Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hastings Shortcuts
Paths and staircases offer direct routes through the Village.

By Corinne McSpedon

Hastings is crisscrossed by many footpaths and staircases that connect one street or neighborhood to the next. Some—such as the paths into and through the Burke Estate, Hillside Park, and Zinsser Park—are well known and easily identified on the Hastings Trailways map, which is available at the Recreation Department or via this link.

Others require a bit more searching. There are many strips of land tucked between private property as well as several staircases throughout the Village. When many of these were built—about 100 years ago—pedestrians were navigating early 20th century Hastings roads, some of which were private and all of which had a tendency to meander as they followed the contours of the hills. The paths helped commuters and students save time and avoid walking on private streets. 

For the most part, these shortcuts are open to the public but tend to be hidden from view. Fred Hubbard detailed many of these in his 2006 publication, Recreational Areas of Hastings-on-Hudson (available at the library), in which he documents 40 “outdoor areas” in the Village.

Frequently only nearby or long-time residents know about the shortcuts in a given neighborhood. To follow are descriptions of some of the paths and staircases still in use today. A map, which can be viewed in greater detail, is included at the bottom of this post.

Hudson Heights 
A century ago, the developer of the Hudson Heights neighborhood, Hudson P. Rose, built steps, paths, and sidewalks into the hill to provide waterfront workers, students, and commuters with direct access to the center of town and the two rail lines servicing the area at the time: the Hudson Line of the Metro-North Railroad and the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad— “the Old Put”—which carried passengers and freight from the Bronx to Brewster and stopped in Hastings at Mount Hope Station, near the Saw Mill River. (The Old Put rail line is now defunct, although hikers on the South County Trailway can follow its path as it meanders along the Saw Mill Parkway.)

The Kent Staircase, located at the intersection of Kent and Fairmont Avenues
Today, some paths and staircases are used more than others. At the intersection of Kent and Fairmont Avenues, for instance, is the top of a long set of steps that blends into its surroundings so well it’s easily mistaken as a neighbor’s walkway. The Kent Staircase, which is missing steps and covered by vegetation in places, leads to the corner of Fairmont and Clinton Avenues and does not appear to have been used much in recent years.

Near the top entrance to these steps, just west on Fairmont Avenue, is the entrance to a trail that bisects Lefurgy Park, a portion of public land that extends between the backyards of houses on Southgate and Fairmont Avenues and Overlook Road. The Lefurgy Park Trail runs through this parkland, stretching from Fairmont Avenue to the south side of Mount Hope Blvd.

Entrance to the Lefurgy Park Trail on the south side of Mount Hope Boulevard, between Overlook Road and Southgate Avenue

Across the street from this entrance to the Lefurgy Park Trail are the remnants of a sidewalk that ran along the north side of Mount Hope Boulevard, providing commuters with a path to the Old Put. Although only small sections of this sidewalk remain between Lefurgy Avenue and Overlook Road, in recent years neighboring homeowners have cleared vegetation from the remaining and mostly intact sidewalk from Overlook Road to Cliff Street.

Sidewalk along the north side of Mount Hope Boulevard, between Overlook Road and Cliff Street

Descending the other side of the Hudson Heights neighborhood is a staircase linking Jefferson to Hamilton Avenues, offering a secluded if a steep alternative to Mount Hope Boulevard. Newspaper articles dating back to 1940 refer to this as the Mount Hope Staircase. Fred Hubbard called them the Jefferson Steps in his publication. Neighbors often refer to them as the Hundred Steps.

The Hundred Steps, between Jefferson and Hamilton Avenues

Staircase from Hamilton Avenue to Prescott Place
At the bottom of these steps and across Hamilton Avenue is a smaller staircase that provides access to Prescott Place and, ultimately, Rosedale Avenue.

Further north on Rosedale Avenue, on the east side of the street, is the bottom of another staircase. These well-used steps stretch from Rosedale Avenue to Wilson Place.

Interestingly, a path that still exists in the Hudson Heights neighborhood, linking Lincoln and Lefurgy Avenues, appears to have been one of a couple of parallel paths that existed on adjacent streets: from Lefurgy to Cochrane Avenues and from Cochrane to Jefferson Avenues. The trails on these streets are no longer in existence, but it seems they may have once formed a continuous path from at least Lincoln Avenue to the top of the Hundred Steps.

