Category Archives: Westchester County

Amusement Parks: Rye Playland

Ride on: An iconic Westchester amusement park is at a turning point

Rye Playland, photo from Hudson Valley Magazine (May 2014)

Rye Playland, photo from Hudson Valley Magazine (May 2014)

Even if you’ve never been to Rye Playland, you might recognize it from the 1980s blockbuster movies Big and Fatal Attraction, which used the amusement park’s Art Deco buildings and retro rides as a stylish backdrop. But nothing can replace a visit to this nostalgic spot on Long Island Sound. Playland debuted in 1928. “It is the first totally planned amusement park,” says Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks. “It is also the only government-run amusement park on this scale in the country.” In addition to seven of the original 1920s rides — the most famous being the wooden Dragon Coaster — the 280-acre park has contemporary attractions (like the gravity-defying Super Flight) and a kiddie land with 21 rides, bringing the grand total to 47. There’s also a pool and, of course, the beach. The boardwalk is also back: Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of it, but the original pine was replaced by a more durable Brazilian hardwood. (The landmark Ice Casino skating arena also took a big hit, but is set to reopen this fall.) “It clearly needs a face-lift and some updating,” says Westchester County Legislator Peter Harckham, chairman of the committee overseeing the transition of the park’s operation to Sustainable Playland Inc. (SPI), a nonprofit which won a bid to restore the park and keep it financially viable. “The discussion is about how best to keep it as a park. Playland is on the National Register of Historic Places, so anything we do has to be within that context.” While SPI’s proposal originally called for reducing the number of rides, that idea has been nixed. “A number of people, and I’m one of them, feel that the amusement component is critical,” says Harckham. “They’re maintaining the size and bringing in Central Amusement International as an operator. They’re the folks who did the renovation of Coney Island.” Another part of the plan that has changed is a reduction in the size of the field house to be built in the parking lot, from 95,000 to 82,500 square feet. An aquatics activity center, restaurants, and a children’s museum are all part of the Playland Improvement Plan (PIP), available to read at www.sustainableplayland.org. Reaction has been mixed. Foes say that the field house is still too big and the overall plan will create noise and congestion, among other issues. Others welcome the idea of a year-round recreation destination, as it would stimulate the local economy. For his part, Harckham is optimistic. “No matter what decision we make on the PIP, people should know that Playland is open for business this summer — and it’s only going to get better.” Opening day is May 10. $30, $10 spectators (no rides), under 3 free. 914-813-7000; www.ryeplayland.org

Reprinted from Hudson Valley Magazine, May 2014

Hotel Gramatan

Hotel Gramatan

Built by real estate developer William Van Duzer Lawrence, on Sunset Hill in Lawrence Park, in 1905, this Spanish Colonial/Mission styled hotel was  a symbol of exclusivity. With 300 guest rooms, three restaurants, a gracious lobby and grand staircase leading into a ballroom, this hotel represented high style and elegance.

After the Depression hit, the hotel started a slow and prolonged decline, until it was torn down in 1972, to make way for townhouses.

 

 

Birthplace of the American Circus

Source: Oblong to the Hudson by Harry Wirth; 1976

Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current

Routes 202 and 100, Somers

Hachaliah Bailey purchased an African elephant in 1815 and set upon the countryside to make his fortune. Menageries were an early form of American entertainment; but unfortunately, a disgruntled Somers farmer shot Old Bet and brought to a close Bailey’s preBarnum activities. The monument, originally erected by Bailey and later restored, stands in the center of Somers, which considers itself “The Birthplace of the American Circus”.

Peekskill’s Drum Hill

Source: Oblong to the Hudson by Harry Wirth; 1976

Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current

I

South Street, Peekskill

Peekskill’s oldest church dominated Drum Hill when it was constructed in the 1840’s. Its spire, once visible for miles, has since been overshadowed by Drum Hill School and cramped by the congestion of today’s urban Peekskill.

