Harmon, the New City

Surveyors working along the tracks at the Harmon Shops, circa 1906. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Surveyors working along the tracks at the Harmon Shops, circa 1906.
Courtesy of Carl Oechsner. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sometimes what’s most interesting about an old photograph is a tiny detail, not necessarily the main image itself. This photo is a perfect example.

In the foreground we see two surveyors, working along the tracks at the Harmon Shops, circa 1906.

Behind them—hard to make out because of the damage to the print—are some workmen leaning nonchalantly on a wooden railing.

Harmon-Sign-Detail-Men

But in the background, on the hill, if you look closely you can see what master salesman Clifford B. Harmon wanted everyone riding the Hudson River line to see—his sign for “Harmon, the New City” which he modestly called “the most important and extensive suburban development in the history of New York.”

Harmon Sign Detail

Below are links to some previous posts about Harmon’s innovative marketing campaign, but before we get to that there’s another significant detail in the photo.

Sand dune at the Harmon Shops construction site, circa 1906.

Sand dune at the Harmon Shops construction site, circa 1906.

Behind the bridge on the left you can clearly see an exposed sand dune in the area where the upper parking lot is today. Although it looks like an isolated feature it’s not. The flat land for the entire Harmon Shops facility was created over a period of almost a century by removing a massive amount of sand and gravel which once formed the “neck” of Croton Point.

For another view of what was still left of the “neck” take a look at the first photo in this post. See the sand dune behind the Harmon Shops? Most of that land is gone today.

Here are the links to previous posts about marketing Harmon. Many thanks to Carl Oechsner for sharing this rare photograph.

Harmon Shops of the New York Central Railroad

Harmon Shops looking southeast, 1914.

Harmon Shops looking southeast, 1914.

Here are some photos of the “Harmon Shops” in 1907, when they were brand new, and in 1914, when they became the terminus of the innovative “electric system” from New York City—one of the main selling points for Clifford Harmon’s real estate development.

Harmon Shops looking south, 1907.

Harmon Shops looking south, 1907.

The photos come from articles in two industry publications—the Street Railway Journal and the Electric Railway Journal—which describe the facility in great detail and include maps, schematic drawings, and additional photos. Click the links below to read them. You can also click the photos to enlarge them.

Interior view of the machine shop, 1914.

Interior view of the machine shop, 1914.

  • “The Electrical Maintenance Plants of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company,” Street Railway Journal, vol. XXIX, June 8, 1907.
  • “Harmon Shops of the New York Central Railroad,” Electric Railway Journal, vol. XLIII, June 6, 1914.
Harmon Shops looking north, with the inspection shed in the foreground, 1907.

Harmon Shops looking north, with the inspection shed in the foreground, 1907.

Harmon Yards car shop, 1907.

Harmon car shop, 1907.

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.

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.

Hudson River Sights by Walt Whitman

A short prose piece by Walt Whitman from his 1882 collection Specimen Days & Collect.

Hudson River Railroad tracks running through Sing Sing Prison. Stereoview by G. W. Patch.

Hudson River Railroad tracks running through Sing Sing Prison. Stereoview by G. W. Patch.

It was a happy thought to build the Hudson river railroad right along the shore. The grade is already made by nature; you are sure of ventilation one side—and you are in nobody’s way. I see, hear, the locomotives and cars, rumbling, roaring, flaming, smoking, constantly, away off there, night and day—less than a mile distant, and in full view by day. I like both sight and sound. Express trains thunder and lighten along; of freight trains, most of them very long, there cannot be less than a hundred a day. At night far down you see the headlight approaching, coming steadily on like a meteor. The river at night has its special character-beauties.

Shad fishermen starting out with their net. Photo by Clifton Johnson from his book The Picturesque Hudson, 1909.

Shad fishermen starting out with their net. Photo by Clifton Johnson from his book The Picturesque Hudson.

The shad fishermen go forth in their boats and pay out their nets—one sitting forward, rowing, and one standing up aft dropping it properly—marking the line with little floats bearing candles, conveying, as they glide over the water, an indescribable sentiment and doubled brightness. I like to watch the tows at night, too, with their twinkling lamps, and hear the husky panting of the steamers; or catch the sloops’ and schooners’ shadowy forms, like phantoms, white, silent, indefinite, out there. Then the Hudson of a clear moonlight night.

View from the Tunnel near Garrisons. Hudson River. From the stereoview published by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.