The Farragut Trail connects Rosedale Avenue to Farragut Avenue and could be a further extension of the path from the Hudson Heights neighborhood to the Village. A few houses south of the Rosedale Avenue and Prescott Place intersection, on the west side of Rosedale, this path runs between neighboring properties to Farragut Avenue, ending a few houses down and across the street from the dirt road entrance to the Burke Estate.

Riverview Manor 
High up in the Riverview Manor neighborhood are the Summit Steps, which offer views of the Hudson River. This staircase leads from Summit Drive to the intersection of Calumet Avenue, Buena Vista Drive, and Pleasant Avenue.

The Summit Steps, leading to Pleasant Avenue

On the other side of town, a set of steps and path connect Pinecrest Parkway to the Aqueduct, near where it intersects Pinecrest Drive, providing residents with an essential link to the Village.

Steps and path from Pinecrest Parkway to the Aqueduct

At the bottom of Pinecrest Drive and across Warburton Avenue is another staircase—steep and made of metal—leading to the waterfront and Rowley’s Bridge Trail.

Staircase from Warburton Avenue to Rowley's Bridge Trail
In the Village
Unlike many of the steps found in the other neighborhoods, the staircase leading from West Main Street and the Steinschneider Parking Lot to Southside Avenue and the train station—one of the most well-used shortcuts—was constructed around the middle of the last century by the Village.

Stairs from West Main Street to Southside Avenue
Ownership and Upkeep
In 1940, the state of disrepair of the Mount Hope Boulevard Staircase, as described in a Herald Statesmen article published on October 31 of that year, led the Village to barricade the steps, which incited outrage among residents. According to the article, an investigation revealed that Hudson P. Rose deeded the staircase to the Village around the time it was built, in 1910. The steps were ultimately reopened, but it's not clear if they were repaired at that time.

Ownership and maintenance of other paths and staircases, such as the Summit Steps and the Wilson Place staircase to Rosedale Avenue, can be equally unclear. Some of these cross through private, state, or Town of Greenburgh land. In addition, Hastings homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks bordering their property. It seems that the Village and neighboring homeowners have, at various times during the past century, maintained certain paths and staircases. Others, however, have simply been left alone.

Occasionally, nature has reclaimed—or neighboring property owners have purchased—some of this land. The Hastings Trailways Committee and the Adopt-a-Trail program in the early to mid-2000s organized efforts among residents to clean and maintain some of the remaining public passages. Currently, the Village’s Recreation Department maintains the paths identified on the Hastings Trailways map.

In general, the staircases tend to be in worse condition these days than the trails, which are at least minimally maintained as long as people use them. Many of the staircases have broken or missing steps and are washed out or overgrown in places. Despite their condition, however, these staircases and footpaths are still used regularly—by commuters and students, walkers and joggers. More than 100 years later, they continue to be vital pathways for anyone navigating the hills and neighborhoods of Hastings.

click on map to enlarge

Map was adapted from the Hastings Department of Parks and Recreation’s Trailways Map, design by Adam Hart, by Lindsey Taylor June 2016

Photos by Corinne McSpedon
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Lesser-known trivia and tidbits about Hastings' famed painter Jasper Francis Cropsey

Artist and Architect

The popularity of the Hudson River School came during a time of tension between nature and industry. While Hudson River School painters found their inspiration from the unaltered and natural beauty of the land and the river, life along the Hudson was changing. The Hudson River Valley was a focal point of the industrial revolution, from the invention of the steamboat to railroad construction.
Cropsey was the unique Hudson River School student who found ways to both preserve and embrace the nature through his art and to contribute to the rise of industrial development.

As a child, the noted artist and Hastings resident Jasper Cropsey was “something of a prodigy.”
with “both an artistic and a mechanical bent,” writes William Nathaniel Banks, in Ever Rest, Jasper Francis Cropsey’s house in Hastings-on-Hudson New York.

At the age of 13, Cropsey won a diploma from the Mechanics Institute for a model house he had designed.

While Cropsey’s tranquil canvases of Hastings-on-Hudson in the mid to late 1800s are well-known, lesser known is the fact he also designed the stations of 14 elevated railway stations built in Manhattan, as well as a blueprint for the Seventh Regiment Armory, also in Manhattan.
Cropsey's sizable collection of architectural drawings have been displayed at the Newington Cropsey Foundation.

An Interior of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation's Art Center.
Photograph, winter 1990.

Views on “The View at Hastings”

In 1987, a custodian discovered an original Cropsey painting in a furnace room of the Hastings High School.  “The View at Hastings on Hudson,” in which Cropsey painted what he saw from his Washington Avenue studio to the river in subtle greens and reds, was estimated to be valued at $1 million.  (See this Society blog post).