Sleepy Hollow’s Old Dutch Church

Source: Oblong to the Hudson by Harry Wirth; 1976

Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current

Route 9, Sleepy Hollow

Patentee Frederick Philipse was one of the richest men in the Colonies when he and his second wife, Catherine Van Cortlandt, built this church in 1699. Years later, in 1829, Washington Irving alluded to the Old Dutch Church in his Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The stone construction and the gambrel roof reflect the Dutch origins of the early parishioners; the gothic arches over the windows, however, conform to the fashion of Washington Irving’s 19th Century Tarrytown.

 

New Croton Dam

Source: Oblong to the Hudson by Harry Wirth; 1976

Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current

Route 129, Town of Cortlandt

The New Croton Dam was a fifteen year project completed in 1907. As the tallest masonry dam of its time – 184 feet high – it caused, as part of the New York City Reservoir System, vast changes in the land’s appearance and major alterations in the economy of the Putnam-Westchester area.

 

Henry Ward Beecher Estate

Source: Oblong to the Hudson by Harry Wirth; 1976

Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current

Peekskill
This Peekskill manor, built in the 1870’s, was the country estate of Henry Ward Beecher, famous 19th Century abolitionist and cleric. His daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, authored the controversial Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Today the building serves St. Peter’s Episcopal School. Its massive opulence is an architectural forerunner of the famed “Hudson River Castles” constructed upriver.

 

Ossining Business District

Source: Oblong to the Hudson by Harry Wirth; 1976

Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current

Main Street, Ossining

In the 1870’s, Ossining’s business district boasted rows of Victorian structures. After a devastating fire, merchants moved their stores up Main Street, away from the river, erecting buildings rich in the decorative features of American life before the turn of the century.

 

Peekskill Fire Department

Peekskill Fire Department

Source: Gems of the Hudson: Peekskill and Vicinity
Compiled by G. M. Vescelius, Peekskill NY (Book, Date Unknown- circa 1914)
HOME OF CORTLAND HOOK & LADDER COMPANY
 Courtesy of The Highland Democrat.

The Fire Department of Peekskill is a most efficient body. It consists of five companies of volunteers: Columbia Engine Co. No. 1, Columbia Hose Co. No. 1, Cortland Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1, Washington Engine Co. No. 2, Centennial Hose Co. No. 4. Three of these have auto machines—the apparatus of the other two being horse drawn. The fire department antedates the charter of the Village, the village charter as a village date from 1839, and the department being formed under a fire district charter in 1827.
The Cortland Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 is the only truck company of the village and is a social organization of high, order as well as a model fire company.
Columbian Engine Co. No. 1, and Columbian Hose Co. No. 1. who occupy the same building were the first companies in each of these lines to be organized in Peekskill. The former dates from 1826 and the latter a few years later.
The Washington Engine Co. No. 2 has a combination automobile engine and hose apparatus, purchased with money most of which was raised by the members themselves. The company is housed in a three-story brick building on Nelson Avenue, with parlor, gymnasium, meeting room, besides apparatus room.
Centennial Hose Co. No. 4, the last of the Peekskill fire companies to be organized. Its existence dates from 1870. One of the most active and progressive of the fire companies of Peekskill.

Morton’s Peekskill And New York Day Line

Morton’s Peekskill And New York Day Line

Source: Gems of the Hudson: Peekskill and Vicinity
Compiled by G. M. Vescelius, Peekskill NY (Book, Date Unknown- circa 1914)
Information here is for archival purposes, and is not current.
ONE of the big advantages that the Village of Peekskill enjoys is service of an excellent freight boat line to New York City. This is the Morton Day Line, which has carried freight between Peekskill and New York so long that it seems a part of the village itself or, at least, a co-existent adjunct.
The Morton Day Line was started by the father of its present operators and by him run successfully until his death. In that time it took up an extensive patronage and by its promptness, care and courtesy made friends of all its clients. This condition continues under the present management.
Odell Morton and William Morton, the present heads of the line, may be said to have been born in the business and they know it throughly. Both are experienced pilots and they inherit those traits of their father, the late Captain George Morton, that enabled him not only to secure trade but to handle it so as to retain it. It is doubtful if a serious complaint against this popular line has ever been heard in Peekskill. The boats of the line, Fanny Woodall and G. F. Brady, stop at Croton-on-Hudson and at Verplanck on both up and down trips