Sleepy Hollow’s main drag, Beekman Avenue, just had new streetlights installed. Not that there was anything wrong with the old ones. It looks like the new ones might be energy-saving, so this might be precipitating the change. (The shorter ones are new.)
Tag Archives: Sleepy Hollow (N.Y.)
The Historical Society had Linda Ford, formerly of Sleepy Hollow, come in and tell spooky stories for the season. Linda now lives in northern Florida, and you can take the girl out of Sleepy Hollow but NEVER take the Sleepy Hollow out of the girl.
Linda retold The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as told stories that I had never heard before. They were great. She told a story by Ray Bradbury, who had given her permission to tell it years ago, that I later found out scared a friend of mine out of her wits when she first read it. The sanctuary of home, of that place where we are invincible and nothing can harm us, is turned upside down after a long, scary walk through a hollow that turns out to be the place of relative safety, as the woman who arrived home unfortunately found out.
I got a chance to talk with Linda for a few minutes. She misses living in Sleepy Hollow but, like all retirees–and younger people of normal means–are discovering, the taxes in Westchester are too high to be affordable. I cannot own a house here, which is why I only rent. (Actually, I’ve rented everywhere I’ve ever lived, except when I was in my parents’ house.) She would love to return to the area, but would have to live a few hours away. Thankfully in that regard, there are some options. She did, however, have some wonderful things to say about the southern storytellers with whom she had met and discussed their craft.
The following Sunday, I attended a storytelling session with David Neilsen, formerly Major André, who did a wonderful telling of stories in the Washington Irving Memorial Chapel in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Whereas Linda Ford told her stories from memory, Neilsen read his from a book, but his reading was very dramatic.
My favorite story was the one where the students are gathered in the cemetery trying to raise the dead on Halloween and a young British boy shows up and talks with them. They believe that he is a ghost and call for him to go back to where he came. He does–the parking lot, where his parents were anxious to leave. He explains that there are so many interesting people you can meet in the cemetery–like the group of high school students who were killed one Halloween night by a runaway truck.
Two different storytelling techniques, both exceptional in their own way.
This pumpkin-headed scarecrow is at the top of Beekman Avenue in Sleepy Hollow, standing in front of the clock. I snapped it last Saturday, during the fall festival on the street.
It’s that time of year again.
Way back at the beginning of the 20th century, a memorial/monument to Washington Irving was planned for Broadway, at the top of Sunnyside Lane. A local committee started raising funds in 1909-1910. Famous sculptor Daniel Chester French was hired to make a bust of Irving and some images of Rip Van Winkle and King Boabdil (from The Alhambra). The Headless Horseman is Irving’s most famous character, with Rip Van Winkle running second in popularity.
French worked on the monument for the next 15 years. Over those years, the costs of the monument, in French’s hands, kept going up and up. The local committee put on many fundraisers to try and keep up with the escalating price tag. In 1925, French designed this small statue of Rip Van Winkle for fundraising purposes; each sold for $500.
Unfortunately, the statue got no further than the model stage. French created a model to work from and started making preparations to build the statue. However, the money was not raised for the statue and the idea was scrapped. Still, the sculptor had to be paid. In order to recoup some of the money, the statue committee had copies made of the model and sold it locally.
The Charles T. Newberry Estate donated this statue to the Historical Society, where it peers out from a corner in the research room.
Over the past several weeks, I was able to interact with the local fauna, namely birds.
My friend Caroline and I went up to the Cloisters, taking the train all the way up to Fort Tryon Park. This was our annual pilgrimage. We walked through the park and got to the Cloisters pretty early. Nonetheless, it was packed, being a holiday weekend. We were, however, able to avoid most of the crowds. We took, instead, photos of the architecture and flora. We got some great pics.
We have taken so many photos of the art in the Cloisters that neither one of us was the least bit interested in taking any more photos. We were parched and went to the little cafe in the Cloisters to get something to drink, and Caroline was hungry. We were stunned to find that the birds flying around the courtyard where the cafe and seating is located landed very close to us and walked within inches of where we were. What did we do? Why we took pictures, of course!
The most interesting one I have already posted, the bird that landed on Caroline’s hand and cell phone, (I’ve posted it again), but it needs a bit more of an explanation. Caroline was surprised by the bird’s attempt to land on her, and there was some guy there with a big camera with a very long lens who snapped photo after photo of the action. My camera is small and cannot simply snap photos one after the other. (It might be able to, but the setting would have to be changed.) I was able to get the one close-up where the bird does, indeed, look as if he is giving Caroline advice. (She latter tweeted the pic.) The man showed us the photos in his camera, then walked away. He never offered to send Caroline copies of the photos, in which he caught Caroline’s surprise and shock. I thought that this was in poor taste. After all, if you take a clear, close-up photo of someone, it only seems right to offer the person a copy.
Weeks later, I walked to the Magnolia Bakery in Chelsea with two friends. We ate our goodies across the street in a little park. The birds there came right up to us, basically begging for some food. Baked goods always have crumbs, so I started tossing crumbs to the birds, which quickly gobbled them up, at which point the pigeons, who were a distance away, came running. (Probably had the cute birds trolling food.)
Finally, I snapped some pics of the Canada goslings that were born this spring. Last year I snapped some photos of goslings that resembled fuzz balls. This year, I got the babies when they were a bit older.
