Quaker Bridge, Before 1894

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Here are two rare photographs of Quaker Bridge, both courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society. The images show the wooden covered bridge which existed at the site of the current bridge from 1847 to 1894. The metal Pratt truss style bridge we use today—one of the oldest (possibly the oldest) bridges in daily use in Westchester County—was built in 1894.

For a bird’s eye view of the wooden Quaker Bridge see this previous post, Croton River Valley, Before & After.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1847-1894. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

The Purdy Homestead on Quaker Ridge Road

The house built by Frederick Purdy in 1895.

The house built by Frederick Purdy in 1895.

One of the treats of this Sunday’s 18th Annual Croton Arboretum Garden Tour will be a chance to see the Purdy homestead on Quaker Ridge Road and a group of 100-year-old family photographs, lovingly preserved and made available by local restaurateur Craig Purdy.

Today, the property is a magnificent 23-acre estate—no longer in the family—but it was originally part of the much larger land-holdings of the Purdy family, who settled in Cortlandt in 1735.

The Purdy’s have deep roots in Westchester. Jacob Purdy is perhaps the most famous—he joined the Westchester Militia in 1775 and served until the end of the Revolution. His house in White Plains was used as General George Washington’s headquarters in 1778 (and possibly in 1776, during the Battle of White Plains).

In Cortlandt, Quaker preacher William Purdy bought land on the south side of the Croton River from the Van Cortlandt’s in 1800, though according to family lore the single-story red farmhouse on Cliffdale Farm was built by a Purdy relative as early as 1735.

William Purdy’s lasting contribution was the covered wooden bridge over the Croton River he rebuilt at his own expense in 1830, to a give Friends access to the Quaker meeting house in Croton. That bridge is long gone, but the Quaker Bridge we cross today—one of the oldest bridges in Westchester—is a lasting tribute to his civic virtue.

The home on the Arboretum garden tour was built in 1895 by Frederick Purdy, who purchased the land from Craig Purdy’s Great Grandfather, Charles Miciah Purdy. The family photographs on display (see a selection below) come from the estate of Craig’s mother, Jean Thompson Purdy, who passed away in December 2013 at the age of ninety.

Tickets for the tour are still available at $20 each (or $35 for two, if reserved in advance).
Call 914-487-3830.

Click the photos to enlarge them.

Quaker Bridge, circa 1914

Postcard of Quaker Bridge. Click the image to enlarge it.

Postcard of Quaker Bridge. Click the image to enlarge it.

Postcard of Quaker Bridge, circa 1914, published by Frank L. Simone, who issued postcards of many scenes of the Croton area. This card is postmarked Oscawana, July 28, 1914.

Here are two other Simone cards:

Bird’s Eye Views of the Croton Aqueduct, 1879-1887

Here are two priceless “bird’s eye” views of the Croton Aqueduct, made eight years apart during the period when New York City was rapidly outgrowing the capacity of what we now call the Old Croton Aqueduct. One map looks north, showing the burgeoning metropolis in 1879—straining the water supply system with its unrelenting growth. The other looks south—to the future—showing both the path of the New Croton Aqueduct tunnel and the then-planned location (later abandoned) of “the most massive structure of its kind in the world,” the Quaker Bridge Dam.

The City of New York. Will L. Taylor, chief draughtsman. New York, Galt & Hoy, 1879. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge.

The City of New York. Will L. Taylor, chief draughtsman. New York, Galt & Hoy, 1879.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge.

Taylor’s 1879 New York City Map

In a fascinating article about three-dimensional maps of New York City, the website Codex 99 calls this map “the first true attempt at a perspective map of the city . . . [The] four-sheet engraving, published by Galt & Hoy, attempted to label all roads and piers and depict buildings to (at least a more appropriate) scale using a vanishing perspective. It was a stunning achievement for the time.” 1 The map is so detailed that it shows all three major components of the Old Croton Aqueduct in New York City:

  • High Bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower
  • The Receiving Reservoir in Central Park
  • The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, now the site of the New York Public Library

High Bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower. Click to enlarge.

High Bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower. Click to enlarge.


The Receiving Reservoir in Central Park. Click to enlarge.

The Receiving Reservoir in Central Park. Click to enlarge.


The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Click to enlarge.

The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Click to enlarge.

Scientific American, 1887

The cover of the June 4, 1887 issue of Scientific American featured a bird’s eye view map looking south, from the Putnam County border to New York City and beyond. The accompanying article said the map “clearly presents the course of the Croton River, the location of Muscoot, Croton, and the proposed Quaker Bridge dams, and in the dotted line shows the line of the old aqueduct and in the full black line shows the course of the new aqueduct.”

The Old and New Croton Aqueduct System, looking south from Putnam County. Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

The Old and New Croton Aqueduct System, looking south from Putnam County.
Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

When this map was published the New Croton Aqueduct tunnel was three years away from completion and the dam was still in the planning stages.2

The narrow part of the Croton, where today’s Quaker Bridge crosses the river, was one of several areas subjected to extensive planning—including test borings, cost estimates and structural plans. The site was eventually abandoned in favor of one further up-river, but in 1887 Quaker Bridge was the favored location. For Crotonites the detail showing the bridge is particularly interesting because it depicts a covered wooden bridge. The current metal Quaker Bridge—one of the oldest bridges in Westchester County—wasn’t built until 1894.

Detail of the area from the Old Croton Dam to the Hudson River. Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

Detail of the area from the Old Croton Dam to the Hudson River. Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

For a before-and-after bird’s eye view of the flooding of the Croton River Valley after construction of the New Croton Dam see this previous post.


  1. A high resolution image of the Taylor map is available at the Library of Congress website.
  2. The tunnel was opened in 1890 and construction of the New Croton Dam began in 1892.

The View from Quaker Bridge

Post card published by William Terhune, "Ossining on Hudson," circa 1901-1907. Printed in Germany.

Post card published by William Terhune, “Ossining on Hudson,” circa 1901-1907. Printed in Germany.

Here is a post card showing the “Croton River, from Quaker Bridge, where Washington’s Army Crossed.” Below is a post card from the same period, showing what Quaker Bridge looked like at the time.

Except for the unpaved road and the railing it looks the same as it does today, because our beloved Quaker Bridge is one of Westchester’s oldest surviving bridges, built in 1894.

The view from the bridge appears to be looking upriver, toward the New Croton Dam, showing what the river looked like long before the dam was built at Black Rock Park.

Although the label on the card states that this is where “Washington’s Army Crossed” the Croton River during the Revolutionary War, the exact location of the “New Bridge”—as it was called when it was built in 1779—has not yet been determined.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Quaker Bridge postcard

Post card published by J.A. Given, circa 1901-1907. Printed by The Albertype Co., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Quaker Bridge Post Card

Quaker-bridge

A beautiful vintage post card, circa 1910, of Quaker Bridge—one of the oldest bridges in Westchester County. When the county repaired the bridge a few years ago they implied that it would be the last repair job before the bridge would need to be replaced. We can’t let that happen.

Croton Area Topographic Map, 1891

Bein-crotonarea

Details of the Croton Area from Julius Bien’s Atlas of the Metropolitan District and adjacent country comprising the counties of New York, Kings, Richmond, Westchester . . . Published by Julius Bien & Co. New York. 1891.

Bein-references