Crotonville Neighborhood Association


and Friends of Croton River



Last modified 1/19/01

Crotonville is a small historic neighborhood in the Town of Ossining , NY. USA, which lies on the banks of the Croton River (photo gallery) and the Eagle bay of the Hudson River Estuary. The bucolic surroundings here have inspired art, music, literature, and political commentary .

The Crotonville Neighborhood Association (CNA) is a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the quality of life, local history, and stunning natural environment found here.

Crotonville is loosely bounded by Rt.9 to the South, the old High Bridge and Van Cortlandt grist mill site to the north (now a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation state park), the beginning of Glendale Rd. to the East, and the Croton River to the west. A small area, but one which includes tiny slivers of Cortlandt and New Castle where the three town lines intersect.
Anybody wishing to add to this website is welcome to. Contact any CNA Board member listed below.


CNA board members
Acknowledgements























































Croton River Gallery

Enjoy the gallery of Croton River Images . If you would like to add to it, please contact the Crotonville Neighborhood Association by mail or email.

































Bald Eagles and other birds

1996-- The bald eagles have returned to the Croton River this year. This is the fourth winter in a row that they have been sighted. They usually seem to stay for only two or three weeks. (Last year five were seen simultaneously on the branches of a dead tree on the banks of the Croton River. Two mature, and three immature). Yesterday morning, I witnessed the most astonishing scene. A seagull was divebombing the eagle in flight, chasing and harassing it for several minutes. I would've expected the reverse. Also, the winter waterfowl are back. Coots, goldeneye, and, of course squadrons of Canada geese.

12/31/1997 No sign yet this year of the Bald Eagles. The coots are here, and the Canada Geese are beginning to congregate on cold windy days. The geese here are spectacular, especially during landing approaches of flocks of hundreds during heavy winds and white caps. Huge formations swoop in, wings cocked downward at the tips in rough cross winds. There is little resemblance to the very same geese waddling on your lawn.

1/98 Finally saw a Bald Eagle here this winter. It's been around now for about two weeks. Only one as far as I've seen.

1/2001 It's been 3 years since updating on the bald eagles. Each year, usually for two or three weeks (twice it seems, I guess to and fro during migration), we see the eagles on the Croton River. Usually one or two adults in full glory, and two or three immature eagles who are near full ize but dappled grey/brown/dirty white in color. My freinds and neighbors where kayacking on the day before christmas day this year, and witnessed a dramatic scene where two bald eagles were fighting in the air for some morsel of food. Apparently, one had it in its talons and the other was attacking it in mid flight, grabbing the food in it's talons too, resulting in a two-bird non-aerodynamic joined mess of screeching and 4 wings flapping. We often see the group of eagles "chillin" on a large dead tree about halfway up the Croton River. Each on a different branch. Fantastic sight.


Get in touch

We want your ideas, comments, and volunteer help.

Email us

ggh@us.ibm.com

Write us

Crotonville Neighborhood Association
53 Old Albany Post Rd.
Ossining NY, 10562

CNA board of directors

Give us a phone call

Board Member (914) 923-3671 Arendse Bernth
Board member/
Treasurer
(914) 762-2982 Joseph D. Corio
Acting Chair (914) 762-4778 Gareth Hougham
Board Member (914) 762-6350 Noel Malsberg
Board Member (914) 941-8175 Richard Perykasz
Board Member (914) 762-2318 Pat Sperber
Board Member (914) 941-1965 Eric Staats
Board member/
attorney
(914) xxx-xxxx seeking volunteer
Board member/
architect
(914) xxx-xxxx seeking volunteer

Acknowledgements


The CNA would like to thank the following for generously donating time, materials, or funding to neighborhood projects.




















