If You Follow the Road to Harmon, You Surely Can’t go Wrong

Nikko Inn Card front

Here’s a real treat—a double-fold promotional postcard for the Nikko Tea House, probably printed circa 1907 to 1910.1 An artist with the initials “W.K.” created the beautiful images and hand-lettered the map and poem on the centerfold.

The map has a wonderful depiction of the Nikko and helpfully provides the location of “police traps” on the roads in Westchester. The lines indicating the Hudson River along the left cleverly become strings for Japanese lanterns at the bottom.

Nikko Inn Card center

We can thank C.K. Nazu, who was manager of the Nikko at the time, for this wonderful ode to Harmon:

Nikko Card Detail
Of Harmon on the Hudson
You surely must have heard,
But if you’ll give attention
I should like a word,

About the Nikko Tea House,
One the wooded Croton’s brink,
The situation picturesque;
The food is fine we think;

So get a horse or motor car,
And bring your friends along;
If you follow the road to Harmon,
You surely can’t go wrong.

Here are a few previous posts about the Nikko Tea House:

  • C.K. Nazu is listed as the manager in this 1908 ad (though the last name is spelled “Nezu”).
  • Another clever bit of promotion from 1917, when the Nikko was called the “Nikko Inn.”
  • One of our favorite Nikko stories by a New York journalist who stopped for some “skiyaki” in 1931.

To see all the posts about the Nikko click the “Nikko Inn” tag in the right hand column.

If you have any vintage photographs or ephemera of the Nikko or the early days of Harmon please send an email.


  1. Local postcard expert Susan Hack-Lane, who helped date the card, pointed out the names written on the front, Nellie L. Beach and Billy Beach. Beach was a Peekskill family name (Beach Shopping Center) which may explain why this card was never mailed. ↩︎

A Croton River Disaster—197 Years Ago Today

Detail from a map of Cortlandt Manor in 1797 showing (A) the mill complex, (B) Van Cortlandt Manor and the Ferry House, (C) Bethel Chapel and the Quaker Meeting House, (D) docks on the Hudson River and (E) the location where Quaker Bridge is today. Since there is no line across the river indicating a bridge it is likely the bridge had been washed away by a freshet at the time this map was made.

Detail from a map of Cortlandt Manor in 1797 showing (A) the mill complex, (B) Van Cortlandt Manor and the Ferry House, (C) Bethel Chapel and the Quaker Meeting House, (D) docks on the Hudson River and (E) the location where Quaker Bridge is today. Since there is no line across the river indicating a bridge it is likely
the bridge had been washed away by a freshet at the time this map was made.

As the weather in Croton gets warmer and we rejoice that the snow and ice are finally melting, let’s look back to a time when the Croton River ran wild and spring thaws would often bring massive freshets—river floods caused by heavy rain and/or melted snow and ice.

On Tuesday, March 10, 1818—exactly 197 years ago today—the Westchester Herald published a story about a freshet and the great damage it caused to “two Merchant Mills owned by Gen. Cortlandt.” 1

“Croton River.—The rapid thaw on Saturday . . . and the succeeding day, attended with heavy rain, occasioned the Croton river to rise to a considerable height, and floated down ponderous shoals of ice. Among the disasters it has occasioned we have to regret the damage done to the two Merchant Mills owned by Gen. Cortlandt, situated on that river. One of them was removed some feet from its base, the water-wheel destroyed, and some hundreds of barrels stove in; the floor of the second story was carried away, and upwards of one thousand bushels of feed destroyed. A saw-mill on the same race way was also swept away. The other mill, we are happy to learn, received but little damage. The whole loss is estimated at upwards of $3,000.”

Although the article is short it gives us a wealth of information about the flour mills on the lower Croton River.

  • There were two separate mills operating on the lower Croton River in 1818. As shown in the map above, they were both on the south side of the river.
  • The “race” that diverted water from the Croton River also powered a sawmill.
  • The mills are called “merchant mills” because they were large commercial operations that purchased unprocessed wheat from farmers and sold the flour themselves or through agents. 2
  • We get a sense of the size of the operation from the description of the damage—hundreds of barrels crushed, a thousand bushels of feed destroyed—and the estimated cost, roughly $55,000 in today’s dollars.
Philip Van Cortlandt (1749-1831) by John Ramage. Watercolor on ivory, circa 1783. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library.

Philip Van Cortlandt (1749-1831) by John Ramage. Watercolor on ivory, circa 1783. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library.

The mills were then owned and operated by Philip Van Cortlandt, (who was often referred to as “General Van Cortlandt” due to his rank at the end of the Revolutionary War) but they had been built by the Underhills in 1792 and operated by them until their lease with the Van Cortlandt’s ended acrimoniously in 1813.

