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April 13, 2021 at 2:57 pm in reply to: Historic Black Kingsbridge 1698-1850 – A Community Revealed in Documents #1927
I just received an interesting email comment about this, which suggested the possibility that Peter Pierson could have been a descendant of the miller on Van Cortlandt Plantation but ALSO enslaved by Alexander Macomb. That is entirely possible. Local people did sell enslaved people to one another. The Macombs, like the Van Cortlandts, operated mills on their property. The Macomb mill was much larger and was powered by the shifting tides on the Spuyten Duyvil Creek. It was located just next to the King’s Bridge. The below image is from a later date, of course.
Also, I wanted to share this very well done video series about Cesar, the enslaved miller that lived and worked at Frederick Philipse’s mills in Sleepy Hollow. It stands to reason that the mill in today’s Van Cortlandt Park would have looked very similar:
Part 1 – The Miller and His Apprentice
Part 2 – Caesar’s Skills
Part 3 – Recognition for CaesarApril 12, 2021 at 8:46 pm in reply to: Historic Black Kingsbridge 1698-1850 – A Community Revealed in Documents #1926
The article I wrote about Van Cortlandt Plantation suggests that a free Black man that lived in the neighborhood named Peter Pierson could have been a descendant of Piero, the miller who worked on Van Cortlandt Plantation. I just came across a document that casts some doubt on that theory. In 1812, Alexander Macomb, who owned a good portion of Kingsbridge around today’s 230th Street, manumitted a man named Peter Pierson. So, the Peter Pierson who shows up in the census in our neighborhood could have been held by Alexander Macomb as opposed to the Van Cortlandts.March 26, 2021 at 1:38 pm in reply to: Developments in Kingsbridge – Corlear, Godwin, Broadway #1918
To circle back to the beginning of the thread, I got an email from Michael Tynan stating that the Land and Sea Restaurant was originally Arthur’s Modern Diner. I found plenty of references to it in the Riverdale Press (although the picture quality is not great):
Getting back to the sewers, it is funny that I read that 1905 article and the cost didn’t really dawn on me but yeah, that is A LOT of money. I get the impression that one of the reasons why Kingsbridge voted to separate from Yonkers in 1873 was that many people wanted this work done and the city of Yonkers couldn’t afford to or didn’t want to do it. The Yonkers government was more focused on the Village of Yonkers, which was what they called today’s downtown Yonkers.
Today we have a greater appreciation for natural waterways and the benefits of salt marshes, which were very prevalent in Kingsbridge. And I am sure some local people treasured the natural ecology as there are many stories in the papers about fishing, crabbing, and people enjoying the water. Many photos show small boats pulled up along the banks of the creeks and many people wrote about the area’s natural beauty. But there were also stories about kids drowning, bridges in need of repair, the desire for a “water works,” and the benefits of dry land for development. No doubt certain parties stood to make a lot of money from the building boom that could occur once the swamps were gone as well. And then there were events like this, which probably did a lot to sway public opinion in favor of draining the marshes:
Some of the issues were presented in the below article from the Feb. 8, 1869 issue of the Yonkers Statesman if you feel like straining your eyesight:March 25, 2021 at 7:26 pm in reply to: Developments in Kingsbridge – Corlear, Godwin, Broadway #1914
Yes, that’s a great photo, Zach. Here is a similar one from a postcard:
The sewers, which you can see were built above street level in that earlier photo of Corlear, were something people in the neighborhood were clamoring for. And they took a long time to build. Before I saw the photos of manholes sticking up in the air like chimneys, I figured they probably dug below street level for the sewers. But Kingsbridge was already prone to flooding so it made more sense just to raise the whole neighborhood up. Here is a photo of W. 231st Street looking East from Broadway with Bailey Ave in the background. The manholes look like they are about 10 feet above street level:
Here’s one looking south from the part of Riverdale Ave above the retaining wall:
Here’s another of Albany Crescent looking north (as far as I can tell anyway):
Like many construction projects in NYC, building the sewers took forever and went over budget. This is from the September 10, 1905 New York Tribune:
This is one of our most widely shared articles as many folks are thinking back to their childhoods in Kingsbridge in the 60s. Unfortunately, I have not seen any photos in our archives of W. 231st Street in the 60s. We do have a great one that I think is just a decade or two earlier though. It is undated and apparently taken from the train platform:
Maybe someone who really knows cars could give this a date. Zooming in on the north and south sides of the street:
Best of luck to your brother.March 17, 2021 at 1:19 pm in reply to: Was the Albany Post Road earlier known as a “Mill Path?” #1909
Yes, Zach, that’s what I think as well. I was surprised how swampy that land was given its higher elevation. Since this map was an intelligence map, they needed to know what were areas were off-limits for troop movements, cavalry, etc. Eric Sanderson used this map for his historical ecology project and that’s how I first learned about it–from his notes. When I first saw it, I was giddy because of all of the local history info.
