Selling Today Like Hot Cakes!

Harmon-Sales-Office_detail-1.

Detail from a promotional postcard for Harmon captioned “View of Benedict Boulevard, where it crosses Broadway.” Circa 1907.

One hundred and nine years ago this month lots in Harmon were “selling . . . like hot cakes,” according to an article in the May 24, 1907 issue of the Katonah Times.1

“One mile north of Ossining on the Hudson River there has sprung up a new town. Its name is Harmon. It was laid out a short time ago into village lots and they are selling to­ day like hot cakes. Although the first public announcement of the new property at Harmon was made only two weeks [ago], large crowds have been visiting the property every day.

A special excursion train, leaving the Grand Central Station . . . on Sunday, May 5, carried over five hundred people, of whom almost one fourth purchased property. The total sales for that day were 140 lots. If you desire to get any of this property you should visit it some week day and avoid the rush from New York. On Sunday, May 12, many more came up and lots were sold like hot cakes.

Clifford B. Harmon, of Wood, Har­mon & Co., who is planning this new city, did not expect to put it on the market until June 1st as the exten­sive improvements are only under way. But the public seems deter­mined not to wait for improvements or a formal opening of the property. Since its opening sales have been made to people from New Jersey, Brooklyn and all the river towns as far north as Albany.

A noteworthy feature of the ad­vance sale of lots at Harmon is the popularity of the section reserved for bungalows. This is located around a small lake on the property, which is fed by springs . . . This idea is a decided novelty in suburban development and it is proving very popular. A large number if these sites have already been sold, which indicates that there will be a large and substantial bungalow colony at Harmon this summer.

So much interest has been taken in this new Hudson River property, which is the first to be put on the market at moderate prices and the easy payment plan, that Wood, Harmon &. Company expect to have it entirely disposed of within a very short space of time.”

We suspect everything in this article was fed to a credulous reporter by the master salesman himself, but that only adds to its charm. As we’ve recounted in previous posts Clifford Harmon was a master of real estate marketing, who ran newspaper ads telling everyone that “All New York is Amazed!” at the “Quickest and Most Successful Real Estate Development in the History of New York.” He urged New Yorkers to “Think of Your Children,” growing up in “the Highest, Healthiest, Most Beautiful, Most Accessible, and Most Aristocratic Part of Westchester County.”

Harmon Sales Office

Early promotional post card for Harmon captioned “View of Benedict Boulevard, where it crosses Broadway.” Circa 1907.

Although we can’t really appreciate what visitors to the undeveloped land at Harmon thought in 1907, the promotional post card shown above is a revelation to Crotonites today. If you stand in the parking area of the Dairy Mart, looking down Benedict Boulevard at Vogue Spa & Nails (the original Harmon sales office), you can approximate the view shown in the post card.

Harmon-Sales-Office_detail-2

Detail from a promotional postcard for Harmon. Circa 1907.

Can you believe there was once a huge, flat, treeless field in front of you, going straight down Benedict Boulevard to the hilly area of Lexington, Sunset and Observatory Drives?


  1. “A New Village in Westchester County—Harmon,” The Katonah Times, May 24, 1907, page 2. ↩︎

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.

Mikado Inn “Real Photo” Postcard, circa 1920

Mikado Inn, Harmon-on-Hudson, N.Y. [No publisher, but likely the Mikado Inn]. Circa 1920.

Mikado Inn, Harmon-on-Hudson, N.Y. [No publisher, but likely the Mikado Inn]. Circa 1920.
Click the image to enlarge it.

Come take a stroll in the beautiful Japanese gardens of the Mikado Inn, in Harmon-on-Hudson. Enjoy a dinner of exotic oriental dishes (or, if you prefer something more familiar, try the $5.00 Porterhouse Steak for two). After dinner you can listen to that clever young man, Oscar Levant, play “Yes, We Have No Bananas” on the upright piano.

The Mikado Inn was built around 1920 by “Admiral” George T. Moto (a.k.a. “Data Moto” and “Toshiyuki Moto”), a disgruntled employee of Clifford Harmon. Moto had managed the Nikko Inn and after a disagreement bought land across the street and built the Mikado. Both establishments, along with the Tumble Inn on the other side of town, were speakeasys during Prohibition—though in 1921 the Admiral was acquitted in what newspaper accounts at the time called the first case to be tried in Westchester County for alleged violation of the New York State liquor law.1

This postcard is what’s called a “real photo postcard” because the image is an actual photograph made from a negative, not a halftone reproduction. The process was invented in 1903 by Kodak with the introduction of the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak. The camera, designed for postcard-size film, allowed the general public to take photographs and have them printed on postcard backs, usually in the same dimensions (3-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches) as standard postcards. The process was perfect for small establishments and this card was likely produced and sold by the Mikado Inn.

This crisp enlargement is possible because the postcard is an actual photographic print.

This crisp enlargement is possible because the postcard is an actual photographic print.

Want to know more about the Mikado? See these previous posts:

  • Oscar Levant Plays the Mikado
    Oscar Levant, the quick-witted pianist, composer, actor, author and quiz-show panelist performed there as a teenager, sharing “sleeping quarters with twenty or thirty Japanese waiters in the cellar.”
  • What’s Cookin’ at the Mikado?
    A tasty bit of Harmon history—a Mikado Inn menu featuring two Spring Lamb Chops for $1.50, Filet Mignon Mikado for $3.00 and a Porterhouse Steak for two for $5.00.
  • The Motorist’s Playground
    An ad for the Mikado and two other Croton-area “road houses” from the June 12, 1921 issue of the New-York Tribune. The “Japanese gardens” highlighted in the ad are shown in the postcard above.

  1. New York Evening Telegram, July 12, 1921.
This simple stamp on the back is typical of real photo postcards.

This simple stamp on the back is typical of real photo postcards.