Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Trip To Sleepy Hollow, Part Two

After wandering through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and checking out The Old Dutch Church last Friday, Amy, the girls, and I grabbed lunch at The Headless Horseman restaurant then made one more stop before heading back to Connecticut.


This humble litte abode which was built from limestone quarried from up the river at Sing Sing is Lyndhurst Castle - one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in America. The house, if you can call it a house!, is located within a 67-acre park that also contains the cast iron structure of a once beautiful conservatory (the first in the United States) as well as gardenesque landscape that was originally designed by Ferdinand Mangold who was the landscaper at Lyndhurst for 40 years.

Some of you may recognize this castle-like structure as the setting of the 1970 MGM movie, "House of Dark Shadows" which was based on the 1966-1971 gothic soap opera Dark Shadows that featured the hottest vampire around at that time - Barnabas Collins. Wait a minute here ... Barnabas Collins ... Edward Cullen ... do I detect a similarity?!? Now I'm going to have to see if I can rent the movie! Anyway ... I digress ...


Overlooking the beautiful Hudson River and Tappan Zee bridge, Lyndhurst began as a summer home on 50 acres of farm land owned by then Mayor William Paulding, Jr. of New York City. Mayor Paulding hired architect Alexander Jackson Davis, who was one of the most successful and influential American architects of his generation, to design a "small" place for he and his family to retreat to.


Originally named "Knoll", it was also known as "Paulding's Folly" because its turrets and asymmetrical outline were unlike most homes constructed in the post-colonial era. In the 19th century, though, romanticism dominated the arts and that included architecture so even though people initially criticized the design, they were still fascinated by it. It's easy to see why!

A.J. Davis completed what was to be the first phase of the home in 1842 (about the same time he designed the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford which is the oldest public art museum in the United States). Additionally, he designed most of the furniture which can still be seen when taking a tour of the house as when one family would move out, they would leave all of the furnishings behind.


In 1860, the house became the property of George Merritt, a New York City merchant, and it was he who hired employed the German horticulturist Ferdinand Mangold to be in charge of a permanent staff of 100 laborers to transform the then 194-acres of farmland and swamp into elaborate and more modern grounds. Merritt changed the name of the home from "Knoll" to "Lyndenhurst" after the Linden trees that were planted on the property; Merritt also brought architect Alexander Jackson Davis back in to expand the house and double it in size.


It was at that time that the new porte-cochere (portico) was designed along with a sprawling veranda that surrounds three-quarters of the house. A huge north wing was added that included an imposing four-story tower, a new dining room, two bedrooms, and servants quarters. Unfortunately, and much to our dismay, pictures are not allowed inside the castle but if you'd like to take a peek at what's in there, please click here for a virtual tour provided by the official website for Lyndhurst.


In 1880 ownership of the property, and its name, changed for the last time when it was bought by railroad magnate, Wall Street tycoon, and reported robber baron Jay Gould as a summer home for his family of six; at that time he shortened the name to "Lyndhurst". When his health was impaired by tuberculosis, the home served as a country retreat for Gould until his death in 1892. The house was then purchased by Jay Gould's oldest daughter, Helen, who bought it from her four brothers and younger sister.


Helen Gould was quite the philanthropist and when she married Finley J. Shepard, the man who pulled her from a horrible train wreck, she invited 3,000 homeless families to her wedding reception in New York City. Helen and Finley along with their three adopted children, one foster child, and two nieces lived at Lyndhurst until her death in 1938.

Following his wife's death, Finley then sold the house to Helen's younger sister, Anna - also known as the Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord of France. Anna decorated two of the upstairs rooms to look like those in a French chateau; some of the furnishings in those rooms date back over 500 years. Talk about beautiful!


The house and grounds, including the beautiful stable above, stayed in Anna's possession until her death in 1961 when the 67-acre estate passed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation which now maintains the buildings, the grounds, and the decorative artworks that were entrusted to them.


Our tour guide, Eddie, was very knowledgeable and you could tell that he really loved his job of telling visitors about Lyndhurst and the families that lived there. In particular he seemed quite in awe of Helen Goulding and when he spoke of her it reminded me very much of when Mr. Collins would speak of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice! Still, she did sound to be a wonderful woman who was way ahead of her time and she seemed to have no problems in sharing the vast fortune that her father had amassed with those less fortunate. Truly a woman to be admired.


