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.

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.

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.