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.

The Mystery of the Underhill Bible

Picture 4

Can you help decode this 19th-century document?

Bookplate from the Underhill Bible.

Bookplate from the Underhill Bible.

Last month we posted pictures of a bible offered on eBay, bearing the bookplate of Abraham I. Underhill, one of the three Underhill brothers who started the flour mill on the Croton River in 1792.

We were thrilled (and proud) when the Westchester County Historical Society immediately purchased this treasure, after we alerted them that it was available.

In addition to a handwritten page recording Abraham Underhill’s marriage “in a publick Meeting of the people called Quakers at Croton in the Town of Cortlandt, the 19th day of the 12th month, 1805 . . . ,” the bible also contained something unusual, which the seller described as “a folded paper in an unknown hand, possibly shorthand.”

What does it say? Is it simply a mundane document, slipped into the family bible? The minutes of a Quaker meeting in Croton? A document relating to the long-running legal battle between the Underhill and Van Cortlandt families over the Croton River mill?

If you happen to have expertise in 19th-century shorthand please contact me. Below are high-resolution black-and-white scans of the pages. Click to enlarge them.

Thanks to Patrick Raftery, Librarian of the Westchester County Historical Society, for providing these images.

Page 1


Page 2


Croton Landing, 1872

Croton Landing from plate 44 of the County Atlas Of Westchester New York, published by J.B. Beers & Co., 1872. Click the image to enlarge it.

Croton Landing from plate 44 of the County Atlas Of Westchester New York, published by J.B. Beers & Co., 1872. Click the image to enlarge it.

Here is a detailed map of what Croton looked like 142 years ago. Known then as Croton Landing, the village consisted mainly of houses and businesses along what we know today as Grand Street, Brook Street, and Riverside Avenue.

If you look at the top left side you can see that Riverside Avenue got its name because it did once run right along the side of the Hudson River. That area to the right of the railroad tracks was filled in long ago, altering the original banks of the river. The pond-like area at the bottom left between the tracks and Riverside—which is probably the depressed area where the farmer’s market is held today—was also filled in.

Other interesting features include:

  • The brook along Brook Street, now covered over.1
  • In the top right the label “Friends Ch.” is the Quaker Meeting House which was located at the intersection of Grand Street and Mt. Airy.2
  • The house labeled “Mrs. Barton” in the triangular area bounded by Old Post North, Brook Street, and Terrace Place still exists today and is said to be the oldest house in Croton.

The entire map and the rest of this 1872 Westchester County atlas can be seen at the David Rumsey Map Collection.

  1. Although not labeled on this map, Brook Street was then called Upper Landing Road.
  2. See this previous post for an 1850 map showing the Quaker Meeting House in more detail.