One of the main things that we all found fascinating during our tour was the fact that inside the house there were a lot of faux finishes. Apparently during that time, it was quite fashionable for architects to use paint to turn plain pine into heavy wooden beams as well as marble pillars and other stonework. The only 'real' marble used inside the house was on the fireplaces but you would never have been able to tell that if your tour guide didn't tell you ahead of time. It was really quite ingenious and made the tour even that much more interesting. I really wish I had pictures to show you!


To be honest, when I first thought about visiting Lyndhurst, I wasn't too sure how enthusiastic the girls were going to be about touring an old house but it turned out that they both really enjoyed it and found it quite fascinating (maybe there's a tiny bit of my love of history in them after all??). Their only regret was in not being able to take pictures inside!

Gee, seeing that they liked this old house, perhaps I shall have to take them to the mansions in Newport at some point after all!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Trip to Sleepy Hollow, Part Two

Amanda and Jamie at the main gates to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
My Dear Clark:

I send you herewith a plan of a rural cemetery projected by some of the worthies of Tarrytown, on the woody hills adjacent to the Sleepy Hollow Church. I have no pecuniary interest in it, yet I hope it may succeed, as it will keep that beautiful and umbrageous neighborhood sacred from the anti-poetical and all-leveling axe. Besides, I trust that I shall one day lay my bones there. The projectors are plain matter-of-fact men, but are already, I believe, aware of the blunder which they have committed in naming it the “Tarrytown,” instead of the “Sleepy Hollow” Cemetery. The latter name would have been enough of itself to secure the patronage of all desirous of sleeping quietly in their graves.

I beg you to correct this oversight, should you, as I trust you will, notice this sepulchral enterprise.

I hope as the spring opens you will accompany me in one of my brief visits to Sunnyside, when we will make another trip to Sleepy Hollow, and (thunder and lightning permitting) have a colloquy among the tombs.

Yours, very truly,
Washington Irving
New York, April 27, 1849
The Irving Family GravesiteOn December 1st, 1959, almost ten-and-a-half years after penning the above letter, Washington Irving, an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century did - in fact - lay his bones beneath the soil at Tarrytown Cemetery following his death from a heart attack on November 28th, 1859 in his bedroom at Sunnyside, his Tarrytown home located just 3-1/2 miles from the cemetery. Following his death, the cemetery Trustees posthumously changed the name from Tarrytown Cemetery to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to honor the man who was the first American to earn his living solely by his pen.

Gravestones in Sleepy Hollow CemeteryA 90-acre parcel of land consisting of both a beautiful valley and scenic knolls situated on the easterly bank of the Hudson River at Tarrytown, the cemetery is fourteen miles north of the boundary line of New York City and serves as the final resting place for many of New York's rich and famous including Elizabeth Arden, Andrew Carnegie, Leona Helmsley, William Rockefeller, and Walter Chrysler - founder of the Chrysler Corporation.

Chrysler Family MausoleumHaving visited the Chrysler Building in New York City, an amazing work of Art Deco architecture, I was rather surprised to see such a rather ordinary and unadorned mausoleum for the Chrysler family. No replicas of 1929 Chrysler radiator caps or hood ornaments, no eagles, no metal cladding, no radiating terraced arches ... just a simple Greek structure. Definitely not what I was expecting!

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Front Gate Collage Not all of the buildings and grave sites at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are as plain as the Chrysler Family Mausoleum, though, beginning with the main gates which are locked at 4:30 p.m. whether you're still wandering the grounds or not! Considering the size of this cemetery, I'd be willing to bet people have been locked in more than a time or two. I like to think of myself as adventurous but spending the night in a place that's sure to have it's share of spooks and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night is not high on my list of things to do!

The Main Office at Sleepy Hollow CemeteryThis is the Main Office and Washington Irving Chapel whose stained glass windows depict scenes of Irving's life as well as scenes from his short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Of course, I didn't know that until later so didn't even think to ask the lady at the Reception Desk that I got a map from if we could see the Chapel or not. Duh ... I am so going back in the Fall!

The Pocantico RiverThe Pocantico River, which is a beautiful stream but really not much of a river, wanders through the middle of the cemetery.

The Headless Horseman BridgeWhen the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery expanded to the east side of the Pantico River, a passage over the river was required so the Headless Horseman Bridge was built. This isn't the actual site where Ichabod Crane lost his race with the Headless Horseman (that's further up near the Old Dutch Church and the original bridge was long ago replaced) but when you drive across the boards, they clatter like a horse's hoof beats and the area is so dense and creepy enough to make you think that the Headless Horseman just might appear!

