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. ↩︎

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

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.

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.

American Cooking, Japanese Service!

Nikko Inn Ad Highland Democrat 5-30-1908

"Something New!" proclaimed this ad from the May 30, 1908 issue of the Peekskill Highland Democrat. "Right on the Beautiful Croton River, where Cool Breezes blow even on the warmest days."

This ad must have been the beginning of a publicity campaign, because about a month later the New York Times 1 published a short article about the Nikko Tea House.

"One of the novel features of the big development at Harmon, Westchester County," wrote the Times, “is the Nikko Tea House perched on the precipitous bank of the Croton River . . . The tea house is of rustic construction, and is surrounded by a dense grove of pines and cedars, in which are many picturesque summer houses. . . ."

  1. June 21, 1908