View from the Tunnel near Garrisons. Hudson River. From the stereoview published by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.

But there is one sight the very grandest. Sometimes in the fiercest driving storm of wind, rain, hail or snow, a great eagle will appear over the river, now soaring with steady and now overhended wings—always confronting the gale, or perhaps cleaving into, or at times literally sitting upon it. It is like reading some first-class natural tragedy or epic, or hearing martial trumpets. The splendid bird enjoys the hubbub—is adjusted and equal to it—finishes it so artistically. His pinions just oscillating—the position of his head and neck—his resistless, occasionally varied flight—now a swirl, now an upward movement—the black clouds driving—the angry wash below—the hiss of rain, the wind’s piping (perhaps the ice colliding, grunting)—he tacking or jibing—now, as it were, for a change, abandoning himself to the gale, moving with it with such velocity—and now, resuming control, he comes up against it, lord of the situation and the storm—lord, amid it, of power and savage joy.

Breakneck from the South. From the stereoview published by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.

Breakneck from the South. From the stereoview published by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.

Sometimes (as at present writing,) middle of sunny afternoon, the old “Vanderbilt” steamer stalking ahead—I plainly hear her rhythmic, slushing paddles—drawing by long hawsers an immense and varied following string, (“an old sow and pigs,” the river folks call it.) First comes a big barge, with a house built on it, and spars towering over the roof; then canal boats, a lengthen’d, clustering train, fasten’d and link’d together-the one in the middle, with high staff, flaunting a broad and gaudy flag—others with the almost invariable lines of new-wash’d clothes, drying; two sloops and a schooner aside the tow—little wind, and that adverse—with three long, dark, empty barges bringing up the rear. People are on the boats: men lounging, women in sun-bonnets, children, stovepipes with streaming smoke.

From Specimen Days & Collect by Walt Whitman. Rees Welch & Co., Philadelphia, 1882.

Related posts

Motoring Across the Croton, 1912

The Van Cortlandt Bridge over the Croton River in 1912. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

The Van Cortlandt Bridge over the Croton River in 1912. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

1912 Car from Scientific American

It’s a beautiful day and you’ve decided to take a jaunt in your newfangled automobile, going north along the scenic Hudson River. You can’t count on good, well-marked roads, so you’ve brought along the GPS system of the day—a copy of Photo-auto maps . . . New York to Albany which features “photographs of every turn . . . showing railroad crossings, bridges, school houses and all landmarks.”1

Thus equipped, you drive north on the historic Albany Post Road. You pass through Ossining and soon come to the next landmark, a fork in the road with a brick schoolhouse on the left. You hang a left at the fork, following the road downhill, and you see a huge chimney towering over an industrial building on the right. You wonder what it is but you can’t stop to look because a narrow iron bridge looms ahead, crossing the wide Croton River.

You pass the building, thinking about lunch. Should you stop at the Nikko Inn, in Harmon, or push on to Peekskill? As you zoom across the old bridge you don’t notice the person with a camera down below, who snaps a picture as you pass by. . . .

Van Cortlandt Bridge 1912 WCHS-M-277_detail_619px

We’ll never know if this is an accurate description of what was happening when this wonderful photograph was taken, but it’s certainly plausible. Thanks to the Westchester County Historical Society—which has preserved this “decisive moment”2 and graciously allowed us to share it—we get a rare look at what was then known as the Van Cortlandt Bridge, at the dawn of the age of the automobile.

Let’s retrace the route this driver would have taken and see what the area was like in 1912, long before Route 9A and the bland “Crossining” bridge were built. Here’s a map of the area, published just a few years earlier.

Detail from map 12 of E. Belcher Hyde's 1908 Atlas of the rural country district north of New York City . . . Courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Detail from map 12 of E. Belcher Hyde’s 1908 Atlas of the rural country district north of New York City . . .
Courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection.

A. Crotonville School

Below are two details from the Photo-auto maps book showing the intersection where the Crotonville School was located. The first shows the intersection going north, the second—with the side of the brick school building clearly visible—is the same intersection from the route going south.3

Detail from the Photo-auto maps book showing the route going north. In the same spot today, the road in the middle goes under Route 9A to Crotonville.

Detail from the Photo-auto maps book showing the route going north. In the same spot
today, the road in the middle goes under Route 9A to Crotonville.