The Pocantico RiverWe didn't encounter any horses with or without riders - headless or otherwise - but there was some wildlife out noshing on the lush grass that surrounded the graves. This fella was nice enough to stop and pose briefly for a picture!

The Buck Stops Here!I don't believe I've ever been in a cemetery that had so many mausoleums before or ones with such beautiful doors! These are just a few of the ones that we saw.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Mausoleum DoorsThese are the doors of the Leff Family Mausoleom and even though I have no idea who they were, I really liked the stained glass portrait of Joel Leff that adorned the back of the wall. I'd be willing to bet he was an avid pipe smoker while he was still alive!

Stained Glass in the Leff MausoleumI suppose that to a lot of people, it seems bizarre that my girls like to go out to the cemetery to pose for pictures but I guess that Amanda has gotten rather used to it by now as evidenced by the number of pictures she asked me to take of her in various places and poses.

Amanda Fooling Around
Strangely Appropriate
Stalking the Wild Amanda
Amanda Gravestone
No Amanda, You Can't Get a Grande!No, Amanda, I don't care how long you stand there; you are not getting a For Here, Half-Caf, Quad, Iced Grande, Soy, Starbucks Doubleshot on Ice + Energy! Kids! ...

Owen Jones as himselfThis gentleman here is Mr. Owen Jones, a Welsh-born fella who made his fortune through a New York City department store and real estate dealings. His monument is a Gothic church in miniature and features a life-sized sculpture of himself standing beneath a vaulted canopy. His wife, Maria, and two sons also share the plot but there are no statues of them.

Sleepy Hollow Civil War MonumentSleepy Hollow Cemetery's Civil War monument is dedicated to "Our Union Soldiers" and commemorates the local men who served in the War Between the States. A local sculptor who was legally blind at the time, Johnson M. Bundy, created the bronze Union soldier who stands guard over the graves of the fallen who gave their last full measure of devotion to keeping the Union as one.

The Last Full MeasureStanding at the top of a former earthen redoubt that was constructed in 1779 by local militia for protection during the Revolutionary War is the Revolutionary War Memorial which reads "In Memory of the Officers and Soldiers of the Revolution who by their valor sustained the cause of liberty and independence on these historic fields". The men for whom this memorial stands are buried nearby in the Old Dutch Burying Ground.

Sleepy Hollow American Revolution Memorial
Revolutionary War Cannon at Sleepy Hollow CemeteryClose by the American Revolution Memorial is the plot of the Delavan Family.

Delavan Family Gravesite
Hope Standing on a PedestalThe plot consists of an ensemble of six marble figures which surround a central granite pillar upon which the figure of Hope stands.

Daniel Delavan was a captain of the local milia that erected the earth redoubt on which the American Revolution Memorial now stands and which this plot overlooks.

Captain Delavan was originally buried in a cemetery in Ossining, New York but was relocated to this final resting spot in Sleepy Hollow by a later generation of his family who commissioned the marble figures as a tribute to the Captain.

The marble figures were all quite impressive though some of them were definitely starting to look a little worse for wear. I suppose, though, when you're standing in the cold of Winter and the heat of Summer for as long as they have, you're going to look a little worn, too!

Angel Wings
Delavan Gravesite Angel
Delavan Gravesite Angel
Delavan Gravesite Angel
Jamie Finds JesusAt the very front of the plot is a life-sized statue of Jesus that Jamie gave a big hug to as she thought her father might enjoy the picture. Matter of fact, she borrowed my cell phone while we were there so that she could tell him that she had found Jesus, though he appeared to be missing his fingers. Sigh ... why can't I have normal kids?

Don't Even Blink, AmandaSpeaking of not having normal kids, Amanda had to take a moment to reenact a scene from one of her favorite Doctor Who episodes "Blink". As the good Doctor told Sally, "Don't blink. Blink and you're dead. Don't turn your back. Don't look away. And don't blink. Good Luck." When we turned to walk away I made sure that the angels weren't following us ... just in case!

Copper AngelWhile we're on the subject of angels, I thought that this one was really very pretty though it would be nice if someone would come out and polish it up a bit. I bet when this stone was first commissioned, it was just gorgeous though the greenish-blue does add an interesting effect to it.

Creepy Sleepy Hollow Cemetery TreeNow does this or does this not look like the perfect tree to be smack in the middle of a cemetery called Sleepy Hollow?!?

A Jewell of a GravestoneAnother stone that I really liked as it shows what fantastic craftsmanship used to go into the making of gravestones. When you stop and think what sort of tools people had to work with back then it's even more impressive.