It’s unlikely this was the first freshet to damage the mill complex and it was certainly not the last. Indeed, the Great Freshet of 1841—which caused the partial collapse of the earthen embankment of the old Croton Dam—destroyed the Van Cortlandt mills, along with all the bridges and buildings on the banks of the lower Croton River.3

What’s remarkable is that the water power produced at the site was so valuable that despite the continued destruction something was always rebuilt there. The site was used for more than 80 years and by the 1840s iron had replaced wheat as the material processed at the location.

Remains of the mill complex on the Croton River. Photo courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Remains of the mill complex on the Croton River. Photo courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Iron bolt in a boulder at the edge of the river.

Iron bolt in a boulder at the edge of the river.

Sadly, little remains of the mill complex remain today. If you paddle up the river—and you should—when you get near Fireman’s Island you’ll see a graceful brick archway, marking the end of the long race. Drilled into a boulder at the edge of the river there’s a large iron bolt where boats tied up. On the shore you can search for chunks of slag metal among the leaves, explore what’s left of the mill building foundation, walk along the top of the overgrown wall of the race and imagine what the mills must have been like in their heyday.

Multistory mill buildings towering over the river, the constant sound of millstones grinding together, the creaking waterwheels, hammering sounds of barrels of flour being sealed, then the clattering of heavy barrels being rolled on planks into the hold of a waiting ship.

One hundred ninety seven years ago today the sounds would have been very different, as a huge flood of water and “ponderous shoals of ice”—high enough and powerful enough to move a two-story building off its foundation—swept down the Croton River to the Hudson.


  1. The Westchester Herald began publishing in Sing Sing in Feburary, 1818—one month before this article was published—and continued to 1829.
  2. For more information on merchant mills see this article.
  3. At that time the mills were in a state of disrepair and were not in use.

Croton’s First Train Station

Croton's first train station, circa 1849-1850.

Croton’s first train station, circa 1849.

Croton filmmaker, journalist and history-buff Ken Sargeant has shared with us a disk of images he acquired many years ago when he was doing some work with the late Roberta Arminio at the the Ossining Historical Society. Ms. Arminio was a long-time director of the OHS, as well as the Ossining town and village historian.

We’ve selected a few rare 19th century images of Croton from Ken’s cache and are pleased to present the first in the series, courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society.

Croton’s First Train Station, circa 1849

This is a very early photograph—possibly the earliest—of the first train station in what was then called Croton Landing. The station was built in 1849 and was located on the river side of the tracks, across from the intersection of today’s North Riverside Avenue and Grand Street (then called River Street and Lower Landing Road, respectively).

There is a different photograph of this station in the Croton Historical Society’s Images of America book—which you can order here or purchase at the CHS office in the Municipal Building—but it was taken from the opposite side of the building and appears to be a later image.

What’s significant about this photograph is that it shows the shore of the Hudson River before it was greatly extended with landfill and also nicely juxtaposes the old and new modes of transportation.

Below is a detail of the area from a map of the property of Phillip G. Van Wyck.1 The map helps approximate the age of the photo because it shows landfill and buildings on the river side of the station which don’t appear in the photograph. The map is dated 1850, making it likely that the photograph dates from 1849, the year the station was constructed.

Detail from an 1850 map of the property of Phillip G. Van Wyck in Croton. The road on the right is today's Grand Street, then called Lower Landing Road.

Detail from an 1850 map of the property of Phillip G. Van Wyck in Croton.
The road on the right is today’s Grand Street, then called Lower Landing Road.

Coming next: A photograph of the ornamental wooden arch and gate that once greeted worshippers and mourners visiting Bethel Cemetery.


  1. For more on the Van Wyck map, see this previous post.

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.

Map of the Hudson River Line Steamers, 1883

Map of Hudson River Line Steamers, Albany and C. Vibbard. Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London. Click the image to enlarge it.

Map of Hudson River Line Steamers, Albany and C. Vibbard. Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London.
Click the image to enlarge it.

Here’s a nice route map of the Hudson River Line steamers Albany and Chauncey Vibbard during the Golden Age of steamboats.

The New York State Education Department has a fascinating account of Hudson River steamboat travel which includes descriptions of both boats and what was then called the Day Line.

Of the many Hudson River steamboat lines, the one which became the best known in this country and abroad was the Hudson River Day Line. Its “white flyers” were famous for their elegance and speed, and provided the most enjoyable way to travel the Hudson River. No one could claim to have seen America without seeing the Hudson River, and the only way to properly see the Hudson River was from the deck of a Day Liner. . . .

In the first full season of the Day Line in 1864 the steamer Chauncey Vibbard was launched and paired with the Daniel Drew to provide regular steamboat service between New York and Albany. Service was offered six days a week, but never on Sunday. As one of the steamboats was traveling upriver, the other was traveling downriver. The Day Line claimed its steamboats operated under the “nine hour system.” That is, it took nine hours for the boats to complete the trip between Albany and New York City, with Poughkeepsie as the half-way point for these trips. . . .