Detail from Photo-auto maps showing the route going south, with the Crotonville School (today the Parker-Bale American Legion Post No. 1597) on the right.

Detail from Photo-auto maps showing the route going south, with the Crotonville School
(today the Parker-Bale American Legion Post No. 1597) on the right.

Next is a photo of the front of the school building. If it looks familiar that’s because today the old Crotonville School is the Parker-Bale American Legion Post No. 1597 at 11 Old Albany Post Road. The road that once went down to the Croton River was was cut-off when Route 9A was constructed, but if you drive by to look at Parker-Bale (and you should) you will see a small strip of the old road surface to the right of the building.

Crotonville School. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Crotonville School. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

B. Croton Bay Pumping Station

The brick building on the Ossining side of the bridge was the Croton Bay Pumping Station. It was built in 1890 and originally housed two large hydraulic engines that took water from the Indian Brook Reservoir in Crotonville (shown east of the letter “B” on 1908 the map, above) and pumped it to a storage reservoir in the village of Ossining. Today the building is owned by Anthony L. Fiorito Inc., which specializes in water, sewer and drainage services.

Long Bridge Pumping Station.

Long Bridge Pumping Station.

C. Van Cortlandt Bridge

The Van Cortlandt bridge across the “mouth of the Croton River” was built sometime after April, 1860, as a result of state legislation authorizing “the board of supervisors of the county Westchester . . . to construct a bridge at or near the mouth of Croton river . . . at such point as they may select between the Hudson river railroad bridge and the present bridge commonly known as the “High Bridge.”4

This detail from a rare, badly damaged stereoview shows the Van Cortlandt bridge from the Ossining side. The building on the far side of the Croton River stood at the end of the long causeway, in front of the Van Cortlandt Manor house.

This detail from a rare, badly damaged stereoview shows the Van Cortlandt bridge from the Ossining side.
The building on the far side of the Croton River stood at the end of the long causeway,
in front of the Van Cortlandt Manor house.

The bridge they constructed—actually two bridges, connected by a long causeway—shows up in maps in the 1860s, going from the Ossining side of the river to a point just west of Van Cortlandt Manor.5 Like all bridges on the Croton River during the 19th century the Van Cortlandt Bridge (also known as the Long Bridge and the Wagon Bridge) suffered regular damage from storms, ice and spring freshets and it was repeatedly repaired and rebuilt. Until at least 1871 the long bridge on the Ossining side was a drawbridge, to allow boats to sail up the lower Croton River.6

This detail from an 1871 survey of the mouth of the Croton River shows that at one point there was a drawbridge on the southern end of the Van Cortlandt bridge. The strip in the river marked with dotted lines was a channel for ships. Also note the small building at the end of the causeway on the left. This is the building shown in the stereoview above.

This detail from an 1871 survey of the mouth of the Croton River shows that at one point there was a drawbridge on the southern end of the Van Cortlandt bridge. The strip in the river marked with dotted lines was a channel for ships. Also note the small building at the end of the causeway on the left. This is the building shown in the stereoview above.

By 1912 the drawbridge had been removed and the simple iron bridge carried early automobiles over the river until 1922 when the state removed the old span and replaced it with an elegant Beaux-Art reinforced concrete structure. What happened to that bridge? That sad story will be the subject of a future post.


  1. Photo-auto maps.(New York to Albany and Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Springs to Albany and New York) . . . Compiled by Gardner S. Chapin and Arthur H. Schumacher. Published by the Motor Car Supply Co., Chicago, Ill., 1907.
  2. See Henri Cartier-Bresson.
  3. The Photo-auto maps book provided two versions of every route, with photos taken from each direction.
  4. For the act see Laws of the State of New York Passed at the 83rd Session of the Legislature. Weed, Parsons and Company, 1860. Chap. 268. For photos and information about High Bridge see this previous post.
  5. See this detail from Lloyd’s topographical map of the Hudson River . . ., published in 1864.
  6. The railroad bridge had a drawbridge section until 1899.

What a Delightful Ride

From Souvenir of the Hudson River, published by Wittmann Brothers, circa 1880.

From Souvenir of the Hudson River, published by Wittmann Brothers, circa 1880.

Anyone who takes Metro-North’s Hudson River Line is struck by the beauty of the river, particularly in the evening when the sun is setting over the Palisades. Although it’s difficult to imagine, this trip has made an impression on travelers for more than 160 years.