Ornate Iron FencingI thought these decorative iron rails were very impressive, too and it made me think that the people who were buried near them were well-loved by their families considering the care and expense they went through to mark their final resting places. It's just too bad that the current generation of their family doesn't seem to come around very often.

A Rather Nice Final Resting PlaceAs far as final resting places go, I think out of all the ones that we saw (and we didn't see anywhere near as many as we could have), I liked this one the best. It looks like it would be a lovely place to lay your bones at the end of your life. It was witten in a 19th-century brochure for the cemetery that "Death is stripped of many of its pangs when it transplants to such surroundings." and I've got to say I agree with that as it was hard to find sorrow in this cemetery but more a celebration of the lives that its inhabitants once lived.

Sleepy Hollow GravestoneThis small stone seems to sum it all up when it comes to death and cemeteries and this mortal life of ours.

As their literature likes to remind you, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, for all that it is a place of historical significance, is still a very active cemetery with individual and family plots available. We passed workers constructing a new mausoleum in the area of the Chrysler Mausoleum and no doubt it will be as much a work of art as many of the ones surrounding it; perhaps I shall have to go back and take a look at it along with all of the other spots I missed as we just didn't have time to cover the entire cemetery or see the graves of many of the people who made our country great in one form or another. Seems to me a trip in October might be the perfect time to revisit Sleepy Hollow ... though not after dark and certainly not alone!

If all of this has made you want to read Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow again or for the first time, please click on this link which will take you to a complete transcript of the short story. As a matter of fact, I believe it's time to become reacquainted with Mr. Ichabod Crane myself!

*All pictures can be seen larger by clicking on them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Trip To Sleepy Hollow, Part One

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW. . . ” - Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
As I previously mentioned, this past Friday my friend Amy (who loves to take pictures as much as I do and loves exploring cemeteries as much as I do!) and I packed up the girls and made the 2-hour trip west to the small village of Sleepy Hollow just up the Hudson from New York City. A dispatching buddy had mentioned to me awhile back that it was probably someplace that I would enjoy as there are some mega-awesome graves there and, of course, there's the legend of Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane being chased by the Headless Horseman to entice visitors also. It sounded like it was right up our alley so we set off Friday morning for a little bit of an adventure.

I've decided that the best way to do a post is to actually do several posts being that I took way too many pictures - again! Besides, that way I get to relive the trip again and maybe throw in a little extra history for those of you who enjoy it as much as I do. For those who don't, well ... I hope you enjoy the pictures! So, let's start with the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, which sits adjacent to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, shall we?

The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow and its accompanying 3-acre burying ground are the setting for Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; it was in this cemetery that Irving's unfortunate character Ichabod Crane sought refuge from the Headless Horseman.

The church, whose walls are about two-feet thick and composed of local fieldstone, was constructed around 1685 on what was then the manor of Frederick Philipse, Lord of Philipse Manor, whose 52,000 acre landholdings stretched from Yonkers to Croton. The congregation was formally established in 1697.

The original bell, which was cast in the Netherlands, still hangs in the open-air belfry. Its inscription is from the book of Romans, Chapter 8, Verse 31: "Si Deus Pro Nobis, Quis Contra Nos?" - "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Though the church has undergone some alterations over the years, nothing has been changed that would make it unrecognizable to a member of the congregation from a generation past. When the Albany post road was rerouted from east of the church to west, the door was moved from the south wall to the west wall and the original small, square windows were replaced with the current large, pointed arches; beyond that, it remain as it did in the late 1600's.

In 1963, the church and grounds were designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior. The Friends of the Old Dutch Burying Ground, a not-for-profit organization, was established in 1984 to preserve the landmark as well as educate the public about its historical significance. Tours are available and services are still held at The Old Dutch Church on Easter, Christmas Eve, summer services, and occasional weddings.

The burying grounds at the Old Dutch Church are often confused with Sleepy Hollow Cemetery but they are not related except by proximity. We weren't able to tour the inside of the church but we did walk around outside and take pictures through the windows.

At over 300 years old, the church is one of the oldest standing churches in the State of New York and it speaks volumes about the volunteers who care for it that it is in as wonderful shape as it is. I know by European standards that's probably not all that old but by American standards it most definitely is!

I like the way the windows reflected the burying grounds outside in these two pictures above. I think they kind of add to that "eerie feeling" you're supposed to get when visiting the place!

Next installment will be the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery!