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. ↩︎

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.

’Twas the Night Before Christmas in Sing Sing


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


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!”


  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.

Croton Point and Ossining, circa 1905

Click the image to enlarge it.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Here’s a nice postcard of the view looking northwest over the rooftops of Ossining to Croton Point and Haverstraw. The card is postmarked from Ossining, January 18, 1905.

This is what’s called an “undivided back” postcard, printed during the period when postal regulations prohibited any writing on the back except the address—hence the note to “Dear Peter” on the front.

This card was published in Ossining by William Terhune—one of several local postcard publishers we can thank for preserving images of the area that might otherwise have been lost.

Here are some other Terhune postcards:

A Different View of the Double Arch

Double Arch circa 1925 French Hist Westhcester_619

In 1925, when Alvah P. French published his multi-volume History of Westchester County New York most of the photographs he included were contemporary, showing the county as it was in the 1920s.1 One can imagine a photographer, driving all over Westchester with a list of historic sites, stopping to take this unusual view of Ossining’s famous Double Arch. Is that the photographer’s car?

For more traditional images, see this post, celebrating the recent restoration of the Double Arch promenade.

  1. French left us more than his book. The Westchester County Historical Society has his “42 volumes of scrapbooks filled with clippings from Mount Vernon and other Westchester newspapers. The clippings, which cover the period from about 1880 until 1920, include obituaries, marriage notices, biographical sketches and other articles about the people of Westchester.” See the “scrapbooks” descriptions here.

August 13, 1841 – “A ride to the Croton Dam”

Here is an account of a trip from Sing Sing to the old Croton Dam that took place 172 years ago today. This is from a wonderful blog that publishes the diary of Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck, who “lived and wrote the majority of her diaries in New York City . . . [and] then moved to a rural community in upstate New York, a transition that her diaries describe as a difficult one.”

096_Page 94Sing.Sing.
Friday. August. 13. teenth. 1841.

A beautifull day, the sun obscured, and a cool
breeze blowing.

Surprised by a visit from Garret, he rode up at
twelve oclock. It was his intention to take Louis, and I home with him, but there was no boat.
At three oclock, we set off to ride seven miles, to see
the Dam at the Croton water works. Our ride was very pleasant the children behaving remarkably well.
The roads are very hilly in this part of the country,
I was afraid to ride down the steep hills. A severe
freshet* last winter carried away all the bridges, so we were obliged to drive through the Croton river, to reach the spot on which the new dam, is about being erected. Four hundred men are daily employed in repairing the dam, and live in huts, on the surrounding hills. Dame nature, seems to have indulged in some wild freaks…

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Sing Sing Camp-Meeting

Sing-Sing Camp Meeting, 1838. Painted by Joseph B. Smith, Litho by Endicott. Published circa 1839-1840. From the Prints and Photographs Department of the Library of Congress.

Sing-Sing Camp Meeting, 1838. Painted by Joseph B. Smith, Litho by Endicott. Published circa 1839-1840.
From the Prints and Photographs Department of the Library of Congress.

On August 24, 1874, the New-York Daily Tribune published an article looking back on the history of the Sing Sing Camp Meeting, which had been founded more than 40 years earlier to provide “a short season of out-door worship during the sultriest portion of the year.” Here are excerpts of that article, illustrated with sections of an exquisitely detailed lithograph, based on an 1838 painting by Joseph B. Smith.

“It was more than half a century ago the little company of men and women, ardent disciples of John Wesley, conceived the idea of a short season of out-door worship during the sultriest portion of the year. They lived near the banks of the Hudson River, and soon after the first mention of such a project were engaging in prospecting for desirable place for such a gathering in their immediate vicinity. A quiet grove near Croton was at length discovered simple to the demands of the little company of worshipers. They held a series of out-door meetings, meager in numbers but powerful in the influence, and this circumstance added to the charm of camp life and at once made the meetings a permanent institution. The little company met again the next year and was this time joined by number of friends and neighbors. So the meetings went on from year to year in the numbers being roof reinforced by persons of different villages, it was thought desirable to change the location occasionally that all might be accommodated. Pleasantville and Croton were the points most frequently visited, however. In a few years from the time of the first of these meetings was held, an association was formed called the "Mount Pleasant Camp-Meeting Association." In 1832 was found that the groves hitherto frequented were not exactly suited to the needs of the community now brought together, and search was it once begun for some central point which should be well adapted to the needs of all who might wish to unite in this novel mode of worship. After some time had been spent in a survey of the groves along the Hudson, a plot of land was discovered at Sing Sing, the natural advantages of which were seen at a glance. A purchase was made, tents were erected and the camp-meeting of 1832 was held at this place. Thus originated the first of the large important Methodist camp-meetings in America. Since this first gathering at Sing Sing, 42 years ago, the August camp-meeting has been held there was hardly an interruption. Once the ravages of the cholera prevented the meeting; once the company met at Croton and once or twice at other points, but nearly 40 meetings have been held at Sing Sing. . . .

The present attendance at Sing Sing camp-meeting is chiefly made up of the New York City churches and those of the Hudson River counties. A few come from Western New York and New England sends an occasional representative. The annual attendance averages about 3,000 though the number rises to 8,000 and 10,000 on the days of the principal meetings.

The Sing Sing camp-meeting his witness no such wondrous growth as Ocean Grove and others more recent origin. Its progress has been slow but constant. The grove was chosen exclusively for the holding of religious meetings in August of each year. It had none of the advantages of a summer resort which are so marked at Martha's Vineyard and Ocean Grove, by reason of which 300 cottages have sprung up at the latter point in less than five years. There is only an occasional cottage on the Sing Sing ground, and as soon as the camp-meeting is finished the little community strikes its tents and scatters for year.

The natural advantages of the Sing Sing camp-ground are, however, inferior to none. The Grove is composed chiefly of grand old oak trees of the century's growth. Their wide stretching arms, thickly covered with foliage, afford the best protection to the worshipers beneath, since the fiercest rays of an August sun can scarcely penetrate the depths, and the Raindrops seldom find their way through. Chestnut trees are also scattered here and there among the oaks, and an occasional elm is to be found. . . . Breezes from the Hudson come drifting through the trees, and one can catch an occasional glimpse of the majestic river, 400 feet below. The encampment is neatly laid out in avenues, and the tents, about 150 in number, are ranged among the pathways. A never-failing spring on the northern border of the grounds furnishes the clearest and coolest water to the entire encampment. In the center of the ground, on its northern side, is a large stand, where the regular services are held. The clergymen occupy the platform in the rear of the speaker. The congregation gathers in front, the' settees being arranged in semicircular form. A slight slope of the land toward the speaker's stand gives the auditorium almost the advantage of an amphitheater. . . .

The camp-ground has received very extensive improvement during the past three years, and it possesses many advantages that it knew not year ago. It has recently been thoroughly drained and graded, and no less than $12,000 been expended in the improvements of the last two or three years. The spring water is raised to a large reservoir at a central point, and this is always well supplied. The facilities for lighting the grounds have been much extended . . . Considerable territory has been added to the original purchase, and it is now nearly twice its former size. . . .

The camp-meeting now in progress differs little from those which preceded it. It is the same company of devoted Christians which with each returning summer have sought the oak grove in the heights beyond Sing Sing, for a score or more of years. . . .”