Crotonville and Croton River History



Contents




















American Revolution

Crotonville's history spans two hundred years. During the American Revolution it was for a time the northern boundary of the British. Across the Croton River was the southern boundary of the Patriots at the Van Cortlandt Manor. We are reminded of these beginnings annually when the Van Cortlandt Manor reenacts revolutionary battles, in full authentic costume. The Old Albany Post Road ran through Crotonville, past the Black Horse Inn, and over the Old High Bridge. While Phillip Van Cortlandt frequently corresponded with Gen. George Washington, there is apparently no evidence that Washington ever visited the Manor on the Croton River. A letter from Washington dated Jan.3, 1783 to the Officer commanding the troops on the Croton River instructed on the fine points of the conduct of war concerning flags of truce, authentication of such, and the caution with which bearers should be handled as they approach the guards at the Highbridge. (Photo courtesy of the Ossining and Croton Historical Societies). The Old High Bridge is over what is now known as the gorge, and what used to be referred to by the Van Cortlandts as the Deep Hole. Professor Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has described the joy of sitting in scuba gear at the bottom of this spot watching the spring run of migrating fish. (His work in environmental law at nearby Pace University Law School and the Pace Environmental Law Clinic has helped to secure an ecologically robust estuary for future generations.)





































Benjamin Franklin

The American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin spent the night of Saturday, May 25th, 1776 at the Van Cortlandt home and rode the next morning through Crotonville continuing his journey home to Philadelphia. (I can see the Manor's stone ice house from where I sit writing at this moment). This and other encounters in Crotonville with these great Americans is documented in Vol. 2 of "Correspondence of the Van Cortlandt Family of Cortlandt Manor", By Jacob Judd, Sleepy Hollow Restorations (press), 1977, (currently Historic Hudson Valley, inc. (914) 631-8200 ).


































 


Westal Contracting Awarded Highest Honor of National Roofing Association


Westal Contracting in Ossining (Crotonville) was awarded the 1997 Gold Circle Award for "Outstanding Workmanship" at the [John] Jay Heritage Center's Carriage House. This is an historic landmark building in Rye, NY which is part of a National Historic Landmark Complex where founding father John Jay spent his boyhood years.

Restoration of the building's standing seam copper roof- with its skylights, peaks, valleys, chimneys, dormers,
box gutters and notable clock tower was an unusually critical job, said Rhoda Kornreich, president of  
the Jay Heritage Center. 


Congratulations Russ and crew! 

























The Mills

The old mills lie just about 100 yards north of the Crotonville line, just beyond the old Highbridge. These mills were the defining feature of the area in their time, and were in operation for nearly 150 years. They began as one of several grist mills (Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown) owned and operated by the Van Cortlandts. At one time running twelve millstones! It was arguably the most important mill site along the Croton River because of its location at the interface between the tidal Hudson river estuary portion of the Croton river and the fresh water rapids portion of the river. Thus, the power of the rapids and the convenience of the tide for loading transport ships (sloops, periaugers, and schooners) was an effective combination indeed (drawing by T. Cornu, 1929. C. Cotton Gallery). This millsite was leased by the Underhills from the Van Cortlandts in a complex deal which resulted in years of bitter litigation (see Correspondence of the Van Cortlandts, Vol. 2 for a fascinating account). During the Underhill period Cornelius Vanderbilt apparently sailed grain from New York to the Mill in his two masted periauger. He would return the ground flour and made some of the earliest of his legendary profits. He was between 16 and 18 years old at the time. Later, in 1841 the Underhill Mill was sold after the devastating collapse of the Old Croton Dam washed much of the mill downriver. Also in 1841, George Hecker bought a mill on the Croton River to start what is now the Heckers Flour company. This is documented in correspondence with the recently-deceased Paul Ullmann III, CEO of Heckers flour. It is not yet conclusively established that they are one and the same mill, but everything points in that direction. Later still, Robert Hollman either owned or leased the mills. The road leading to the mill site is to this day called Hollman Rd. on Town of Cortlandt maps. Later still, the site became an iron and wire mill under the ownership of the Baileys and marvelous blocks of melted iron slag remain. (some confusion about the site of the Bailey iron mill may be cleared by something I received the other day from the Westchester County Historical Society suggesting that after the original Bailey iron mill about two miles upriver was destroyed by the collapse of the first Croton Dam in 1841, the operation was moved to this site at the start of the rapids). This Bailey (James) was one of five brothers. Another was the Bailey of the Barnam and Bailey circus fame from Somers. Somers was a village near or on the Croton River before the original dam created the reservoir.

