March 5, 2019 at 1:13 am #872
I had some time to kill today while waiting for my daughter to finish her dentist appointment on Waldo Avenue. I had my son with me so I decided to walk around the block with him. We walked north on Greystone, down 238th Street, and up Waldo Ave. My son stopped in front of a house at 3611 Waldo Avenue because there was a pretty cat on the porch meowing. We looked at the cat for a moment and noticed a woman walking out of the driveway with a shovel. My son said, “I like your cat” and we started talking. I noticed the house had a small yard and perhaps the woman’s shovel made me think to ask “Have you ever found anything interesting while digging in your yard?” Only after asking the question did I realize that she probably had the shovel to dig her car out of the snow. But she mentioned that there was something interesting about her basement.
The woman, who appeared to be of retirement age, mentioned that her father-in-law had built the house but that there was a building on the property prior to this one–a barn. She added that her father-in-law mentioned that the south wall of the basement was part of the barn and that horses would stick their heads through the holes in the wall. She invited me in to have a look. I convinced my son to part with the cat and we went into the basement.
She showed me the wall and it was obvious that it was very old. The lower part of the wall was stone and the upper part brick. There were openings in the wall despite the fact that there was nothing on the other side other than the dirt of her yard. This was was obviously once above ground level before the ground level was raised for the sewer system.
The woman’s story made sense. It would not be hard to imagine a horse sticking its head through one of those holes.
When I got home, I checked my maps. I believe that somewhere on that block was the colonial era mansion of Frederick Van Cortlandt known as Upper Cortlandts. I wrote about Upper Cortlandts (here and here, scroll down). I believe this might be a photograph of Frederick Van Cortlandts’ Upper Cortlandts mansion:
The above photo comes from the auction brochure for the sale of the Waldo Hutchins estate, which included this block. The brochure also featured a map of the property, which indicated the presence of several buildings, one of which was a “Stone Fr. Barn.” Overlaying the auction map over a contemporary one, it seems that the wall of the woman’s basement was one of the walls of the barn in the map:
The New York Historical Society has a couple of letters that describe the Upper Cortlandts property. One states that it included a a mansion, a farmhouse and several outbuildings (and a quarry). It seems this wall is a remnant of the colonial-era farmhouse. It is amazing what you come across when you talk to the people in your neighborhood!March 5, 2019 at 11:48 am #873
It’s so remarkable to live in a city where the past and present are connected in such an organic way. THe past is always moving and never completely gone.March 5, 2019 at 9:56 pm #874
A reader just sent me this link to the Museum of the City of New York’s collection of photos of the old Hutchins estate. There are some great shots of the mansion, which had a nice view over the valley of Kingsbridge to the east:
The below photo appears to show the stone barn on the right and another smaller building on the left:
I believe those are the two buildings shown below on the Waldo Hutchins estate sale map:
I am reasonably sure that both the mansion and the barn are depicted on this British intelligence map from the revolution. Hessian soldiers were stationed in the buildings for much of the war.
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