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. ↩︎

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-on-Hudson Phone Directory, 1938

Pages from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Pages from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Thanks to our friend Carl Oechsner we were able to get our hands on a copy of the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.1 The plan was to scan some of the ads like the ones for the Mikado Inn, Konco’s Garage, and Robbins Pharmacy shown below. But when we looked closer and saw listings for well-known Crotonites like Max Eastman, Margaret Mayo, and Miss Carrie E. Tompkins we decided to scan every page, run the images through an optical character recognition program, and post a searchable PDF on Google Docs. To see the PDF click here.

Do you have any early Croton phone directories or other Croton ephemera? We would love to scan other early directories, photographs of the village or similar material. If you have something you would like to share send us an email by clicking here.

Ad for the Mikado Inn from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.

Ad for the Mikado Inn from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.


Ad for Konco's Garage from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.

Ad for Konco’s Garage from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.


Ad for Robbins Pharmacy from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.

Ad for Robbins Pharmacy from the 1938 Croton-on-Hudson phone directory.


  1. Carl’s copy is missing the covers, which is why the first page is numbered 3.