Tag Archives: Headless Horseman Bridge

In Search of the Headless Horseman Bridge?

(2014 -04-05 093My search for the original location of the Headless Horseman Bridge started last summer, when I wondered where the location for the original bridge was. Several people expressed interest in knowing exactly where I was looking. They want to know the site of the original bridge. I haven’t even started to look, and with winter here, it will have to wait until the spring–if I look.

As Sara at the Historical Society asked me, why would I want to tell anyone where the bridge really is? She has a Jacob Odell House (Historical Society of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown) (2013-03-15 001)point. Let’s say that I do, indeed, find the site of the original bridge. (One reader is sure that his friend already found the place where the bridge crossed the Pocantico.) This becomes public knowledge. People being people, they will want a souvenir of the site–and will probably take a rock. This is what happened with Plymouth Rock, the place where (supposedly) the Pilgrims first set foot in the New World. The rock is now surrounded by a columned edifice that keeps visitors in a railed area, where they can look down on it. The other side of the rock is also railed in to make sure that no one can get to the rock, since souvenir hunters would chip away at it.

Decades ago, my uncle took my grandmother (his mother) to Greece. While on the Acropolis in Athens, she started picking up the rocks lying around and (2013-05-10 030)pocketing them. One of the guards saw her and asked what she was doing. She told him. He then asked her where she was from. She told him America. He then told her that if everyone took the rocks  there that there would not be a ruin left. This is the point: people always want to take something with them. Why, I don’t know, since these “souvenirs” end up tossed in a box in the attic or in the basement until someone eventually comes across them years later and, not knowing what they are (or simply not caring), the “souvenirs” are tossed into the garbage, never to be seen again.

Several years ago, I took a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and went for a walk on the beach. (To someone who grew up in a landlocked location, walking along the beach was an adventure–and a bit scary.) I also decided to pick up some of the rocks that I found, which I did. I still have those rocks. Years before that, I visited Lantau Island, which was then part of the British colony of Hong Kong, and I walked along the beach and picked up rocks that I then took home. I still have those rocks, too: somewhere at the bottom of a box in storage, probably with the rocks I gathered in Provincetown.

Why we want to collect such things is a mystery. How many of us have actually had to pull out those rocks or whatever to “prove” to others that we had, indeed, been there? (Why would anyone doubt us?) Is this part of the consumer mentality that permeates late 20th-early 21st century culture? People have been picking up souvenirs long before now, so I’m not sure where this comes from.

2015-01-17 13.36.18In The Historically Annotated Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Sleepy Hollow village historian Henry John Steiner includes several photos, one of which has this caption, “This is the approximate location of the old Sleepy Hollow Bridge crossing at the time of the story.” (My emphasis.) Steiner supposedly found the location, but there are a lot of rocks all along the shores of the Pocantico in that area. Do we really need to know?

Maybe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.


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Update: the Search for the Headless Horseman Bridge Site

(2014 -04-05 089

The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s Headless Horseman Bridge

A few months ago, I said that I was going to start exploring the site of the Headless Horseman Bridge. The bridge that claims to be the site of the Headless Horseman Bridge (on North Broadway/Route 9) isn’t, but more on that in a moment. The bridge in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery also claims to be the Headless Horseman Bridge, but it isn’t, either. I haven’t, as yet, gone out walking along the Pocantico River banks to see if I can find any evidence of human construction. Instead, I started my research at the Historical Society.

Tarrytown Map

Map courtesy of the Historical Society

There is a map of Sleepy Hollow that shows how North Broadway/Route 9 was straightened in the 19th Century, long after Washington Irving had written his famous story. Where the road used to come down the hill and then curve around the Old Dutch Church–crossing the Pocantico River before reaching the church–is clearly marked on the map. The new (current) road crosses the Pocantico right in front of the church. Ironically, the old stretch of North Broadway/Route 9 is called “New Broadway.” I found this out last Saturday when I volunteered.

Anyway, I re-photographed the section on the map that I’m talking about. (Blowing up the existing photograph didn’t work.) The dotted line indicates the new stretch of road, and the new (current) bridge across the Pocantico is clearly not crossing in the same spot as the old bridge, which is marked, “Bridge where Icabod Crane had his encounter with the Headless Horseman.” The place where the old and new roads converge is right in front of the Old Dutch Church, which is marked as a 3-sided square with a 3-sided dome.

Sleepy Hollow Bridge

The Headless Horseman Bridge as Irving saw it (Photograph courtesy of the Historical Society)

Disney, always taking artistic license with whatever they touch, in The Adventures of Icabod and Mr. Toad shows a covered bridge that Icabod is crossing as the Headless Horseman pursues him. This could not be farthest from the truth. The bridge that Washington Irving saw over the Pocantico didn’t even resemble the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery bridge. There is a photo of the bridge as Irving saw it. Again, it’s from the Historical Society’s archives. The shape is radically different from the cemetery’s and the Disney versions.

I’ll continue to update as I find out more.


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Sleepy Hollow’s Dirty Little Secret

(2014 -04-05 006As I volunteer at the Historical Society, I learn a lot of things about Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. One that shocked me was that the bridge the Headless Horseman would have chased Icabod Crane over was not where the New York sign marker says that it was, namely where the current bridge over the Pocantico River is on Route 9.