I did a very rough geo-referencing of this map over a contemporary one that you can check out here:
It’s not my finest work but it gives you an idea of where things were. Use the slider on the top right to adjust the opacity of map layer. You’ll be able to see the contemporary path of the Albany Post Road and the “Mill Runn” pretty clearly using it.March 15, 2021 at 9:45 pm in reply to: Was the Albany Post Road earlier known as a “Mill Path?” #1905
Last time I was up in the Westchester County Archives, where the deeds are kept, I was told that the deeds were typed up as part of a WPA project.
Thanks, Zach and Tom for sharing the maps. Great stuff. I’ve never seen the Bolton map. What book is it from? On that map you can see how Broadway is a straight line but the Albany Post Road had to zig-zag a bit to stay out of the muck. Just above of what is depicted on that map, the Albany Post Road went north under today’s Bailey Avenue and into today’s Van Cortlandt Park. It crossed the park and went north along the ridge just to the west of Broadway.
The “Mill Runn” on the 1684 map is also interesting. This is out of my geographic area of expertise but just under where it says “Mill Runn” it looks like “Coll Morris his land.” I wonder when Morris built his mill. This map shows the source of that stream near the Bronx River somewhere around where the Botanical Garden is. It labels that stream as “Morrisina Creek.” It looks like the Harlem Line of Metro North was built partially on that creek bed.March 15, 2021 at 12:32 pm in reply to: Was the Albany Post Road earlier known as a “Mill Path?” #1898
Thanks. Keep in mind this is just a theory. It is hard to be completely sure because given how sketchy the information is.
Yes, generally the Albany Post Road roughly follows the route of Broadway or Route 9 through Yonkers and Westchester. The original post road was very circuitous to avoid streams and marshes–sort of like the path of least resistance. But by the time Broadway was cut through in the 19th century, they had more manpower and better methods for making roads and they made them wider. But the newer roads didn’t diverge greatly from the same general course as the old roads.
To give you an idea of how rough the old roads were, here is a snippet from a 1785 map showing the Albany Post Road through Riverdale. Note that there is a sharp bend in the road near today’s Mosholu Ave labeled “Breakneck Hill.” No doubt it had that name for a reason! The generals that relied on these roads during the American Revolution were constantly complaining about them and blaming them for why they got lost or were late to the battle.
As a side note, north of 251st Street, you will find a road called “Post Road.” Just to the east is an unpaved lane, which was the original Albany Post Road. Just to the east of that is Broadway. All three are running parallel roughly north to south.
That’s a good question, Zach. I am intrigued by the building in the top right corner and the topography in the background. You wouldn’t happen to have a photo in higher resolution, would you? Or a link to the original?
I did find some references to the building in the 2003 Van Cortlandt Cultural Landscape Survey–although, its author is not too sure where this is either. See below:
Here’s a closeup of the photo:
That is very interesting about Charlotte Van Cortlandt taking care of the Vault Hill burial ground. I could not get the link to work though.
Van Cortlandt Park has had big problems protecting historic sites in the park from vandals. Last year the Grand Central Stones were nicely cleaned off and restored by NYC Parks. Just recently they were tagged again with graffiti. A Parks worker painted over it with black paint, which only makes the process of removing the graffiti more difficult. It is the same situation up on Vault Hill. I am not really sure what the solution is. You rarely see Parks Enforcement in Van Cortlandt and I have no idea if there are any patrols at night.
