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. ↩︎

Drive to the New Croton Dam, 1913

New Croton Dam, May 13, 1913. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

New Croton Dam, May 13, 1913. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

In 1913 the Overman Tire Company in New York City ran a test to demonstrate “the ability of Overman cushion tires to withstand the abuse to which tires ordinarily are subjected by the average driver.” A National touring car was outfitted with a set of Overman cushion tires and driven over different routes and road surfaces within a 50 mile radius of New York City.1

New Croton Dam, May 13, 1913. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

New Croton Dam, May 13, 1913. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

Luckily for us the route went by the New Croton Dam, there was a photographer along to record the trip, and the entire collection of 342 photos is available online courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

Bridge below the New Croton Dam, May 13, 1913. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

Bridge below the New Croton Dam, May 13, 1913. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

A number of other photos were taken the same day but unfortunately most show the car on unidentifiable country roads. One exception is an image taken at the Croton Lake Station of the “Old Put”—the New York Central Railroad, Putnam Division—shown below.2


  1. The company was located at 250 West 54th Street in New York City. The quote is from the June 26, 1913 issue of Motor World. See here.
  2. Located along today’s Saw Mill River Road, Route 118.
Croton Lake Station of the New York Central Railroad, Putnam Division. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

Croton Lake Station of the New York Central Railroad, Putnam Division. Courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection.

Croton’s Old Post Road Inn, 1890

Illustrated title of C. Hills Warren's article.

Illustrated title of C. Hills Warren’s article.

In January, 1890, Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly published an article by C. Hills Warren that looked back nostalgically at the history of the Albany Post Road.1 By that time the importance of the road—once the only major route for stage coaches running from New York City to Albany—had long since been eclipsed by steam boats and trains.

“It was not so very long ago when the stages ran between New York and Albany,” Warren wrote. “The introduction of steam-boat navigation on the Hudson restricted stage travel to the Winter months; then the Hudson River Railroad was built to Peekskill in 1849, shortening the stage route to that point; and when two years later, the road was opened to Albany, the stages were withdrawn.”

So Warren sets out from New York City to revisit the historic places along on the fabled road, noting how the “broad fields and well-kept orchards that lined the highway” in northern Manhattan “have been cut up by streets and built upon” and the “cozy farm-houses and suburban villas . . . like the Jumel and Hamilton mansions stand hemmed in by solid blocks of brick and stone.”

Along the way he visits Tarrytown and recounts the history of the Dutch Church and Old Mill in Sleepy Hollow and the capture of Major André. When he gets to Croton he makes “a call” at Van Cortlandt Manor—“one of the pleasantest incidents of my journey”—and enjoys the hospitality of James Stevenson Van Cortlandt, his widowed mother and sister.

Van Cortlandt Manor in 1890.

Van Cortlandt Manor in 1890.

“All the country hereabout is historic ground,” he notes, “the scenery of the Hudson Valley is beautiful, and this happy blending of the historical with the picturesque made a tramp over the old road . . . throughly enjoyable.”

The story he tells about the history of the Van Cortlandt family and the manor house is unremarkable, but as he continues on his journey he gives us a rare treat—a vivid description of the “quiet hamlet” of Croton in 1890 and the Old Post Inn, once located on today’s Grand Street, across from the Holy Name of Mary Church.

The Old Post Road Inn in 1890.

The Old Post Road Inn in 1890.

What’s particularly interesting about his account is the depiction of the upper village as a byway, with grass growing in the road because a new street had “been cut through the bluff down by the river.” Seventy-seven years later all of Croton became a byway when the construction of Route 9 destroyed the village’s waterfront along the west side of Riverside Avenue.

"There is little of the inn left about the old house now. The grass is growing in the road before the door."

“There is little of the inn left about the old house now. The grass is growing in the road before the door.”

Let’s listen to C. Hills Warren as he takes us back to Croton in 1890.

“Croton is a quiet hamlet, whose inhabitants have been for several generations industriously digging up the fields and pressing the soil into bricks, until it looks as though the place had stood a siege, and the enemy had exploded mines all round its borders. Here I found the first post-house. It is a two-story wooden structure, somewhat the worse for wear, with a double piazza running the whole length of the front, in the style popular with builders of country taverns in the last century. A wide hall from the front door to the kitchen in the rear, and doors open from it to the sitting-room on right and the bar-room opposite.

A postcard of the Old Post Road Inn before it burned down. The brick building on the left is still there—the Cornelia Cotton Gallery is on the bottom floor.

A postcard of the Old Post Road Inn before it burned down. The brick building on the left is still there—the Cornelia Cotton Gallery is on the bottom floor.

It is the home of Miss Susan McCord, a pleasant-voiced spinster, who was born there; and remembers well when the stages used to roll to the door and hungry guests came trooping the dining-room to partake of her father’s fare. He was a popular innkeeper, and when, one stormy Winter’s day, a party of legislators, their way to Albany, were unable to go farther through the drifts, he made them so comfortable over night that they resumed their journey with reluctance. There is little of the inn left about the old house now. The grass is growing in the road before the door; for a new street has been cut through the bluff down by the river, and even the line of telegraph-poles that follows the post-road through most of its windings deserts it here for the more direct route of its rival.”

Location of the Old Post Inn today.

Location of the Old Post Inn today.


  1. See Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, January, 1890, here.

A Sharp and Palpable Difference

Ad from the Ladies’ Home Journal, December, 1917

Ad from the Ladies’ Home Journal, December, 1917

In a previous post we displayed two ads from 1917 for Goodyear Cord Tires, featuring detailed pen-and-ink drawings of Nikko Inn. These clever bits of Jazz Age cross-promotion appeared in magazines ranging from the Atlantic Monthly and The New Country Life to Travel and Forest & Stream.

Tiny detail from the Ladies’ Home Journal ad.

Tiny detail from the Ladies’ Home Journal ad.

Now we’ve discovered a much more elegant ad from the same campaign, which ran in the December, 1917 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. The art was created by Myron Perley, an illustrator and art director who is remembered today for his work for the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.

Unfortunately the image of the Nikko is hard to discern in the background. We suspect that the art was done in full-color and published here in black-and-white to save money. Maybe another version will turn up and we’ll get to see the Nikko in full-color glory.

Until then we can try to imagine what an exotic and alluring destination the Nikko Inn must have been in those days—and the “sharp and palpable difference” we would have “felt in the riding quality” of our car “shod with Goodyear Cord Tires.”

For more on the Nikko, the Mikado and Harmon’s rich history, see these previous posts.

Goodyear-Nikko-Ad-1917_72dpi

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.

You Can Expect Immediate Benefits

One of two versions of a 1917 Goodyear tire ad featuring the Nikko Inn. Click the image to enlarge it.

One of two versions of a 1917 Goodyear tire ad featuring the Nikko Inn. Click the image to enlarge it.

Who was the marketing genius behind this bit of Jazz Age cross-promotion?

The 1917 ads for Goodyear Cord Tires appeared in magazines ranging from the Atlantic Monthly and The New Country Life to Travel and Forest & Stream . Both feature detailed pen-and-ink drawings of Nikko Inn in the background, suggesting the perfect place you could visit “in superior comfort,” driving your Goodyear Cord Tire-equipped car.

For other posts about the Nikko Inn, click here.

Detail of Nikko Inn from the ad above. Click the image to enlarge it.

Detail of Nikko Inn from the ad above. Click the image to enlarge it.


A different version of the ad from the June, 1917 issue of Travel magazine.

A different version of the ad from the June, 1917 issue of Travel magazine.

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.