In the 1880s the Day Line, in order to better promote its business, felt that it needed to upgrade its fleet with new boats that were not only larger and faster, but also more elegant in appearance and décor. The Day Line introduced the Albany in 1880 and the New York in 1887.

These two new steamers, built on iron hulls 300 feet in length, could accommodate 1,500 passengers and claimed to be the fastest steamboats in the world. They were built exclusively for carrying passengers, and were said to be the finest boats ever constructed for the business. The Day Line advertisements emphasized that it was “strictly first-class—no freight.” 

These boats featured spacious cabins finished in highly polished woods; they were handsomely paneled, luxuriously furnished and adorned with statuary and paintings by celebrated artists. The dining rooms were on the main deck, where the traveler could enjoy an excellent dinner, which was served on the European plan, and lose nothing of the view of the most charming of American rivers.

See this previous post for images from Souvenir of the Hudson River, which has an inscription in the back that reads “Bought Sept. 1881 on Steamer Vibbard.”

This map is courtesy of Wellcome Library, London, which has 100,000 images—ranging from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Van Gogh and Goya—available for free download on their website.

Map Hudson River Line 1883_detail

Croton Landing, 1872

Croton Landing from plate 44 of the County Atlas Of Westchester New York, published by J.B. Beers & Co., 1872. Click the image to enlarge it.

Croton Landing from plate 44 of the County Atlas Of Westchester New York, published by J.B. Beers & Co., 1872. Click the image to enlarge it.

Here is a detailed map of what Croton looked like 142 years ago. Known then as Croton Landing, the village consisted mainly of houses and businesses along what we know today as Grand Street, Brook Street, and Riverside Avenue.

If you look at the top left side you can see that Riverside Avenue got its name because it did once run right along the side of the Hudson River. That area to the right of the railroad tracks was filled in long ago, altering the original banks of the river. The pond-like area at the bottom left between the tracks and Riverside—which is probably the depressed area where the farmer’s market is held today—was also filled in.

Other interesting features include:

  • The brook along Brook Street, now covered over.1
  • In the top right the label “Friends Ch.” is the Quaker Meeting House which was located at the intersection of Grand Street and Mt. Airy.2
  • The house labeled “Mrs. Barton” in the triangular area bounded by Old Post North, Brook Street, and Terrace Place still exists today and is said to be the oldest house in Croton.

The entire map and the rest of this 1872 Westchester County atlas can be seen at the David Rumsey Map Collection.


  1. Although not labeled on this map, Brook Street was then called Upper Landing Road.
  2. See this previous post for an 1850 map showing the Quaker Meeting House in more detail.

’Twas the Night Before Christmas in Sing Sing

24_victoranderson_scribners1912_06

Clement C. Moore, author of the beloved poem ’ Twas the Night Before Christmas, had a family connection to Sing Sing. According to the biography by Samuel White Patterson, Moore “had once contemplated making a summer home on the Hudson. In 1839, he bought a beautiful estate at Sing Sing.” Moore let his son Benjamin “have the property” and the famous scholar and poet “journeyed to Sing Sing from time to time to visit Benjamin and his wife.” 1

The Benjamin Moore estate (left) from the Atlas of Westchester County, New York by G.W. Bromley & Co., 1881.

The Benjamin Moore estate (left) from the Atlas of Westchester County, New York by G.W. Bromley & Co., 1881.

The website for Dale Cemetery has additional details. “The Moore Family resided in Ossining from about 1839 until the early years of this century. . . . The family resided in one of Ossining’s oldest houses located near the river in the Brayton Park area. The house, known as “Moorehaven” was built around 1740 by a Dutch family named Auser, original settlers in the area. It was the scene of a Revolutionary War skirmish between an American raiding party that had stopped there briefly on a return trip from behind the British lines, and a British detachment that had pursued them from the Bronx.

Clement Moore, although a visitor to Ossining, was not known to have resided here other than for brief visits. . . . The Moore Family were prominent Ossining residents. They were members of Trinity Church and donated the clock and chimes to the church in 1894.”2

o-1118-001-Harpers_Xmas_detail_w

Tonight, before the kids are nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, tell them that many years ago—just a short sleigh-ride from Croton—a famous author was tucking his grandchildren into bed on Christmas Eve and he read them one of his poems called A Visit from St. Nicholas. It goes like this:

’ Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’ kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

12_nightbeforexmas_rackham_stnick


  1. The Poet of Christmas Eve, a Life of Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863 by Samuel White Patterson. New York, Morehouse-Gorham Co., 1956. See the book here.
  2. See this page on the Dale Cemetery website.