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. ↩︎

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. ↩︎

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. ↩︎

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.

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.

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