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. ↩︎

Blacksmiths at the New Croton Dam, 1895

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Blacksmiths at the New Croton Dam, September, 1895. Courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society.

Among the many treasures of the Ossining Historical Society Museum is a substantial collection of photographs and other material about the Old Croton Aqueduct. During a visit last week, curator Norm MacDonald showed us some recently donated material that included two rare photographs of blacksmiths at the New Croton Dam taken in September, 1895. Although there are probably thousands of photographs of the dam under construction, there’s a real dearth of images of the workers, their living quarters, and day-to-day life.

Many thanks to Norm and OHSM for letting us share these striking images.

To learn more about the Ossining Historical Society Museum visit their website and watch this video of Norm discussing the collection (and why Ossining was featured on the television show Mad Men).

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Blacksmiths at the New Croton Dam, September, 1895. Courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society.

Niagara Falls by Man’s Own Hand

Photograph by Underwood & Underwood, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Photograph by Underwood & Underwood, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This photograph of the New Croton Dam was published in the “Rotogravure Picture Section” of the Sunday, December 14, 1919 issue of the New York Times with the caption:

Niagara Falls by Man’s Own Hand: For the first time in fourteen years water is flowing over the huge dam of the Croton Reservoir at the estimated rate of 2,000,000,000 gallons a day, the vast tide dropping to the Croton River, 150 feet below.

The photo was taken by Underwood & Underwood, a pioneer in the field of news bureau photography.

The Hoity-Toitiest Spot Extant

Postcard, circa 1918, when the Nikko Inn was known as the Harmon Country Club.

Postcard, circa 1918, when the Nikko Inn was known as the Harmon Country Club. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

In the June 18, 1931 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, arts and entertainment writer Rian James1 used his column to promote the 8th edition of his vest-pocket Gadabout Guide to New York’s most unusual Restaurants, Night Clubs, Roadhouses.

The “Wide-Open Spaces Department” of his column gives us a flavor of life on the roads during the Depression (when, as James puts it, “the man in the streets . . . lost his stocks and socks”) and a priceless description of the Nikko Inn in the 1930s.

“If you like the wide open spaces, and you don’t mind spending the better part of your life sitting in traffic—the open-road houses beckon to you shut-ins to come out to play—and pay! We know all about the open road and open road houses, because we have devoted nearly a whole month out of our life to finding out things. The roads are good, and crowded; the road-houses are good and not nearly crowded, and judging by the numbers of automobiles that scrape the varnish off your left fender, you’d hardly know there was a depression. 2

The thing that drives home the fact that there is a depression is the way the drivers of smaller cars hang grimly onto their steering wheels. They hang onto their steering wheels with two hands . . . just as though at any moment now a big, burly traffic cop would come up and attempt to wrest their prize plaything right out of their grasp.”

After reviewing road houses in New York City, Long Island, the Bronx and lower Westchester, James concludes his column with this pithy description:

“Nikko Inn, at Harmon-on-the-Hudson (all with hyphens), which is the hoity-toitiest spot extant, providing you’ve got girl, and there’s enough moon. You can play around here in a canoe until dinner’s ready. And if this summary sounds a little hasty, or sketchy, or something, remember that it’s the best we can do considering the roads. And have a nice time!”

Canoe on the Croton River, south of the Nikko Inn. The Nikko can be seen on the cliff in the upper right. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Canoe on the Croton River, south of the Nikko Inn. The Nikko can be seen on the cliff in the upper right. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.


  1. According to Wikipedia Rian James must have had quite a life. “A ‘Jack of all trades’, James was a columnist covering arts and entertainment for the Brooklyn Eagle from about 1928 to 1935. He later was a foreign correspondent, parachute jumper, stunt man, airmail pilot, Air Force lieutenant, vaudeville actor, and finally, writer, director and producer.” ↩︎
  2. All quotations are from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 30, 1931, page 21, columns 1 and 2. See here. ↩︎

Visit to New Croton Dam—February, 1934

In the winter of 1934, members of the Bagley family of Peekskill made a visit to the New Croton Dam, recorded in this series of snapshots. Each has a penned inscription on the back and is stamped with the month and year. The photographs were recently acquired at an estate sale in Cortlandt along with other images of Peekskill, Bear Mountain Bridge, Camp Smith and more. We plan to post those images in the coming weeks.

If you’re a Crotonite, don’t miss the last image of the ice-covered rocks along Route 129. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? The Bagley family stopped their car to take the photo 81 years ago.

You can click on the images to enlarge them.

New Croton Dam Construction, circa 1902

Mr. John Fish at the New Croton Dam, circa 1902

Mr. John Fish at the New Croton Dam, circa 1902

We recently acquired a great set of photographs showing the New Croton Dam under construction. The images are particularly exciting because they include some rare views of the construction site and one of the soon-to-be submerged Old Croton Dam. Based on the state of completion of the dam we think these were taken circa 1902.1

The images appear to document a visit to the site by “Mr. John Fish,” who can be seen in several photographs. Who was Mr. Fish and why was his visit photographed? Why were the photos laboriously labelled on the negatives when a simple inscription on the back of the print or on a scrapbook page would have sufficed?2

We don’t know. We speculate that Fish may have been involved in the construction as a subcontractor but so far a search of online and offline sources has turned up nothing. If you have any information please send us an email.

The scanned images below have been adjusted in Photoshop to increase contrast and bring out details. The actual prints are lighter, either due to age, overexposure when the photos were taken or printed—or both. We have cropped and enlarged sections of the images to bring out glorious details.

Click the first photo to enlarge it and then click the arrow icons to cycle through the images.


  1. Many thanks to Tom Tarnowsky, Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, and Carl Oechsner, Croton Friends of History, for their help in analyzing these photographs. ↩︎
  2. The text labels in the photos were added to the negatives in the darkroom so they would appear on every print. To be readable when the images were printed the labels needed to be written or applied in reverse—a tricky thing to do in a darkroom—which is why some of the letters are incorrectly reversed on the prints. Because the text labels in several of the photos are cut off it appears these prints were trimmed down, though it could also have been a mistake when the images were printed. None of the prints have inscriptions on the back and the seller was unable to provide any additional information. ↩︎

Quaker Bridge, Before 1894

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Here are two rare photographs of Quaker Bridge, both courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society. The images show the wooden covered bridge which existed at the site of the current bridge from 1847 to 1894. The metal Pratt truss style bridge we use today—one of the oldest (possibly the oldest) bridges in daily use in Westchester County—was built in 1894.

For a bird’s eye view of the wooden Quaker Bridge see this previous post, Croton River Valley, Before & After.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.