It is funny that you should mention Vault Hill’s connection to the Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first saint born in America. I just recently learned that fact myself from Patrick Raftery’s book. However, I think NYC Parks recently removed the monument to her step-mother from Vault Hill. With the death of Charlotte, I guess there are no Van Cortlandts around to complain about this sort of thing.
Thanks for that, Tom. That was 1912 so they hadn’t been removed before then. Without any evidence to the contrary I would say they are still there.
Cemeteries of The Bronx has a really good writeup on the site including many other things that I did not know. For example, there are two side-by-side vaults within the walled in area. One was used by the Van Cortlandts and the other by the Bayley and Craig families (they were connected to the Van Cortlandts by marriage). One of the monuments for the Bayleys was only just removed by the Parks Dept. a few years ago after it was kicked over. If there are any Van Cortlandts or Bayleys still out there, I wonder how they would feel about the way the city has taken care of their family burial plot.February 19, 2021 at 3:03 pm in reply to: Mystery Building on Broadway in Van Cortlandt Park #1870
I agree that the building was most likely a comfort station given the lack of any definite proof. Perhaps it had to be moved when Broadway was widened–sort of like how the train station needed to be changed.February 18, 2021 at 5:38 pm in reply to: Mystery Building on Broadway in Van Cortlandt Park #1866
I think you could be right about the comfort station. But I can’t figure out what building it is on the map that you posted. The building in question is east of Broadway (I think) but it looks like the buildings in the map are west of Broadway. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I agree Tom. Here are the miniatures you’re looking for:
You can order them here: https://www.perry-miniatures.com/product/aw33-stockbridge-tribe-skirmishing/
The bad news is they are about an inch tall and you have to paint them yourself. You can get the Queen’s Rangers cavalry, the Hessian Jaegers and make yourself a diorama!
Thanks for the photos, Peter. The second one looks like it could have been taken in a different time. And that’s interesting about Dogwood Close–I never put those things together.
The stream appears as “Dogwood Brook” on Thomas Henry Edsall’s map, which is also on the maps page in better detail:
Congratulations Tom on correctly identifying the house, which is 15 Ft. Charles Place on Marble Hill. Here is the original photo that the snippet was taken from. It is one of my favorite photos.
The photographer may have goofed as the boys in the foreground seem out of focus but fortunately the background is very clear. The view of the photo is looking north from Manhattan on the northern bank of the Harlem River Ship Canal. The photo is undated but looks to be shortly after the construction of the canal, which separated Marble Hill from northern Manhattan. A note on the back of the photo reads: “Uncle Fred and Uncle Frank at Spiten Divel about where Baker’s field is now on Manhattan side. Ship Canal built by U.S.”
Zooming in on the rubble pile on the lower right, you can see the chunks of marble that were dug up when the ship canal was blasted through the hillside:
This rubble pile was quite the attraction for geology enthusiasts:
The above photo comes from an article: “An Early Quarrying District on Manhattan Island” by Lawrence H. Conklin, which appeared in the November 1997 issue of The Mineralogical Record. The largest of the quarries at Marble Hill was the one owned and operated by the Boltons in the early 1800s. Technically, it was the Boltons who first separated Marble Hill from Manhattan when they dug a canal across Marble Hill that was used to power a stone-cutting saw mill. This 1867 map of Marble Hill shows that Bolton Canal clearly:
You can see that the canal would have cut off Marble Hill from Manhattan entirely were it not for a little bridge that allowed travellers to continue north toward Kingsbridge. I mention that bridge because you get a nice look at it in this Gustave Milbert drawing of the area:
This is looking west from The Bronx from the east bank of the Harlem River ca. 1820. The Harlem River is in the foreground and the Hudson and the Palisades are in the background. Just to the right of the sailboat’s sail you can see that bridge connecting the roadway over the Bolton canal. This canal was obliterated when the Harlem River Ship Canal was dug through.
