913.3 It’s not surprising that such a heavy truck would break through weathered wooden planks of a bridge built for lighter vehicles.

Detail showing David Miller and Aimee Marie Dyckman on the left and the repair crew using a fulcrum in an attempt to raise the rear tire of the 2- to 3-ton vehicle.

Detail showing David Miller and Aimee Marie Dyckman on the left and the repair crew using a fulcrum in an attempt to raise the rear tire of the 2- to 3-ton vehicle.

By the end of the summer of 1911 the Westchester County Board of Supervisors took action to fix the bridge and noted two incidents—one doubtlessly recorded by this photograph—when “the flooring of this bridge gave way.”

“It was ordered that bids for building a new floor and supports on the Van Cortlandt Bridge over the Croton River be advertised to be opened on September 11th next. The flooring of this bridge gave way on two occasions recently when the heavy auto vans tried to cross with extra heavy loads on.”4

Take a drive across the Van Cortlandt Bridge and learn more in this previous post:

  1. An excellent history/timeline of Boscobel can be found here. ↩︎
  2. Until at least 1871 the long bridge on the Ossining side was a drawbridge, to allow boats to sail up the lower Croton River. ↩︎
  3. For information about and images of American Locomotive Company trucks from 1909-1913 see here and here. ↩︎
  4. See “Supervisors in Long Session Transact a Lot of Important County Business,” New Rochelle Pioneer, August 12, 1911, page 3, here. ↩︎

Swimming at Croton Point, circa 1915

Croton Point Postcard_frontAs summer comes to a close, let’s take a look at this nice postcard of swimming at Croton Point, circa 1915. The card was published for “W.H. Noll, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.” by Commercialchrome, a printer located in Cleveland, Ohio. The company operated from 1910-1920 and the white border on the front and divided back (with separate space for the message and address) means it was probably printed circa 1915.1

“W.H. Noll” is likely William H. Noll, proprietor of Bill’s Restaurant, once located at the intersection of South Riverside Avenue and Brook Street. According to his 1941 obituary in the Ossining Citizen-Register, he had lived in Croton for 29 years and had operated the restaurant for 25 years. His wife, Ella Munson Noll, died in 1931. At the time of his death he lived at 8 Hamilton Avenue in Croton.2

  1. A great resource for identifying postcard printers is metropostcard.com. ↩︎
  2. Ossining Citizen-Register, May 23, 1941, page 2 column 4. See here. ↩︎

Croton Point Postcard_back

Selling Today Like Hot Cakes!


Detail from a promotional postcard for Harmon captioned “View of Benedict Boulevard, where it crosses Broadway.” Circa 1907.

One hundred and nine years ago this month lots in Harmon were “selling . . . like hot cakes,” according to an article in the May 24, 1907 issue of the Katonah Times.1

“One mile north of Ossining on the Hudson River there has sprung up a new town. Its name is Harmon. It was laid out a short time ago into village lots and they are selling to­ day like hot cakes. Although the first public announcement of the new property at Harmon was made only two weeks [ago], large crowds have been visiting the property every day.

A special excursion train, leaving the Grand Central Station . . . on Sunday, May 5, carried over five hundred people, of whom almost one fourth purchased property. The total sales for that day were 140 lots. If you desire to get any of this property you should visit it some week day and avoid the rush from New York. On Sunday, May 12, many more came up and lots were sold like hot cakes.

Clifford B. Harmon, of Wood, Har­mon & Co., who is planning this new city, did not expect to put it on the market until June 1st as the exten­sive improvements are only under way. But the public seems deter­mined not to wait for improvements or a formal opening of the property. Since its opening sales have been made to people from New Jersey, Brooklyn and all the river towns as far north as Albany.

A noteworthy feature of the ad­vance sale of lots at Harmon is the popularity of the section reserved for bungalows. This is located around a small lake on the property, which is fed by springs . . . This idea is a decided novelty in suburban development and it is proving very popular. A large number if these sites have already been sold, which indicates that there will be a large and substantial bungalow colony at Harmon this summer.

So much interest has been taken in this new Hudson River property, which is the first to be put on the market at moderate prices and the easy payment plan, that Wood, Harmon &. Company expect to have it entirely disposed of within a very short space of time.”

We suspect everything in this article was fed to a credulous reporter by the master salesman himself, but that only adds to its charm. As we’ve recounted in previous posts Clifford Harmon was a master of real estate marketing, who ran newspaper ads telling everyone that “All New York is Amazed!” at the “Quickest and Most Successful Real Estate Development in the History of New York.” He urged New Yorkers to “Think of Your Children,” growing up in “the Highest, Healthiest, Most Beautiful, Most Accessible, and Most Aristocratic Part of Westchester County.”

Harmon Sales Office

Early promotional post card for Harmon captioned “View of Benedict Boulevard, where it crosses Broadway.” Circa 1907.

Although we can’t really appreciate what visitors to the undeveloped land at Harmon thought in 1907, the promotional post card shown above is a revelation to Crotonites today. If you stand in the parking area of the Dairy Mart, looking down Benedict Boulevard at Vogue Spa & Nails (the original Harmon sales office), you can approximate the view shown in the post card.


Detail from a promotional postcard for Harmon. Circa 1907.

Can you believe there was once a huge, flat, treeless field in front of you, going straight down Benedict Boulevard to the hilly area of Lexington, Sunset and Observatory Drives?

  1. “A New Village in Westchester County—Harmon,” The Katonah Times, May 24, 1907, page 2. ↩︎