A former president of the Westchester County Historical Society, Mr. Allison Albee, located a surviving account book from the Baily Iron Mill. In it is recorded the goods brought to and from the Mill Site as well as the names and dimensions of some of the sloops and schooners which made deliveries to the mill. Some of these were up to 75 feet in length. Since the draft of a 75 foot schooner was most likely at least 5 or 6 feet, these records confuse our picture of the operation of the mill. These records were for 1864, more than 20 years after the dam collapse and the associated silting of the Croton River bed. Either dredging of a shipping canal was carried out or some ship loading was actually carried out at the Sing Sing docks. Goods may have been shuttled to these docks from the mills via small, flat bottomed periaugers. Written evidence does exist for the Underhills to have built such periaugers. On the other hand, both larger periaugers like the 60 foot flat bottomed "Dread" owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt and sloops had sideboard or centerboard keels respectively. These would allow their travel up the Croton river even without a deep channel.

The height of the Highbridge can be estimated from the single extant photograph. If these account books can be re-located, then the bridge height can be compared to the mast heights and some conclusions drawn as to whether or not these ships traveled up to the mill itself. More to come.

This photograph was found at the archives of Historic Hudson Valley in Tarrytown. It is recorded as the Mills at the Van Cortlandt House, burned about 1880. If true, then this is a photo of this mill site (Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown) at the start of the rapids. However, the topography does not look consistent with this. Thus, it may be a photo of one of several other Van Cortlandt Mills farther up the Croton River. Please contact me with any other information about these mills

Just recently, I spoke to a person by the name of Beth Goff who is granddaughter of a guy named Twiggar, who owned Twiggar's mill. The Twiggar's mill was between the old Croton Dam and the New Croton Dam. Some fascinating details about the operation of this mill to follow soon. In short, its still-successful operation after the construction of the first dam with the associated loss of water, played a role in a major riparian rights court case (Mayo vs. New York Water Bureau). Mayo believed that the water from four tributaries below the Old Dam, which ran this mill, was never bargained for in the original Water Bureau takings and that she had rights to this water farther down river where her property spanned both banks. She won, it was appealed and I think it was overturned. We need an attorney to read the case to figure it out. Any volunteers?

More to come on this sometime later.





















Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway State Park and Equestrian Trail

The aqueduct was built starting around 1836 to bring fresh water to a rapidly growing New York City. It is no longer used as such except to bring water to the Indian Brook Reservoir in Crotonville from the Croton Reservoir. The State of New York has designated the land above the pipe as a state park. It is a linear park running --I think-- all the way from New York City to the Croton Dam. It is gorgeous, great for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and horseback riding (it is a designated equestrian trail). The aqueduct is an important, albeit somewhat hidden, recreational resource in Crotonville. Use it, take care of it, and write to the Taconic State Park Commission requesting that a footbridge be built over route 9A. There is a detour around 9A, but you have to look closely for the route markers. If a footbridge is not built, somebody is going to get hit by a car crossing route 9A eventually. I saw two kids with bikes scurrying across the center lane barriers two weeks ago.

The Aqueduct park is wonderful and definitely worth a visit. Stop off at Gerlach park in Crotonville for a drink of water for you and your horse, and for use of the restrooms. Also, while not officially desnignated for it, Gerlach park is a good place to park your horse trailer while riding on the Aqueduct. It is only 30 feet off the trail.

For a well-written and nicely-printed history and guide to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway, call the NYS DEC, Taconic region. Request copies of the 150 year anniversary edition at (718) 595-3483.