The painting’s donor, a man named Sherman Thursby, wished for the painting to go to “the village,” as he had indicated on the back of the canvas. Village residents debated the implications of this inscription.

The Hastings School Board believed that as “View” was found on school property, and because at the time of the gift the school district effectively pulled the community together, that Cropsey’s work should remain in the hands of school officials. The Board added that the sale of the painting would be an asset for the school system's fiscal crisis at that time. 

"View at Hastings on Hudson," Jasper F. Cropsey ca. 1891

Representatives from both the Historical Society and the Hudson River Museum agreed on the importance of the public display of the painting and jointly brought a lawsuit against the Hastings School District in order to prevent the sale of “View at Hastings.” Meanwhile, the lengthy debate over the nearly 100-year old artwork received notable media coverage.

The Newington-Cropsey organization itself took no official position, while the Foundation’s administrator and trustee Adelia C. Rasines told a New York Times interviewer “It’s too bad that the legitimate ownership cannot be established.” New York Supreme Court justice John DiBlasi ruled that the painting remained school property, but that it be publicly displayed. The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers was chosen as the best nearby public location for its safety and visibility, and there it has remained ever since.

Beatrice and Barbara

Jasper Cropsey's granddaughter Isabel Wack and her husband William Steinschneider, who became the mayor of Hastings, lived in the Cropsey residence on Washington Avenue during the 1920s and 30s. Determined to preserve her grandfather's legacy, Wack held parties and social gatherings and instilled in her daughters Barbara and Beatrice an appreciation for art.

In the early 1960s, Cropsey made the silver screen. While giving a tour of the White House, Jackie Kennedy pointed out a Cropsey original to the TV audience. Beatrice and Barbara both saw the program and were inspired by the longevity of their great-grandfather and his work. This, said Barbara, was "when the slow reawakening of interest in Cropsey began."

Thanks to Cropsey's great-granddaughters, the Newington Cropsey Foundation was established in 1978. The goal of the Foundation, said Barbara in a New York Times article, was to preserve the "moral and artistic values" of her great-grandfather.

Photo of a reception for a Cropsey exhibition the Hastings Municipal Building, February 1979.
From left to right: Mayor Julius Chemka, Village Manager Jim Mulcare, Barbara Newington,
and Beatrice Ellsworth

The Role of the Foundation

Adelia Rasines, executive director of the Newington Cropsey Foundation, describes the Foundation as a "little pocket, [a] little bonfire." Indeed the establishment of the Foundation came out of the personal passion of Barbara and Beatrice, adamant about their aims to preserve the art and artistic values that ran in their family's history.

In the decades since its inception the cultural center has had often tenuous relations with the Village of Hastings on Hudson. An article in the January, 2000 issue of the Enterprise describes how "some [Hastings] residents assumed the Foundation would function like other museums."

The article goes on to mention that the directors of the Foundation wanted to build a security fence on the eastern side of the Warburton Avenue Bridge after receiving complaints of trash being thrown over the bridge. The Hastings Planning Board refused to grant this request, citing the importance of maintaining visibility of the Foundation's property from the Bridge.

Warburton overlookers can still sneak birds-eye views of the Foundation's expansive property, with its gardens and fountains and stunning architecture. And the Foundation holds community events from from art exhibits and concerts to high school reunions and garden parties. The Foundation itself, however, remains privately funded, and tours are granted by appointment only.

In spring of 1979, the artistic legacy of Jasper Cropsey and the cultural past and present of Hastings-on-Hudson intertwined seamlessly for an event called "Jasper Cropsey, A Hastings on Hudson Centennial Celebration." An informational brochure for the event discussed "the link between the artistic and public domains in Hastings," stating that Barbara and Beatrice "have been in a unique position" reconciling the two.

Photograph of the building on the Newington-Cropsey foundation property.
Photograph, June 1994.

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The Warburton Avenue Bridge: A Trip Down Memory Lane

In honor of the ongoing construction on the Warburton Avenue Bridge, and while we are awaiting the completion of that construction, we thought you might enjoy taking a trip down memory lane with us as we reminisce over the bridge's evolution through time. Here are some photos of the bridge and activities on it from the Hastings Historical Society's archives, spanning a period from 1905 all the way through the spring 1948, when a huge dumped pile of snow was still around and did not melt until the summer of that year! Makes this winter not seem so bad so far!