Getting back to this month’s mystery photo, there is some interesting stuff just to the left and behind one of the boys:
Partially obscured behind the boy is a house standing on the bank of the new canal. To the left is something that looks like a wall and doorway out in a field. That house and doorway are more clearly seen in this 1861 drawing from Valentine’s Manual (view looking north):
The house and doorway are pretty much center. Can you believe that is Marble Hill in the background? The caption reads: “Residence of Isaac Dyckman, Kingsbridge NY 1861.” Just to be clear, this is not the same Dyckman house that is today the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum. The house depicted above belonged to the Isaac Dyckman, but was earlier owned by the Boltons (according to Conklin). The house shows up in other photos and drawings from the turn of the century. Here it is when it was used as a boarding house (you can see a few more homes on Marble Hill in the background, ca. 1905):
The below panorama shows the view looking west as if you were hovering above the ship canal just south of the Target parking lot. The house is on the right atop the rock face on the canal:
Here is a closeup of another great panorama. The Dyckman house is visible just poking behind the Broadway Bridge, and you can see how developed Marble Hill is on the right. This is circa 1902.
Zooming in on the background of this month’s mystery photo you can see a home under construction:
It seems that many of the homes on Marble Hill were built in this late Victorian period. Given how many of these homes still survive, it seems to me that the neighborhood is worthy of a historic district designation. I took a walk around Marble Hill the other day and I was reminded of just how unique it is for our area. I would definitely recommend walking around there if you have not had the chance. Check out some of these Victorian era architectural details:
Here’s the first hint–a visual clue. I took this photo a few days ago when walking past the building in question. I was told by the owner that the stonework around the window is not original but was added by the previous owners, who were stonemasons. Speaking of stone: the sidewalk in front is made of large slate slabs.
Here it is on an 1885 E. Robinson Map (in the center along Sidney Street):
This one better shows the placement of the house, which is positioned at an odd angle relative to the streets.December 22, 2020 at 2:01 pm in reply to: The Moller Mansion – After 150 Years Are its Days Numbered? #1828
An online petition is circulating to landmark the Moller Mansion. You can check it out here:
I had been under the impression that the owner’s permission was required to landmark a building but apparently not! Check out the below snippet from the LPC webpage:
Thank you to Stephanie Coggins for alerting us about the petition and thank you Roselin Denis for initiating it!
Yes, it would need to be a pretty seriously large tree! I think that the “Hangman’s Tree” (or “Hangman’s Oak”) is probably what the author was referring to. Even though this tree was on Spuyten Duyvil near Seton Hospital, it was still on property belonging to Augustus Van Cortlandt, so perhaps the author was confused. This 1885 map shows that the land around today’s Seton Park once belonged to Augustus Frederick Van Cortlandt:
My personal opinion is that the “Hangman’s Tree” is an interesting piece of local lore but I am not sold that there were actually any loyalists hanged from it. I have never seen any record of a hanging here. But hey, I guess you never really know for sure.
Great information, Peter. Thanks for sharing.
The painting really shows exactly what Jean Knowles was describing in the article with the neighborhood’s “narrow dirt roads and green fields.” Amazing to think this was only 100 years ago–a drop in the bucket of history.
I have been doing some research on the colonial history of Kingsbridge Heights. Just before the Revolution General Richard Montgomery had his farm on the spot depicted in the Livingston painting. But I was curious who was the previous owner of the land. I have not been able to find any deeds related to Montgomery’s purchase nor have I found any deeds related to its sale after General Montgomery was killed in Quebec in 1775. On his deathbed, Montgomery left the estate to his sister Lady Ranelagh of Ireland. I found it strange that he did not leave the property to his wife–Janet Livingston. (As a sidenote, I never really associated our area with the Livingstons but given that it was home to Janet Livingston, Charlotte Livingston, not to mention Livingston Ave, maybe I should rethink that).
After the Revolution most of the Montgomery farm ended up in the hands of Jacob Cole. It was the Cole family that had the family burial ground on Albany Crescent.
When we are done with Covid-19, I want to visit Princeton University, which holds the Edward Livingston papers. That collection contains a “survey and estimate of Richard Montgomery’s farm, Kingsbridge” that I have never seen. It could have some interesting info about the fort and environs.