The following pictures were taken through my window as I watched the local birds fighting to get to the bird feeder. And I do mean fight: I could hear the squawking and chirping as the birds fought to get into the four openings to the seed.
I decided to feed the birds in winter, spring and fall. They don’t need to be fed in summer, since food is plentiful. I’m actually using up the seed I bought last year.
Those birds really are pigs. Within two days, the feeder is empty. I don’t have to worry about checking on it, though. There’s always a chirp-chirp-chirp, a lone call, that comes right through the windows. Maybe the birds take turns. I don’t know, but the lone chirping is how I know that the feeder is empty.
Winter seems to be never-ending.
Once we got a major snow dump at the end of January (under a foot, but more than 6 inches), the snow just keeps coming down. We have had scares of more major snowstorms, but so far we have gotten under 5 inches of snow. Yet, the snow doesn’t melt. At least, it’s not melting fast enough for me.
I discovered that my car, parked off the street in a pull-in space that is on a 25-30-degree angle, is stuck: the front tires spin, but I get no traction. Gravity is negated; apparently the ice around the tires is strong enough to hold the car in place. I need to free my car to do laundry by the end of the week.
The photos I’ve taken are earlier in the month, but what you see hasn’t changed. The Philipsburg Manor house and millpond are still covered in snow; the photo of the snow-covered street was just pretty, so I snapped that pic; the shores of the Hudson are still covered in ice; the sunny pic is something that even I have realized that the area is missing: the sun. We have not been seeing the sun very much. Most of the days are just gray and cold. VERY cold. We are in the middle of dangerous cold weather where one can get frostbite if one is not careful.
Well, the nor’easter (Winter Storm Juno–when did they start naming winter storms?) that was supposed to hit Monday night through Wednesday didn’t really pan out, at least in my area.
Thankfully, we didn’t get the 10-22 inches that was being called for. We did, however, get enough. I now see that there is even more snow fell Thursday night, and snow is being called for Monday.
Remember the old days when we would get an inch or so of snow, it would melt, and then we would get more? I suppose this is going to be the new norm: several inches being dumped, and then several more inches falling in the next several days, followed by even more snow …
I’m sure the kids are loving it, though. I remember being in middle school and one very bad winter when the schools were closed several weeks in January and February. Back then they had built into the schedule snow days, but this even taxed the bank. Still, I don’t remember going that much later into June.
My 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 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 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.
In 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.
I unfortunately got there a bit late (I forgot that it started at six), but apparently I didn’t miss much. The party was down from the house, across from the stables and in a huge tent with chandeliers. There were several local Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow restaurants and bars that were at different stations to serve the crowd. There was different fare available, from pulled pork to duck to polenta. Wine and beer was available at three stations. At the entrance were the silent auction items, everything from a tarot reading to dance classes to a portrait of the Headless Horseman. Though this was supposed to be a walk around and mingle, some small tables had been put out with chairs, which were quickly filled with a handful of people while the rest of us stood around.
I talked to a few of the dead. Washington Irving was quite friendly. He was a bit younger than I imagined he would be, but when you’re dead I guess you can come back at any age you want. I told him that it was his story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, that got me to move to the Hollow in the first place. He was touched. We discussed his location at the beginning of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and how crowded his plot was with all his relatives. (He wasn’t too happy with all of them crowded around him. He thought that he should have bought a much smaller plot.) I explained how “okay” is really the only word understood in just about every part of the world.
Then there was Lydia Locke, the opera singer who was married seven times. (Killed one husband in self defense and was acquitted; two others died under mysterious circumstances.) Ms. Locke was dressed in fiery red, ready to set the place on fire. I chatted with her on two occasions. The first, she joined Mr. Irving and I as we conversed. When asked if he had met her, Mr. Irving told me that he had already had enough of Miss Locke, and quickly retreated. She was fascinated with digital cameras, since she was such a narcissist and loved having her picture taken while living. The foot camera against the wall where one could take a picture then upload it onto Twitter, Facebook or some other Internet service, fascinated several of the dead.
Minna Irving was very pleasant. Having been a poet in life, she was very nice to talk to and acquiesced to Karen and I each taking her picture. Being from Pittsburgh, I avoided the Carnegies. The 1895 Homestead Strike is history, but the attempt to break the union by Carnegie’s henchman, Henry Clay Frick, by calling in Pinkerton stooges as strike breakers that cost people their lives, is still remembered in the Steel City. It really is a shame that Samuel Gompers could not have come back. We could use his leadership in reinvigorating the unions in this country.
The evening ended with a hilarious talk by author and humorist Joe Queenan. His talk had everyone laughing as he discussed people that he wouldn’t mind seeing dead and the history of the area. The party was over by nine. It remains to be seen how much money was raised for the Historical Society and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Before I left, I was asked to take a photograph of the cemetery tour guides, which I did.
There is one addendum to the night. A mysterious woman in a white mask and gown with a long train was seen mingling and talking to the guests. Who was she? No one seemed to know. I thought of Marie Antoinette, but Lydia Locke was nonplussed. She told me that she had had her fun with her seven husbands, while poor Marie lost her head. I did point out that the doomed queen did have her one true love, a foreign diplomat, who did try and save her. Lydia was not amused; she insisted that she had more fun than Marie which, when remembering the way the queen’s life ended, you really can’t argue.