Intrigued, my investigation would have to wait for two weeks before I got back to the Historical Society. No one is sure where the bridge once was. Route 9 used to curve over and cross the Pocantico River further upstream. When it was decided to straighten Route 9 out to its current form, a new bridge, the spot where the current bridge is standing, was constructed; the old bridge was either abandoned and/or torn down. The place where the old bridge once stood became, as time passed, covered over in growth, the wooden supports rotted and disintegrated, and the (2014 -04-05 089embankment secured with masonry and stone, crumbled or were pulled from the foundations by kids playing or were washed away in storms. Is there anything left that might indicate where the bridge was located?

What is know is that the so-called Headless Horseman Bridge was somewhere between the current Route 9 bridge and the bridge that spans the Pocantico in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Though called the Headless Horseman Bridge by the cemetery, the bridge is new and spans the river to connect the new part of the cemetery with the old.

I have decided to go in search of any remains of what could have been the bridge that spanned the Pocantico in the time of Washington Irving.  I’m going to see if I can get a few others interested in looking with me.

Stay tuned.



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A Visit to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

(2014 -04-05 006My cousin Cher and her husband just relocated to northern New Jersey from southern Kentucky. She’s only about an hour or so away from me now, so she came for a visit. This is the first time she’s seen my apartment in Sleepy Hollow. We went to the Silver Tips Tea Room and had a very nice time before we walked around Tarrytown and did some shopping. I took a picture of Cher at the site where the bridge Icabod Crane supposed crossed to escape the Headless Horseman.

The big event was going to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I always cut through the Old Dutch Burial Ground, which borders the cemetery. I like to see the very old gravestone. It is here in an unmarked area that the Headless Horseman, who was a Hessian (German) soldier hired to fight for the British, was buried as well as a local witch. Exactly where in the general area these graves are–if they exist at all–no one knows.

Though the walk up to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery from the Burial Ground is a little steep, it is a much easier grade than some of the roads in the cemetery. Besides, the walk up brings you right to the Irving family plot and the start of the cemetery. It is here that Washington Irving, who has the highest tombstone (I guess so people can see it) in among his other family members. We got a map to the cemetery, which was located right by Irving’s grave. We also passed the mausoleum of the Beekman family.

The loyalist Philipse family was driven out of Sleepy Hollow after the Revolutionary War. At that time, Philipsburg Manor consisted of most of Sleepy Hollow, so the Beekmans bought up a large chunk of it. The widow of Beekman eventually started selling off plots of land in what was then known as Beekmanville. After her death, the area was called North Tarrytown until the village changed the name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996.

All of the cemetery roads are named after roads in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. This makes it easier to find the famous people’s graves marked on the map. We ran into two guys dressed in black—a tuxedo and a suit—who were lost. Cher was nice enough to give them her map. I had to give them directions to Irving’s grave (they were literally on the other side of the cemetery from it). They must have been freezing as the wind was quite cold, blowing over the hills.

Samuel Gompers’ gravestone was erected by the A.F.L. Gompers had done much to organize labor in the 19th century. Ironically, one of his arch-enemies in life, Andrew Carnegie, is buried within a stone’s throw of Gompers’ grave. Carnegie, who was known for his philanthropy in his later years, was a real bastard to his steel mill employees. However, he left the dirty work to his right-hand man, Henry Clay Frick, while he tootled around Europe. It cannot be a coincidence that Gompers and Carnegie are buried so close.


I wanted to see the Rockefeller mausoleum, which I had visited before. There’s a motif from ancient Greece of a young man being crowned by a woman while another watches. There’s some significance to his, although it escapes me at the moment. (I literally could not see my camera’s image to take a good picture of it.) The problem I have with this mausoleum is that the columns are part of the walls; they are not free-standing. Why have columns at all?

There’s a very interesting mausoleum right across from the Rocekfellers. It’s domed and makes me think of an Armenian church for some reason. The Greek and Russian Orthodox incorporate domes in their church architecture (the Russian being smaller and onion-shaped). The mosaic above the doors was quite nice as was the doors themselves.

There are some beautiful mausoleums in the cemetery. One has the “Weeping Woman” in front of it. She faces the doors of the mausoleum in mourning. Another mausoleum has the look of a Greco-Roman temple (sans the fluted columns) up on a mini-acropolis. One building had was turned out to be a crescent moon on the pediment. The crescent moon is a symbol for Islam, but I wonder if it means something different here. The stained-glass window was beautiful.


Some of the mausoleums have beautiful stained glass windows that you can see upon looking through the glass in the doors. I don’t remember having seen the Helmsey mausoleum before, but it is up on a small hill and we approached it from the back. The beautiful, stained glass windows are of the New York City skyline.

Many of the mausoleums are shaped like mini-churches; one had the three ancient symbols of Jesus above the entrance: the Chi-Rho (X-P) letters of the Greek alphabet (the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek); the Alpha and Omega letters, again from the Greek alphabet (Jesus was called the Alpha and the Omega in the New Testament, being the beginning and the end, the first and the last); and the traditional cross above.

The last mausoleum we visited seemed odd and not as nice as the others, but it was one of the most unusual—and striking—of any I’ve ever seen. There are no doors but big windows, from floor to ceiling on each side as well as in the roof. The inside is well-illuminated, and the sarcophagi can be seen. There’s a star pattern in the floors and walls; painted silver, the stars are bright and stand out in the sunshine. A very unusual, and striking, building.

There’s a newer part of the cemetery across the Pocantico River. To get to it you cross the “Headless Horseman Bridge.” In this area, the Pocantico River flows rapidly over the rocks. It’s quite beautiful. So we followed the river down until we came back to the Old Dutch Church.

(2014 -04-05 098We were tired; we walked for several hours. However, as Cher pointed out, we walked off the scones we had eaten at the Tea Room, which is a VERY good thing.

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