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

The Ghost Fleet, 1946-1947

The Hudson River National Defense Fleet, December 14, 1947. Courtesy of the New York State Archives.

The Hudson River National Defense Fleet, December 14, 1947. Courtesy of the New York State Archives.

Here are some dramatic aerial photos of what locals call the Ghost Fleet, taken soon after the ships were moved north from Tarrytown to Jones Point (at one time known as Caldwell’s Landing) at the foot of Dunderberg Mountain. The anchorage remained at that location until the last two ships were towed away on July 8, 1971, to be sold for scrap to Spain.

The Hudson River National Defense Fleet, December 14, 1947. Courtesy of the New York State Archives.

The Hudson River National Defense Fleet, December 14, 1947. Courtesy of the New York State Archives.

The fleet, officially known as the Hudson River National Defense Fleet and the Hudson River Reserve Fleet, was established by an act of Congress in 1946 “to provide a sizable group of merchant ships to support the military effort at the outset of any war.”1 According to an article published in the journal of the Rockland County Historical Society in 1972 (adapted online here):

“When foreign nations at the outbreak of World War I had diverted their ships for wartime service, the small American Merchant Marine fleet was unable to transport even 10 per cent of normal foreign exports. Docks in major ports were stocked high with products of American farms and factories for which no ships were available. When foreign vessels were again available, their rates were ruinous. . . .

The fleet was at its peak with 189 ships in July of 1965. Anchored in ten rows, it extended from the fleet office at the Jones Point dock several miles to the south—to the Lovett Orange and Rockland Power Plant and the Boulderberg House at Tomkins Cove. Several viewing points were established along Route 9W for the hundreds of motorists who stopped daily to look at the ships.

During the Korean War, a total of 130 ships were taken from the Hudson River fleet leaving only 39 ships. During the Suez Crises in 1956, 35 ships were put back into service when British and French ships were diverted from trade routes to supply their nations’ armed forces. The Vietnam War required more than 40 ships.

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1953 needed storage space for large volumes of government-owned wheat, it turned to the Hudson River Reserve fleet. During the following ten years more than 53,563,948 bushels of wheat were loaded into 231 ships. Approximately 255,000 bushels of wheat were stored in each ship with the number of ships carrying wheat at any given time ranging from 70 to 90. The last ship was unloaded in 1963. Ships that had stored wheat rose about twelve feet higher above the water surface and exposed a bright orange band of rust.

A ventilation system had been installed in the ships, making it possible to maintain the quality of the wheat for long periods of storage. This saved the U.S. government some five million dollars on commercial storage estimates. None of the grain, sold to foreign countries in the 1960s, was found to be spoiled when unloaded. . . .

The ships were kept in condition . . . by a crew of 86 men under the supervision of Charles R. Gindroz of Pearl River, fleet superintendent and one-time chief engineer on the George Washington, the ship which years before had carried President Woodrow Wilson to France and in 1950 burned at Baltimore.

The reserve fleet ships, valued at over $255 million, had their machinery turned over periodically and their internal surfaces sprayed with a coat of preservative oil on a regular basis. Electrical equipment, such as generators and motor wiring, were cleaned and coated with a fungus-retarding varnish. All loose scale and rust were water-blasted off decks, hulls and superstructures. Then the entire outside of the ships was sprayed with a gray-tinted preservative oil. This was done at least once a year on each ship. The underwater portion of the hull was protected by means of an electric current, a method known as cathodic protection . . . preventing corrosion from taking place.”

The images shown here come from a large collection of aerial photos at the New York State Archives, which has been scanned and made available online.

These specific photos must be missing identifying information other than dates because they all have vague descriptions like “Multiple boats in the water in an unknown location, possibly in the Hudson River.”

This archival mystery about the fabled Ghost Fleet is fitting because Dunderberg Mountain and Caldwell’s Landing have long been associated with ghosts, goblins and Captain Kidd’s treasure.

We will have much more to say about those legends in a future post. . . .


  1. Quote from the online adaptation of the article by article by Scott Webber from South of the Mountains, the journal of the Rockland County Historical Society, Vol. 16, No. 2, April-June 1972. ↩︎
The Hudson River National Defense Fleet, June 10, 1946. Courtesy of the New York State Archives.

The Hudson River National Defense Fleet, June 10, 1946. Courtesy of the New York State Archives.

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

Hidden in the Trees

Sanford Robinson Gifford, American, 1823–1880. Hook Mountain, Near Nyack, on the Hudson, 1866. Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sanford Robinson Gifford, American, 1823–1880. Hook Mountain, Near Nyack, on the Hudson, 1866.
Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery. Click the image to enlarge it.

This magnificent Hudson River School painting, Hook Mountain, Near Nyack, on the Hudson by Sanford Robinson Gifford, shows the view looking west from the southern shores of Croton Point. Hidden in the trees in the foreground is the rooftop and cupola of Richard T. Underhill’s Italianate villa, which he built in 1846 and christened “Interwasser”.

Detail showing the rooftop and cupola of the Underhill mansion on the southern tip of Croton Point. Click the image to enlarge it.

Detail showing the rooftop and cupola of the Underhill mansion on the southern tip of Croton Point.
Click the image to enlarge it.

The image is courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery, which has made “thousands of images of works in the Gallery’s collection . . . available for free download . . .”

For a similar view from higher up, showing the Underhill vineyards, see this previous post of a wood engraving from Harper’s Weekly.

You should also check out the Hudson River School Art Trail, which includes this painting in an effort to encourage people to “hike in the footsteps of Hudson River School artists . . .” to “see the locations that influenced famous American landscape paintings of the 19th century.”

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.

Rum-running Submarines off Croton Point?

An aerial photograph, taken by a Manhattan map-making firm June 11, 1924, near Croton Point, purports to document two submarines (possibly rumrunners), each about 250 feet long and 600 feet apart, below the surface.

An aerial photograph, taken by a Manhattan map-making firm June 11, 1924, near Croton Point, purports to document two submarines (possibly rumrunners), each about 250 feet long and 600 feet apart, below the surface.

A recently published book, Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City by Ellen NicKenzie Lawson, contains an amazing 1924 aerial photo, purporting to show rum-smuggling submarines in the Hudson River near Croton Point. The photo appears in the chapter “Rum Row”—the name of the smuggling area of the Atlantic coast from Nantucket to New York City and New Jersey. Lawson writes,

“News of a submarine being used on Rum Row appears to have some substance to it. One smuggler testified in court that he saw a submarine emerge on the Row with a German captain and a French crew. Newspapers in 1924 reported that submarines were smuggling liquor to New Jersey and Cape Cod. An aerial photo, taken by a commercial Manhattan map-making firm that same year, suggested submarines were thirty miles up the Hudson River near Croton Point. (German submarines were kept out of the river during World War I by a steel net strung low across the bottom of the Narrows.) The photo purported to document two submarines below the surface of the Hudson River, each 250 feet long and 600 feet apart. The aerial firm sent the photograph to the U.S. Navy, which had no submarines in the area, and the startling image was given to Coast Guard Intelligence and filed away.”

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon, which includes the Rum Row chapter.

Thanks to the New York History Blog, which alerted us to this book with their recent review.

Hudson Valley Echoes, Issue #2

HVEchoes_2_p1

Below is issue 2 of Theodore J. Cornu’s extraordinary hand-drawn, hand-lettered, self-published journal, Hudson Valley Echoes. To see issue 1 click here. Issues 3 to 4 are coming soon . . .

When the publication opens you can click on the pages and enlarge them. The embedded viewer uses Flash, so if you don’t see it below because your device doesn’t support Flash, you can click here to see images of all the pages.