Reviving this old thread, I found this postcard on eBay of “The Locust Grove, Van Cortlandt Park”–the same one that Stephen Jenkins referred to in the above quote. I remembered reading about the locust grove in Thomas Henry Edsall’s History of the Town of Kings Bridge as well.
This is what Edsall wrote on page 5 of History of the Town of Kings Bridge:
“It is probable that [Van der Donck’s] house was on the flat, and located, perhaps, where the old house of Jacobus Van Cortlandt afterwards stood until the early part of [the 19th] century.” A footnote added “Its site was just behind the present grove of locusts, north of the Van Cortlandt Mills.”
This “flat” is the area south of the tennis courts just east of the path with the stone wall. The house of Jacobus Van Cortlandt that was in that area is depicted on maps like the one below. The house Edsall referred to is indicated by the square dead center–to the east of the path and to the north of the mills. It is a place where parks workers found early colonial artifacts.
In her response above, Catherine Minty wrote that this house could have belonged to George Tippett and I believe she is correct. Tippett was one of the settlers that purchased lands from the widow of Van der Donck.
Thanks, Kelli and Tom. The house is still there and it is a land-marked building at 5225 Sycamore Ave in Riverdale. If you want to read all about it, the landmark preservation report is here. So many of these estate houses are hidden behind high bushes and shrubs so it is hard to get a look at them from the street.
I found some additional information about Robert Brown, the multiracial free militiaman from Kingsbridge. Some of this might be “too much information” for everyone but I have learned that a lot of people come to this site for genealogical reasons so I am posting what I found in case anyone out there is searching for it.
First of all, I am happy to report that Robert seems to have survived the Revolutionary War and continued living in our area through at least 1790. For some reason, I never noticed the last page of the 1790 census but there he is: “Free Robert.” He is listed under the category “all other free persons,” which was the category for free Black people. Robert’s household was the only one in Yonkers composed entirely of free Black people (although there were free Black people living in racially mixed households):
It would be interesting to find out if he ever applied for veteran’s benefits due to his service in the militia.
Also, by chance, I think I figured out where he grew up. I revisited an undated and unlabeled map from the Revolution that I never really paid much attention to. It is held in the University of Michigan’s Clements Library and you can check it out here. Once you get your bearings, you will see that the cartographer never completed this map and, unfortunately, he left large parts of the Kingsbridge area empty. And that’s too bad because this map was an attempt to represent the area to a high level of detail that other maps do not show. But despite its semi-completed state, the map maker did at least sketch out the area in light pencil, which you can see if you really zoom in. Below is Van Cortlandt Park in the vicinity of the Van Cortlandt House Museum:
Here I have labeled some of the features:
The place where I think Robert Brown grew up (location 1 above) is on the Albany Post Road west of the homesite of Abraham and Abigail Emmons. There is a segment of roadway there (behind the Burger King) that is still called “Post Road:”
Post Road goes north up the hill (on the left in the above photo) and it ends where it meets the Horace Mann school campus.
But historically, the Albany Post Road continued past that security booth and headed north toward Yonkers and onto Albany. It is in this area that the Revolutionary War map depicts two buildings where I believe Leonard Brown had his farm.
How do I know? From the will of Abraham Emmons, which refers to “twenty acres of land to the westward of the [Emmons] home lott being part of that Lott of Land on the Neck that Leonard Browne lives on.” The Emmons and Brown families seemed connected in some unknown way because when Leonard Brown died, he left his “Mulatto daughter” Mary in the care of Abigail Emmons.
This land eventually became the property of Garrett Garrison. This is also the location shown in the below photo depicting the old Mosholu schoolhouse (1927 photo):
I wonder if this old school school house had a previous life as a farm building.
That was an incredible presentation. You collected a mind-boggling amount of information and incredible photos.
So, even though the Major Leagues were not integrated, you could still pay to watch games where players of different races played each other–I never knew that. It was also fascinating to learn about the Hall of Famers that played there–really a very impressive list of players.
I am looking forward to Friday’s presentation.