Croton’s Old Post Road Inn, 1890

Illustrated title of C. Hills Warren's article.

Illustrated title of C. Hills Warren’s article.

In January, 1890, Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly published an article by C. Hills Warren that looked back nostalgically at the history of the Albany Post Road.1 By that time the importance of the road—once the only major route for stage coaches running from New York City to Albany—had long since been eclipsed by steam boats and trains.

“It was not so very long ago when the stages ran between New York and Albany,” Warren wrote. “The introduction of steam-boat navigation on the Hudson restricted stage travel to the Winter months; then the Hudson River Railroad was built to Peekskill in 1849, shortening the stage route to that point; and when two years later, the road was opened to Albany, the stages were withdrawn.”

So Warren sets out from New York City to revisit the historic places along on the fabled road, noting how the “broad fields and well-kept orchards that lined the highway” in northern Manhattan “have been cut up by streets and built upon” and the “cozy farm-houses and suburban villas . . . like the Jumel and Hamilton mansions stand hemmed in by solid blocks of brick and stone.”

Along the way he visits Tarrytown and recounts the history of the Dutch Church and Old Mill in Sleepy Hollow and the capture of Major André. When he gets to Croton he makes “a call” at Van Cortlandt Manor—“one of the pleasantest incidents of my journey”—and enjoys the hospitality of James Stevenson Van Cortlandt, his widowed mother and sister.

Van Cortlandt Manor in 1890.

Van Cortlandt Manor in 1890.

“All the country hereabout is historic ground,” he notes, “the scenery of the Hudson Valley is beautiful, and this happy blending of the historical with the picturesque made a tramp over the old road . . . throughly enjoyable.”

The story he tells about the history of the Van Cortlandt family and the manor house is unremarkable, but as he continues on his journey he gives us a rare treat—a vivid description of the “quiet hamlet” of Croton in 1890 and the Old Post Inn, once located on today’s Grand Street, across from the Holy Name of Mary Church.

The Old Post Road Inn in 1890.

The Old Post Road Inn in 1890.

What’s particularly interesting about his account is the depiction of the upper village as a byway, with grass growing in the road because a new street had “been cut through the bluff down by the river.” Seventy-seven years later all of Croton became a byway when the construction of Route 9 destroyed the village’s waterfront along the west side of Riverside Avenue.

"There is little of the inn left about the old house now. The grass is growing in the road before the door."

“There is little of the inn left about the old house now. The grass is growing in the road before the door.”

Let’s listen to C. Hills Warren as he takes us back to Croton in 1890.

“Croton is a quiet hamlet, whose inhabitants have been for several generations industriously digging up the fields and pressing the soil into bricks, until it looks as though the place had stood a siege, and the enemy had exploded mines all round its borders. Here I found the first post-house. It is a two-story wooden structure, somewhat the worse for wear, with a double piazza running the whole length of the front, in the style popular with builders of country taverns in the last century. A wide hall from the front door to the kitchen in the rear, and doors open from it to the sitting-room on right and the bar-room opposite.

A postcard of the Old Post Road Inn before it burned down. The brick building on the left is still there—the Cornelia Cotton Gallery is on the bottom floor.

A postcard of the Old Post Road Inn before it burned down. The brick building on the left is still there—the Cornelia Cotton Gallery is on the bottom floor.

It is the home of Miss Susan McCord, a pleasant-voiced spinster, who was born there; and remembers well when the stages used to roll to the door and hungry guests came trooping the dining-room to partake of her father’s fare. He was a popular innkeeper, and when, one stormy Winter’s day, a party of legislators, their way to Albany, were unable to go farther through the drifts, he made them so comfortable over night that they resumed their journey with reluctance. There is little of the inn left about the old house now. The grass is growing in the road before the door; for a new street has been cut through the bluff down by the river, and even the line of telegraph-poles that follows the post-road through most of its windings deserts it here for the more direct route of its rival.”

Location of the Old Post Inn today.

Location of the Old Post Inn today.


  1. See Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, January, 1890, here.

Bethel Cemetery Gateway

The gateway to Bethel Chapel and Cemetery, circa 1860-1870. This image has been manipulated in Photoshop to make it lighter. The unretouched image is below.

The gateway to Bethel Chapel and Cemetery, circa 1860-1870.
This image has been manipulated in Photoshop to make it lighter. The unretouched image is below.

This is the second in a series of rare 19th century images of Croton, selected from a collection that Croton filmmaker, journalist and history-buff Ken Sargeant photographed many years ago at the Ossining Historical Society. To see the first installment click here.

Bethel Cemetery Gateway, circa 1860-1870

Although you’d never guess it from looking at the driveway on Old Albany Post Road, during the time of the Civil War worshippers and mourners visiting Bethel Cemetery and Chapel would have entered the property through this quaint wooden gateway. The dirt road in the photograph follows the same path up the hill as the driveway does today and a number of the gravestones, particularly the two obelisks, are easily spotted.

The photograph was most likely taken circa 1860 to 1870, but the property (which was smaller then than it is today) had a fence around it since at least 1831. In the Codicil to the Will of Philip Van Cortlandt wherein he bequeathed, “all that piece or parcel of Land . . . whereas the Methodist Meeting House now stands . . . to be used for a burying place for the Inhabitants of the Neighborhood, and the Meeting House for a Place of Public Worship under the direction of the Methodist Congregation . . .” he did so with the stipulation that the “Meeting House and the Fences are kept in good Order and Repair.” (emphasis added).1

If you’d like to see the interior of the historic chapel2 you can attend Sunday service tomorrow, August 31, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

For a fascinating look at the gravestones see The Graven Images of Bethel Cemetery by Carl Oechsner and Howie Meyers at the Croton Friends of History website.

Coming next: A photograph of the tiny strip of land which once connected Croton Point to the mainland—long before landfill and the county dump altered the landscape forever.


  1. See the Codicil dated January 18, 1831 to the Will of Philip Van Cortlandt in Correspondence of the Van Cortlandt Family, volume III, pages 213-214.
  2. Both Bethel Chapel and Cemetery and the nearby Asbury United Methodist Church are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Detail adjusted to bring out the lettering on the wooden entrance gate archway.

Detail adjusted to bring out the lettering on the wooden arch.


Unretouched image of the entrance gate to Bethel Cemetery.

Unretouched image of the entrance gate to Bethel Cemetery. Although we have not seen the original photograph at the Ossining Historical Society, the image provided by Ken Sargeant appears to be a tintype, which enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s.