Postcard of Warburton Avenue, ca. 1905
Postcard showing Warburton Avenue, looking north from the end of the bridge. On the street you can see the trolley tracks turning right on to Main Street. In the left foreground is "Doc" Todd's drugstore. Beyond it, across West Main, is Goodwin's Cigar Store. The horse and wagon farther down the street belongs to W.W. Tompkins' National Meat Market and is standing in front of that shop.

 Postcard showing Warburton Avenue Bridge postmarked 1907

 A color lithograph postcard, printed in Germany and showing a trolley and a horse-drawn carriage on the Warburton Avenue Bridge. We are looking north from the southern end of the bridge toward the business district, with Todd's Drugstore on the northwest corner of the bridge. The postcard is postmarked 1907, but the photograph on which the printed card was based may certainly have been taken several years earlier.

School children marching in the Fourth of July Parade in 1914

School children with flags and fancy hats in the Fourth of July Parade in 1914. The photograph was taken on the Warburton Avenue Bridge. We have no identifications for this photograph. If you think you recognize one of the faces, let us know! 

Procession to St. Stanislaus Kostka, 1914

Procession to the church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Hastings on Hudson on the day of its consecration, June 14, 1914. The procession was led by girls with flowers. Here they are marching north and crossing the Warburton Avenue Bridge.

Street widening on Warburton Avenue, 1929

Warburton Avenue, looking south from the bridge toward the Washington Avenue intersection. This photograph was taken by A.C. Langmuir on September 19, 1929. He wanted to capture the moment when the old streets were being widened for the increasing traffic going through the village. On the far side of Washington Avenue is Hastings Lunch, "The Place to Eat." 

Warburton Avenue Bridge, 1931

A.C. Langmuir's photograph of the businesses on the south end of the Warburton Avenue Bridge taken June 4, 1931. The adverstising signs include the Silver Lining Laundry, located in Yonkers, Sundial Shoes on the corner (slogan: "Time Will Tell"), and a Chinese Laundry further down the street. 

 Warburton Avenue Bridge after the blizzard of 1947

Looking east up the Ravine at the huge pile of snow dumped off the side of the Warburton Avenue Bridge after the D.P.W. had cleared the downtown area. The head of the D.P.W. at the time was Mel Haines, so naturally the pile of snow was christened "Mount Haines." The blizzard of Dec. 26-27, 1947 was the heaviest snow fall in New York after the blizzard of 1888.

High schoolers sledding down "Mount Haines," May 1, 1948

Sue Lindemann (later Staropoli) takes the plunge down the huge pile of snow dumped off the side of the Warburton Avenue Bridge. Looking on are Phyllis Schumm, Jimmy McCue, Bill Costello, Steve Ravinsky, and Jack Ayres. There was so much snow that it was still around for kids to go sledding in May, and the last of the snow did not melt until July!
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Hastings in Yonkers!

"View at Hastings-on-Hudson," painted by Jasper F. Cropsey ca. 1891, on view at the Hudson River Museum, and currently part of their Paintbox Leaves exhibition.

We have so loved working on this blog, dear readers, and sharing the wonderful stories and photographs that the Historical Society has collected over the years. But at the moment we don’t have the staff to keep up weekly posts. When we have an event or some great piece of news, we will still post on an irregular basis. And as soon as we have the people to carry forward a weekly blog, we will start up again. Thank you, everyone, for your support of this blog during the last two years!

But in the meantime, we encourage you to take a trip to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers before January 16th to see Paintbox Leaves: Autumnal Inspiration from Cole to Wyeth. Among the many lovely representations of Fall are four by Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900), two of them painted after he moved to Hastings in 1885. One in particular, “View at Hastings-on-Hudson,” gives a wonderful picture of what our village looked like at the end of the 19th century.

Looking at this painting, you can see just what Cropsey saw from his studio on Washington Avenue. There were fewer, and shorter, trees, and the artist had a wonderful view down through the Ravine to the river. In the center of the painting is the original Sugar Pond. A little stream leading off from the pond supplied water to the sugar refineries on the waterfront in the middle of the 19th century. According to the information that came to us with a turn of the century photograph, the buildings beyond the pond, on the east side of the train tracks, include McLave’s blacksmith shop, Schlachter’s saw mill and concrete block operation, and Ferguson’s livery stables. In the distance both sailing ships and steamboats float on the River.

Look for this painting and for “The Narrows at Lake George,” which Cropsey most likely painted in Hastings from earlier sketches. For museum hours and directions, see the Hudson River Museum website.
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