By the way, a bike path is being constructed along rt 9 from Ossining to Croton by the NYS DOT as part of rebuilding the Rt. 9/Croton River Bridge. When this is complete, you will be able to bike, hike, and ride horses from the tip of Croton Point Park to Croton Dam. From Croton going south, take bike path as far as Old Albany Post Rd. at the first traffic light in Ossining. From there you pick up the aqueduct all the way to the Croton Dam.

This lithograph by Fayette B. Tower of the Ossining aqueduct archway is actually about a mile south of Crotonville. Now the place of the Double Arches. (courtesy of The Cornelia Cotton Gallery in Croton).

(Don't tell anyone, but decades ago when in high school some adventurous friends and I rapelled into the Aqueduct's double Arch weir from the hatch on the roof. We walked about a mile north in the pipe but made a quick turn around when we came across boot prints in the mud!! We left behind an aluminum plaque with our names and the date scratched in. I wonder if it was ever found?)


























Aaron Copland

More recently Crotonville was home to another legendary American figure, the composer Aaron Copland. He lived and wrote in his home on Shady Lane Farm Road until he moved to Peekskill in 1960. The modest clapboard exterior belies the rugged beauty of the wooden interior of this converted barn (New York Times, 8/11/85 "Return to Shady Lane" by Helen Barolini). It was during his time here that he wrote the opera "The Tender Land". From this, the movement titled "The Promise of Living", is quite stirring and we now consider it the unofficial theme song of Crotonville. I expect some of us ran into Copland in Frank's Crotonville Deli without even knowing it. This home, sadly, was razed by General Electric in 1987 for a corporation baseball field.


























Albert Wein

The acclaimed American artist, Albert Wein, lived and worked in Crotonville for the last decades of his life until his death several years ago. Albert Wein was best known for his sculpture, including the 70 ton Granite relief on Libby Dam in Montana. He worked in stone, bronze, and wood. His wife, Mrs. Wein, a well known sculptor in her own right, currently lives in and maintains an active studio in Crotonville.


































John Cheever

The noted American writer John Cheever lived just a walk down the aqueduct path from Crotonville. While not strictly from Crotonville, many here remember seeing him around town. The poet Helen Barolini who lived in the Aaron Copland house recalls running into him near the aqueduct in Crotonville one day. Cheever recited a story to her which had just come to him on that very walk. This turned into the well known Cheever story "The Swimmer". We are happy to have had the late John Cheever as a near neighbor (as well as the poet Mary Cheever who still lives here).






















Egon Ottinger

Egon Ottinger , known widely as Ott, lived on the East bank of the Croton River just below Croton Dam. As a young man he canoed from the Lower East Side in Manhattan to the Croton River many times for fun. Later, he and his wife Lillian as a young couple bought the stone cottage up river and stayed for the remainder of their lives. Ottinger was an award winning canoe racer and a tireless advocate for conservation. He was also known for his hobby of building stone walls by floodlight after commuting home from work, for refusing evening telephone calls from the shipping giant Onassis when he was busy with his stonework, for generous philanthropy and for staying humble and genuine after a lifetime of enormous business success in Maritime Insurance.




















Theodore Cornu

Theodore Cornu lived on the Croton River for nearly 50 years. Like Egon Ottinger, he canoed up from New York City, discovered the Croton River and stayed. He was an artist and became well known for his line drawings of the Hudson River and the Croton River. He was also a devoted conservationist and inspired generations with his periodical "The Hudson Valley Echoes" which focused on environmental and historical themes. Long before these concepts were widely accepted, the Echo was a call-to-arms for a fight against pollution and waste, counseled conservation of the natural habitat, and sought to share the beauty of the Croton and Hudson River though art.

When he first came up the river, he camped on the Ossining side but later moved to the Van Cortlandt Ferry House where he is remembered to have had several birch bark canoes hanging upside down from the ceiling inside.

He also worked for many years on local environmental committees and was among the first group of people to challenge the County over the Croton Dump.














 

 
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Email us

ggh@watson.ibm.com

Write us

Crotonville Neighborhood Association
53 Old Albany Post Rd.
Ossining NY, 10562

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