Here’s one account of the passage up the river, through “Sing Sing” and Croton in 1873, excerpted from En Rapport on the Rails (Related on the Rails) by Vieux Moustache (Old Moustache) the pseudonym of Clarence Gordon—an author who at the time lived in Newburgh, New York. This story was published in the Troy Daily Whig, on April 26, 1873.1

The next time you’re taking the train back to Croton, imagine what the river would have been like at that time. It’s been “stifling hot in the city” and we’ve just crossed the Spuyten Duyvel. Our companion in the seat next to us has “aroused himself from his open-eye nap,” and given his “attention to the book in hand,” but soon he turns “from that to the scenery.” Our “offer to him of the seat by the window led to some desultory remarks, and those passed into a conversation which, before we passed the opposite Palisades, had grown as warm and earnest as the talk of old friends. . . .”

“What a delightful ride that is up the Hudson River railroad by a six or six-thirty train, of a summer's afternoon! . . . Before Sing Sing and seven o'clock the hot sun sank down behind the Nyack hills. Then we were able to push up the blinds and enjoy the full breeze and view.

The Hudson River Railroad, north from Sing Sing in 1868 from F.W. Beers' Atlas of New York and vicinity ...

The Hudson River Railroad, going north from Sing Sing in 1868 from F.W. Beers’ Atlas of New York and vicinity.

In a moment we plunge from light, breeze and freedom into the damp obscurity of a short tunnel, then rush with clanging reverberations past the high, shadowed, white walls pierced with hundreds of narrow, grated window slits. You put your face close to the car side, and peer up with sad curiosity to the prison sides; perhaps catch a flash-like picture in one of those iron-barred frames of a face—merely a bare face seen but for an instant—but perhaps you fancy it a hard, desperate countenance, marked by misery and revenge. But few seconds for your gloom. It travels not beyond the massive, dreary walls and the last sentry-box. A harsh, prolonged whistle of the engine, and we are by the pleasant open shore again. Some faint pink lines over the Rockland hills, the river cheerfully rippled, a few sails, away ahead a steamboat just passing Croton Point. With increasing speed we flash by Sing Sing, screaming as though our monster locomotive craved some victim to wet its rails. Now Brandreth's pretty little pill box and factory close under our right;2 a marshy shore and outstretched nets on the left. We cross the drawbridge3 of the Croton—the beautiful river flowing out of a but partially revealed valley, and spreading into a bay that looks the picture spot for punts4 and flocks of ducks.

The Hudson River Railroad, crossing the mouth of the Croton River and Croton Point in 1868, from F.W. Beers' Atlas of New York and vicinity ...

The Hudson River Railroad, crossing the mouth of the Croton River and Croton Point in 1868, from F.W. Beers’ Atlas of New York and vicinity.

Just there, near the south shore of Croton Point, and about a quarter of a mile from the rails, was a sloop swinging on a new tack . . . In the softening light, a little in the shadow of the land, gently touched by a reflection of the western sky, and caught but for a glance as she turned to a new course, and we ran between the gravel banks5 that open with a dry yawn right at the base of the Point, she seemed as a shape seen in the clouds, as a fading mirage—a mysterious unreality and faintness encompassing her as the atmosphere of some phantom craft.”

Clarence Gordon (1835-1920), the pseudonymous author of this piece, was born in New York City, on April 28, 1835. He graduated from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard in 1855. He lived in Savannah, Georgia until 1860, in or near Boston from 1862-1868, and then in Newburgh, New York. He was special agent of the United States census bureau in 1879-1883, in charge of the investigation of meat-production in the grazing states. He contributed to many journals and magazines, and wrote novels for boys, under the pen name of “Vieux Moustache.” These include Christmas at Under-Tor (1864); Our Fresh and Salt Tutors (1866); Two Lives in One (1870); and Boarding-School Days (1873).


  1. The newspaper version was taken from the May, 1873 issue of The Galaxy, a Magazine of Entertaining Reading.
  2. Still standing today, but threatened with destruction.
  3. In 1873 the railroad bridge over the mouth of the Croton River was a drawbridge to allow ships to pass.
  4. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water.
  5. When the railroad was built across the mouth of the river and the “neck” of Croton Point, four hundred thousand cubic yards of sand and gravel had to be removed. The remaining banks on each side of the tracks were removed over the years and there is no trace of them today.